10 Best practices when installing telematics
Posted by Anton van Heerden on March 23, 2020
As discussed in a previous blog “Ensuring Quality Installations” I mentioned that there is a shortage of official training programs, and there is currently no regulation in place to ensure only certified technicians are able to install telematics devices. I furthermore noted that the MECP certification in the United States is the most comprehensive certification for motor electrical installers.
The MECP certification contains a plethora of information which is great, however I decided to list the 10 top best practices in my opinion that ensure quality installations.
I believe, where possible, that technicians should review and research assigned job requests ahead of time to ensure that they are prepared. Below are some of the things to consider:
- Are you familiar with the type of work requested?
- Do you have all required reference documentation that you might need to perform the job?
- Do you have experience on the type of vehicle that you need to work on?
- Do you have the correct tools to perform this job?
- Do you need additional consumables or parts to ensure you will be able to complete the job, or address potential issues that may arise?
- Do you have the customer contact information and do location details (if it is a mobile service call)?
Technicians should review and research assigned job requests ahead of time to ensure that they are prepared.
2. Perform Pre-installation Checks
Test all electrical systems and inspect the vehicle for any damages before starting any work. Notify the customer of any issues found and ensure it is recorded on a job report that the customer must sign.
Some of the key things to check are:
- Are all lights working (directional indicators, headlights, running lights, brake lights, interior lights, etc.)
- Are other basic electrical systems working (wipers, door locks, electric windows, radio, AC/fan, etc.)
- Check if there are any warning lights or faults reported on the instrument cluster (check engine light, ABS light, airbag light, faults reported on information display, etc.)
- Check for damage to the interior of the vehicle (carpets, trim, seats, roof lining, windshield, etc.)
- Check for damage to the exterior of the vehicle (scratches, dents, damaged components, windshield, etc.)
Notify the customer of any issues found and ensure it is recorded on a job report that the customer must sign.
3. Plan Installation
Before starting the installation unpack all the equipment that you need to install and plan your installation. Make sure you reference any installation profiles to ensure you comply with the vendor, customer and manufacturer specifications.
4. Testing for Connection Points
Most telematics systems require all or some of the following connection points:
- Constant Power:
Use a good quality multi-meter to measure for a constant power supply. Ensure the voltage remains at the desired voltage while the ignition is on, engine is being cranked, engine is running, and that the voltage remains after 5 minutes (some vehicles have a safety circuit that protects battery drain, and will shut down after a couple of minutes after the vehicle is turned off.
- Switched Ignition:
Use a good quality multi-meter to measure for a switched ignition supply. This is sometimes one of the most challenging connections to make on modern vehicles. On older vehicles one could just wire into the ignition supply coming out of the ignition switch, however modern vehicle electronics are much more complicated and all kinds of issues can appear if you tap into the incorrect wire. The best is to research vehicle specific wiring diagrams and installation profiles to ensure you are tapping into the correct wire. If you do not have access to any of this then you the best place to check for a true switched ignition is at the ignition switch or fuse box. Make sure you are connecting to a true ignition source and that you are not reading false positive readings caused by current flowing through components like fans, lights, relays, and other electrical components. If you connect to one of these inputs the voltage will disappear once the component is turned on.
In most cases the best place to connect ground is to connect to a chassis grounding point provided by the manufacturer. If you are unable to locate one then ensure the ground wire is connected to a secure grounding point on the body/chassis. Clear away any paint between the connector. Use some anti-corrosion spray designed for electrical connections to protect the exposed metal before securing the connection.
- CAN Connection:
Most telematics devices already have connectors or harnesses to allow connections to the vehicle CAN bus. Special care must be taken that you follow all product and manufacturer requirements when making these connections. Speak to an expert if you are not familiar connecting to the CAN bus system on a vehicle. The safest method to connect to the vehicle CAN bus is to use industry y-connectors. This allows the telematics device to tap into the vehicle diagnostic port without having to tap into wires.
Below are some important points on CAN bus connections:
- Never tap into CAN bus wiring! Use the correct y-cable or inductive connectors.
- Ensure the CAN bus network impedance is correct (60 Ohm).
- Ensure the equipment you are installing is not increasing and overloading the bus load.
- Wires (CAN-H and CAN-L) need to be twisted (twisted pair). Extended wiring should not exceed 3 ft.
- Inputs (PTO, lights, seat belt etc.):There are a couple of different types of switched inputs. Determine what kind of control method you are working with. If it is a simple on/off switch, or you have a basic light that turns on, using a switch voltage, then check if you are working with a negative or positive switching voltage and make your connections accordingly. In some cases you will have to wire a relay to change the negative switching to a positive switching voltage (if the telematics device does not allow for negative switching inputs). If however the input you need to connect to is controlled by the CAN bus, then you will not be able to hard wire into it.
Never use a test light (DC bulb that is grounded or connected to power on one end, and the other end probes wires to check for voltage or ground).
5. Making Connections
There are many connection methods used today and every installer will have their own preference. Different vendors and manufacturers also suggest or require different methods. It is therefore important that you first ensure you follow any manufacturer, customer and vendor requirements. Below are some acceptable and unacceptable methods in my opinion:
- Using non-insulated open barrel splice terminals.
- Using heat shrink self-solder butt splice connectors.
- Solder connections.
6. Insulating Connections
Most connections are insulted with insulation tape unless the connector used already contains insulation. My suggestion is to use a high quality insulation tape on all connections even if an insulated connector was used. Where possible use heat shrink instead of insulation tape as tape has a tendancy to weaken due to heat, cold and humidity. Some installers use one or two zip small ties to keep the insulation tape in place, this might not look very neat but it is a very secure way to ensure the connection remains insulated.
7. Routing Wiring
Where possible try to route the wires neatly with existing harnesses. Bundle wires together to resemble a wiring harness and use tape or zip ties to keep its form. Ensure wires are not routed near any moving components, extreme heat or cold, moisture and electronic control modules.
8. Mounting Components
If you have to mount components like switches, display and cameras, make sure you use the proper mounting location and mounting hardware. Ensure the correct size holes are drilled to ensure that the components do not come loose. refer to installation specifications, vendor and customer requirements before mounting accessories.
9. Testing and Verifying Installation
Always test the functionality of the system you installed to ensure everything is working as expected. Make sure you save a report, screen shots, photos or any other confirmation that the system is working.
10. Post-Installation Check
Perform a post-installation check confirming all of the points checked during the pre-installation check and make sure the customer signs off on it and inspects the vehicle before you leave.
Article written by Anton van Heerden, President of Vetecs – Vehicle Technologies.