Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire! (Part I)

Recently a customer brought in a 1990 VW Jetta, which was experiencing complications from a cobbled-together aftermarket electrical wiring harness. These complications included dangerous arching and burning. The very week we rewired the vehicle properly, the customer encountered a scene which reinforced the life-and-death importance of proper vehicle wiring. He agreed to let us share it here:

Paul,

Thanks very much for your tenacity, endurance, diagnostic skills, and long-suffering stick-to-it strengths. It has brought great success. The little VW runs very, very well. Cold or warm starts are perfect. Engine runs without any hesitation, stuttering, sputtering, backfiring, exploding, fire-balling, etc. That is all good. Absence of fireballs is especially good!

Three days ago, we were out driving around in that automobile and were eastbound on Blackfish Parkway, approaching Pflumm. Ahead we saw smoke, flames, and a Shawnee FD pumper truck. The Shawnee police had the street “secured” about 25 yards from the scene of a “small white car of indeterminate make but an older model” completely engulfed in flames. It was surprising how much thermal energy was being released from the oxidation of all flammable materials in that small car’s makeup. I say it was white so I must have caught a glimpse of that color as I was executing a three-point turn-around. Truth is, I have never seen a car burning so completely and energetically. It is interesting to speculate what must have started the process. A fuel leak and an exhaust spark would certainly do it but there must have been quite a fuel leak to get it so hot so quickly. An electrical short/sparking/arcing event could also have set it off and if it occurred in the vicinity of a significant fuel leak, well, it is off to the inferno. The policeman was talking to a duo of “young ladies” and was probably asking them what sort of a device they would have been transporting inside their car that would have caused it to go up in flames so quickly. (What were you girls doing in that car…exactly?)

As we drove away from the car engulfed in flames, I kept glancing back in my rear view mirrors in anticipation of the moment when it finally exploded and flew up in the air in the giant fireball, spinning over a few times before coming back to pavement in the form of a raining hail storm of burning debris which would require at least a half-minute before the last door or bumper or hood component finally obeyed gravity and fell back to earth, in a neighborhood greenbelt some distance away, but it never did.

Thinking about all of this, I am really glad you hosed out my engine compartment and engine externals, fixed those myriad oil leaks from seeping gaskets, seals, O-rings, etc., and fixed those abundant electrical faults that could have provided that critical spark… Think about it…that coulda been me!

Thanks again for getting all the dysfunctional systems of my ’90 Jetta remediated/eliminated and the car back on line and very admirably so. I have to suspect that the two aftermarket electronic systems that were already present on the car when I bought it in 1992; the Specific brand cruise control system and the no-good alarm system, both hooked into the wiring harness via the punch-and-pierce “vampire” connectors, must have had a lot to do with interrupting the performance specs of the electrical system, in general, and led to the damage we saw, e.g., arcing, burning, etc., of various components. It is good to have that junk removed and the wiring harness cleaned up. You did very well. Thank you!

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Wiring Issues
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