When connectors on Fox-Body Mustangs and other modern Fords break, it can be a real pain in the ass.
Disconnecting the watertight connectors can be difficult at best and the sources to learn proper disconnecting techniques for the myriad of connector types aren't easy to find (FYI, they are in the factory repair manuals). That leads to a lot of broken connectors.
One of the things that isn't well explained at all — even in the factory repair manuals I've read — is how to replace a broken connector. Often times, people gack a harness and splice a new one in, because even though disconnecting the connectors can be difficult to figure out, replacing them can be nearly impossible.
Recently, in the process of repairing my '93 Mustang, I learned how to replace the various connectors without splicing the wiring harnesses, and I thought I'd share that knowledge with you.
In this article I will be replacing an E9DB-14489-BA MAF connector, which is used in a number of applications beyond the '88-'93 5.0 Mustang. Using different tools and techniques, many other connectors can be removed and replaced the same way.
You will need a number of tools on hand to do this delicate work. You may discover any number of tools can be used to disassemble a MAF connector, but I prefer not to nick or scratch the plastic, so I use soft and rounded tools to do the work. In the case of the MAF connector I recommend having a set of polished round picks like the Craftsman sets sold by Sears, P/Ns 41513 and CHP4-L. You might also find a set of nylon pry bars and scrapers such as those sold by Eastwood, P/Ns 21147 (pry bars) and 12377 (scrapers), handy for different connector types. Another helpful tool is a set of plastic-jawed pliers such as those offered by Protech Products P/N 1704 (although not used during the MAF connector replacement as outlined here). You can also tape regular plyers, although the grip won't be as precise as the Protech pliers, and when the tape wears, the plyers will still mar the plastic. Tape over the ends of various screwdrivers will also work to keep from marring the connector pieces. To finish, you will need various nylon, bottle and toothbrushes, as well as toothpicks for cleaning. The cleaners I use are GreaseMaster, Super Clean Plastic Cleaner (P/Ns 1000-A, 1000-4 and 1000-1) from Urethane Supply Company, and CRC QD Electronic Cleaner (P/Ns 05101 and 05103). Don't forget personal safety equipment such as eye protection like chemical goggles, skin protection like nitrile gloves, and it also isn't a bad idea to use a respirator when working with toxic chemicals, especially if you will be using them in a closed garage. That should be all you'll need to replace a plastic connector in a 5.0 Mustang.
Replacement MAF Connector
This is the replacement MAF connector as I got it at the junkyard. I pressed down on the two tabs as one and carefully pulled it off the MAF. Then I just used a pair of angle cutters and snipped it off the wiring harness. TIP: It's a good idea to pick up a number of these at the junkyard to practice with so you don't damage the "good one" you plan on installing on your car.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
The first step is to remove the orange seal inside the connector (which easily slips off) and to pull out the red retainer in the center of the connector — which is slightly more complicated. Using the picks mentioned in the introduction, take the straight pick and push it lightly against one of the little tabs on the retainer — which can be seen above the openings for the pins in the connector. Being sure not to mar anything, pry it towards you. There is a small sprung tab inside that will release under light pressure. If you want extra protection, you can try taping the pick, but it may not fit into the slots the tabs fit in. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
With the retainer out of the way, you can release the individual female "pins" in the connector. To do that, use a small, thin, flat blade screwdriver and insert it in the space that was occupied by the red retainer. Just above each pin is a small plastic tab that needs to be gently lifted to allow the pin to be pulled free, out of the back of the connector. Do this by grabbing a hold of the exposed wire connected to that pin and give it a gentle tug while holding the tab up away from the pin. Start from one side and work your way across the connector sequentially. TIP: The goal isn't to pull each wire completely free of the connector, individually — doing so with the seal on the back of the connector in place would likely cause either the seal or connector to be damaged. Instead just pull each pin free of its tab and leave them, and the seal, in the connector body.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Once all the pins are released, pull the wiring and seal from the connector as an assembly. The seal may need some gentle persuasion around its perimeter with the same flat blade screwdriver used to release the tabs. TIP: It's a good idea that the shaft of the screwdriver be round and smooth so as not to mar the plastic of the connector when prying against its edges.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
If you need to keep the new seal because the original is damaged, remove the tape used to wrap the harness so that you can slide the wires out through the seal rather than risking damage to the seal by pulling the pins through it. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Clean all the parts you will be using during the installation of the connector. In this case I cleaned the connector, both seals, and the red retainer. I used GreaseMaster at 2:1, but if you have anything other than grease, like a sticker or marking, use Super Clean Plastic Cleaner to get it off, it should (but isn't guaranteed) do so without hurting the connector. TIP: Be careful about cleaning the rubber parts with Super Clean, it might damage them.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Original MAF Connector
Here's the original MAF connector on my '93 Mustang. As you can see, it's only got one prong left. The other was broken off before I bought the car. The procedure required to remove the connector on the car is almost identical to Steps 1 through 5, but there are some important details that differ. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Follow the instructions in Step 1 for the first part of disassembling the original connector. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Pulling the pins from the original MAF connector is much the same as the replacement, but because it is still attached to the wiring harness, it's a bit more stubborn to work with. Other than that, follow Step 2 to finish disassembling the connector. TIP: Be careful not to mangle the harness wrapping if you don't plan to re-wrap it.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
This photo shows the condition the wiring should be in when removed from the MAF connector. Specifically that the pins should be staggered when the seal is removed. The reason that is important is that it indicates you removed them starting from one side and worked your way across, which — as was mentioned in Step 2 — is the easiest way to get them out. It's also the best way to ensure you don't put undue pressure on any component and damage it, such as breaking a tab. At this point, if your rear seal is still good, clean the wiring, seal, and pins. The easiest way I've found to do this is to spray the wiring and seal with 2:1 GreaseMaster and work them with a toothbrush until they look clean. It's also a good idea to move the seal up and down on the harness, cleaning the wiring where the seal was positioned so that the wiring is thoroughly clean. Then I dip the wiring in a small container full of hot water. The heat helps both to more effectively remove the GreaseMaster and grease, as well as dry — to help prevent corroding. I then dry the wiring quickly and thoroughly with a paper towel. After the pins have air-dried completely, wrap a paper towel around the female pins, and spray them with CRC QD Electronic Cleaner. Use a toothpick to work the old dialectric compound and/or lithium grease (used to keep the connectors sealed) out of the pins. This will take the most time of the entire operation. When you think you've gotten it all out — which will take several applications of the cleaner and many passes with the toothpick — spray the terminals one more time and scrub them with the brush to make sure you've gotten the residue. Dry any remaining dampness and let them air dry — the electronic cleaner doesn't leave a residue and is formulated to air-dry "quickly." TIP: A paper towel works well under the harness to keep from spraying anything around it.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
In the case of this repair, the seal didn't need to be replaced, however, had you needed to, you wouldn't have been able to slide the seal off the wiring like in Step 4. Since you would be replacing the seal, it doesn't matter if the original is damaged, so you could carefully cut it off (just make sure not to damage the delicate wires in the process). That said, with the old seal removed, you aren't free and clear — installing the new seal could prove tricky. Start by greasing the seal holes with fresh dialectric compound, then, before you begin inserting the wires, make certain they go in the correct holes with the correct twist on the wires as they exit the harness wrapping (this is important for installation fit when the connector is plugged into the MAF sensor). Finally, install them one at a time, starting from one end of the seal and working sequentially to the other. TIP: Do this last step slowly and gently so as to keep from tearing up the seal.
Make sure the wires are staggered as in the photo in Step 8 and that the wires are oriented to the connector properly so that they will be correct for the MAF (insert them the way they came out). Start by inserting the pin protruding the farthest out of the seal first. Then insert the rest in succession. Follow that up by seating the seal in the back of the connector. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
With the pins all seated as in the first Step 11 photo... Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
...Make sure the red retainer is oriented correctly with the MAF connector (tab to the "left" side of the connector if you are looking at it with the recess slot at the "top" of the connector) and insert. Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
Install the orange seal in the connector and you're done. One last TIP: Before re-connecting it to the MAF sensor, squeeze some dialectric compound into each pin. This will help to make sure you have a corrosion-free, watertight connection — which is extremely important with low voltage, variable-feedback sensors. It helps to keep running gremlins from raising their mischievous heads.Photo: Ryan King, 2008.Click image to enlarge.
There you have it: a broken MAF connector replaced without splicing any wiring. I don't think it's much more time consuming than splicing in a new connector and it has the added bonuses of having the certainty of a good electrical connection, while maintaining the originality of the harness.
• • •
Remember when you get impatient during any project, the result is only as good as the steps you take to get there.
Also, remember safety first whenever working on your car or you are in the shop. It's always a good idea to wear eye protection as flying debris or chemicals can cause severe and permanent ocular damage. Nitrile gloves are necessary, as well, to protect from dermatological problems and to keep harmful chemicals from being absorbed by the skin, which will enter the bloodstream and find their way to any place in the body. Even something that may seem harmless, with enough exposure, can potentially cause health problems.
Lastly, when handling dangerous, poisonous, or otherwise harmful chemicals, using any equipment or tools, or removing and installing any component, it's necessary to follow the safety instructions, and wear proper safety gear for those products and procedures. Please refer to any and all manufacturer literature such as current handling, use, and procedure instructions, as well as MSDS before starting any project. Those instructions should always take precedence over any provided here.