An essential auto repair tool

Choosing the Right PCB Automotive Connectors for Your Design

I can vividly remember the days when you could perform most car repairs in the backyard—as I spent many afternoons and weekends trying to keep mine running. I can also remember the instant gratification of fixing a problem and verifying success with a road test. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), those days are mostly behind us as the tools required to work on vehicles today are much more specialized than a few wrenches and a points gauge.

The right tools and materials are not only required for repair work, though; they are necessary for proper system assembly. In electronics systems, for instance, interconnections between circuit boards must meet several requirements to be effective. Such requirements include impedance matching, mechanical strength, current carrying capacity and adequate insulation for the environment. For these reasons, it is important to select the right PCB automotive connectors for your board.

Electronics Systems for Advanced Automotive Systems

In most cases, the automotive systems that traverse our roads today are far more advanced than just a few decades ago. In fact, the quality of your driving experience is less in your control than you might imagine. This is exemplified by the various electronic systems that comprise automotive vehicles, as shown in the image below.

Electronic systems in automotive vehicles require pcb automotive connectors

Automobile electronics systems 

An automobile contains dozens of electronics systems, all of which can be classified under one of the major systems listed below.

Major Automotive Systems

🚘    Electrical system

🚘    Cooling system

🚘    Transmission

🚘    Engine

🚘    Fuel system

🚘    Exhaust system

🚘    Lubrication system

Each these major automotive systems utilizes electronics and PCBAs for control, monitoring or other functionality. Consequently, they all require PCB automotive connectors for power, grounding and communication (e.g. CAN bus) with other boards and systems.

Guidelines for Selecting PCB Automotive Connectors

The number of different types of PCB connectors is substantial. In many situations, connector choice is determined by the board layout and panelization. However, critical applications such as aerospace and automotive require additional considerations due to the hazardous environments where they must operate. For example, automobiles are subject to continuous motion, vibration and extreme temperatures. Remember to incorporate the following considerations in your selection process.

Considerations When Choosing PCB Automotive Connectors

  • Regulatory compliance
    When designing boards for use in automotive systems, several standards that apply to the board and all of its components—including connectors—must be followed. However, for some automotive applications, you may not be restricted by regulation and may be able use common or standard connectors.
  • Environmental conditions
    Automotive electronics and connectors may be subjected to a range of environmental hazards that include constant motion, shock and vibration, exceedingly high or low temperatures, moisture, fluid exposure and road debris.
  • Ampacity
    Ensuring that your cables can carry the current capacity for operation is essential. For safety purposes, though, you should also know the cable’s ampacity or maximum current to prevent overheating, which could lead to arcs, sparks or even a fire.
  • Corrosion resistance
    As electrical connectors are often metallic, they may be subject to corrosion, especially when exposed to moisture. The corrosive buildup is detrimental to the operation of your electrical/electronic systems.
  • Ease of disconnection
    Another consideration for automotive systems is whether your connectors will need to be routinely disconnected—for analysis or maintenance purposes—as constant handling may impact the connector lifecycle.
  • Sourceability
    It is also important to make sure that your connector is and will continue to be available to meet your development and production needs.

PCBA Manufacturing for Extreme Environments - Part 1

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The list above is not exhaustive; however, it indicates the wide-ranging considerations that should be addressed for PCB automotive connectors.

Tempo's Custom AV & EV Automotive PCBA Manufacturing Service
  • ISO-9001, IPC-600, and IPC-610 commitment to quality certifications.
  • Accurate quote in less than a day.
  • DFX support, including DFM, DFA, and DFT from Day 1 of design.
  • Entire turnkey PCB manufacturing in as fast as 4 days.
  • Agile manufacturing process to quickly adapt to fast-evolving EV and AV industry.
  • Extreme temperature environment targeted manufacturing.
  • Board cleaning and protection techniques to avoid contamination and premature failure.
  • Use reliable supplier component sourcing for quality, reliability, and traceability.
  • Performs multiple automated inspections during PCB assembly to ensure quality for prototyping and low volume production.

Tempo Automation, the industry leader for high-quality, fast PCBA prototyping and low-volume production, will work with you to help incorporate important considerations into your choice of connectors and other components.

And to help you get started on the best path, we furnish information for your DFM checks and enable you to easily view and download DRC files. If you’re an Altium Designer or Cadence Allegro user, you can simply add these files to your PCB design software. For Mentor Pads or other design packages, we furnish DRC information in other CAD formats and Excel.

If you are ready to have your design manufactured, try our quote tool to upload your CAD and BOM files. If you would like more information on selecting PCB automotive connectors, contact us.


[1] Automotive PCB Market. New York: Polaris Market Research, 2018. Accessed on 1/28/19.

[2] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report, 1966-2016. Accessed on 1/28/19.

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