Tag Archives: ecotec wiring

bowtie6‘s Custom Wiring – Trunk

The last post talked about the harness and fuse box under the hood.  Today’s post shows the wiring in the trunk.

Since we are far from “original”, I wired up bowtie6 in a practical way.  There is a fusebox in the engine compartment (as discussed previously), one in the cab compartment (to be discussed) and one in the trunk (discussed here). Why go through all this trouble?

Well, for starters I wanted to keep things simple.  But mainly because there was not enough room underneath the hood!  Besides, it makes sense to control things where they belong and in the trunk there are several things to control…


The Optima Red-Top dry cell battery in bowtie6 is mounted in an aluminium enclosure pictured above.  The B+ terminal has a welding machine cable attached to it and it runs inside the TR6’s cab and ties into the firewall post.  The ground terminal is also a welding machine cable going through the body and securely bolted to the frame.  In the engine compartment, there are two more welding machine cables grounding the body and the engine to the frame. Finally, there is a B+ lead from the battery to two circuit breakers mounted in a special mount that control the following:

  1. Fuel Pump
  2. Backup Lights
  3. Brake Lights

Fuel Pump

The ECOTEC needs a high pressure fuel supply.  This comes from a GM high pressure pump as fitted to late-model Corvettes.  We used that pump because it is very small, has a filter “sock” and can be mounted in a small enclosure.  In the picture above you can see the fuel pump enclosure – that is the aluminium box resting on the trunk’s floor.  I’ve written about this before but basically that is an external tank plumbed to the main custom made all aluminium fuel tank.  We have about a 300 mile range in city driving with this setup.  I am sure it will be more once we do a long, highway trip.

The picture above shows two circuit breakers and three relays.  The fuel pump has one of the relays and one of the circuit breakers.  The control side of the relay is fed from a signal from the ECM.  When done right, the ECM sends a 5 second signal and energizes the pump.  This primes the fuel rail and gets things ready for ignition.  Once the engine fires, the ECM re-energizes the relay and that keeps the pump running until the ignition switch is turned off.

Backup Lights

The AISIN 5 speed gearbox has a built in switch that makes ground when the stick engages reverse.  I took advantage of this to make the TR6’s backup lights work.  Basically since this is a switch and it makes ground, I wired this into the control circuit of a relay.  This minimizes wear on the switch and voilà, we have backup lights.

Brake Lights

Ah!  Brake lights!! As you had guessed, I used a relay to run the brake lights.  As with the fuel pump and backup lights there is a hard voltage circuit from B+ on the battery to the relay.  This is controlled by breaking ground on the brake pedal switch.  Simple.  Brakes work flawlessly and will be there forever – the brake switch breaks ground.

 In Summary

Once again, I realize this is borderline overkill.  However, this makes things very simple and easy to fix if need be.  Setting this back circuitry together took little time and works like a charm.  As with the engine compartment fuse box, I added red “booties” to the circuit breakers.  You can also see the trunk floor is fully covered in black carpet now.

Here is a closeup of the rear wiring:

If you look close enough you will see several things here…

  • The lid to the battery box.  The box is made from aluminium and bolted securely to the side floor of the trunk.  This is mounted on the passenger’s side to even out weight distribution.  As mentioned previously, the battery is a dry cell Red Top Optima battery.  They are very durable and although they are expensive, they are very worth the cost.
  • The black plastic background.  That is ABS material pre-bent and cut to fit the sides of the trunk.  There is one on all sides, including the inside back of the trunk.  I used this because it is very easy to work with and can be shaped with simple tools such as scissors and a break.  This stuff is also very durable and looks very clean.  Much superior to the crappy cardboard “trunk liner” kits sold by the Big Three vendors.
  • The aluminium plate holds three relays and two circuit breakers.  I’ve discussed these above.
  • Finally, if you really look close you can see two rubber hoses right behind the circuit breakers.  What is this all about?  Well, my bowtie6 is from the very fine 1972 vintage.  In 1972 a special “tank” was affixed to the inside of the passenger’s side trunk.  This tank had two lines attached to it.  The first line came from a vent on the fuel filler neck.  The other line was routed to the intake.  This ensured all fuel tank fumes get routed back to the engine.  This has been retained and is fully operational in bowtie6.

Attention to detail?  Hell yes.

There are so many small details on bowtie6 that get overlooked!  However, I know they are there and this makes the difference.  With this TR6, there is not only killer looks in the form of a very shiny paint job, a powerful engine and a great handling frame but there are also countless details that separate this from even “restored” examples…


bowtie6‘s Custom Wiring – Under the Hood

After nearly 1,000 miles on bowtie6 since the ECOTEC conversion, I have a ton of stuff to detail out.  This is where you spend tons of time for little to show for.  Sure, I could just leave it “as is”, but there is no fun in that.  Sweating the details is what sets my car apart from all others.

Today, I spent some hours refining things in the main fuse box under the hood.  I’m not 100% done with it yet, but I figured I’d take a few pictures of it so far and write about it.  Maybe somebody might get some inspiration from all this work.

This is what the main engine-compartment fuse box looks like…

Big deal, huh?  Well the silver box is located in the area where the windshield washer bottle used to be and also the area where the dealer-installed air conditioning system was installed.  What is so special about this?  Well other than the fact this is all hand-made aluminium, take a look at what is inside the box…

Now it gets interesting…

  • Starting at the bottom of the picture are six circuit breakers.  Today, I added the little red “booties” to prevent any short circuits.  The middle breaker shows what they look like under the red “bootie”.  Two terminals stick out and this is what the “booties” protect.  Don’t want any electrical short circuits to happen here!
  • Above the circuit breakers are seven relays.  They control the most important basic functions underneath the hood.
  • Above that towards the right is a fuse panel with 8 modern spade type fuses.  These are used on the control side of the relays.  Basically they make the electromagnets in the relays trip when a switch makes ground.
  • The finned box with the three big connectors is the Engine Control Module (ECM) running the show on the ECOTEC.  This is “factory” supplied from the donor engine.
  • To the left of the ECM is the solid state electric fan controller.

Circuit Breakers

These guys act as fuses.  They feed the hard voltage from the B+ terminal through the firewall to the relays.  What B+ terminal?  Since the battery is located in the trunk, we ran a welding-machine cable from the battery’s B+ terminal through the firewall by means of an insulated bolt.  This is where we get voltage to the underhood fuse box and also to the inside of the cab (on the inside side of the bolt)

This is a close up of what this all looks like:

At the very left you see the post where full B+ voltage is supplied to the circuit breakers.  The body and frame is ground so how does this keep from shorting out?  The bolt is fully enclosed in a phenolic ring thus insulating the terminal.  On one side of the circuit breakers is the hot B+ terminal – this is the one nearest to the camera.  On the other terminal is the supply of power to the relays shown above.  On the middle of each circuit breaker you can see the little black dot that acts as a “reset” button.  I used circuit breakers because these are 100% essential to the electrical operation of the system.  If they trip a simple push of the black “reset” button has me back in business.


Seven relays run the show for the main switched hot lead, ECM, headlights switch, high/low beam, electric fan, horn, starter and ignition switch.  All the switches on bowtie6 break ground.  There is no hard voltage going through any switches.  The advantage of this is longevity.

So basically when a switch is activated, it “makes” ground.  This in turn causes the electromagnet in the relay to trip and that makes the circuit hot.  There is no hard voltage through any switch except for one:  ignition.  I am using an industrial strength switch for this, rated for much higher amperage than what the Optima battery delivers.  This will last past my lifetime.


There are 8 fuses under the hood.  These supply power to the control side of the relays as well as to the ECM and the electric fan controller.  I used modern style fuse housings and bladed fuses.  Glass fuses are just too poorly made and prone to failure and that makes them very unreliable.  Not acceptable for bowtie6.

ECM and Engine Harness

The “brains” controlling the ECOTEC is the GM factory E67 ECM.  The wiring from the ECM to the multitude of sensors on the ECOTEC is basically a factory harness from a Chevy HHR, modified to act as a Pontiac Solstice.  We modified the harness by changing pin-outs and removing unnecessary circuits.  This makes the harness much simpler to work with.  Furthermore we cut many wires to make them shorter or longer depending on where they were located.  This is the beauty of doing it “yourself” as opposed to buying something.  Anybody can “buy” stuff…  It takes talent to make you own.

Like I said before, the harness came from an HHR.  GM went through a lot of work in making a very durable and well engineered harness.  In my opinion, the quality of the wire is superb and the connectors are not only expensive but of very high quality.  The harness is basically divided into three “plugs” (you can see them in the picture above).  One has 56 pins; the other two have 73 pins.  Not all are needed though and having a Factory Service Manual will be instrumental in determining what circuits are kept and which need to go.

To make the ECM work outside of the “factory” setup, one must remove the VATS.  This is the “Vehicle Anti-Theft System”.  You do this either sending the ECM out to somebody or by using a software package such as HP Tuners.  We used HP Tuners.  This also enabled us to tune the ECM.

Speaking of the ECM:  make sure you get the right one.  The ECM’s come in two varieties depending upon the type of gearbox used.  An automatic gearbox ECM will not work on a 5 speed gearbox.  Also, there are certain E67’s that will just won’t work.  You will need to make sure you get the one with the right OS, otherwise it won’t work.  This is why it is very important to get the ECM that came from the donor vehicle.

Solid State Fan Controller

This little device is trick.  It has a built in relay and has B+, ground and a wire hooked up to the temp sensor on the block.  This is where the device gets its temp signal.  Here is the beauty of this device:  on 99.99% of all street rods I see, folks stick a nasty looking probe in the middle of the radiator core.  This not only looks awful but eventually wears a spot in the radiator’s core causing it to leak.  I think this way to wire a controller not only looks crappy as hell but is very sloppy.  The controller we use is not cheap, but it has a fully adjustable rotary knob that enables setting the proper temp to kick the fan on.   In the photo above the controller sits on top of the ECM but I am planning to move it to a different location to make it look a little more elegant.  Again, it is the details that count!

In Summary

I realize this is not everybody’s cup of tea (a polite way of saying “I don’t like it”) but once again this works for me and the car has been built to suit me not anyone else.  I wired the thing, I know each circuit and quite frankly I am proud to say it is bullet proof.  I blew a fuse one time, but that was my dumbass-self making a mistake.  Again, one can source a ready made wiring harness but what do you learn by doing that?  I spent a lot of time learning about circuits and how relays, fuses and circuit breakers work.  This takes time but the result is very rewarding.

If you do decide to undertake something like this, there are a few things I would highly recommend:

  • Every single terminal (and there are many) is soldered – nothing just crimped.  This is extremely time consuming but worth every moment you spend on it.  Soldering ensures a perfect connection and if you are going to spend this much time, you want it to be dead-nuts-accurate.
  • I used the expensive shrink wrap that has the sticky stuff inside of it on every joint, every terminal and every splice.  Why?  This makes the connection water and moisture proof.
  • Anytime I had to join parts of the harness, I used Weather Pack connectors.  They are not cheap, take a long time to crimp and assemble but they are water and moisture proof and last forever.  This is the only way to go.  By doing the harness this way you can ensure certain parts can be take apart without removing the whole shebang.  There is a bit of strategy to play here but you will be very happy with the result.
  • I spent quite a bit of resources on only the best quality wire.  All my wire came from an industrial supplier, not from a home-improvement store.  This is industrial strength. The real-deal.  I did this the first time with the V6 and it lasted flawlessly for 5 years.  This time around I expect it to last much longer since we are braking ground instead of switching hard voltage.
  • Relays – buy only the best (mine are Bosch) and don’t be stingy.  Relays are the way to go.  Once you get the basic principle of how they work they are fantastic.  This folks, is not rocket science and is not black magic.  Relays work and if you do it right, they last forever.
  • Use the proper tools.  I say again:  use the proper tools  I used good quality nippers, soldering gun, heat gun and crimping pliers.  The Weather Pack connectors require a special crimper.  Use the best you can afford.  Otherwise you will have crappy connectors and this will lead to electrical problems and the dreaded “Lucas Syndrome” where wiring turns into very expensive blue smoke.

I could write about this forever but then again, I would bore the hell out of you.  If you have any specific questions let me know and I can address them in a separate post.

Go do some wiring!  It is not as complicated as the harness “makers” make you believe it is…  🙂


bowtie6 Wiring – Part II –

Engine wiring is progressing right along,  albeit slow.  This part of building a car takes time!

So far the engine harness is complete.  All wires to the ECM have been accounted for and the main looms have been covered with crinkle tubing.  This tubing protects all wires and keeps things looking neat and professional.

Another engine bay picture showing the fuse box on the left, the coolant overflow tank, coolant lines and brake master cylinder and hydraulic clutch reservoir.  The coolant expansion tank is all hand made aluminium.  Missing from the coolant expansion tank is a small rubber hose going to an overflow tank behind the radiator; also hand made aluminium.  And yes, all the rubber coolant hoses are missing their clamps.  Just haven’t had a chance to get there yet!

Below, is a close up of the new fusebox.  On the bottom left, you see the new fuse box.  This is where all the relays, circuit breakers and fuses that control the engine compartment reside.  This is what it looks like:

So what do we have here?

Starting from the bottom:  below the box, hidden from view is a post that goes through the firewall.  This post is insulated with a Bakelite insulator.  From this post, wires feed battery power to the circuit breakers.  There are a total of seven circuit breakers; one for each relay.

Above the circuit breakers there are seven relays.  They are used as follows:

  1. Horn relay
  2. Electric Fan relay
  3. Headlight “on” relay
  4. Headlight high/low relay
  5. Starter relay
  6. Ignition relay
  7. Start button relay

Finally above all this are two banks of fuses.  To the left of the fuses is the electric fan controller and below that, the engine’s ECM.

Why so many relays?  The idea here is to use a relay for each device that requires high current, for example the electric engine fan.  The idea is to let the switches run low current controlling the electromagnet in each relay.

I know what you are going to say:  where are the turn signals and parking lights?  Yes, they have been left out.  Not by mistake, but by design.  Underneath the dash will be a smaller fuse box, containing fuses and four relays.  This is the part I’m working on now, and will be featured in the next installment…  Stay tuned.

bowtie6 Wiring – Part I –

Making a custom wiring harness is an interesting process.  It takes time and careful thought.  Is it for everyone?  No.  This is the second time I’ve wired bowtie6 and this time, I’ve applied several lessons learned from the first time.  Basically:  make things as easy as possible.

I’ve written previously about all this but I thought it would be nice to give a more in-depth view of the work I’ve done.  Maybe this might be of help for someone, so let me start with the engine.

To start with, a factory GM engine harness was sourced.  Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to buy a special harness (they are usually very expensive) to make an EFI engine run.  When properly modified a factory harness is an excellent starting point:  all the sensor plugs are there and the wire is of excellent quality.  Special care has to be taken however, when the harness is extracted from the donor car:  you want to make sure you get all the plugs and pigtails, including the fly-by-wire throttle pedal and its wiring pigtail.

I’ve seen many conversions where folks take an original harness and along with that, the instrument cluster, fuse box, firewall connectors, steering, etc.  This results in a cobbled up, complicated affair.  Why?

  • The donor car’s instrument cluster is kept because modern EFI will not get along with original, mechanical instruments.
  • The steering column is re-used because of the special vehicle anti-theft device that depends on the special tumbler and key to make the engine run.  This is commonly known as VATS – Vehicle Anti Theft System.
  • The original engine fuse box is retained because it is already made and it just “works”.

There is a better way.  In my case, the harness was sourced from an Ecotec powered vehicle: a Chevy HHR.  With the aid of the factory service manual for the Solstice/Sky, the harness was simplified by removing unnecessary circuits.  Many wires were shortened and by doing this the harness was greatly simplified and made to fit the engine bay of the TR6.  I did this because again, I’ve seen many conversions where people don’t resize the harness and this gives the engine compartment a very cluttered, busy look.  I’ve also seen conversions where great care has been taken to hide as much of the harness as possible.  This gives the installation a very professional, “factory” look which is not easy to do but if you take your time makes a huge difference.

In the case of the older six and eight cylinder engines the VATS can be disabled by adding a small, inexpensive aftermarket module or by having the ECM modified.  This solves the problem of having to use the original key, tumbler and steering column.  With the previous V6 in bowtie6, I used the aftermarket module.  It basically had a switched hot lead, a ground wire and a wire that was in turn spliced into a pin on the ECM.  With the Ecotec, we did not use a module instead we used software running on a laptop to disable the VATS circuit.

The ECM came from the same donor HHR the harness came from.  This gives a good starting point and is compatible with all the sensors, fly-by-wire throttle, etc of the “original” vehicle.  In my case, I’m running the 5 speed gearbox as fitted to the Solstice/Sky therefore the separate computer used to run the electronic automatic gearbox is removed – this was part of that “simplification” of the harness I mentioned previously.

After all the work of checking every wire for continuity, removing unnecessary wires and length alterations, several loose wires were left:

  • There is one unswitched hot lead that keeps the ECM alive.
  • There are a number of switched hot leads.  These control items such as the O2 sensor, injectors, coils, etc.
  • There are a number of ground wires that must be tied back to either the engine and consequently the engine must be grounded too..
  • The ECM controls the fuel pump.  Therefore there is a wire from the ECM that eventually goes to a relay that energizes the pump.

This pretty much wraps up the engine harness.  All this has been done so basically bowtie6‘s Ecotec is all wired up.  Not for the faint of heart, this process alone has taken many hours to accomplish.  There is not easy way out here, but the result is very cool indeed.

So what is left to do?  I’ve taken a different approach this time.  The first time I wired bowtie6, there was one central fusebox where all circuits originated from.  This was fine and dandy.  The fuse box was hidden behind the dash but the problem was twofold: 1) a huge amount of wires coming and going and 2) it was extremely hard to get to.  I once had a fuse blow and it was a hell of a job to find the blown fuse.

This time, the new harness is simpler and has been broken down into three main sections:

  1. Engine compartment:  this section will hold the main circuits managing the engine harness.  I’ve also included the headlights, horn and electric engine fan circuits.
  2. Occupant’s compartment:  basically inside the car.  A separate smaller fuse box will control all switches, instruments and heater.
  3. Trunk compartment:  the last small fuse box where the tail lights, reverse lights, fuel pump and fuel sending unit are all controlled.

In the next installment I’ll have more details about the engine compartment wiring which has been completed.  Stay tuned…

Wiring an ECOTEC engine

This Memorial Day weekend has been very busy and a great deal of progress has been accomplished with bowtie6‘s new engine harness.  Why all this effort?

The donor harness came from an HHR with a 2.4 Ecotec.  Obviously, the ECM on the HHR is located in a completely different location.  This means the harness is very long in some places and very short in others.  Very few circuits are “just right”, so quite a bit of work has to go into making alterations.  Basically, every sensor circuit to be modified has to be cut, soldered and shrink wrapped in order to maintain 100% integrity.  This takes time.

I guess this is taking things to the extreme but these are the details that differentiate amateur, shade-tree “swaps” from a 1st class, professional installation.  The goal is to make the the engine harness disappear and this is not easy to do.

The picture above shows the ECM resting on the passenger’s side of the engine compartment.  The ECM will have a new special made enclosure, including relays, fuses and circuit breakers.  Again, it takes time but the results will be pretty impressive.

From the ECM, the harness has been divided into two separate looms:  on the driver’s side is the knock sensor, crankshaft position sensor, rear cam sensors, alternator, injectors and throttle body.  The passenger’s side loom feeds the coilpacks, O2 sensor, temp sensor, mass airflow sensor and forward cam sensors.  Looks simple but there has been a lot of work into this!

Next to do will be to build the new ECM enclosure and start wiring relays, fuses and circuit breakers.  This will tie all the switched hot leads as well as constant hot feed into the ECM.  Finally all grounds need to be resolved.

Finally, the full exhaust system has been put together.  The bespoke stainless headers have been permanently bolted to the block and the exhaust pipe bolted on.  More on all this next time – it is quite stunning!