With a goal of the lowest total cost upfit, one area of the vehicle upfitting process that many agencies overlook is the wiring harness. Some may design their own harness in-house. Worse yet, some may simply let each individual technician wire the car based on how he thinks it should be done.
Most technicians are proud of their work and usually have their own way of wiring, customizing and connecting. However, the technician who wired the vehicle may or may not be the same one who troubleshoots future problems. If not, you are in for a lot of extra downtime and unnecessary costly repairs.
Today, there is a better solution that combines quality, standardization, performance and price point all in a single harness. And it is estimated that installing a pre-made wiring harness instead of manually wiring up the same vehicle can save an installer eight hours of shop time. Enforcer-Series Harness
That solution is the MNStar Enforcer Wiring Harness Systems. MNStar offers 14 different wiring harnesses; four power source modules designed for use at the battery; six power distribution modules designed for use in the console, passenger compartment or trunk; and six master switch options complete with upgrades and options for main power disconnect and service cut-offs.
Another key challenge area that many agencies have is the issue of multiple shops touching the vehicle at different times and running different power supplies or wiring systems. The upfitting shop may run the wiring for emergency lighting, but then the computer systems or land mobile radio systems are run by a completely separate technician or shop.
MNStar harnesses address this by utilizing multiple vendors or internal shops (radio shop vs. prep) to work on a single vehicle. Warnock began working with the harnesses after its experiences of equipping a vehicle with lighting, and then experiencing failures due to poor workmanship of a separate video or radio installer. The schematics and color-coded wiring allow the agency to dictate how the third party installer interfaces to the existing work.
For example, MNStar’s patrol vehicle harnesses provide a point of interface for video systems in the passenger foot well. MNStar’s responder panels (in addition to dedicated radio power wires) provide power studs on the fuse panel for easy interface for radio installations.
These electrical harness systems are all scalable for city, county, state and federal law enforcement, as well as all types of commercial utility and fleet vehicles. Each comes with various siren, console, gunlock and rear lighting options, making them highly customizable.
These harnesses are designed not only for vehicles, but for motorcycles and ATVs as well. With MNStar’s production and design facility, it can pretty much build you a harness for anything you have, regardless of your equipment.
MNStar’s scalable solutions are industry leading, with 25 different common stock configurations for 25 common applications. Most others in the field offer one or two harnesses with the expectation that the end user will have to adapt to or customize a different setup.
Over the company’s years of customizing configurations in the law enforcement market, the total number of common and custom harnesses has approached several hundred. This includes 38 variants of stock harnesses for law enforcement agencies alone, with several options on fuse panels, add-on harnesses, time-out options and accessory panels.
MNStar knows that “future proofing” is something agencies want. MNStar’s stock harness EDH1516 with an optional fuse panel supports three different generations/configurations of patrol equipment. All of this is done before they even explore building custom harnesses.
MNStar takes a completely different approach by having so many options and by offering to work with any agency to provide a custom solution if it doesn’t have a commercial, off-the-shelf solution for their needs. Standardization is probably the single biggest issue in any upfitting shop. If anyone deviates from standardization, problems usually occur at point of install or later, if problems occur at all. Standardization has a direct correlation with vehicle service and downtime.
When MNStar suggests a harness to an agency, careful consideration is given to the type of equipment, budget considerations (legacy product, future transfers) and how they do their install. Matching the harness features to the agency’s upfit needs is a key advantage.
A case in point is the EDH35 which supports an IT install after the vehicle has already been placed in service, or complete electrical systems that support every aftermarket component in the vehicle (lights, radios, IT, video). Typically, OEM factory programs really only support lighting, because the fleet managers in most agencies are rarely directly involved with radios or IT. These harnesses essentially future-proof your vehicle for additional IT equipment you may consider at a later date.
Installation and Service Kit
To maintain quality and consistency, MNStar has developed the Technician’s Installation and Service Kit. This kit contains all connectors, terminals and removal tools for Installer-series harnesses. Individual components may be refilled in bulk and labeled for quick re-order. Components and connectors are chosen to ensure the highest quality of installation and professionalism.
The key with MNStar is consistency and ease of repair; everything is the same, and commonality saves both time and money. The Service Kits are also part of the service plan for an agency; MNStar creates the kit that matches harness and installation for the customer. This ensures the technician utilizes the correct shop supply or hardware during repair or installation.
All of this becomes even more critical for agencies planning to transfer equipment from vehicle to vehicle. If a connector is cut off by a repair tech or installer because the right kit was not at hand, then a great deal of value and time is lost when they transfer the harness to the next car. It also prevents low quality components from becoming the weak link in the installation process.
For example, with some agencies, like the Connecticut State Police, Warnock Fleet will specify every nut and bolt in the vehicle to ensure the repair tech at the agency knows which socket he needs to change a speaker.
Key to the success of MNStar is its ability to bring such standard improvements like detailed color schematics with every vehicle. This is a must for troubleshooting future problems as well as educating new technicians. All MNStar products are color-coded and clearly labeled for easy installation and troubleshooting.
Because color codes are consistent across all products the company produces, an installer who has utilized one harness can easily transition to another (e.g., Ford to Dodge or patrol vehicle to undercover car or even motorcycle). For example, Red is Battery Hot, Black is Ground, Orange is Ignition, and Green is a Timed Circuit.
The ground is direct to the battery, which gives the ability to completely isolate the aftermarket systems if there are vehicle issues. A faulty ground is one of the hardest failures in the electrical system for a field repair tech to find quickly.
Impedance on the ground will cause both intermittent faults with processors (which are in nearly every product these days) and component-to-component interference. If an agency is having RFI issues, the first remedy several component manufacturers suggest is a direct to battery ground. This will speed up troubleshooting issues, determining whether it is a factory wiring or aftermarket wiring issue.
MNStar also allows for flagged breakouts to assist the tech in identifying circuits for troubleshooting. The flagged breakouts also allow a less experienced tech to complete the lay in to the harness with greater speed and accuracy. When the skilled tech comes along to finish the job, everything is where it needs to be.
The ability to manage the power is a vital part of any vehicle upfitting, especially given the different types of deployment and duty unique to law enforcement. MNStar’s DR38 Integrated Timer is a two-hour timer built into the footprint of a standard auto relay module.
The solid-state module plugs directly into compatible fuse panels with no additional wiring required. LED indicators identify when the unit is receiving power or is in the timing mode. Currently, the DR38 is compatible with the Integrator IH2000 Harness and allows either the IT circuits or the entire electrical system to be timed out, protecting the vehicle’s battery from drain.
The EDH35 is another new offering from MNStar to help simplify the complexities of vehicle upfits. Designed for IT and communication installations at the vehicle’s center console, the EDH35 features a battery-direct power and ground and four fused outputs.
The four circuits at the center console provide 15 amp Ignition, two 15 amp Battery Hot, and one 30 amp Battery Hot feeds, each with a battery-direct ground. An optional MNStar PDC-B6 Fuse Panel can be used to provide additional fused outputs in the center console.
Another “newer” harness in MNStar’s product lineup is the EDH1000 which works in any vehicle to support the upfit of admin, detective or street appearance vehicles. The EDH1000 can work in any of the vehicles used in law enforcement today, whether domestic or foreign. This is a great product to transfer to future cars as well, as it is designed to be light and flexible.
Standardization Lowers Costs
Part of standardization is MNStar’s consistency across the product line. If a tech has worked with one particular MNStar harness, then the wire coloring and schematics will be the same throughout the product line. This takes the guesswork out if a tech switches vehicle types during upfitting.
Another factor in standardization is OEM plug-and-play connectors. Only MNStar offers the ability to provide plug-and-play connections on the wire harness. The vast majority of emergency lighting, siren controller and computer docking products offer plug connectors to improve installation standards and service ability.
Only MNStar offers a wire harness that can directly utilize OEM connectors, while other harnesses often require the tech to crimp component connections. Those crimps are often the weakest point of the system and, more often than not, the highest point of failure. Failure means downtime, and downtime is costly. MNStar can also match the component manufacturer’s connectors.
Correct Wire Sizes
All Enforcer-series harnesses are fabricated wire harnesses of high quality TXL copper that exceeds SAE Standard J-1128. Available for either low or high current switching, each harness is complete with fire-retardant protective loom, providing uniform high quality appearance and consistency right to the final installation.
They are heat rated and tested for maximum loads at -40 F to 221 F for 110 amp continuous service. Go with 100 amp continuous service because some of the products are at that threshold. Some in the 200 amp range are also available.
The proper size wire means a voltage drop of less than half a volt. If wires are undersized, the voltage drops. For example, if your vehicle battery is at 12.5 volts (alternators at 13.8 volts) on a nominal 12 volt system, the processors in computers, lights, radios, digital video, etc., will begin to malfunction at less than 11.5 volts. Most will not operate at 10.5 volts.
If the gauge of the wiring is wrong in the vehicle, the potential for intermittent issues is greatly increased, and agencies are reducing the standby time for the battery. An officer will begin to have issues when the vehicle is off in a fraction of the time of correctly sized wiring. As agencies move to no-idle mandates, standby time and voltage drop will be a larger issue.
Warnock Fleet Operations
Associated with MNStar Enforcer Systems is Warnock Fleet Operations, a full-service upfitter for police, fire, EMS and other government vehicles. Warnock’s Fleet Operation Center features a flexible production format designed to support large and small fleets alike. Using a team of technicians and specifically designed installation products ensures consistency and quality. Warnock works with both vehicle and equipment manufacturers to provide better products, processes and solutions.
The Warnock Fleet Emergency Products Department has more than 26 brands of emergency equipment—many in stock, and many more available for special order. Warnock’s Emergency Products Department can handle an agency’s special requests or specific product quotations.
MNStar and Warnock Fleet work together to be a one-stop shop for fleet needs. Cradle to grave, they can handle the vehicle from the initial installation, to replacement parts or transferring equipment, to future vehicles, including on-site service in six states.
Sergeant Brad Brewer is a 22-year member of the Vancouver Police Department. He sits on the Ford Police Advisory Board and regularly gives presentations at law enforcement conferences on mobile computing, wireless technology and police vehicle ergonomics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Cori Roltsch.