Custom Plug Wires Made Easy with MSD

If you’ve ever considered making custom plug wires, the idea might be daunting. After all, spark plug wires are hugely important to the success and performance of any build. Custom plug wires can make any engine bay look neater, and create a more efficient power distribution than stock. However, buying a custom set can get pricey. If you’ve been dreading this project, don’t! The process is a bit time consuming, but the final product is well worth the effort. We utilized MSD’s Super Conductor Bulk Wire (PN: 34043), which comes with 100 feet of wire, since it made more sense in a shop setting with multiple projects. But MSD’s Universal Plug Wire Kits make the process even quicker and easier for do-it-yourselfers.

The MSD Universal Plug Wire Kit comes with extra-long 8.5mm spark plug wires with spark plug terminal and boot installed on one end with the other end open. Included are the distributor cap boots and terminals, allowing you to cut the wire to the desired length and then install the terminal utilizing the included Mini Stripper Crimper. MSD provides two 56-inch wires, two 50-inch wires, two 42-inch wires, two 32-inch wires, and a 32-inch coil wire in eight-cylinder kits.

Hot Tips

  • One at a time. Focus on one wire at a time to avoid confusion, potentially cutting a wire too short, leaving it too long, or getting the firing order mixed up. Start with the longest wire, and take your time to avoid mistakes.
  • If the kit you’re using does not include a crimping tool, you’ll want to purchase one of those. MSD does offer a ratchet action Pro Crimp Tool (PN: 35051) that does it all: crimps, cuts silicone outer covering, and strips the wire.
  • Utilize dielectric grease. It reduces the chance of voltage leaks and helps with boot installation and removal, as well as preventing moisture build-up.

Step-By-Step

To begin, you’ll need to measure the wires. Start with the longest wire on your vehicle, and work with just one single wire at a time to avoid confusion. Hold the longest stock wire to your new MSD plug wire and remember that if you plan on rerouting the new wire, you’ll need to measure it on the vehicle and make a mark where you’ll need to cut.

We had a crimp tool on hand, as you’ll see in the pictures, so the following steps are just a bit easier. If you plan on doing this often, as we do, you’ll want to invest in MSD’s Pro Crimp Tool.

If you’re using the crimping tool included in the universal kit, simply insert the new MSD plug wire into the stripping guide located on the side of the tool. It has two of these guides — one for 8mm wires and one for 8.5mm wires. The guide slices the wire’s silicone covering in order to expose the length of wire needed to crimp the terminal. For standard terminals, the wire end should be positioned flush with the end of the tool, and for dual crimp terminals, position it at the crimp mark.

Once placed correctly, a razor blade should be set to the edge of the strip guide, rotating the wire 360 degrees, before twisting the cut end of the plug wire until the silicone sleeve can be pulled off of the wire. When utilizing standard terminals, you’ll need to fold the spiral core back against the wire insulation and slide the terminal over the wire. You’ll want to position the plug wire so that the wire insulation protrudes about 2mm past the crimp tabs. Then, assemble the crimper over the terminal end and position the tool in a vice.

The end of the crimper should sit flush against the vice jaws. Tightening the vice will cause the crimper tool to crimp the terminal onto the wire. This creates a secure terminal end. When using dual crimp terminals, the process remains the same, however, there will also be an upper set of crimp tabs securing the conductor wire to the terminal. Simply remove the plug wire from the mini crimper tool and observe your newly crimped terminal.

If you have access to one of the crimping tools shown in these pictures, this step is super easy. Place the assembly into the jaws of the crimping tool and squeeze the handles together until they stop moving. Voila! Complete the process by sliding the boot over the terminal.

Installing is equally as easy. Install each plug wire on the spark plug side before installing the distributor end. Once installed properly (it never hurts to double-check), fire it up! The final result isn’t just a cleaner and less cluttered looking engine bay, but custom plug wires also offer improved performance. Win-win!

Article Sources

About the author

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff got her start in automotive media while attending Rutgers. She worked for Roush Performance for a while, before eventually landing here at Power Automedia. Her Coyote-swapped 1992 Fox-body drag car is her prized possession.
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