Cars these days have a lot of sensors.
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A lot of these sensors are connected using some kind of plastic clippy. There are numerous different kinds of plastic clippys in production. This question is specifically about the kind that require you to pinch and pull. See the following:

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In theory, these are simple enough. Pinch in the side(s) that flexes, pull out. In reality, these sensors won't fail for many years. By the time I need to replace them the plastic has become brittle, the sensor has bonded with its connector, and applying enough force to overcome both of these is difficult. Using a screwdriver to hold down the tooth is a recipe for a broken connector, if it isn't broken already.

Is there any tricks to help remove these things?

  • 1
    Trick? I usually drape it with a cloth, wave my wand and "PRESTO", it is undone. Learned from David Copperfield. (jk...couldn't resist) :-D Would agree, they are a pain to deal with.
    – CharlieRB
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 21:24

4 Answers 4


Unfortunately there is no "one-size-fits-all" recipe, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Half the battle is in understanding how it disconnects

    The chances of me damaging a connector due to ignorance is far higher than damage resulting from old age. Ask me how I know.

  • Have some flathead screwdrivers handy

    It helps to have various shapes and sizes since they can be used to engage the tab(s), potentially freeing up your other hand for pulling the connector apart.

  • Certain plastics will go brittle with age

    Damage is inevitable. Only disconnect if you really must.

  • If you are reconnecting a sensor, clean it and apply some silicone spray on the mating surfaces

    It helps when you go to disconnect it next time.

  • Avoid excessive force

    It's a connector, not a head bolt. It may be a struggle to break it loose initially due to baked-on crud, but small, gentle motions will go a long way.

  • For the thicker connectors, don't be afraid to bash on them

    They can withstand a fair amount of abuse before breaking. Be careful with the retaining tabs though.

  • Remember that a connector is just an interface for wires

    If push comes to shove, you can always resort to splicing in a new connector or deleting it altogether and just twist the wires together with appropriate insulation. You can even fabricate your own connectors with epoxy/resin.

  • 1
    "ask me how I know" :) yes, been there, just to add welding wire is also good when small is required...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 18:05
  • 1
    I would also add to make sure the release button doesn't have crud under it, keeping it from fully depressing.
    – Mobius
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 1:29
  • First point is the best, I can't count the times I've failed to remove the red safety clip before trying to depress the tab on some connectors. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 17:35

these are quite the pain in the bum when theyre not cooperating. It takes some time but I like to use slip joint pliers to grab onto the sides of the connectors and wiggle it out of there while I press down on the clip. Once it moves a bit out of its locking position, you can let go of the clip with whatever finger your using to press it down and let the pliers do the rest of the wiggling.

  • This makes a good deal of sense, then my "press down on the clippy" hand isn't also trying to pull the thing off.
    – Zshoulders
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 15:06

I have just detached one of these horrors, located inaccessibly, thus: Mix one part of spray brake cleaner with 1 part of #10 fork oil, and apply sparingly to join between plug and socket, with a drop in the tab slots too. If there is wiggle-room, wiggle. PUSH the connector together to create a little movement. Then us a small flat blade to push the locking edge, in the slot, out, while holding the external tab down. Worked for me. Hope it works for you.


I have removed a few connectors and as weird as it sounds, I found that the best thing that worked for me, was a pair of long necked hose pliers. They are circular at the end, so one side of the pliers can press right on the press down clip and press it in nice and deep, whilst the other side can open nice and wide and grab the other side of the connector. I find that getting them out smoothly requires a nice deep press.

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