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PCBs for the Automotive Industry

One-Stop Fab & Assembly - Advanced Circuit Board Technologies

PCBs in the automotive industry come in all shapes, sizes, and forms.

A single automobile can contain as many as 45 circuit boards. With ever-advancing automotive technologies, that number is sure to be shattered on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.

The circuit boards themselves are becoming more complex and advanced; small form-factor HDI circuits and flex circuits formed to fit into narrow spaces and account for vibrations.

What hasn't changed are the key requirements of PCBs used in automobiles:

  • Extreme reliability
  • Extreme durability/long lifespan
  • Heat resistance
  • Vibration resistance

These requirements demand that modern auto-builders require a reliable PCB manufacturing and assembly partner to ensure their prototyping and production PCB runs are executed flawlessly.

Get your Automotive PCBs Built.

Contact us for a PCB quote
or call us at 1-800-SFC-5143

Common Uses of PCBs in Automobiles

Circuit boards commonly found in automobiles are ones utilized for safety features. These are the boards that also require the utmost in reliability.

In particular, the circuit used for airbag deployment rate / crash sensors are invaluable in dissipating static electricity and triggering the airbag's deployment at the exact moment when it’s needed.

Other critical safety features often requiring high-reliability PCBs include anti-lock brake systems and sensors that would trigger such features.

More vehicle functions powered by boards include power converters, fluid monitors, engine timing, LED lighting, power distribution systems, on-board and remote diagnostics, security systems, and other sensors for non-critical situations (gas, tire pressure, and so on).

Audio/video equipment, touchscreens, and GPS systems are found in most modern automobiles and make use of boards to connect all the electrical components.

Automobile PCB Applications

We have collaborated on the builds of many different types of automobile applications. Some parts and areas of interest we have provided PCBs for include:

  • Airbags
  • Anti-lock brakes
  • Power converters
  • Fluid monitors
  • Engine timing
  • LED lighting
  • Power distribution systems
  • On-board and remote diagnostics
  • Security systems
  • Smart keys
  • Rear-view cameras
  • Audio/video equipment
  • Transmission sensors
  • Remote diagnostics
  • Blinkers
  • Climate control

Automotive PCB Technologies

Our automotive customers select us for our expertise in advanced technologies. Technologies we have the capability to provide include the list below, as single-sided, double-sided, and multi-layer boards.

  • Metal Core PCBs: These PCBs are made of a metal substrate, typically aluminum, to dissipate heat and are commonly used for LED headlights, brake lights and interior indicators
  • HDI PCBs: These boards are made with finer detail, lines, and spacing because they play a role in miniaturization and hold more components than traditional FR4 boards. They’re often used for GPS systems, audio, and video equipment.
  • Rigid PCBs: FR4 rigid PCBs offer no flexibility and are often used for video screens and rear-view cameras. They are not ideal for high vibration placements or tight form fitting spaces.
  • Flex PCBs: Because of their flexible & durable nature, these PCBs can be used in automobile corners and bends. They’re made of polyester films, polyimide, or plastic.
  • Rigid-Flex PCBs: The perfect marriage between rigid and flex PCBs, this hybrid board is typically used in lighting systems.

Automotive PCB Production Capabilities

Our experts have the ability to provide a quick turn PCB prototype, bare-board or assembled, or scale up for production quantities.

Specifications Standard Technology Advanced Technology
Number of Layers

1 - 12

14 - 40

Quick Turn Times

up to 24 hours for bare board fabrication or assembly (1-6 layers)
up to 48 hours for fabrication and assembly (1-6 layers)
3 to 7 days (6 to 16 layers, some advanced technologies)

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Minimum Board Thickness

2 layer - 0.010"

4 layer - 0.020"

6 layer - 0.020"

8 layer - 0.062"

10 layer - 0.062"

12 layer - 0.062"

2 layer - 0.005"

4 layer - 0.010"

6 layer - 0.031"

8 layer - 0.040"

Maximum Board Thickness

2 layer - 0.125"

3-12 layer - 0.200"

0.250" - 0.500"

Maximum Board Size

16" x 22"

12" x 21"


10" x 16"

16" x 22"

12" x 21"


Copper Thickness

0.5 oz - 3 oz 

4 oz - 10 oz

Hole Aspect Ratio

7 : 1

15 : 1

Minimum Hole Size



Minimum Trace/Space






Minimum Pitch

1 mm

0.3 mm

Final Finish

HASL (Solder)

Lead Free Solder



Gold Fingers

White Tin




Gold (ENIG/Hard/Soft)

Selective Gold

Immersion Silver


White Tin


Additional Features

Plated Slots

Non-plated Slots

Controlled Dielectric

Covered Vias

Counter Sinks

Counter Bores

Dual Access Flex

Suspended Leads

Plated Edges

Plated Milling

Plated Counter Bores & Counter Sinks

Edge Castellation

Controlled Impedance

Silver Filled Vias

Non-Conductive Filled Vias


Quality Standards

IPC 6012 Class 2

Electrical Testing

100% Netlist Testing

TDR Testing

Milspec 31032

Milspec 55110

Milspec 50884

IPC 6012 Class 3

100% Netlist Testing

TDR Testing

Special Technology


Blind & Buried Vias

Laser Drilled Vias

Mechanically Drilled Micro Vias

Metal Core Boards

Burn-in Boards

Rigid-Flex Boards

Flex Boards


Best Practices for Automotive PCBs

PCBs for automotive applications must meet higher standards than those designed for commercial applications — for a couple of reasons. It’s no secret that roadway maintenance has not kept up with automotive technology (cue the last pothole you accidentally hit). Additionally, automobile electronics are subject to high temperatures from their own operation and natural elements.

Examine standard IPC-6012DA: Automotive Applications Addendum to IPC-6012D Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards.

This standard ensures the quality and reliability of PCB design and fabrication; that PCBs for automotive applications meet certain requirements to operate effectively under high vibration and electronic thermal cycling.

  • Stay within IPC-6012DA standards in terms of spacing, drill holes, size, solder mask, and aspect ratio specifications
  • Perform AOI and visual inspection & electrical testing
  • Processing can cause excess debris and dirt — ensure cleanliness throughout fabrication

Get Your Automotive PCBs Built.

Email Us
or call us at 1-800-SFC-5143

San Francisco Circuits, Inc.

1660 S Amphlett Blvd #200
San Mateo,CA 94402
Toll-Free: (800)732-5143

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San Francisco Circuits - San Diego

3914 Murphy Canyon Rd., Suite A244
San Diego, CA 92123
Local: (858)576-7202

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