Automotive PCB Standards Explained

Following automotive PCB standards is the key to AV safety.

Following automotive PCB standards enables AV technology.

Although cars and trucks have only been on the road for a little over a century, it is hard to imagine life without them. And for the foreseeable future, we will continue to rely on them. Throughout this history, one of the greatest challenges has been ensuring maximum safety as automotive technology evolves.

While the responsibility for addressing this concern has primarily rested on vehicle operators, the landscape is changing with the advancement of smarter vehicle systems and capabilities. Designers and developers of the electronics that form the foundation of automotive technological progress now play a crucial role. To ensure safe and efficient operation, they must be well-versed in and adhere to relevant automotive PCB standards.

General Automotive PCB Standards

Along with aerospace systems and medical devices, automotive systems include circuit boards and electronics that are considered critical as failure could result in catastrophe, including fatalities. Therefore, most automotive PCBAs must be built to class 2 or 3 of the performance classifications defined in IPC-A-610, Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies.

Other important automotive PCB standards include the following:





Qualification and Performance Specification for Rigid Printed Boards

This is the prevailing standard for the design and development of rigid PCBAs. The end-user perspective is used to define performance classifications and quality acceptance requirements that cover various circuit board architecture types, such as single-sided, multilayer, embedded, and metal-core circuit boards. 


Automotive Applications Addendum to IPC-6012E 

This standard defines additions to or replacements for specifications defined in IPC-6012 for the automotive environment. Targets include


  • Visual inspection procedures

  • Lifted land patterns

  • Drill hole patterns

  • Copper features

  • Bow and twist requirements

  • Conductor testing



Qualification and Performance Specification for Flexible/Rigid-Flexible Printed Boards

This standard is similar to IPC-6012 in the type of content. However, flex boards, which are increasingly being utilized in automotive systems, are the focus. Flex and rigid-flex PCBAs are especially applicable for electric vehicles to reduce the number and length of wiring and cables required. Requirements apply to all five types of flex boards.


  • Single-sided–No PTHs–With or without stiffeners

  • Double-sided–PTHs–With or without stiffeners

  • Multilayer flex–PTHs–With or without stiffeners

  • Multilayer rigid/flex–PTHs

  • Multilayer rigid/flex–No PTHs

IATF 16949:2016

International Automotive Task Force

This international standard defines requirements for a quality management system (QMS) meant to ensure the quality of automotive system development throughout the supply chain. Specifications include:


  • Document requirements

  • Management requirements

  • Process requirements

  • Assessment and improvement requirements


Automotive Electronics Council

Originally founded by Ford, GM, and Chrysler, the AEC provides quality requirements for electronic components to be used in automotive systems. Documents include:


  • Integrated circuit (IC) qualifications and testing procedures

  • Discrete semiconductor qualifications and testing procedures

  • Sensor qualifications and testing procedures

  • Multichip module (MCM) qualifications and testing procedures

  • Passive components qualifications and testing procedures

  • Lot testing procedures


When designing circuit boards that will be installed in automotive systems, one of more of the standards listed should be a major source of guidance to ensure that the operational and performance intent these documents are based upon is incorporated. This list is not exhaustive, however, and there are additional automotive PCB standards that may be applicable to your product.

Additional Standards for Automotive PCBs

Familiarity with the standards above are essential for automotive PCB designers. Just as it is required to understand and follow the good PCB standards for all electronic circuit design.

SAE Standards

Other resources that may be valuable include the SAE Ground Vehicle Standards, which includes over 2,200 standards. The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, was formed in 1905 to bring automotive engineers together to exchange ideas and help define common standards for the manufacturing of automotive systems. Today, the organization is international and develops standards for aerospace and automotive vehicles.

The range of standards that can influence your automotive PCB design encompasses specifications for components, connectors, wiring, and cabling. Moreover, the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) publishes standards and technical documents that drive advancements in automotive technologies, including electric vehicle (EV) and autonomous vehicle (AV) systems. These standards encompass globally accepted terminology specifications and testing procedures for assembled automotive systems that incorporate or are driven by automotive PCBs.

Incorporating Automotive Standards into Your PCB Design Process

The primary driving factors behind virtually all automotive PCB standards are operational reliability and user safety. Understanding this underlying intent is essential as a prerequisite for designing and developing boards for the automotive environment. To achieve the required level of performance and structural integrity that aligns with these objectives, it is highly recommended to follow guidelines such as the ones listed below.

Design Optimization for Automotive PCB Standards Compliance

  • Know which automotive PCB standards are pertinent for your design.

  • Source only quality, manufacturer-verified parts from a reliable library source.

  • Choose materials with adequate thermal temperature coefficients for boards exposed to excessive temperatures.

  • Ensure that your boards meet or exceed flexibility requirements to withstand the vibrations and motions common for automotive system environments.

  • Ensure your CM adheres to automotive PCB standards for manufacturing and quality management.

Following the guidelines above will aid you in designing PCBAs that will meet the requirements of applicable automotive PCB standards.

If you’re looking for CAD models for common components or important design support like how best to incorporate automotive PCB standards into your development process, Ultra Librarian helps by compiling all your sourcing and CAD information in one place.

Working with Ultra Librarian sets up your team for success to ensure streamlined and error-free design, production, and sourcing. Register today for free.


The Ultra Librarian Team

Ultra Librarian offers the world’s largest PCB CAD library, putting cutting-edge materials at your fingertips so you can build better products faster—all for free.

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest news, and important updates


Related Posts

If you’re looking for any of our component footprints or models, we have readily available and free options for you and your design team. Search our library for the solution you’ve been looking for.

Free Design Resources

Ultra Librarian is the worlds largest online – and always free – PCB CAD library. Build products better, faster, and more accurately with easy access to vendor-verified symbols, footprints, and 3D models. Register today to start searching the right components for your next design.