Battery Cables: Everything you need to know

FACTS CHECKED BY  Jose George​

The battery is essential to most auto machines since it powers the components inside. It would help if you had battery cables with the right features to make the connection. In this article, we will see what battery cables are and details that will benefit you.

What are battery cables?

The battery cable set has two components: a positive battery cable and a negative one. Both these cables are heavy gauge. The positive cable attaches the battery to the car’s computer, whereas the negative connects it to the grounding chassis. Together, they make a closed circuit for the current flow. A common area of use includes

  • Cars
  • Trucks,
  • Busses,
  • Tractors,
  • RVs
  • And Boats etc.

Different Types of Battery Wire

According to construction, there are different types of battery cables.

SGT Battery Cable

In many applications, you can use the SGT battery cable. SGT resists moisture, acids, oils, and cracking, making it an excellent choice for electrical work. In practice, this type of cable is viewed as a more cost-effective solution. Following SAE Specification J-1127, the SGT battery cable can withstand temperatures up to 80 degrees Celsius or 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

SGX Battery Cable

SGX cable is also a top battery cable. Compared to SGT, it offers better heat resistance, with a temperature tolerance of 125 degrees Celsius (257 degrees Fahrenheit). Moreover, in contrast to XLPE, its insulation comprises another material. Hence, it is resistant to acids, alkalis, abrasions, coolants, fires, gas, and ozone. For engine compartments, the SGX cable is the ideal option. However, it is pricier than the SGT power cable due to its longevity and durability. 

Marine Battery Cable

Wire labeled as “Marine” comes in a variety of varieties. It’s typically designed for “wet” environments. It should also be a “self-extinguisher.” Hence, the manufacturers mandate that all maritime applications have a marine rating.

Fuse Link or Fusible Link

If the cable gets hot, so it fuses open, the high-temperature insulation of the fuse link will keep it safe. As an example, alternator wires are its most general application. Diesel engine plugs and heat relay wires are other popular uses.

Tapered Post-Battery Cable

Tapered post cables include terminals in lead, brass, and forged bronze. Also, it has lead cast heads of 8 gauge wire and is available with many plating options. Also, it provides extensive protection to connections through heat-shrink and other coverage options.

Ring to Ring Battery Cable

You can crimp multiple wires to the same lug with ring-to-ring battery cables. Moreover, it has tin dip capabilities, improving its corrosion resistance and providing high pull strength.

Flat/Ground Straps

Flat straps offer connection to the ground while using minimal space. Also, it provides multiple options of crimp, including battery terminal connectors like lugs, open-barrel, and lead cast options.

Booster Cables

Last but not least, the booster cables are ideal for small spaces where you need to provide power to the car through the battery. Moreover, it comprises specialized parts design that makes it suitable for specific uses.

Things to Double-Check When Choosing Battery Cables 

Parameters that you need to consider while choosing battery cables are:

Cable Gauge or Size 

One of the most common problems with bad installations is a battery cable that is the wrong gauge. It can be a much more significant risk than some people think. If the wire gauge is too big, the current cannot flow as it should. A wire gauge that is too thin can close out and, in the worst case, cause a fire in the engine. For the following uses, you can use these types of battery cables.

  • 10 Gauge: For low power alternator, trigger wire, and accessory leads 
  • 8 Gauge: For low power alternator and accessory leads
  • 6 Gauge: For most stock alternators and accessory leads. It also works for small engine battery cables
  • 4 Gauge: Mostly used as battery cable. Also, it makes good alternator wiring and accessory wires.
  • 2 Gauge wire: Good for four small 6-cylinder machine engines, power converters, etc.
  • 1 Gauge: Best for large 6-cylinder, small V8 engines, and high output alternators of the 200A range. 
  • 1/0 Gauge: For 6-cylinder engines, stock V8s 
  • 2/0 Gauge: For Hard to crank engines, electric vehicles, battery banks, and large Power converters.
  • 3/0 and 4/0 Gauge: For large diesel or marine engines and high-power energy banks

Remember a few things when choosing the right size for your electric system or project. Thus, it is essential to know how current your design needs, how long the cables should be, and how much more expensive the more prominent lines are compared to smaller bars.

Moreover, comparing the maximum amperage of the system and the voltage drop with the cable capacity can also help you choose it. Also, be aware of global markets’ standards while importing the cables.

Cable Length

Another main factor is the length since it determines the performance of the cable. For example, the longer the wire, the more excellent the resistance and voltage drop. Thus, it would help to consider the length to get a higher voltage range.

Strand count

In stranded cables, multiple metal strands are responsible for current passing. So, the stranded wires are more flexible than the solid cable. Moreover, the higher the strand count, the greater the flexibility, so you must consider the factor.

Outer jacket 

Additionally, consider the outer jacket since it will protect the cable in case of any current surge. Moreover, it will also lessen the chance of engine fires.

Cable Connectors/Terminals

Battery connectors are as much necessary as the battery itself. They regulate the current flow between the battery and other components. However, if it is broken or corrupted, the system will not work. 

Caption: Car with large battery

When to replace battery cables?

There is no set rule of thumb regarding battery cable replacement. Because bare copper cable might expose to corrosion with cracked shielding, it is essential to inspect the sheathing regularly.

Moreover, keep an eye out for the warning signs of a bad battery cable, such as difficulty starting the engine, dimming the lights, or the engine burning out in mid-flight. If you face any of these symptoms, it’s time to have your battery cables checked by a qualified technician or replace them.

Car Battery Recharging

Caption: Car Battery Recharging

Wiring the car’s battery

There is only one battery on a vehicle.

How to Change Car Battery Cables?

  • Wear safety gloves and glasses for protection. Also, ensure that the car is turned off.
  • Then locate the battery inside a car. Some vehicles have it under the hood, while others hide it in the trunk. Consult the user manual of the vehicle upon any confusion.
  • Next, determine the positive and negative terminals of the battery. If no signs and colors are available, you can see that the negative is attached to the car’s body while the positive is attached to the starter.
  • Remove the coverings from the battery and the wires and disconnect the negative first. Then remove the positive terminal as it is challenging to do so. Once done, the battery is now completely disconnected.
  • Remove the remaining positive and negative cables from the engine also. That way, you will get rid of all the old problematic parts.
  • Take the new battery cables and attach the positive to the starter. Then attach the negative to the body of the car.
  • Place the new battery back into the car and then attach the other side of the cable to the battery terminal. Also, make sure to connect the positive cable first to the battery. 
  • Start the car to test the battery installation. If the cables loosen, tighten them and try again. Otherwise, you are good to go.

Which battery cable to disconnect and connect first?

Battery cable replacement is a systematic process. It is since working with the wrong cable side can lead to hazardous conclusions. Thus, while connecting the wires, ensure you attach the positive terminal first, as the other way can lead to dangerous sparks.

On the other hand, detach the negative terminal battery cable while disconnecting the cables. That way, you will disrupt the current flow making the system idle for some time.

Wiring boats or RV’s battery

There are several batteries on boats and RVs.

Battery Cable Connections

  • Series Connection: Connecting the car batteries in series helps increase the voltage while keeping the amp-hour capacity the same. 
  • Parallel Connection: On the other hand, connecting them similasimilarlyases the amp-hour capacity while keeping the same voltage.
  • Series/Parallel Connection: When you want the best of both voltage and capacitance, you will choose a series/parallel connection for your cars.

Important points to bear in mind.

  • Crimp the battery terminals instead of soldering.
  • Place them at a height high enough to protect the connections from moisture and dampening.
  • Use tinned cables for marine cabling.
  • Label all the wires on both ends so that you can repair them without any hassle in the future.
  • Keep the AC and DC wiring separate since their coloring can mix the wires.
  • Isolate all DC power sources and disconnect the AC sources before working on the systems.
  • Provide ground cables to all the circuits and attach them to the standard bus bar to avoid stray current
Using a jumper to start the battery

Caption: Using a jumper to start the battery

Can I use a welding cable in batteries?

Battery solutions are compatible with welder cables. As long as the size of the battery and welding cables are the same, you can insert them into batteries.

Welding lead wire with EPDM insulation outperforms PVC-insulated leads in freezing conditions. Therefore, you may want to use welding wires if your batteries are frequently exposed to low temperatures. Welding cables have a more comprehensive size range than other types of lines. Hence, they seem like a good choice for large battery banks.

Can I use a battery cable for welding arcs?

Battery applications can benefit from welding cable, but it is not applicable for vice versa. Weld cables are the only form of cable, which is used in welding arcs, and battery cables are not allowed.

Although they have similarities, still battery cables are distinct from welding cables. Cables for welding machinery are called weld cables. However, you cannot replace them with battery cables.

Conclusion

Battery cables are a must for every automotive. However, it would help if you considered the system’s length, required voltage, and ampacity. Here at Cloom, we offer wiring harnesses and cable assemblies to make your connection with attention to detail.

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