Cable Wire Connectors: An Ultimate Guide Helping You Choose One

FACTS CHECKED BY  Jose George​

An electric current flows through an electric circuit only if the components are correctly connected. Cable wire connectors play an important role in setting different electrical connections between circuits. The market has a wide range of connectors, and you must pick the right one for your electrical applications. Today, we will discuss things you should consider while picking wire connectors for your electrical applications.

Wiring Box
Wiring Box

Compliance or Certification in Product Safety Standards:

As wire connectors deal with high voltage, they should be safe enough to bear the high heat and power. Also, they must be durable. Various product safety organizations, including NEC and UL, define standards for wire connectors. 

Types of Connectors: 

Look at your electric current system to know the connector types for home, automotive, and permanent installations. See if you want it for home, automotive applications, or permanent installations. Do you need a waterproof one or a standard connector? Get answers to these questions and pick one suitable for your applications.

Different types of wire connectors are used in various electrical connections based on materials, method of connection, contact resistance, formability, and mechanical strength.

Crimp-on Connectors

Crimped connectors form a solderless connection between pre-stripped stranded wires and connectors through mechanical friction or uniform deformation. You can use crimping in crimped coaxial connectors, butt splice wire connectors, crimped sockets, and plugs. You may need a crimping tool for installation, but you can quickly install connectors.

Crimp connections distort the metal formation, and this deformed wire causes strain in the nearby connector. These two forces create strong static friction by countering each other. The elastic part of crimped connections makes them resistant to thermal shock and vibration. As the wire deforms in a crimp contact, it is permanent, and you cannot use the connector and wires again.

The socket and plug crimp connectors are of two types.

  • Front release contacts: The contacts release from the forward-facing side but are detached from the rear side. In this, the removal tool connects with the connector’s contact side and forces it towards the rear side of the connector.
  • Rear release contacts: A removal tool releases and removes the connector from the rear side and pulls the contact from the retainer.
Cable Wire Connectors 1

Image: a bundle of crimped wires

Solder connectors

There are electrodes where wire and cable conductors are soldered at the solder connector’s back. Solder connections are durable and robust so that you can use them in contacts for reliability in rugged applications, but they take more time to install than crimped connectors. 

While soldering, you can use a back shell to protect the connection. Sometimes, during soldering, the heat transfer capability of the conductor distributes heat through cables and connectors, which can melt the dielectric. As a result, short circuits occur. Further, compared to crimped connections, solder connections are prone to physical damage during vibration and compression.

Cable Wire Connectors 2

Caption:  during soldering

Insulation displacement connectors

You can also call them insulation-piercing connectors. If your application needs rapid assembly of connectors and wires, use an insulation-piercing connector. In this, the connector connects with the conductor of an insulated wire through a unique connection process. In this process, sharp blades pass through and cut the insulation from wires while entering the connector. As a result, the wire gets stripped automatically. You may need special tools to control the applied forces for proper connections. 

You can use these insulation displacement connectors with tiny conductors (low current rating) at low-watt electrical connections. One widespread example of these connectors is the cable with multiple conductors in computer hard drives. This cable has around 40 electrical wires, and terminating each one is time-consuming. However, you can terminate them through an IDC in one go. You can also use this connector in punch blocks for terminating unshielded and twisted pair wires.

Caption: 10-pin, 2.54mm IDC connector for ribbon cable, isolated

Caption: 10-pin, 2.54mm IDC connector for ribbon cable, isolated

Binding posts

Binding posts form a connection where you can screw or clamp the stripped wire to the metal electrode of the connector. You can use them on electronic test devices and audio equipment to terminate a single wire or test lead.

Binding posts on a bi-amplified loudspeaker

Caption: Binding posts on a bi-amplified loudspeaker

Screw terminals

These form simple and reliable connections and are common in the wiring inside electrical devices. They form semi-permanent connections. You can join multiple conductors to PCBs or terminate a cable into a socket or a plug. The clamped screw can work either on a longitudinal or transverse axis. Here, the tip of the bolt clamps to the stripped conductor.

In screw connections, connecting the wires is a difficult task. Also, the screw terminals do not have any protection from contact with working persons and foreign objects.

Twist-on wire connectors

You can install these connectors by hand with the help of external grooves, which make it easier to handle them. You may find a contoured wing design to facilitate an easy attachment in high qualities. These winged wire connectors have color codes that indicate their size and capacity. As they are quicker to install, you can use them instead of terminal blocks or solder connectors. You can use them in circuits for wires with gauges up to AWG 10, and a smaller AWG wire does not form reliable connections with these connectors. They are suitable for different electrical wiring systems, including thermostat controls, HVAC, and security systems.

colorful twist-on wire connectors

Image: colorful twist-on wire connectors

Push-in wire connectors:

Such types of wire connectors are a great alternative to twisted wire connectors. These connectors do not require twisting and reduce motion fatigue in numerous applications. In this, you can push the wire securely into the connector. You can view it through the shell and spot any loose connection. These connectors are compact, so they take up less space in the electrical box. The connectors form temporary connections where you can remove the connectors by pulling or twisting conductors and reusing them.

Ring and space connectors

Ring terminals/split terminals/fork terminals/ split ring terminals form an electric contact through a flat spade or ring. For mechanical connections, you can pass a bolt or screw through them. You can pick the size of the ring terminal based on the wire gauge and its internal and external diameters.

Blade connectors

A socket and plug connection device uses a flat blade (i.e., conductive plug) inserted into a socket or receptacle. You can crimp or solder a wire to female or male blade connector terminals. In this single-wire connection method, you can find uninsulated and insulated varieties. 

Tools Needed:

You may need a crimper or a heat gun when installing a connector. Some connectors may need both of them for proper connection systems. On the other hand, some connectors do not require any tool for their connection. Further, some connectors need specialized tools. So, make sure what tools you need before you start the installation. 

Materials used as a connector inside

Material means the conductor that a connector uses to conduct electricity, and it can be copper or premium brass. The material is responsible for good electrical flow so make sure which one you want. Check whether the connector has to solder to set a good connection.

Sizes Included in the Package.

All packages do not come with the same number of connectors. There are limited numbers suitable for thicker wires in some, and such connectors are not ideal for use in a large AWG wire. If you are working on big or multiple projects, it is better to get more connectors to avoid falling short of them in the middle of the installation process.

Conclusion

Now you understand the connectors you can use for a wide wire range. However, the next question is where to get a high-quality and reliable connection. If you are unable to find it, contact Gloom. We help you get superior-quality wiring harnesses and cable assemblies.  Contact us, and our technical experts will guide you. 

Get a free Cable Assembly Quote.