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Author Topic:   How to make battery cables
Revenge 25 posted 12-04-2005 06:06 PM ET (US)   Profile for Revenge 25   Send Email to Revenge 25  
What is the best method of making battery cables? Please include brands, model numbers, and methods. Thanks
BobL posted 12-04-2005 10:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for BobL  Send Email to BobL     
I have successfully made replacement battery cables at my local West Marine. They have marine grade cables, the connectors (with heat shrink and glue), and the crimping tools. They have let me cut and crimp my own when they are busy. The salespeople will make them up for you as well. The heat shrink part I did at home. I recommend bringing in your old cables so you can match the gauge and length. Be careful not to make a new battery cable too short.
jimh posted 12-05-2005 09:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There is a corollary to Murphy's Law which says:

Any cable cut to length will be too short.

bobeson posted 12-05-2005 02:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for bobeson  Send Email to bobeson     

I made a number of new battery cables for a power system redesign recently, and had good results using the Ancor marine-grade lugs, Ancor marine-grade wire, Ancor marine-grade heat-shrink, and an Ancor crimp tool. Notice any trends here? :)

The crimp tool is Ancor model 701010, available as West Marine model #214080 for $59.99. The price is a rip-off for the simplicity of the tool, but unless you can borrow a suitable crimper it's your best option. Note that the tool my local West Marine had available to use in-store is *not* a lug crimper, but rather a swage tool that is not designed to crimp these types of electrical connectors. I do not recommend using the swage tool instead of a real crimper. The Ancor crimper mounted in my bench vise was simple to use and produced good results.

The prices for all of these marine-grade parts are absurd, of course. Having experienced nasty problems with intermittent electrical failures stemming from corroded parts in the past, I strongly believe in the value of using the highest-quality interconnections possible. Corrosion-induced resistance in high-current applications like your battery system can cause electrical fires, which in my mind are one of the worst nightmare scenarios possible in boating. Don't skimp on this stuff!

As for cutting to length, indeed Murphy can rear his ugly head if you're not careful, but unless you have a suitable place for excess cable length to rest, you can have nearly as bad headaches from slightly-too-long cables as you can from slightly-too-short cables. I'd rather have a cable be six inches too long than one inch too long provided there is someplace reasonable to put the excess. Your best bet, though, is to carefully measure and cut to length. I start by terminating one end of the cable, placing the cable in-place to measure how long it needed to be, rough-cutting it with a little excess, then re-measuring in-place and trimming to exact length before adding the second connector. It takes extra time, but this pays off in a clean install. I wish I had used this method on the first few cables I made, some of which are slightly too long and are a hassle to get routed cleanly. I'm tempted to go back and remake them just so they route better.

Revenge 25 posted 12-05-2005 11:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for Revenge 25  Send Email to Revenge 25     
Crimp and solder?

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