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  Attaching Wire Lugs: Solder v. Crimp

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Author Topic:   Attaching Wire Lugs: Solder v. Crimp
Nauti Tauk posted 02-17-2008 12:35 PM ET (US)   Profile for Nauti Tauk   Send Email to Nauti Tauk  
For years I've been adding connectors,making splices and even fashioning "ring connectors" with solder,liquid electrical tape and then heatshrink. Is this method as sound as the use of crimp-on heat shrink connectors? Don't know where I got the idea years ago that nothing beat good ole solder for eloectrical connections. Whats the opinion of the pros on here? Thanks,
davej14 posted 02-17-2008 02:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
You are going to get a lot of diverse opinions on this.

My opinion is that you cannot beat a proper crimp. This is pretty easy to achieve with small gauge wires. For larger gauge crimps that will see high current, it is important that you match the tool with the crimp splice or terminal you are using. A proper crimp forms a gas tight interface between the strands of the wire and the connector. Solder would not wick into this connection so it is unnecessary and undesirable. Adding adhesive lined heat shrink tubing over the finished crimp and exposed wire is a good idea. Military systems do not use solder, only crimps.

The best crimp splice for small gauge wire is the Ancor heat shrink type with internal adhesive on the shrink tubing. Be sure to use tined stranded copper wire with jacketing rated for marine applications.

Jerry Townsend posted 02-17-2008 06:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jerry Townsend  Send Email to Jerry Townsend     
Whenever possible, I will use solder and heat shrink. But, in my toolbox are a few crimps and crimp pliers for emergency use - as they are faster and I only have 120 V solder guns.

I use the solder and heat shrink - because the soldered connection is more secure, will not pull out and gives far less electrical resistance. Thinking about it - I will consider putting a little grease on the soldered connection before applying the heat shrink.

Crimps are used in many applications where soldering capabilities are not available, and because they are faster, far easier to do and do not require anything but a pair of crimp pliers.

But in my mind, performance is much more important than fast and easy. ---- Jerry/Idaho

contender posted 02-17-2008 10:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
On all of my connections I use and crimp an electrical connection(ring, knife, or blade connector), I then solder the connection, then use heat shrink, then cover it with some type of grease protection. My boats are in salt water, this is probably one of the worse conditions for electrical wire connections. I never have had a problem with an connection. Do it right one time and not have to worry about it again...good luck
PeterDE posted 02-18-2008 01:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeterDE  Send Email to PeterDE     
Crimping is best but must be done with a proper crimper and the correct size of connector for the wire. Soldering is ok, but you should be aware of it's limitations. Marine wire is required to be stranded copper wire. By soldering you have now created a single conductor at the point of the solder. You have also created a "hard spot" in the wire. In engineering terms a hard spot is a point where stress is concentrated, and if a failure occurs it will more than likely occur at the hard spot. You see this most frequently in corners of fiberglass structures and in windows on boats that don't have rounded corners. The same occurs at solder connections in wires because the solder joint is less flexible and more susceptible to vibration. Additionally, some solders contain acids which can in a marine environment lead to corrosion. So make sure you use an acid free solder. A low temperature solder is best too because it causes less heat damage to the wire and there is less heat to damage the insulation.

Here's what the American Boat and Yacht Council says about solder and crimp connections. Solder shall not be the sole means of
mechanical connection in any circuit. If soldered, the
connection shall be so located or supported as to
minimize flexing of the conductor where the solder
changes the flexible conductor into a solid conductor.

EXCEPTION: Battery lugs with a solder contact
length of not less than 1.5 times the diameter of the

NOTE: When a stranded conductor is soldered, the
soldered portion of the conductor becomes a solid
strand conductor, and flexing can cause the
conductor to break at the end of the solder joint
unless adequate additional support is provided. Solderless crimp on connectors shall
be attached with the type of crimping tools designed
for the connector used, and that will produce a
connection meeting the requirements of E-

So if you want to solder the connection needs to be supported to minimize flexing. This can be achieved with heat shrink tubing or other type of covering, or by supporting the wire itself.

swist posted 02-18-2008 08:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
This has been discussed as nauseam over the years. I have to admit I have changed my mind somewhat on this. I had always assumed that nothing could be better than a soldered connection, but as many of the above replies point out, it isn't necessarily the case.

And the other thing that needs to be pointed out is that much of the commercial wiring in some very critical low-voltage applications (industrial control, aviation, etc), Is crimped and not soldered. Mind you - it's very well crimped with top-of-the line connectors, tools, and installer skills.

jimh posted 02-18-2008 12:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It would be interesting to gather statistical data about how many battery connections on small boats have failed and their cause. I suspect that failure due to corrosion of poorly installed crimp-on connectors has occurred more often than failure of a soldered connection due to excessive movement or vibration.

With large wires, it is very difficult to make a good solder connection. Most people do not own a soldering iron which has sufficient capacity to heat the wire and connectors used in battery primary distribution wiring. The alternative is to make a good crimp connection, and to protect the connection against exposure to sea water with heat shrink and other methods. Use of crimp-on connectors which have a closed end helps in this regard.

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-18-2008 04:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
NASA uses crimps because it's a lot easier to teach someone to
do a good crimp than a good solder joint. On the other hand,
if you know how to solder WELL, you will never get any corrosion
between the wire and ring connector.

Me? If I need to join two wires, I solder and use the Ancor
hot melt glue lined heat shrink, unless it's in some place
that's hard to solder but not bad to get a crimper into.
Ring connectors I crimp on the Ancor ones that have hot melt
glue heat shrink already in place. And I use a GOOD compound
action ratcheting crimper, about $85, not one of the $5 Home
Depot specials that also strips and cuts small machine screws.


swist posted 02-19-2008 08:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for swist  Send Email to swist     
You're making my point Chuck. Good tools, good materials, and good human skills have more to do with the quality of a wire connection than crimp vs solder.
contender posted 02-20-2008 10:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
Jimh, my whaler has had the same battery wires now since 1985, I went over size on the battery cables (1/0). I used copper lugs, held them in a vise and heated them with a torch, filled the lug with solder and tinned the wire the same, reheated the lug and placed the wire inside the lug, covered the lugs/connections with heat shrink, and coated them with a little grease. I'm still using the same battery wires with no signs of corrosion at the connections. I use wing nuts on my battery connections and remove them when the boat is not in use (sits on a trailer), The wires are always being moved to connect and disconnect with no problems. Therefore, I kinda agree with Chuck, good solder, good tools, good connection, no corrosion. Like I said I like doing things one time and not have to worry about them again...good luck

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