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Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

Posted November 24, 2021 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: replicas and kits

Splicing wires doesn't seem like it should be rocket science. Touch one bare wire to another, make 'em stay together, and you're off joyriding in your uncle's hot rod at 3:00 a.m. But as it turns out, splicing wires can be rocket science, with even NASA formulating standards for how to securely and safely make these connections. Nevertheless, gearheads continue to employ a variety of different wire-splicing methods, insisting theirs is the strongest or the most conductive or the most resilient. So let's semi-scientifically determine which is the best.

For this test, I'm considering just straight splices—wire to wire—and not any sort of tap, crimp, or plug-in connectors. (Splice versus crimp is a discussion for another day.) I'm also looking at low-voltage automotive wiring, not household or small appliance wiring, and focusing on the splice, not any covering like heat-shrink tubing or electrical tape. While many kinds of splices exist, I've narrowed down the test methods to four, all of which are commonly used in auto repairs. I'll evaluate each on the tensile strength of its mechanical and soldered connections, and I'll make a note of other attributes, including aesthetics and how the splice affects the wiring itself, all of which is 20- to 22-gauge and comes from my Nissan Leaf's harness.

Discover the merits and drawbacks of rattail, J-hook, lineman's and palm frond splices.

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Join Date: Jun 2014
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#1

Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/25/2021 12:16 AM

In the 1960's, I was in Electric Shop. We were taught the Edison Splice (Lineman's) which was extremely strong. the only contraindication was that it made the splice extremely brittle.

We were splicing 12 AWG wire.

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#2
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Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/25/2021 12:17 PM

When utilizing the lineman's splice on multistrand wire we were taught to first separate the strands, then mesh the strands end to end, then wrap a couple of the strands as indicated, then wrap a couple more strands, and so on. The result was a very strong joint, tapered from thickest in the centre to thin where the insulation starts. The tapering also resulted in a neat joint when taped.

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#3
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Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/25/2021 3:00 PM

PS: I think we called it the Western Union splice.

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#4
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Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/25/2021 9:21 PM

You're probably right. It's been 60 years since I was in this class.

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#5

Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/26/2021 12:20 PM

For a little perspective, physical strength of the joint shouldn't make one whit of difference unless you're joining a load carrying cable (meaning wire rope). The only exceptions would be in situations like the telegraph line example, where the splice provided the electrical integrity (no solder), and also the physical join of two wires, mid-span.

We don't often tow our cars with the electrical wiring, or expect it to support dropped milk jugs full of water. For any properly executed physical architecture, electrical wiring will never see tension loads that challenge the joint. Electrical integrity is a different question. Either a properly executed (with the proper tools & crimps) crimped joint or a properly executed soldered joint will support more physical stress than the wire and its insulation can be reasonably expected to endure. If soldering, the primary goal of any type of physical attachment is to prevent movement while the joint is being heated, wet with solder, and allowed to cool. A simple 'lap' joint that's properly soldered will support more stress than the insulation on the wire is likely to endure.

All joints have 'stress risers', whether crimped or soldered, and need support outside the joint on both sides to prevent fatigue failure at the joint. Quality crimps have *some* built-in strain relief outside the crimp, but the same protection can be added to soldered joints using heat shrink insulation.

FWIW, from about 55 years of building/maintaining electronics.

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#6
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Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/26/2021 12:48 PM

Sure, but strength and electrical integrity are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The joint I describe has both, with the added plus that it looks good.

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#7

Re: Which Wire-Splicing Method Is the Strongest?

11/28/2021 8:40 PM

For a secure connection I use solder together up to about #14 stranded, and then go to a split-bolt design....

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