Car batteries consist of various internal components, from the electrolyte to the cell separators. Each of them is designed with complex manufacturing processes involving precise machining of sensitive materials. According to recent statistics, the global battery market is currently worth over USD 50 billion. With lithium-ion batteries taking up a more significant portion each year, it’s best to pay attention to other parts related to battery maintenance. One that’s often overlooked is the cables.
Throughout this guide, you’ll learn everything about car battery cable replacement, the variants you can buy online, and how to care for them ideally.
What Are the Wires Connected to a Car Battery Called?
Wires connected to your car battery that feeds both the engine and the electrical system are called cables. There are two types of cables that are connected to a car battery, positive and negative. Since car batteries operate with DC, paying attention to the terminal connections is imperative. A reverse battery order can cause a short circuit or even an electrical fire.
What Size Cable Is a Typical Car Battery?
A typical car battery cable would be 6 gauge (0.192 in or 4.9 mm) in width. Yet, depending on the battery variant, it can also be compatible with 8 gauge (0.160 in or 4.1 mm) or 10 gauge (0.128 in or 3.2 mm) cables. The wire’s cross-section affects its conductivity, which is why you’re better off with thicker cables for larger vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks.
The length of the cable depends upon the configuration of the engine. If you operate a Ford F-150 with a massive V8, you’ll need battery cables at least 2 meters (6.56 feet) in length. For smaller engines, like Hyundai’s inline-four, you might need no more than 1.5 meters (4.92 feet).
What Are the Types of Car Battery Cables?
There are four types of car battery cables that you can choose from: SGR, SGT, SGX, and STX cables. All of them differ in their width and the type of insulation for the wires. As such, they have varying tolerances and suit different vehicle types. Since STX cables only observe use in particular applications, we’ll focus on the other three in the following section.
What Is the Difference Between SGR, SGT, and SGX Cables?
It’s challenging to spot the difference between various automotive battery cables at first glance. However, several variations with their properties and tolerances exist, as you can examine from the section below.
SGR (Single Grade Rubber) cables have rubber insulation over annealed copper wires. Due to their inexpensive design, they’re the most popular form of car battery cables you can avail yourself of. They have a maximum voltage tolerance of 50V and can operate within a temperature range between -40°C (-40°F) and 105°C (221°F). You can observe the usage of SGR cables in most small-size cars and marine vehicles.
SGT (Single Grade Thermoplastic) cables are similar in dimensions to their SGR cousins. The only difference is the material used for the insulating cover, which comprises thermoplastic PVC. As a result, the heat tolerance of the cables is increased, making it capable of withstanding temperatures up to 140°C (284°F). However, the drawback is increased costs per unit length of the cable, which means that you can typically find SGT cables in rugged vehicles with off-road capabilities: ATVs, caravans, snowmobiles, and dune buggies.
SGX (Single Grade Cross-linked polyethylene) cables contain the same copper wires as other cables. The insulation for them is a unique cross-linked polymer that adds resistance to aging and abrasion. While the workable temperature range is the same as SGT cables, its reliable build makes it ideal for high-performance and luxury vehicles.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace Battery Cables?
If you don’t mind practicing some elbow grease and adopting a few safety measures, you can replace the battery cables yourself. Most cars today design their engines in a way that makes it convenient to access all the parts by hand.
Still, if you’re worried about mismanaging the connections or electric shocks, you can hire your local electrician or auto mechanic to do it for you. Battery-related services are accessible in most commercial outlets, such as Walmart Auto Care and Autozone. If you strive for local third-party professionals, it doesn’t cost more than USD 10 for a single replacement.
How To Buy Good Quality Battery Cables?
There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re in the market for good-quality battery cables.
Check the Owner’s Manual
Battery cables are usually stored openly in tightly wound spirals. The reason is that the shopkeeper doesn’t want the customer looking over specific terms of the warranty that you can only find within the owner’s manual. Thus, asking for one and studying all specifications thoroughly is an excellent idea.
Look For User Reviews
Most online stores have a review section you can inspect before ordering the cables. User reviews can provide you with a thorough insight into the quality of the cables and how they will last in your car long-term.
Ask For a Sample
Sometimes, it’s best not to go with the written word. You can test the durability and temperature resistance of the cables yourself by asking for a sample from the seller. Check how long it takes for the cable to catch fire and whether the insulation can survive a few cuts with a sharp knife.
Tip When Choosing Battery Cables
You can follow the tips mentioned below when choosing battery cables.
- Keep a gauge scale handy when shopping for car battery cables. The cross-section of the wiring affects the conductivity, so it helps to measure the cable dimensions and match them with the one in your vehicle.
- Strive to focus on durability. Your car battery cables should effectively last for a few battery replacements. Additionally, pay more attention to the insulation material. It should withstand the weather conditions and contaminants you may encounter during your journeys.
- Pair your battery cables with compatible clamps and holders. That ensures the cables remain tightly wound and reduce the probability of damage or short circuit.
Things to Double-Check When Choosing Battery Cables
When you have the cables within reach, double-check before installing them in your car. The process can involve the factors mentioned below.
- Cable Length: Examine whether the cable length is suitable for your vehicle. It may vary depending on the class of the vehicle. Keep in mind that you need a cable long enough to draw from the battery to the engine.
- Strand Count: The metal wires within the cable are wound as strands over each other. Thus, the strand count of those wires determines the effectiveness of the cables. You don’t need an entire cable to check the strand count; a sample of unit length should be enough.
- Installation and Maintenance: Evaluate each cable type’s installation and maintenance schedule. You don’t want to fiddle with the cables whenever you plan an extended excursion. It helps to have battery cables that are convenient to install and don’t require much maintenance.
- Cable Testing: A multimeter or battery tester can check the cables’ conductive properties. Experts advise paying attention to the voltage and current limits that ensure your cables won’t catch fire in adverse conditions.
Best Car Battery Cable Replacements
Given that there are several manufacturers with thousands of cable types available in the market, it might get confusing choosing the adequate replacement for your car battery cables. Still, there are a few specimens that stand out from the crowd. Here’s our list of the top picks.
1/0 AWG Gauge Red + Black Pure Copper Battery Inverter Cables
It’s the cable that you should at least have as a backup if not connected to the battery. AWG battery cables are available in various sizes and are compatible with most mainstream battery types. You can connect them yourself to solar inverters, RVs, cars, and boats using 3/8 in lugs.
LotFancy 6 AWG 20-Inch Battery Cables Set with Terminals
If you’re looking for an economical cable connection for your vehicle, then LotFancy is the ideal choice. You can order battery cables in your preferred size through Amazon or Target at relatively inexpensive rates. LotFancy 6 AWG cables are compatible with motorcycles, cars, SUVs, marine vehicles, solar inverters, ATVs, RVs, lawnmowers, and pickup trucks. All such cables come with 3/8 in lugs for convenient terminal connections.
Cable Matters 6 Gauge Battery Cable Inverter Power Cable
Cable Matters is a renowned company that focuses on delivering high-quality power cables for various applications. You can use their 6 gauge battery cables for automobiles and domestic inverters alike. Not only do they cost less than their competitors, but they come with oxygen-free pure copper wiring. That allows for efficient energy transfer while reducing the risk of thermal instability and electrical fires.
TEMCo WC0048-50′ 2/0 Gauge AWG Welding Lead & Car Battery Cable
It’s always valuable to have multifunctional cables that suit multiple needs. That’s precisely what you get with the TEMCo WC series of AWG cables. You can use the cable for both connections and welding without any modifications. In addition, it’s one of the most durable specimens you can purchase for under USD 50. TEMCo cables are tested for a maximum of 325 A and 600 Volts without melting. You can also operate them within a temperature range of -50°C to 105°C (-58°F to 221°F).
How To Test the Battery Cables?
Depending on the type of battery, several observations can let you know whether your car battery cables are in good condition. A few of the most notable ones include the following.
You must inspect the cable covers and ensure that there are no gaps or tears in the insulation. It’s more than likely that your car battery cables will get exposed to moisture and dirt, which can affect the conductivity of the metal wires. It helps to cover up any damaged sections with electrical tape or use a fitting insulation cover for the entire length of the cable.
Corrosion is quite commonplace near the battery terminals. You can spot it with the decoloration of metals or deposits of dust-like particles on the joint. Shallow deposits can be removed with a non-abrasive brush, whereas intensive corrosion requires an anti-corrosion spray.
Loose car battery cables can cause plenty of trouble for other components within your car. If it comes in contact with the engine block, the heat can eat through the cable and cause an electrical fire. It helps to check that all contact points are firmly fastened and that there are insulated separators for sensitive sections.
You don’t need to have the battery in operational condition to check that the cables work fine. You can connect the cables from one end to the terminal and use the terminal to measure the voltage across the other ends. If both ends have the same potential difference, then your battery cables are good to go.
Caution: The heat from the engine can damage the battery quality during checks. Therefore, it’s best to conduct the test after some time you’ve turned the engine off.
See full this video: How to Check and Replace Your Battery Cable and Terminal Ends
How To Replace Battery Cables?
Replacing battery cables is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is perform the procedure mentioned below.
- Ensure that there is no electric supply to and from the battery. Turn off the engine and remove the key from the ignition.
- Pop the hood and gently remove the safety seals from the battery terminals.
- Unscrew the positive end and remove the cable from the terminal. Repeat the process for the negative terminal as well. It helps to secure the wires using electrical tape so that they’re safe to disconnect from the engine.
- Trace the cables to the engine and remove any bolts or mounting points keeping them in place. You may have to use various screw heads and wrenches for the job.
- Once you’ve loosened the cables from all mounts, remove them and clean the required positions with sandpaper and an anti-corrosion agent. It’ll make things easier when you install the new cable.
- Start with the positive cable first. Secure the screw to the engine first and work your way to the battery. Once you’ve connected the positive terminal, repeat the process for the negative cable.
- Ensure that the cables are tightly wound, and take your car for a test drive to check for any redundancies.
Note: Car batteries may carry enough voltage to deliver a fatal shock to any individual. Thus, it’s best to wear protective equipment like insulated gloves and glass goggles before replacing the battery cables.
See full tthis video: How to install a battery cable saver. How to fix a corroded battery cable yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can You Tell if Battery Cables Are Bad?
There are several telltale signs of faulty battery cables:
- Low-quality insulation
- Gaps and tears in the wires
- Easily stretched
- Signs of corrosion on the connectors
Can You Replace the Battery Cables Yourself?
Yes. Replacing battery cables is pretty straightforward. You can replace them yourself since most vehicles make it convenient to access the cable connectors and the engine. Just ensure to have the requisite safety measures and turn off the engine before replacement.
Is It Hard To Replace Car Battery Cables?
No. Replacing car battery cables is a convenient procedure that you can perform within a few minutes. Most car manufacturers make it convenient to access the engine bay for battery cable replacement, and you don’t need specialized tools for the job.
When Should You Replace Battery Cables?
It helps to replace battery cables when:
- The insulation on the cables is too damaged.
- There is enough corrosion on the terminals that the cable is unsafe to connect to the battery.
- The cables were exposed to battery acid or an electrical fire.
What Size Wire Can I Use for a Car Battery?
It’s best to check the specifications from your car’s manual to choose the appropriate size for battery cables. Typically, you can use 2.5 mm width SGR cables for most hatchbacks and sedans. However, bigger vehicles like SUVs and pickups require heavier battery cables.
Can You Use a 1.5 mm Cable for a 12V Battery?
It depends upon whether your vehicle can operate with higher voltage. In case you drive a small car, like a Toyota Prius, it’s highly unlikely that it will need a heavy wire to handle high voltages. On the other hand, it’s best to have more width on the battery cables if you’re driving a heavier vehicle.
Can You Use a 2.5 mm Cable for a 12V Car Battery?
Yes. Most SGR cables have a width of 2.5 mm. Such cables have high conductivity and are suitable for most vehicle classes in existence. You can also use such cables for hybrid and electric vehicles.
And that concludes our guide for car battery cable replacement. We hope you gained new insights from it and can manage your vehicle’s electrical systems more efficiently in the foreseeable future. Remember to stick to the specifications as much as possible. You never know when you’ll face a tough obstacle to stress your battery cables too much.