Terminals & Tools
Lately I have had numerous questions regarding terminating small gauge wires in the 22-26GA range for marine "communications" equipment. When specialized terminals are not available I will often use miniature ring terminals and a standard bus bar with #4, #6 or even #8 screws.
Terminating these small gauge wires often proves to be an obstacle for many boat owners. These are some of the attempts at terminating small wires I have seen over the years that have caused issues:
-Twist & solder
-Cramming additional wire into a larger terminal & then crimping
-Folding wire then inserting into the wrong sized terminal & crimping
-Use of wrong sized terminal and the wrong crimp tool
-Euro Strips with no "pressure plate"
-Twisting wire around a screw
Unfortunately none of the above methods work robustly, repeatably and reliably on 22-26GA wire on boats. Some of them "can" work but they are rarely well enough executed to be a solidly reliable termination. These wires are very fragile and require attention to detail.
This photo shows the tools and small ring terminals I used for this article. To give the size of the small ring terminals some perspective I placed a blue 14-16GA crimped terminal above the 24GA wires & terminals. The blue terminal is terminated to 16GA wire...
The small 22GA - 26GA uninsulated ring terminals are a mix of product from Russell Industries Inc. and 3M Inc. I generally prefer the 3M when I can get them.
Smal Gauge Wire Stripper
One thing I see consistently over and over is nicked wire strands or completely missing strands. When you are dealing with 22-26GA wire you simply can not afford to lose any strands while stripping the wire. You also can't afford to damage them.
For this article I treated myself to a new Paladin small GA wire stripper. My old one was so rusty and crappy looking I just could not bring myself to using it in pictures.
This is the Paladin GripP 20 / model # PA1118 and strips wire from 20GA to 30GA. It is available for about $15.00 from Amazon and other retailers. I bought mine locally at HR Distributors in Portland, ME. There are many brands of 20-30GA strippers out there so just find one you like. If working with small wires a properly sized strip tool is a critical item to have.
One feature I really like about the Paladin P-20 tool is that it locks closed. For those of us who reach into a tool bag on a daily basis this is a great feature to avoid cut fingers.
D-Sub Crimp Tool
Having written a few articles on crimping, before this one, I knew I needed to find an "affordable" tool for making these terminations to avoid getting "blasted"...
For these crimps I personally use a heavy duty ratchet crimp tool with modular dies but they are more expensive and many boaters, based on history of my articles, would resist this expense. This tool I find to be a tremendous value, and one that makes a very good crimp on small terminals. I sought out this inexpensive, but also good quality tool, specifically for this article.
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The tool is made by GC Electronics and is called the D-Sub/Double-D Service Tool. The model number is 12-464. I paid $22.00 for mine at HR Distributors in Portland, ME. They ship anywhere.
GC Electronics #12-464
I snapped a shot of the package back board.
More Expensive D-Sub Tool
This is the D-Sub crimp die I normally use. It is used for D-Sub terminals. This die is for 14GA to 10GA but is shows the "butt cheeks" better than my die for 22-26GA does. On the top of the die just below the 14, 12, 10 is the little "dimple" that looks like butt cheeks. It is what "folds and rolls" a D-Sub style terminal over giving it a "double D" type profile.
This die is actually a double D-Sub which simultaneously rolls and forms the strain relief and crimps the bare wire.
These are the ring terminals I use for terminating small wires to bus bars. GPS power cables, VHF communication wires, NEMA 0183 etc. etc. all bundle very small 22-26GA wire in these harnesses.
I find it neat, clean, reliable & strong to use this method for terminating these wires. Often out the other side of the bus bar you'll be using larger GA wires anyway and mating a 22GA wire to a 16GA or 14GA often proves trouble prone.
An external speaker for a Standard Horizizon VHF would be a good example of an item that would really really suffer if you kept that wire at its small "harness" gauge.
The middle connector is my favorite for this task and it's made by 3M. 3M rates/lables this as 24-26GA, but it will fit a 22GA AWG wire perfectly. The model number of these terminals is MU24-6K. They also make an MU24-8K. The "6" & "8" signify the ring size the "24" the nominal wire size..
If you are using a terminal strip with #6 screws buy the MU24-6K, if using a bus bar with #8 screws use the MU24-8K. I buy these locally from HR Distributors in Portland, ME...
Crimp Dies & Terminals
This is the tool I would normally use for this task. For this article all terminations were made with the less expensive GC Electronics 12-464 tool and I found it to make a very good crimp, especially for the money.
Strip The Wire
To begin strip the wire end. This is a little "long" so you want to trim it a bit. The 20-30GA stripper also has a good wire cutter on it.
You ideally want one wire diameters thickness protruding out the ring end of the terminal.
Insert The Terminal
While these small uninsulated terminals are not technically D-Sub style I have found they perform best when crimped with a D-Sub crimp tool. Over the years I have tested these small terminals with piles of crimp tools and found the D-Sub style dies do the best job of any tool I have used.
To crimp these rings Insert with the seam facing the "butt cheek" dimple. I have done it both ways and this way holds best and the wire breaks before the crimp lets go.
Insert The Stripped Wire
With the terminal in the tool insert the stripped wire and make the crimp.
Once the terminal has been crimped it should look like this.
You will notice a bit of wire sticking out the ring end and the "butt cheek" folds are even on both sides. If you don't get the dimple right over the seam the "butt cheeks" will be uneven and the termination will not be as strong. If you wear reading glasses I would suggest wearing them when working with these terminals...
Here's what the bottom side of the crimp will look like. You can see that the "crimp" is placed in the middle of the barrel and either end of the barrel has some overhang that remains uncrimped..
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