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Old 03-02-2015, 11:05 AM   #1
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Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubing

After soldering and heat shrinking the power and ground wires to an electric motor in my vehicle last night, I did some internet research and found that butt connectors are often suggested for vehicle applications because soldering stiffens the wire which can crack due to vibration and come lose when used in vehicles. So, which is better for vehicles - soldering and heat shrinking or butt connectors? And for a third option I guess I could use butt connectors and heat shrink over the butt connector.
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:28 AM   #2
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

I've heard the same plus soldering is a PITA. I use heat shrink butt connectors, like these.

http://amzn.com/B008CVPE1E
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Old 03-02-2015, 11:31 AM   #3
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
... And for a third option I guess I could use butt connectors and heat shrink over the butt connector.
For critical applications, that is what I do. The heat shrink acts somewhat as a strain relief, reducing the movement on the soldered area.


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Old 03-02-2015, 12:53 PM   #4
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapatio
I've heard the same plus soldering is a PITA. I use heat shrink butt connectors, like these.

http://amzn.com/B008CVPE1E
That's what I use, too.

Interestingly, when redoing some of the wiring in my 98 Indiana-built SMB, I found their apparent preferred method was to simply twist/splice the bare wires together and then wrap in electrical tape. I assume that was an RVIA-approved method back then, as they built the van to those standards (supposedly).
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Old 03-02-2015, 01:45 PM   #5
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

There is endless debate about this in the boating world (solder vs. crimp). ABYC (standards organization for boating that does great work and sets best practice guidelines), does allow for soldering as long as the wires are mechanically supported within "X" distance of the connection (in other words, there shouldn't be any strain on the connection, and it should be well supported against movement). Reason I put "X" for distance is that I crimp, so I cannot remember the spec.

Still, I'd say the general preference in the boating world is for a good crimp connection. (There are plenty of crappy connections in the wild of course, but I'm talking about a good one.) Wire is specced to be stranded and tinned, and at least 105C temp rated.

I like to use adhesive heat shrink connectors (typically ring terminals) for the smaller sizes (i.e. up to and including #10 wire) (with a single-ratchet crimper), and then tinned copper lugs plus separate adhesive heat shrink for lugs (#8 - 4/0). I went back and forth before spending the money on a good lug crimper; now, couple of years later it has made so many crimps (on my rig, boat, others' rigs) that I can't imagine I even considered not buying one. I find that in small/cramped places like vans and boats it's really invaluable to be able to make up the crimps on site, with the lugs facing how you want them, etc. (as opposed to ordering pre-made ones). There are a number of good brands - I use FTZ for the smaller connectors and also for the lugs (I have their crimp tool for lugs, so I know their lugs fit the dies).

Even when it's not strictly necessary, I always feel better when a wire/cable has a good label. Just makes the job seem more complete (and also when/if you remove the wire, it's easy to put it back where it belongs). I just have a fairly generic label maker with the strong adhesive TZ tape label stock, plus clear olefin shrink tubing from Mcmaster-Carr for labels.

BrianW: My previous SMB was a 1997 Indiana build. Same method of twisting wires together and taping them (ugh). Ironically, although it was a "just use and enjoy" rig for me, for the most part (first time I actually managed to do that and not turn it into a huge project!), I ended up selling it to a friend, and we are now in the process of re-doing the electrical system and adding solar (ha, maybe this is why they say never sell to a friend? ). Mostly this is the main fuse panel area (nothing was really correctly fused), the new solar wiring, re-wiring the charger, new 12-volt panel, and putting in a new alternator wire up to the separator (currently #8 wire that disappears into the wall and seemingly is unfused - what could possibly go wrong with that leading back from a ~120 amp alternator? ).
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:20 PM   #6
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Bare butt connectors with glue-lined high-ratio shrink tubing is my #1 method. If it's not as critical (such as aux lights) I use the heat-shrink butt connectors. However compared to bare butt connectors + heat shrink, the heat-shrink connectors can't be crimped as securely without damaging the heat shrink.
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Old 03-02-2015, 02:51 PM   #7
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

@Viva, I'd be interested in hearing about the solar install on your friend's van, as I'm hoping to add that to mine this year, too.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:00 PM   #8
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Personally I use a combination of bare butt connectors and glue lined heat shrink or soldered and glue lined heat shrink. It just depends where it is going. I have never had an issue with the way I like it done. I agree with carringb that heat-shrink connectors can't be compressed adequately without damaging the cover IMO. The last thing I want is a connect to fail if I can help it.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:26 PM   #9
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Quote:
Originally Posted by carringb
Bare butt connectors with glue-lined high-ratio shrink tubing is my #1 method. If it's not as critical (such as aux lights) I use the heat-shrink butt connectors. However compared to bare butt connectors + heat shrink, the heat-shrink connectors can't be crimped as securely without damaging the heat shrink.
I'm not sure if you're even responding to me, but just to clarify on what I use (for up to #10 wire), it is crimp connectors with "built in," adhesive-lined shrink tubing. A double crimper will damage this type of connector, but a single crimper (meant for the type) doesn't. The crimp ends up nice and secure and the adhesive-lined heat shrink isn't damaged. I tend to use mostly FTZ brand, "Crimp 'N Seal" variety.

That's not to say that separate crimp and adhesive-lined heat shrink doesn't also work well; but just that this type of connector (the FTZ) can be properly crimped with a single crimper - they make a very nice crimp/seal without damage to the adhesive heat shrink.

There is more detail here from a fellow boater:

http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/wire_termination

(Possibly more than anyone wants to know, but there are photos!) I use the "good example of a decent crimper" on the first page for #10 - #22 wire with the Crimp 'N Seal connectors.
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Old 03-02-2015, 03:41 PM   #10
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Re: Basics: Butt Connectors vs Soldering & Heat Shrink Tubi

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianW
@Viva, I'd be interested in hearing about the solar install on your friend's van, as I'm hoping to add that to mine this year, too.
Hi Brian,

I've always taken notice of your posts as your SMB is so similar to my Indiana-built '97 (now owned by aforementioned friend). Right down to the signature stripes

I will see if I can do a write up (should probably be a separate thread). Right now I have the "downstairs" done (under the couch, which was mostly a re-vamp of the original SMB stuff, plus an added Blue Sky 2512 controller), and the solar wired up to the switch (near furnace thermostat); the current owner is noodling over a few options for the solar panel mounts (although we have the basic idea settled on). Essentially going with three 100-watt Renogy rigid panels (hard to beat at $149 shipped through Amazon Prime), mounted crosswise, brackets made from aluminum angle VHB'ed to roof (non-tilting design - he's past his climbing on the roof era). The panels are ~18.5 volt and will be wired in parallel. New battery bank is two Lifeline GPL 31XT AGM's for 250 amp hours of storage.

Indiana painted-stripe vans unite!
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