Best Battery Cables for Emergency Situations
Battery cables to keep the juice flowing.
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BY Johnny Puckett / LAST UPDATED ON May 12, 2020
While you may not think of battery cables like other auto parts that wear out, there are many reasons to buy new ones. Maybe you’re modifying your vehicle and need to move the battery to make room for other parts. Or perhaps some very unfortunate turn of events, like an accident, caused your old cables to be severed. And hey, battery cables do corrode in certain circumstances. Regardless of your reasons for changing them out, there are a lot of good aftermarket battery cables out there to get your car back on the road. Although, it can be tough to find the best options.
A lot of auto parts stores don’t have a wide selection of battery cables. And online, there’s an abundance of options, mixed with a dearth of information. You can do hours of research trying to find the right battery cables for you, take a chance with the first one you see, or you can check out this list of the best battery cables on the market.
These cables are designed with highly conductive 30-gauge copper that’s rated at 600 volts. Each has a temperature rating of -58 to 221 degrees Fahrenheit.
Designed with a highly flexible EPDM jacket. The cable is resistant to cuts, abrasion, and tears. Waterproof and flameproof. Resists corrosion caused by oil, grease, and other contaminants.
Battery terminals are sold separately. The insulating jacket has a strong smell. May come a few inches shorter than advertised on the online listing.
Thick wires offer less resistance to current flow. CCA is a good power conductor. It features a flexible and impact-resistant outer sheath. Different color codes allow for easy polar identification.
The wire can get hot under the continuous power of anything over 30 amps. It corrodes faster when exposed to ambient air. Less conductive than pure copper wires.
The cables are made in the USA and are available singularly or as a set. They are well built and flexible and come with a lifetime crimp warranty.
Some users have received products in which the crimps aren't tight enough, so you may need to crimp them yourself.
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Best Battery Cables Reviews & Recommendations
Best Battery Cables Buying Guide & FAQs
Battery cables are often an overlooked component but they play a crucial role in connecting your vehicle’s battery to the starter, alternator, and consequently powering all the electrical components of your vehicle. So if you can’t start your car and find that the voltage of your battery is okay, then the next culprit could be the battery cables. Replacing the battery cables is the only way to fix this problem since they may be too worn out to conduct any current.
At that point, you may find yourself in the market for the best aftermarket replacement. This is where we come in with the advice. You will need a positive and negative cable. The positive (power cable) typically powers the starter while the negative (ground cable) is installed in the firewall of the vehicle. Our buying guide will help you find the best battery cables on the market and give tips to follow when you’re buying one.
Why You Need a Battery Cable
Battery cables help to conduct power to your vehicle's electrical system. If yours are faulty, you may have issues cranking the engine or it may produce some clicking sounds. In the worst-case scenario, there will be no power in your vehicle, meaning that you can’t run basic accessories such as the radio. Replacing the cables is the only way to ensure that everything in your vehicle starting from the engine to the electronics are in top shape.
If you tried cleaning the corrosion from the battery terminals but are still having issues starting your vehicle, then you need to buy new battery cables. Installing them is fairly easy, and you can learn how to do it in the comfort of your home following a few online tutorials.
- Power various electrical components in your vehicle such as the radio and AC unit
- Affordable solution to your battery’s connection needs
- Insulated against the elements, acids, and oils
- Can be used in almost any application including solar power systems, boats, trucks, cars, and other electrical systems
The Most Common Types of Battery Cables
The two main battery cables for automotive applications are PVC and cross-linked insulation. The main difference between the two is the temperature range. The latter can withstand a higher temperature range. Here’s a deeper look into the differences.
Cross-Linked Wire Insulation
Cross-linked polythene or XLPE cables are made through a process of cross-linking to prevent slippage and, as a result, do not shrink or soften at high temperatures. They have a high working temperature range of -59.8 to 257 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, they can be used to power parts of the engine components where higher heat resistance is necessary. In addition, cross-linked cables are more resistant to stress cracking, aging, and corrosion under polluted environments.
There are two common types of cross-linked cables: SXL and STX. STX has the thinnest walls and is the best choice for vehicles with limited space. SXL wire has the thickest insulation for enhanced temperature resistance.
PVC insulation is available in multiple insulation sizes including GXL, GPT, TWP, and HDT. Most automotive batteries come with GXL wiring since it has a small diameter, and can fit in tighter spaces in trucks and trailers. GPT features extruded insulation and is typically used for general circuit wiring. Its recommended working temperature range is -40 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
TWP is a small, lightweight, and lead-free option with a maximum temperature rating of 221 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, HDT is the least common option but offers the best physical protection since it features the thickest walls. It can be used in automotive and marine applications.
What to Look for When Buying a Battery Cable
Battery cables are exposed to harsh conditions including heat, corrosion, moisture, and constant vibration. Therefore, you need a set that can withstand these conditions while performing at their best. Here are some guidelines for getting the best battery cables that will last you a lifetime.
Since battery cables are used frequently, it’s easy for them to wear out. They will last for about 50,000 to 100,000 miles, depending on the quality. This is why you need to choose a cable that’s resistant to cuts and abrasion to slow down the wear process. In addition, it should have good water and oil resistance to prevent corrosion of the wire.
You also need to think of the heat resistance and temperature tolerance of the cable. The last thing you want is for the cable to melt when the ambient temperature is too hot or when the engine is heating up.
Battery cables are sized according to the American Wire Gauge (AWG). The sizes from the smallest to the largest include 6, 4, 2, 1, 1/0, 2/0, 3/0, and 4/0. Your choice depends on the amperage and length you need. As far as standards go, a 6-gauge AWG cable has a 50-amp capacity and is 11.8 feet long. A 4-gauge AWG cable has a 100-amp capacity and is 9.4 feet long. A 2-gauge AWG cable has a 150-amp capacity and is 10 feet long. A 1-gauge AWG cable has a 200-amp capacity and a cable length of 9.4 feet. The foregoing options can be used to power small vehicles.
A 1/0-gauge cable is 8 feet long and can handle 300 amps. A 2/0-gauge cable is 15 feet long and can handle 200 amps. A 3/0-gauge cable is 15 feet long and can handle 300 amps. A 4/0-gauge cable is 9 feet long and can handle 600 amps. Since these options can handle a higher amperage, they can be used on larger vehicles such as trucks, RVs, SUVs, and even boats.
You cannot just slap any battery cable on your battery. Even if the length or the amperage handling capacity is impressive, you need to consult your owners manual or the battery manufacturer’s website on the appropriate gauge to use for your vehicle’s battery.
It should also be compatible with your engine’s power needs. For instance, a four-cylinder engine may use a 2-gauge battery cable. You can also upgrade from a 4-gauge to a 2/0-gauge battery cable so long as it’s compatible with your vehicle’s power needs. When incorrectly matched, your engine may not crank or may experience slow cranking when you turn the key.
Tips for Using Battery Cables
The presence of a white, powdery substance on the battery cable ends is an indication that your battery cable is corroded. This is often caused by battery acid, which travels up the connectors. You can use a battery terminal cleaner to remove the coating and prevent further corrosion. If that doesn’t work, consider buying a new battery cable and connectors.
When attaching the cables, it’s important to wear safety gloves and glasses to protect yourself from accidental acid spills from the battery. The battery can leak acid or explode if you hook up the cables incorrectly, and the mixture can splash into your eyes. You should have the appropriate personal protective equipment in case that happens.
When disconnecting the older cable, be careful not to let the positive and negative terminals come in contact. It could spark and ignite the explosive gases in the battery. Removing the battery is the easiest way to ensure that the terminals don't touch. If the bolt securing the cable is rusted and won’t budge, use a rust remover to make it come loose.
- Consider buying color-coded cables so that you can easily differentiate between the positive and negative terminals.
- Typically, red cables are positive while black cables are negative.
- Before installing the cables, turn off your car and engage the parking brake to avoid electrocuting yourself.
Best Battery Cables FAQs
We have done the legwork and have given you almost everything you need to know about battery cables. However, we understand that you may still need clarification on a few issues about battery cables. That being said, here are some answers to a few of the questions you may have.
Q. How do I test a battery cable?
Use a multimeter to test the voltage on the positive and negative battery cable. Have someone crank the engine and note the reading before and after the engine cranks. Replace the positive cable if it registers a reading of more than 0.3 volts, and replace the negative cable if it shows 0.3 volts or less.
Q. Who makes the best battery cable?
We have to give credit to TEMco Industrial. It’s a California-based company that has had more than 50 years of experience making some of the best industrial power products.
Q. Where can I use the battery cable?
You should only use battery cables with batteries and electrical systems. This could be in boats, vehicles, solar power systems, and any other engine-driven equipment with a battery.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick is the TEMCo WC0180-50' 2-Gauge AWG Car Battery Cable mainly because of its size and high-quality construction. Both the positive and negative cables are 25 feet long, and are insulated against elements that can cause fast wear.
If you are looking for a more affordable option than the TEMCo WC0180-50' 2-Gauge AWG Car Battery Cable, then you can opt for the Nilight 6 AWG 20-Inch Battery Power Inverter Cables. They are almost as good, and you get both the positive and negative cable with terminals at each end at an affordable price.