For installers, it’s a nightmare being asked to diagnose and solve a problem on a car audio system with terrible wiring organization. Head-units are commonly installed with loose wires, poor connections, and electrical tape around wire bundles that will melt into a sticky mess.
One of the most important things when putting your sound system together is cable management. When installing a head-unit, you need to be sure you have all the proper connectors, ties and tools for a clean looking installation. This can save hours of time in the future.
Organization and Planning
The moment you get frustrated and start throwing your install together, you’re embarking on an adventure of spaghetti wire that no installer will want to troubleshoot.
It is essential to plan the optimal route of each individual wire to their destinations before making any connections. If you have a copious amount of wire going through one space, consider routing some of them in different directions to avoid building up too thick of a bundle – break down large groups of wires into distinct categories to prevent confusion or mismatched wires.
Connections and Ties
Avoid pushing your wires off to an empty space behind your dash without properly securing them.
Wire connections can be made by twisting the copper together from each wire and taping them. It’s better to use proper butt connectors with zip ties to bunch your wires together or connections will inevitably fail in time. Take care to not to tighten your zip ties too much or you could pinch the wires and cause a short.
Crimp the connections tightly to prevent them from being tugged or disconnecting from each other. Heat shrink tubing is handy to permanently protect connections and maintain organization.
Wire management can be painful and time consuming but expending the effort to create a clean and tidy wiring job will give you peace of mind about the reliability of your vehicle systems.
How Gauge is Determined
The American Wire Gauge (AWG) system standardizes wire diameters predominantly in the United States and Canada. This standard is determined by the total cross-sectional area of the conductor portion of the wire, not including the outer jacket (casing).
The AWG abbreviation is often referred to as gauge, for example, 2 AWG is the same as 2 gauge wire.
Other countries use different rating systems for wire gauge. Two gauge wire in the AWG standard is not the same in another country. You may think you have the correct gauge wire but in fact it could be much less, and given your power demands, will cause things to heat-up.
The objective of any wire is to transfer current a set distance with the least amount of resistance. Amplifier power wire is no different so it’s crucial that the correct gauge be used when powering your system.
The rule of thumb: “The Bigger the Better”. This of course depends on the application but works for amplifiers most of the time. Always refer to the owner’s manual for what gauge wire to use and make sure to purchase “True to Gauge” wire.
What happens when you’re using a wire size that is too small for your application?
1) The wire could melt because of the large amount of current flowing through it in comparison to the cable’s current handling capabilities. The smaller the wire diameter, the higher the resistance to the flow of energy becomes. When you have high resistance you create heat, at some point your wire could light up like a firecracker and melt everything around it, such as carpeting, plastic and insulation. Once the burning cable touches the chassis it could arc and blow all of the other electronics in your vehicle.
2) Your equipment will not receive the proper voltage that it needs to operate at its peak efficiency. The performance of your system will falter. Voltage is how much work is done by the electrical current. The lower the voltage = less power. What is the point of a great sound system when it produces bad sound?
3) Damage could potentially occur when there is not enough current flowing to its circuits, especially during musical peaks. The amplifier will ask for a sudden boost in current which the wire size could not deliver. Think of it like jumping on a trampoline and suddenly hitting a tree branch, never a good thing.
Using the proper gauge power and ground wire kit is going to protect you, your passengers, your vehicle and other vehicles or pedestrians on the road. Don’t risk running a smaller cable than what your sound system demands. The more power you have the larger the wire.