Wires are available in many different sizes and colors, but regardless of their varieties, their main purpose is to transfer an electrical current from one device to another. The thickness of a cable or wire is defined by its gauge size.

Understanding more about what the gauge unit is can help you better determine what wire gauge you need to install your car amplifier, speakers, subwoofers, and other car audio components.

What is a wire gauge?

A wire gauge refers to the copper wire’s diameter and overall thickness underneath the plastic or rubber-made wire jacket. The wire gauge tells the amount of electric current that a wire can carry, as well as its electrical resistance. Depending on how much wattage is being transferred through the cable and the distance the cable is being run, a different gauge of wire should be used.

American Wire Gauge (AWG) & terminologies explained

The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the cable. To have a general guideline about this, a standardized wire gauge system called the “Browne & Sharpe”, most commonly known as the American Wire Gauge (AWG), was established for the electrical industry. This system measures the thickness of a cable used for electrically conducting wire that is made from non-ferrous metals (non-magnetic metals with no iron) such as copper.

American Wire Gauge chart
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As mentioned, the important part to consider in determining a cable’s current-carrying capacity is the cross-sectional area of the cable. The diameter of the cable does not include the outer jacket of the wire, but only the copper wire on the inside.  A wire that is “True-to-Gauge” will meet and/or exceed the diameter of the copper for its AWG rating.

The term “gauge” is used for wire up to 1 AWG.
The term “aught” is used for wire 1/0 AWG and larger. This number of “0” in the size is the number of “Aught”

For example:
8 AWG = Eight Gauge
2 AWG = Two Gauge
1 AWG = One Gauge
1/0 AWG = One Aught
2/0 AWG = Two Aught

Choosing the right wire gauge for your car audio system

Now that we know what a wire gauge and the AWG are, next is to discover the right wire gauge fit to use when configuring our car audio system wiring setup. Knowing the correct gauge to use should be based on these three factors:

  1. The power output of your stereo or amplifier.
  2. The impedance rating of your speakers.
  3. The required wire length for your speaker system.

Make sure to follow the exact information provided by the manufacturer to prevent fire hazards.