Battery Wire & Cable Questions

Some of the most common questions I get asked are “what type of battery wire do you use to build the cables?” and “What size cable should I use for my vehicle?

Below are some descriptions of what we use, information on the gauges of wire and when to use it, and some other technical charts to use.  I’ll even give you my opinion about if you should be using marine-grade wire on your Dodge Dart…..

If you’re wondering whether to use a 2/0 battery cable or 1/0 we’ll give you the data you need to decide.

Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the page. We explain which gauge wire is right for every application. And we’ll show you how we build cables for you.

Different Types of Battery Wire and Uses:

SGT Battery Cable:

We generally use SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) SGT battery cable.  SGT designates the type of insulation.  (Wire is rated by several characteristics but most commonly its insulation type.  For example ‘THHN” is probably what you have for the wiring in your house.  THHN stands for “Thermoplastic High Heat-resistant Nylon-coated). SGT is a thermoplastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride) insulation rated at 50 volts. It’s typically rated for 85 or 105 degrees C.

It usually has a fairly low strand count (meaning the strands are larger), making the wire stiff enough to stay where you put it but is still flexible enough to bend around tight corners.

SGX Battery Cable:

Sometimes we use SGX battery cable. SGX uses a high-grade XLP (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) insulation which has a higher temperature rating and is more abrasion-resistant. The trade-off is the insulation is thicker and stiffer.  Often it has a higher strand count. If you need a higher temp rating, it’s a good choice.

Marine Battery Cable:

There are several types of “Marine” wire. It’s usually rated for higher temperatures and “wet” (think submerged) applications. It also has a requirement that it must be “self-extinguishing”. The marine rating is a Coast Guard legal requirement for marine applications.  Do not build a cable intended for marine use out of wire that does not have a marine rating.

Most of the SGT we sell also carry a marine rating (BC-2 rating)

Fuse Link or Fusible Link:

Think of a fuse link as a very slow-acting (“slow-blow”) fuse that looks like a piece of wire.  Fuse link wire has special very high-temp insulation that won’t burn even if the wire becomes so hot that it fuses open.

Its most common use is in alternator wires. It protects the electrical system from a catastrophic failure of the alternator diodes.  Without the fuse link, the alternator wire would melt or burn, possibly starting an underhood fire.  Other common applications are the wires going to glow plug or intake grid heater relays on diesel engines.

It’s usually a 6 to 9-inch piece two wire sizes smaller than the wire it is protecting. For example, a 4 gauge wire would use a piece of 8 gauge fuse link.

OFC (Oxygen Free Copper):

OFC (Oxygen Free Copper) wire often gets sold by stereo shops to hook up speakers or a high-power amp. Don’t waste your money. This stuff is just another way for slick salesmen to get more of your hard-earned money.

What’s different about it? Standard wire is AT LEAST 99.90% pure copper.  OFC is 99.95%, pure copper.   An extra 0.05% copper sounds good.  What’s the downside?  COST.  OFC is often TWICE the price for the same size as standard cable. So you are paying DOUBLE for 0.05% more copper.  There is NO measurable electric difference (source Wikipedia).

CCA (Copper Clad Aluminum):

Just say “no”. Copper clad is nothing more than copper-plated aluminum.  Aluminum has 60% the conductivity of copper so a CCA wire will need to be roughly 2 sizes larger to have the same conductivity.  In other words, a CCA wire would need to be 2 gauge to do the work of a 6 ga copper. Just buy copper wire.

For more info see Wikipedia.

Summary:

For automotive cables, use SAE-rated SGT or SGX battery cable. It works great for automotive applications at a fair price. Do NOT use welding cable, OFC or CCA for underhood applications.

For boats, you must use “marine” rated wire.

What Gauge or Size Cable do I need?

GoBig.

I recommend building cables larger than stock.  The manufacturers make stock battery cables as small as possible that barely get the job done. Going up a size or two is worth it in the long run because they do work better and last longer.  Isn’t that what you want for your car or truck? Something that will work better and last longer.

Long runs:

For very long cables (for example, 15-foot long battery cables to relocate your battery) go one size larger.

10 Gauge wire

10 gauge works for accessory leads, low power alternators, and starter trigger wires

8 Gauge wire

8 gauge works for accessory leads and low power alternators.

6 Gauge wire

6 gauge works for accessory leads and most stock alternators. Battery cables for small engines (like ATVs and sub-compacts). Some stock golf cart wiring.

4 Gauge wire

4 gauge wire makes great accessory leads and alternator wiring (up to about 160A).  Many cars use this as a battery cable. Some electric ATVs use #4 for the battery banks. It also makes very good automotive booster cables.

2 Gauge wire

We recommend #2 wire for 4-cylinder and small 6-cylinder automotive engines, hi-power accessories (like winches, power converters), and alternators over 160A.

Also works great for high-performance golf cart battery banks.  Recommended for professional heavy-duty,  booster cable (jumper cable) kits.

1 Gauge wire

We recommend 1 gauge wire for large 6-cylinder or small V8 automotive engines, hi-power accessories (like winches, power converters), and high output aftermarket alternators in the 200A range.

1/0 Gauge

1/0 makes a great battery cable for large or hi-performance 6-cylinder engines and stock V8s.

2/0 Gauge

Use 2/0 battery cables for hard-to-crank engines (like high compression, big blocks, or diesel engines), electric vehicle battery banks (depending on controller amperage), and large RV power converters house batteries..

3/0 Gauge

4/0 Gauge

3/0 and 4/0 are for very large marine or diesel engines and high-power alternative energy battery banks.

Shop for wires

We carry a wide range of wires. Take a look at our wire products today.

Technical Data and Battery Wire Gauge Charts for Cars & Trucks:

Note: This information comes from a variety of sources and it is used for reference only.

We have not personally verified all the data shown.

AWG Size and Diameter Chart

American Wire Gauge (AWG) is the standard for denoting wire size in North America. The the AWG chart below, the larger the number, the smaller the wire diameter and thickness.

AWG
Size
Insulation
Thickness
DiameterApproximate
Weight
665 mils0.333 inch116 lbs / 1000′
465 mils0.360 inch158 lbs / 1000′
265 mils0.440 inch244 lbs / 1000′
178 mils0.480 inch304 lbs / 1000′
1/065 mils0.520 inch370 lbs / 1000′
2/065 mils0.570 inch458 lbs / 1000′
3/078 mils0.660 inch586 lbs / 1000′
4/078 mils0.740 inch779 lbs / 1000′
Correct Gauge Terminology
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

Allowable Amperage of Conductors Table

Inside Engine SpaceInside Engine SpaceInside Engine SpaceInside Engine SpaceInside Engine SpaceInside Engine Space
Conductor
Size
(AWG)
67º C
(140º)
75º C
(167º)
80º C
(176º)
90º C
(194º)
105º C
(221º)
125º C
(257º)
185.87.511.716.417.022.3
168.711.315.620.521.326.7
1411.615.019.529.835.645.0
1214.518.827.332.838.344.5
1023.230.039.045.151.062.3
831.948.854.657.468.080.1
646.471.378.082.0102.0111.3
460.993.8101.4110.7136.0151.3
369.6108.8117.0127.1153.0173.6
281.2127.5136.5147.6178.5200.3
195.7146.3163.8172.2208.3235.9
0 or 1/0113.1172.5191.1200.9242.3271.5
2/0130.5198.8222.3233.7280.5316.0
3/0150.8232.5257.4270.6327.3369.9
4/0174.0270.0300.3315.7378.3422.8
Correct Gauge Terminology
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

Allowable Amperage of Conductors for Under 50V (Per SAE J-378) Note: Since most wire is rated at 85° use the 80°C values

What Gauge Battery Wire Should You Use?