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  1. #1
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    The tinned copper wire thing.

    To me there seems to be an almost religeous zelotry about concerning tinned copper wire in boating applications.

    There are many out there who will inist that you MUST use tinned copper wire for all applications on your boat....and not to do so is somehow dangerous or irresponsible.

    I've even had people say to me that when a boat comes in to their shop with an electrical fault and the find tinned copper wire they will rip it all out and replace it.

    Now don't get me wrong using tinned copper wire in marine and many other applications is a very good idea and a preference...... it is quite probable you need to use tinned wire if your boat has to pass survey....... but that in my opinion is the end of it.

    there are many other things that are far more important than tinning on copper wire.

    The quality of the insulation for starters I would be more concerned that the insulation on the wire was one of the more dense plastics ( typicaly 240V rated)rather than the softer and slightly porous insulation found on some automotive wire and certainly in common figure 8.

    The correct sizing of the wire.... too often people use wire that is too light and voltage drop results.

    Quality of terminations......I am gob smacked at how much marine electrical gear has screw terminals or unplated spade lugs.
    I am convinces that lots of people don't know how to use a screw terminal correctly..... or are careless in stripping wire
    How many people (including professionals) are using crimp lugs with cheap crimpers..... or even worse pliers
    Soo often I have seen the wrong sized crimp lugs for the wire used.

    Correct fusing.....the single biggest reason for catestrophic wiring failure is incorrect or inadequate fusing...........how many boats have a main fuse where the supply cable leaves the battery ( not the start cable you cant fuse that)

    Mechanical protection of the wiring.......simply putting wiring inside some form of tube or conduit will provide considerable protection against sun, wind, rain & fishhooks.

    strain relief..... tying cables up so that weight is taken of terminations and cables arent free to vibrate.

    Enclosing electrical switch gear & fuses in some for of case..... how many boats have a switch panel with rubber boots on the front and all the connections and mechanisms unprotected in open air just under the console or behind the dash.

    grommets and sharp edges......one common place to develop a fault is where wires come thru a panel or past an edge...... is that edge filed smooth and is there a gromet to rubber strip to protect wires

    and it goes on and on

    There seems to be some impression that salt water is realy evil and corrosive....( I supose it is)... but in comparison to many industrial contexts salt water is mild.......
    look at milk or meat processing or worse heavy chemical industry..... far more corrosive........ & there is no violent compulsion to use tinned copper in those situations.

    I would go further and say.......if a small boat marine installation was done realy well..... tinned copper would not make a blind bit of difference.

    Again I am not against the use of tinned copper wire....... just making it a hanging offence not to use it is all out of proportion.

    ( puts on hard hat, waits for raining bricks)

    cheers

  • #2
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    G'day

    My little 12' tinny was originally wired up by myself, and I used auto wire in some areas. It corroded right through and was a green powdered mess when replaced, this was only in 2 years.

    IMO, only think and only use tinned wire, anything else is a compromise. Fair enough it's a small part, but a bloody important one in a good system

    Dave

  • #3
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    i think installation methods come down to firstly how neat the installer/customer is (ie. what he's happy with) and secondly, how important the installation is (ie. you'd treat an install on a 40 foot cruiser differently to wiring a sounder to a motorcycle battery in your 10 foot punt). it's horses for courses i reckon, depending on what the customer/end user is happy with. as for tinned wire well i reckon every bit helps. difference between terminations on a boat and terminations in a plant (with milk/chemicals) is that the terminations in a plant will be in a fully sealed compartment where the corrosive liquids cannot get into the conductors. as long as the outer sheath is not compromised the cable is as good as sealed. correct though, if you wanted to go to the level of using cable glands and fully sealed ip66 compartments for electrics on your small boat then go for it, most people would never justify the price, on a multi million dollar super boat however it'd be normal. the old "horses for courses" thing again.

  • #4
    Ausfish Platinum Member timddo's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    I use normal 240volt electrical wire, 2 mm.
    Basically you would need to seal the ends, I put lugs at the terminals and they weld them with lead. This provides a protective barrier between the terminal and cable.

    P.s Auto cable has very fine strains of copper , while electrical has thick strains

  • #5
    Ausfish Platinum Member peterbo3's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    Tinned wire IS marine grade. The Australian made wire has the appropriate rating on the reel. This ensures that the insulation is fire, oil & chemical resistant, meaning it it is suitable for engine room use. Plus the tinned copper counteracts "salt water wicking" which occurs when moisture is drawn into the wire & turns it into the familar greenish gunk by a chemical reaction.
    To do the things that Oldboot has mentioned when wiring is great, but without tinned wire the job is only half done & will probably not last. It takes no longer to do the job properly the first time.



    ROLL TIDE, ROLL.................

    Regards,
    Peter


    http://www.superiorterminals.com.au

  • #6
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    precisely paddles.

    as for the automotive cable corroding......in that situation.... if the problem is that bad, tinned copper will only buy you a little time.

    As I mentioned quite a bit of the lower grade cable the insulation is quite porous.
    In addition some of the softer insulations have plasticisers in them that actualy cause corrosion......
    The worst case of these I have seen is in certain brands of clear insulated speaker cable....now here is a realy good illustration.....

    some of the clear insulated speaker cables have one strand bright copper and the other strand tinned copper........ it looks great when the cable is new and it provides easy identification of the strands........ but once the corrosion process gets going the copper strand turns green and the tinned strand turns black..... strip back the cable & both strands are just as bad.
    I pulled a few 40 odd meter lengths of this stuff out of a refit I was doing and the whole length of the cable was like it........this was from a clean, dry, indoor install.

    on a similar vein... there is a fig 8 cable very popular in the public address indusrty that has this self corrosion problem..... in this case it isn't bad at all unless you use it in an exposed situation.........now I have undone joints where this cable has been joined to better quality 240 volt insulated flex.......and stripped back the joint to re make it.......the cheap fig 8 is noticably tarnished and for quite a bit up the cable..... but the better quality cable (in the same joint and under the same screw) is tarnished but still has bright copper inside the bundle of strands..... chop back a few mm into the insulation & strip and the copper is bright.

    definitely a cable quality issue.

    It is a problem with alll cables that moisture gets in where the cable is cut or stripped and travels up the cable sometimes inches, in some cases feet.
    It is very important to seal or otherwise protect your ends.

    those heat shrink crimp lugs are a great thing and have realy come down in price in the last few years.......when I first saw them some 10 years ago they were like $4 to$5 each retail...... now you can get a pack of 4 or 6 for that. ( glad I don't buy retail)........( often)

    for other joins The idea form this board ( "Finga" i think) of putting some form of corrosion preventive ( inox, tectyl, lanolin ....) on the wire and the terminal prior to crimping or screwing is a real good idea.

    cheers

  • #7
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by timddo View Post
    P.s Auto cable has very fine strains of copper , while electrical has thick strains
    actualy that is abit of a miss conception.

    240 volt building wires, twins & twin & earth most certainly do have heavier strands...... this sort of wire should not be used where there is vibration or flexing.

    240 volt flexes on the other hand have a finer stranding that automotive.

    standard strand size in automotive is 0.30mm or 0.32mm, the standard strand in 240 volt approved electrical flexes is 0.20mm or 0.25mm.......automotive electrical wire is refeered by its nominal outside diameter of the insulation, 240 volt cable are refeered to by the cross sectional area of the actulal copper.

    4mm automotive wire is typicaly 26 strans at 0.30mm 1.84mm2 cross sectional area and rated at 15 amps

    240 volt 15 amp flex is 30 strands at 0.25mm ans 1.5mm2 crossectional area

    In a better manufacturer there will be no difference in the insulation......it will be V75.....240 rated insulation suitable for temperatures up to 75 deg C.
    You cant count on that from a discount supplier.

    peter mate that looks nice........& If it was a boat that required that sort of work... I would most certainly be using tinned copper.

    Now interestingly many of the manufacturers of marine electronics do not see fit to use tinned copper on their suppiled cables........is this a crisis.........I don't think so........do i need to be aware and make allowance for it.......... hell yeh.

    cheers

  • #8
    Ausfish Addict FNQCairns's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by peterbo3 View Post
    Tinned wire IS marine grade. The Australian made wire has the appropriate rating on the reel. This ensures that the insulation is fire, oil & chemical resistant, meaning it it is suitable for engine room use. Plus the tinned copper counteracts "salt water wicking" which occurs when moisture is drawn into the wire & turns it into the familar greenish gunk by a chemical reaction.
    To do the things that Oldboot has mentioned when wiring is great, but without tinned wire the job is only half done & will probably not last. It takes no longer to do the job properly the first time.



    Great job there! Where is all of the overlength cable? Like transducer, fuel meter etc, do even the big boys have a dogs breakfast out of view and under the floor?.

    cheers fnq



  • #9
    Ausfish Platinum Member peterbo3's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    "Great job there! Where is all of the overlength cable? Like transducer, fuel meter etc, do even the big boys have a dogs breakfast out of view and under the floor?.

    cheers fnq"

    The overlength cables (VHF, AM/FM radio, transducer, GPS antenna) are all neatly coiled & secured behind a panel on the inside of the cabin roof support. No dogs breakfast here because I did all the wiring.
    ROLL TIDE, ROLL.................

    Regards,
    Peter


    http://www.superiorterminals.com.au

  • #10
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    another thing to consider old boot is that copper will have a corrosion "layer" on it anyway, this actually protects the copper beneath. now if this corrosion layer gets thicker than the strand thickness of the cable you're in trouble. it's kind of a double edged sword, lower strand thickness gives greater flexibility but greater susceptability to corrosion and work hardening. tinned is still a good idea i reckon, if you're willing to pay the extra cost.

    that cabinet is a work of art pete, lovely, but why did you fabricate a nice aluminium enclosure and then just have a piece of plastic covering it instead of a door with a seal. it wouldn't have cost much more.

  • #11
    Ausfish Platinum Member peterbo3's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    Paddles,
    The power boxes are inside the cabin & have some eight conduit holes in them. It would not be possible to seal them. Every terminal is heat shrunk with hot melt glue inside. All the terminal blocks are Blueseas & are silicon coated after the wiring is done.
    There will be no corrosion here. The soft covers are there to prevent accidental contact with the wiring & do the job whilst allowing quick access in the unlikely event it be needed.
    ROLL TIDE, ROLL.................

    Regards,
    Peter


    http://www.superiorterminals.com.au

  • #12
    Ausfish Platinum Member
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    looks good anyway pete

  • #13
    Ausfish Addict Horse's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    If you can imagine the wire ever being exposed to salt water then tinned is the only solution that gives any piece of mind to me. For "dry" installations use whatever but when the chips are down and your boat is getting a real thrashing I would be much happier with tinned wire to my bilge pumps

    Its time to fix things

  • #14
    Ausfish Bronze Member
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    There are some good points made and at the end of the day it is a personal choice that you will have to live with. I personally believe that the old saying do the job right the first time is a motto that has proven itself to me over the years

    Cheers

  • #15
    Ausfish Addict TheRealAndy's Avatar
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    Re: The tinned copper wire thing.

    I am an instrument fitter by trade, peter is not, but looks like he has a good mate who is!!!! If he was an instrument fitter by trade then the boat would be a shambles!!!

    All I can say is that I have worked in thw worst environemnts and nothing works!! The best way we have saved gear over the years is to use waterproof glands on everything and seal up the equipment with a few psi of compressed air so water cant get in. Not practical on a boat.

    BTW oldboot, apart from the aluminium smelters in gladstone I am yet to find anything worse than salt water, and I have worked in the milk factories, meatworks and chemical plants.

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