This Cheap PowerPole Crimper Works!

Thursday, February 3rd, ©2011 Marcus Brooks
Place contact so barrel seam sits in saddle.

Place 30A contact so barrel sits seam-down in small "saddle." (Click picture to enlarge.)

Most of my projects use the familiar red and black 30-Amp Anderson PowerPole connectors for motor and battery hook-ups. I used to simply solder the stripped wire into the connector’s crimp barrel, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and get a crimping tool. For these connectors, a crimp attachment is much faster, easier, and arguably more reliable than a solder joint.

Anderson’s “official” crimp tool costs over $200, and I had trouble justifying even the $40 TRIcrimp sold by Powerwerx. (The TRIcrimp looks like a great deal, though, especially if you need the optional extra die set.) I “settled” for the Powerwerx $13 economy tool, bought through my local Ham store.

Outside of crimped contact.

Outside of crimped contact.

Having read about some of the other generic crimp tools, I was prepared to endure a compromise. Reviewers talk about mashed crimps that require some rework to fit in the connector housing. Since that’s what I expected, I settled for some pretty dodgy crimps before I finally caught on to the secret. What’s the secret? Used correctly, the $13 Powerwerx tool can make a neat, secure, one-squeeze crimp with a 30A PowerPole contact; the result just doesn’t look like the tight double-scroll crimp I expected.

Barrel space is fully occluded for a tight crimp.

Barrel space is fully occluded for a tight crimp.

To use this tool effectively, stuff the stripped wire into the connector barrel, then lay the seamed side of the barrel, centered, into the smaller half-cylinder of the tool’s jaw. When you squeeze the tool, the opposing die punches a stirrup of metal into the back of the barrel, clamping the wire securely in place. The connector might stick on the post, but it’s not hard to pop off. Only crimp once. Crimping twice or more along the length of the barrel will distort it, and weaken the crimp. (Leaving unbent metal on either end provides support.)

This tool’s crimp might not be quite as strong as a full-length ratcheted crimp, but it is strong enough to take any stress I’m willing to subject my wiring to. I expect the connector housings to pull apart long before the crimp fails.

The 30A contacts are theoretically too large for wire smaller than 14 gauge. I haven’t tried this tool with 15A contacts, and I’m using the smaller die position for 30A crimps, so I can’t tell if 15A contacts would work as well. I use “too small” wire in the 30A contacts by stripping an extra length and folding the wire so it fills the crimp barrel. This seems to allow a secure crimp. For much smaller wire, I’ve started using the little 2.5-mm JST connectors (apparently their 2A RCY series).

I have never seen a clear “official” explanation of how to get good crimps with the $13 tool, so these tips are just my own experience. Mileage may vary, but I hope this post will help others enjoy using this “compromise” crimp tool as much as I do.

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6 Responses to “This Cheap PowerPole Crimper Works!”

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting this- Powerwerx had useless instructions, and I was about ready to toss it. I am not an idiot but the guy who made the tool knows how it was designed to work, and i’m glad you figured it out.

  2. marcus says:

    Hey, thanks for the feedback! I often wonder if anybody is reading this stuff, and it’s especially nice to hear I’ve helped someone!

  3. Fox3 says:

    I just got mine today and it doesn’t look like yours, This is what I got:

    Still awaiting my powerpoles, we’ll see…

    Thanks for your effort to produce this instructional!

  4. marcus says:

    Interesting! It seems they’ve improved the design by making it unnecessary to guess which slot to use. They’ve changed the larger punch crimp to a general-purpose masher. I always use the smaller position anyway, so I guess it all works out the same. Thanks for the heads up!

  5. Ron says:

    Why is stated on some web sites when using a Gardner binder type crimping tool pliers type, that you should put the seam of the contact towards the little bump in the tool even on some videos on you tube ,what I want to know is what is the proper seam location placed to crimp the contact for a 15 amp or 30 amp power pole connector?

  6. marcus says:

    Actually, the two videos you posted at show opposite techniques with the Gardener tool. You’ll notice the guy who orients the “seam” towards the “bump” has to mash the connection three times. That’s a clue that he’s doing it wrong, isn’t it?

    He’s trying to use this crimper as if it were the kind that forms a tight, neat, double-scroll crimp. Those tools have a small, sharp pointy bump, not a big round one like the Gardener tool. Mashing in the seam might work OK with the 15-amp connector, because it has a thicker wall that might stand up to repeated mashing. I haven’t tried my technique (seam opposite bump) on a 15-amp connector. But I am certain it is the best way to use this tool for a 30-amp PowerPole contact.

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