Archive for the ‘Ham Radio’ Category

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.