Learn how to choose the right size welding cable with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Whether you’re a beginner or expert in the world of welding, you need to know about the different sizes of welding cable. Welding cable is the electric conductor that carries a current. Fine copper strands make up the inside of the cable, while the outside is jacketed in non-conductive natural rubber or synthetic material. The combination of fine copper and rubber allow the cable to be flexible while staying durable in rough conditions.
To choose the right size welding cable you need to know the current levels you’ll be working with. The more amps you use, the bigger welding cable you’ll need. Think of the welding cable like a hose. The more water you need to carry through, the bigger the hose you would use.
Why size is important
Welding cable sizes are determined with an amperage rating. The amperage rating is the highest amount of current that can be safely delivered through the cable. Other than size, the length and temperature ratings of the material can factor into the size you choose. Even if the cable is the same diameter, one with a shorter length can carry more power than one with a longer length.
The copper in the cable will produce some resistance heating. If you have the right size, you can expect the cable to be warm to the touch after it’s been used. However, if you push too much current through cable that’s too small, the cable will inevitably overheat. Not only will you damage the cable, but you’ll have a fire hazard.
While not hazardous, using a cable that’s too big is inefficient. Larger and longer amounts of cable cost more money due to more copper strands. All of this boils down to why you need the right size welding cable. It’s safer and cost-effective.
How to choose the right size
When you’re buying welding cable, you need to know the total length of your welding circuit. This is simply the entire path that electricity travels when you’re welding. This includes your welding machine, welding gun or electrode holder, stick electrode or wire, work cable and the work clamp. You also need to know the maximum amperage that you plan on using with your machine and ultimately the cable. The output can be typically found on the machine.
Finally, you need to know the capacity rating. It’s a percentage of a 10 minute time period, measuring how much current can be used before the cable overheats and shuts down. You can find it either on the side of your welding machine or the owner’s manual.
Once you know these three things, it’s time to pick your cable. The sizes are measured by an American Wire Gauge (AWG) size. The smaller the diameter, the larger the size number. The most common sizes are 4/0,3/0,2/0,1/0,#1,#2,#3 and #4. You can use our table for to find your suggested amperage rating for each length and gauge size.
Of course, you can always ask one of our friendly associates for assistance at your local Blain’s Farm & Fleet. We carry welding equipment from top brands like Lincoln Electric and Hobart. From welding machines to welding helmets, you can find everything you need for a genuine value.