CAMPING - POWER & LIGHTING
Few tools are available in a much wider price range than electrical terminal-to-wire crimpers. You can spend as little as five bucks and more than four hundred.
Like most bush travellers, we’ve had to do some electrical system repair work on every bush trip we’ve done. It seems like there’s always something that needs attention: if not on your own vehicle or camper; it’s someone else’s.
Rough tracks and corrugated roads play havoc with wiring and terminals.
We travel with a quality clamp multimeter that can measure resistance, current flow and voltage; proper wire strippers; a pile of spare fuses; spare cigarette lighter plugs cans sockets; assorted connectors; insulating tape; spare lengths of wire of varying sizes and 12V and butane soldering kits.
Until recently, we also used an ‘el cheapo’ crimping tool: the type that is made out of two pieces of flat steel, that work with a simple scissor action.
After our last rough-road foray, we had some intermittent electrical dramas and I took our 75 Series to the local ‘sparky’ for a check-over.
He didn’t take long to find the source of our troubles: crimped terminals that had gradually worked loose over time. They looked all right, but a strong tug on half a dozen of them provoked some wire-terminal movement.
While I amused myself at the nearby hardware store he set to work, fixing my DIY efforts. I noticed when I returned that he he’d been using a ratchet-type crimper.
Like many of us 4×4 folk, I’d seen these crimpers before, but figured I wasn’t doing crimping every day and probably didn’t need one. Wrong. As he pointed out to me: terminals and joins in wires are weak links and they need to be as secure as possible.
Soldering is a positive means of connection, but you can’t always get into tight places with soldering gear. Crimping is fine…if it’s done right.
After checking all the crimpers I could find in the ‘interweb’, I settled on a Narva Professional Ratchet Crimping kit, part number 56513. There is a heavier-duty Master model, part number 56523.
Both are ratchet types, but the Professional tops out at 10mm2 (3.5mm-diameter) wire, where the Master is rated up to 16mm2 (4.5mm-diameter). I figured if I need to bush-repair anything with more than 3.5mm-diameter wire I’ll call for help, because serious loads run through thick wires.
Since getting my hands on the black and blue Narva tool, I’ve redone all my previous crimps and I’m surprised at how much more secure the new crimps are. Also noticeable is the way it gently clamps the plastic insulation as well.
I use mainly insulated joiners and terminals, because they provide a one-stop joint, but the Narva ratchet crimpers can handle all types of crimped cable ends.
The jaws can accept four pairs of interchangeable heads, allowing this one tool to service all your crimping needs, from insulated and non-insulated terminals through to cable lugs. The heads simply slide in and out of the jaws.
Head A is designed for blue, red and yellow insulated terminals; Head B, suitable for cable lugs in lugs in 2.5mm2 to 10mm2 sizes; Head C, a double crimp suitable for non-insulated terminals and Head I2, a single crimp suitable for non-insulated terminals.
The crimping tool applies controlled pressure, with a heavy-duty ratchet action. This combined with the easy-to-use spring release, allows the professional ratchet crimping kit to provide a high quality crimp.
I’ve found that the jaws automatically open when a crimping action is finished, but they can be tripped open with a release lever, if it’s necessary to start again.
Red and blue sizes don’t need much pressure, but yellow ones need some effort.
The head for insulated terminals is shaped so that the stepped-shape of the terminal locates correctly in the jaws, alleging the terminal before the crimping takes place.
The kit comes in a plastic carry case, with recesses for the tool and heads.
If the ratchet types aren’t enough for your needs, Narva makes a hex-headed tool for crimping battery cable terminals, but that really serious bit of kit will set you back nearly $400.