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Cables and Connectors

How to Cut and Join/Splice USB Cables Together

Disclaimer

Potential Damage: Splicing USB cables can damage your devices if done incorrectly. Proceed with caution and at your own risk.

Data Transfer: USB cables carry both power and data wires. Successful splicing can restore power but it is trickier for reliable data transfer.

What You’ll Need

Wire Strippers: For removing insulation from the individual wires.

Soldering Iron and Solder: For joining the wires securely.

Heat Shrink Tubing or Electrical Tape: To insulate the spliced connections.

Multimeter (Highly Recommended): To test for continuity and proper connections.

The Process

Cut and Strip: Cut both cables at the desired locations. Strip back the outer insulation on each cable to expose the four colored wires inside (usually they’re red, black, white and green). Slowly strip a short section of insulation from each individual wire.

Match the Colors: Find and match the same colored wires from each cable.

Twist and Solder: Twist the matching wires together (color to color). Add a small amount of solder to each twisted joint and create solid electrical connections.

Insulate Individually: Use small pieces of heat shrink tubing or electrical tape to insulate each soldered wire joint individually to prevent short circuits.

Insulate the Bundle: Cover all the exposed wiring with a larger piece of heat shrink tubing or wrap thoroughly with electrical tape.

Test with Multimeter (Crucial): Test each wire (color to color) for continuity and ensure the proper connections before plugging the cable in.

Advanced Steps

Wire Gauge: Thin wires in USB cables are delicate. Use precision wire strippers to avoid nicks because these can become weak points. If you go with the wire strippers look for models that handle 22-28 AWG (the gauges found in USB cables).

Twisting Technique: Tight and secure twists before soldering provide better mechanical strength and electrical contact. A lineman’s splice can be more reliable than a simple twist.

Soldering Tips:

Clean Tip: Keep your soldering iron tip clean and tinned for good heat transfer.

Flux: A bit of flux on the wires before soldering aids better solder flow.

Don’t Overheat: Be quick because too much heat can damage the wire insulation.

Shielded USB Cables: Some USB cables have an extra shielding layer (a thin or foil like wrap) around the internal wires. This needs to be properly reconnected for proper shielding and signal integrity.

Other Tools

Helping Hands: A helping hands device with small clamps and a magnifying glass is incredibly helpful for precise work on small wires like this one.

Wire Connectors: Use crimp style wire connectors with heat shrink over the connection instead of soldering for a less permanent solution. You need a crimp tool but it can be easier if you don’t have a lot of experience.

Testing Beyond Continuity

While a multimeter is important it only checks if a connection is made. If you’re splicing for data transfer use this:

USB Tester: USB voltage and current testers will give you a basic check on power delivery.

Functionality: The ultimate test is plugging in your spliced cable and checking if your device works as you want it to. Slow transfer speeds and instability will show you that your USB cable has splicing issues.

When Not to Splice

Certified Cables: Don’t modify USB cables with specific speed ratings (USB 2.0, 3.0). Splices always downgrade the cable’s speed.

Power Delivery (PD): Avoid splicing USB-C cables used for fast charging. The power negotiation these cables perform is very sensitive and you likely don’t have the required tools and machinery to work with these types of cables.

Liquid Damage: Never splice a cable that’s been exposed to water.

Important Things

Signal Integrity: Splices can bring resistance and signal degradation especially with data lines. This can cause problems with high speed devices or over long distances.

Safety: Poorly done splices will and have caused shorts before. Make sure all connections are thoroughly insulated to prevent fire or destroying your other device that you connect the new USB cable to.

Neatness: A clean and well insulated splice will be more robust and less prone to problems.

Situations Where Splicing Will Be Required

Custom Cable Lengths: If you need an unusual cable length not easily available.

Emergency Repairs: To temporarily restore power functionality to a device.

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