Choosing The Best Welding Cable Sizes: Types and Tips!

Marcus Colson Last updated on September 4, 2023
Reading Time: 4 Minute

The right welding cable size will help your work, while the wrong one will give you some problems.

To ensure your welding project works without a hitch, you should know your way around welding cables.

In this article, we will discuss how to choose the right welding cable sizes.

But before we go into that topic, let’s start with some basic knowledge.

What is a Welding Cable?

A welding cable is a conductor that sends electric current from a welding machine to a welding electrode.

The cable’s special design makes it possible to withstand high currents and voltages.

Cable Materials

Most welding cables are made of copper wire strands wrapped in a non-conductive coating (insulation).

While the copper works as a conductor, the insulation serves to protect the copper from liquid, dirt, or other things that may cause damage.

The cable may be bent or crammed into a narrow space during an application.

That is why the inner core and the coating materials must be flexible.

Flexible materials will reduce the chance of the cable breaking.

Cable Insulation

I think it’s important to consider your work environment before buying a new cable. Some insulations may work well in certain conditions but not others.

If you look for something flexible that can withstand environmental stress, you should opt for cables with EPDM rubber or neoprene insulation. 

But if your working environment is extreme that regular insulators will break in such conditions, consider using PVC insulated cables.

PVC may not be the most flexible material, but it can withstand cuts and tears better than EPDM and neoprene.

Read Also : Inverter vs Transformer Welder: Understanding the Advantage

Wedding Cable Types

To ensure a safe and efficient welding process, you need to know about your cable types and sizes.

In this section, you will learn about the two types of welding cables:

Single-Conductor Welding Cables

A single-conductor welding cable typically has only one copper conductor, hence the name.

You can use this welding cable type for simple welding projects, such as home and auto repairs.

Multi-Conductor Welding Cables

A multi-conductor welding cable contains more than one copper conductor.

It is commonly used for complex welding projects for commercial and industrial purposes.

How to Choose The Right Welding Cable?

When you choose a welding cable for your project, there are several things you need to consider.

Here are some of them:

  • Amperage Output

Amperage output (ampacity) is the maximum level of electrical current a cable can conduct in a safe manner.

Ampacity ratings depend on several factors, such as cable length, resistance writing, and wire size (gauge).

Since cables are meant to carry electrical current, they carry heat from the electricity.

Good insulation helps reduce the heat, though sometimes, it doesn’t provide enough protection.

Some cables carry too much heat in their cores and overheat.

When the overheating happens too often, the cables will eventually break down.

  • Duty Cycle

The core of your welding cable becomes hot as you weld.

Ignoring this will cause damage to your equipment. That is why “duty cycle” always appears on those welding cable charts. 

You calculate a duty cycle by measuring how long you can weld at a specific amperage setting in a 10-minute time. The result will be presented in percentages. 

When you exceed your duty cycle limit, the arc power in your welding machine will stop, and the cooling fan will start. Overworking your machine will negatively impact its components.

Higher ampacity means more heat.

So, if your machine’s duty cycle is high, you will need a cable with thick insulation to absorb the accumulated heat.

  • Cable Length

There are two kinds of cables you’re going to work with: work cable and electrode cable.

Work cable refers to the cable roll, while an electrode cable is a cable that connects your welder to the electrode source.

Before buying a welding cable, think about both types of cables above. Don’t just calculate one of them.

Please note that if you increase your cable length, you will lose some voltage. Yet, your movement will be limited if your cable is too short.

To solve this problem, use a cable with thick insulation when extending your cable. 

  • Welding Types

When choosing the right cable for your welding project, it is important to know the type of welding you will perform.

This is to ensure that your tools and equipment match the needs of the project. 

How complex is the project?

What kind of cables will you need to prepare for that?

These are some of the questions you need to answer before starting your project.

How to Choose The Right Welding Cable Size?

After learning several aspects about welding cables, now it’s time for you to learn how to choose the appropriate cable size.

Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow:

  1. Check the product label to learn about the ampacity of your welding machine.
  2. Calculate the length of cable you need. To minimize the risk of voltage drop, use a thicker cable if you decide to extend your cable length.
  3. Always consider the welding type. For example, complex industrial projects may require you to use a multi-conductor welding cable.
  4. Only use welding cables with good insulation because it helps you prevent the risk of electrocution and protect your cable core from damage.
  5. You can also use an online welding cable calculator or a welding cable chart to find the right size for your cable.

Reading a Welding Cable Chart

Recommended AWG welding cable sizes rated on 75 celsius

Maximum Welding Machine Output (Amperage)Duty Cycle0-50 ft. (AWG)50-100 ft. (AWG)100-150 ft. (AWG)150-200 ft. (AWG)

A welding cable chart contains some information you need to know about the right cable size.

In this chart, you will see a list of amperage output, duty cycles, and cable length.

Find your amperage output on the list to check what kind of cable you need. Once you find it, check the duty cycle and the length of cable you need.

As we’ve previously discussed in the previous section, duty cycles are presented in the percentage. The calculation is based on a 10-minute interval.

So, if the chart says “40% duty cycle” at “200A”. It means your machine can produce 200 amps for 4 minutes. Then it should rest for the remaining 6 minutes.

Read Also : Easy Welding Flames: Types and Tips for Perfect Results

Choosing the right welding cable size turns out to be more complex than it sounds. You must learn all these welding-related jargon and other cable-related things.

However, once you understand the basics, choosing the right cable size should be easy.

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Marcus Colson
Marcus Colson

Welding is more than a hobby for me - it's a passion. The art of fusing metal together to create something new and functional never gets old. From intricate sculptures to sturdy structures, I love the endless possibilities that welding offers.

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