Wires can be a hot topic of debate in the boating community. Some are staunch of advocates of marine-grade wires, while others are convinced that SAE wires (short for Society of Automotive Engineering) are more than up for the task. To be sure, both types of wire can power both land- and water-based engines, and the constant innovations and improvements being done to their designs and functionality allows them to become interchangeable, in many cases. But wires aren’t created equal, and to someone who oversees and manages marine projects, there is a clear winner in the perennial debate over SAE wires vs. marine cables.
What are SAE and Marine Cables?
SAE cables are designed primarily to power automotive accessories and devices. They are a general-purpose thermoplastic (GPT) insulated primary wire built to the society’s standards, and labelled according to the amount of voltage they carry. As SAE wires are specifically created for land-based engines, few SAE cables can sufficiently powerboats, whose voltage requirements are obviously much higher compared to cars and motorcycles. Of note, only SAEs rated J378, J1127, and J1128 can conduct enough voltage to operate water vehicles, and they should still be used only as an absolute last resort.
On the other hand, marine cables are designed precisely to be used for boats, generally used for the circuit wiring on shipboards, which is why they are also sometimes referred to as ‘shipboard cables’. They are built to handle higher wattages required by boats, and they are designed to withstand corrosion better than SAE cables. The strands in the wire are firmer and finer, making them more flexible and resilient to a boat’s more intense movements, and they are built to endure the harsher conditions on water where oil, moisture, and heat are stronger. Marine cables are built with tinned copper components, which conducts electricity better, and suffer from less oxidation than bare copper wires.
Can You Use Automotive Wires for Your Boat?
Yes, you technically can use automotive wires for your boat, but it is not ideal. Marine wires are finer, and each individual strand is tinned, which are features necessary for surviving in the rougher conditions of open water. Although these characteristics also make marine cables more expensive than their land counterparts, it is ultimately in your best interest to invest in marine wires to ensure your trips are smooth-sailing.
As mentioned above, SAE cables can only do so much, and only a select few are actually usable in the water. In addition, the risks that could come with them, like short-circuiting or breaking down in the elements, are not worth the few dollars you save in trying to cut corners, and the repairs can actually set you back much further. Getting the right tools for your machine is still essential in making sure your ship runs tight.
Using Marine Cables Has Benefits
Keep in mind that your safety and security comes above all else, so be sure to have a reliable electrical system on board. Open waters are much more difficult to navigate than land, so install the right cables, components, and connections, and don’t take shortcuts when wiring your boat. Also, make sure that all equipment are up to grade, and that they are regularly maintained.
If you’re looking for a specific marine wire for your boat, Cable Source has got you covered. We offer some of the best marine-grade cables in the entire Asia Pacific, and our products are made to guarantee the safety of you, and everyone else aboard. Chat us up today to learn more about our products.