Cable connectors: A weak link if done improperly
4/20/2020

Many of the failures of electronics on boats are due to connections between cables that are made improperly during installation.  If you’re planning to do some wiring or re-wiring, marine electronics dealer John Barry says to consider frequency response, and be sure to match impedance, use environmentally rated connectors, tie carefully, never mount under tension, don’t over-tighten wire ties and test all connections. And, importantly, he says to always follow manufacturers’ guidelines.

By John Barry


Marine electronics installers use a wide variety of connectors to accomplish the job.  Connectors used in the marine environment range from simple to complex and overlap other industry connectors in their construction and usage.  We share the PL259, the UHF connector used for marine VHF, with many other radio services, like HAM radio or CB radio (Citizens Band).  We also share the RJ45 Ethernet connector with the computer industry.  We all use connectors for all types of connections, but there is more to getting the connection right than just plugging it in.

Of course, connectors, like all technology, is a topic that has evolved and is evolving as we stand on the shoulders of giants.  Connectors have properties that make one connector OK and another not OK!  The most obvious property or specification associated with a connector is its frequency response. A PL259 connector will pass up to 300 MHz, so a signal that is below 300 MHz will pass through the connector with minimal signal loss.  If we connect a 900 MHz cell phone using a PL259 connector there is huge loss, to the extent that it will not work.  TNC (Threaded Neill-Concelman) connectors have a much higher frequency response, and so we often see TNC connectors on cell phones.  Always use a connector that is rated for at least the frequency you are using.

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