Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: On the boat cruising
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Re: Is tinned boat wire necessary?
I agree to some extent that tinned wire is not necessary. Pretty much all European and South Africa boats use untinned wire.
We presently own two boats - one with tinned wire since build in 1998, and the other with untinned wire since build in 2005.
The 1998 boat has no wire corrosion or connection issues at all. Surprisingly, it also has almost no heat shrink terminals or covering on any of it. Even butt joins. When I do need to remove and reinstall a terminal or butt connector for whatever reason, the wire has always been in good shape. At worst, in the wet anchor or deck locker, I have had to cut back an inch or two to get good wire.
The 2005 boat has a lot of corrosion at connectors. Even the sealed ones. It doesn't take much to breach a sealed connection, and end connectors (ring terminals, etc) are almost impossible to seal fully. I am changing a lot of the terminals and wiring for other reasons, and in the driest places, when I remove a terminal the ends have a lot of black on them. Probably 50% of the strands are black. I usually need to cut the wire back several inches to find non-black strands, or at least only 20% black strands. In the wet areas, like the anchor and deck lockers, things are much worse. I have had to cut feet off wires to find shiny wire. In fact, I am rewiring all of these wetter areas just because I'm finding so much wire corrosion. Most of these have heat shrink terminals and tubing on them.
Having said all of that, I still don't think tinned wire is the end-all and be-all of boat wire, and that good untinned marine wire is fine. I would probably always use tinned in wet areas, but then none of the bilge pumps, switches, shower sumps, holding tank pumps, etc that I buy have tinned wire on them. So using tinned wire on these is not helping anything.
In the US, there really isn't many choices for suitable marine untinned wire. I think that is why it gets such a bad rap - people are using unsuitable or cheap wire and not differentiating between applications. I suspect the costs are similar for good untinned wire and tinned wire.
Manta 40 Catamaran "Reach"
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