Automotive Battery Cable Specifications & Overview

Most of us are familiar with battery cable and the battery cable specification for a given application. That said, some common questions arise regarding automotive battery cable specifications and the usage of cables in other applications.

Battery Cable and Its Uses

As a quick refresher on battery cable—battery cable is a rigid single-conductor wire made of heavy gauge copper. It’s typically insulated with PVC or XLPE and used to safely link electrical automotive parts with the vehicle's battery.

What is a battery lead? The parts of the battery cable are sometimes referred to as battery leads. The battery cable features a positive lead that connects to the ignition. Likewise, it features a negative lead, grounding and connecting to the chassis. Automotive battery cables have a 60-volt rating.

Insulated and flame-retardant, the outer jacket protects the inside cable from environmental hazards, including salt, fuel, oil, water, lubricants, and acid. In addition, battery cables can withstand moderately high heat. Automotive battery cable is also used in marine applications and other industrial functions.

What gauge is an automotive battery cable? Automotive battery cables come in several different sizes, and the proper size depends on the application and need. Most car batteries use a 12-volt power supply, which is best suited to a 6-gauge battery cable (the standard). Although the battery cable can withstand up to 60 volts, it is ideal for 12-volt electrical systems.

Battery Cable Specification and Standards

As for the technical battery cable specification, the requirements are SAE J1127. There are three specification types for battery cable:

  • Type SGR: synthetic rubber insulated.
  • Type SGT: thermoplastic insulated.
  • Type SGX: Cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) insulated.
  • Type STX: Cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) insulated, featuring a thinner wall.

The standard test requirements for SGT & SGX battery cables are:

  • Strand coating
  • Physical properties (insulation)
  • High temperature
  • Dielectric
  • Cold Bend
  • Flame
  • Oil absorption
  • Abrasion resistance

SGR battery cable doesn’t have an SAE J1127 test requirement for dielectric, flame, or abrasion resistance. All battery cables must meet the SAE requirements to ensure quality and safety. The rigorous testing process helps protect consumers as well as their products.

Types of Automotive Battery Cable

So, what types of automotive battery cables are best? It generally depends on the automotive or mechanical application. Though most battery cables seem similar, there are some significant differences between the different types of battery cables.

SGR Battery Cable

SGR battery cable is used primarily in automotive applications, but it is also suited to other applications like marine and RV. SGR is used between battery ground and starter circuits. The SGR features flexible synthetic rubber insulation with a stranded bare copper conductor. SGR has a temperature range of -40°C to +105°C and a voltage rating of 50V.

SGT Battery Cable

SGT battery cable is typically found in battery ground and starter circuits. SGT has thermoplastic (PVC) insulation with a stranded bare copper conductor. SGT has a temperature range from -40°C to +105°C and a voltage rating of 50V.

SGX Battery Cable

SGX is a cross-linked cable used in automotive applications between starts and battery grounds. The SGX has cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) insulation and a stranded bare copper conductor. Similar to the other types of battery cable, the SGX has a voltage rating of 50V with a broader temperature range of -40°C to +125°C. The SGX battery cable has stronger resistance to aging and abrasion as compared to the SGT and SGR.

STX Battery Cable

STX battery cable is similar to SGX in that it is a cable with cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE) insulation and a stranded bare copper conductor. Like the other types of automotive battery cable, the STX has a 50V voltage rating and a temperature range of -40°C to +125°C. The STX features a thinner wall, making it more flexible and ideal for use in tight automotive applications.

Automotove Battery Cable Comparison Chart

Stranded Copper Conductor Stranded Copper Conductor Stranded Copper Conductor Stranded Copper Conductor
Gas, Oil, Abrasion Resistant (plus most other engine fluids) Gas, Oil, Abrasion Resistant (plus most other engine fluids) Gas, Oil, Abrasion Resistant (plus most other engine fluids) Gas, Oil, Abrasion Resistant (plus most other engine fluids)
Rubber Insulation Themoplastic (PVC) Insulation Cross-Linked (XLPE) Insulation Cross-Linked (XLPE) Insulation with thinner wall
50V 50V 50V 50V
40°C to +105°C -40°C to +105°C -40°C to +125°C -40°C to +125°C

Common Questions About Automotive Battery Cable

When exploring the different types of automotive battery cables, several questions commonly arise. Here are a few of the most common questions about battery cable.

What gauge is used for automotive battery cable?

The typical automotive battery cable is a 6-gauge cable. Most vehicles rely on a 12-volt power supply, making a 6-gauge battery cable the appropriate choice. An automotive battery cable can withstand 60-volts, but it is best for 12-volt systems.

Can I use an automotive battery cable in other applications?

With the ubiquitous supply chain issues that many companies face today, it's helpful to note that most automotive battery cables can be used in other applications such as marine use. Consult with an expert if you're looking for the appropriate cable for a less-common application.

What is the difference between automotive battery cable and welding cable?

Welding cables and automotive battery cables are similar, but welding cables are more flexible. Welding cables are often insulated with synthetic rubber, like EPDM and neoprene and are suited up to 600 volts. Automotive battery cables are more rigid and resistant to higher temperatures and hazards such as oil and gas.

When it comes to choosing a welding cable vs. battery cable, it's important to understand the difference. You can use welding cables as battery cables, but automotive battery cables aren’t suited to the high-voltage and flexibility requirements of welding. Using an automotive battery cable in higher voltage applications could be dangerous.

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