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How to Measure Wire Gauge: The Ultimate Guide

How to Measure Wire Gauge: The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to wires, size matters. 

The word “gauge” refers to the size of a wire, and how it is measured. For electrical wires, the gauge will determine the amount of current that can safely run through the wires. If you get that wrong, it can lead to disaster. So here is our ultimate guide to how to measure wire gauge. Let’s discuss.

Tools Needed

Step 1

The first thing that you will need to do is remove the insulation from the wire before it can be measured. The best way to do this is to have a wirecutter. These can be purchased from your local hardware store. To remove the insulation, you will need to clip the end of the wire with the wire cutters and go into the insulation. The goal is to have about 2 inches (5 cm) of exposed wiring at the end. Cut around the outside of the insulation and then simply remove it. There are other tools and methods to remove the insulation if desired. 

Step 2

Now you will need to obtain a wire gauging tool, which is also generally available at any local hardware store. A wire gauging tool is a circular or rectangular object that has many-sized holes surrounding its perimeter. Each hole represents a specific gauge size. If you’re in North America, you will look for a wire gauging tool based on the AWG scale. If you aren’t sure, just ask for help when you are at the store. 

Step 3

It may seem counterintuitive, but you should now estimate the size of the wire and compare it to the size of the holes on the wire gauging tool. This is just to help you from wasting time checking more holes than you need to. 

Step 4

Insert the wire into the holes of the wire gauging tool and identify where it fits. Keep searching until you find the hole that is the best fit. The goal is to find the hole where it’s not too tight, yet snug. The smallest hole that it fits into is the right one. Each number will actually have two holes under it, one being slightly larger. The one that is slightly larger is not used for measuring, it’s just used as a convenient way of removing the wire from the grooves. 

Step 5

Check your work. Since having the wrong sized wire can lead to some big problems, it’s important to check to make sure you did it correctly. As an example, let’s say you have decided that the wire is a 17 gauge. If you have a different wire available where you know that it’s a 17 gauge, you should compare the two side by side. If they look exactly the same, you’re good to go!

Final Thoughts

Measuring wire is a lot easier than it sounds. Basically, you are just removing the insulation and then gauging it. If you have other questions, contact us. Vulcan Wire is your go-to resource for information about wiring, strapping, and shipping.

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