What is Automotive Wire?

Automotive wire is a flexible wire with stranded conductors for use on low-voltage automotive systems. Although automotive wire commonly has aluminum conductors, all automotive wire sold by Allied Wire & Cable (AWC) utilize copper conductors because of their optimal durability and current capacity. The most common insulation materials are polyvinylchloride (PVC) and cross-linked polyethylene (XLPE). All automotive wire sold by Allied Wire & Cable have Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE J-1128) approval, as well as Ford and Chrysler approvals. If you have any questions about our line of automotive wire, please don't hesitate to contact us, and our sales team will be more than happy to discuss your options.

Automotive Wire & Battery Cable Basics

Additional Information

What is the common construction of automotive wire?

Most automotive wires generally utilize a single conductor, except for specific applications such as electronic brake cables, speaker wires, and trailer wiring. The conductors in automotive wires are typically stranded copper, consisting of a relatively high number of fine wire strands to ensure flexibility and resistance to fatigue. In terms of insulation, the most common materials used for automotive wires are PVC and XLPE, both known for their toughness and abrasion resistance. PVC is excellent for general automotive wiring, while XLPE insulation, with a maximum usable temperature of 125 degrees Celsius, offers improved heat resistance, making it suitable for high under-hood temperatures. Multi-conductor cables incorporate a PVC jacket for added protection. After installation, these wires or cables may often receive additional protection by being installed in a loom or harness. Additionally, AWC primary wires are available in 10 different colors, and for applications requiring further identification, up to three colored spiral stripes can be added. Other options for identification include dying, inkjet printing, and laser marking, with detailed information available through the Value-Added Services team.

What are common categories of automotive wire?

Some of the most common types of automotive wire are primary wire, multi-conductor jacket wire, and battery cable.

Primary Wire

The term car primary wire applies to single conductor wires for general automotive wiring. PVC insulated wires include GPT wires for internal vehicle wiring, thin-walled TWP wires, and heavy wall HDT wires for underbody applications. XLPE insulated wires include thin-walled GXL wire for use in under-bonnet and truck wiring harnesses, standard wall SXL wires, and thick wall TXL wires.

Jacketed Wire

You may use multi-conductor wires with a PVC jacket for exposed wiring that's subject to abrasion and road dust. Common applications are for electronic emergency brake cable and trailer cables.

Battery Cable

Automotive battery cable is a heavy-duty cable used for starter wiring circuits, battery grounds, and alternators.

How is automotive wire different from house wire?

There are many characteristics that make automotive wire different from house wire. Automotive wire is flexible with multiple fine wire strands, while house wiring uses a solid conductor or, if stranded wire, has a small number of relatively heavy-gauge wire strands. House wire doesn't bend as easily as automotive wire and breaks if continuously flexed. House wire also has thicker insulation to withstand the rated voltage of 300 or 600 volts. Automotive wire handles greater temperature extremes than household wire and is approved for vehicle use, while house wire is not approved for vehicle use. You should never use standard house wire in automotive applications. If you have any other questions about automotive wire, please don't hesitate to contact our sales team.

General Specifications for Automotive Wiring

  • Conductors: Stranded pure copper
  • Insulation: PVC or XLPE
  • Jacket: PVC jacket on multi-conductor versions
  • Temperature rating
    • PVC insulation: 85°C to -40°C (some types have a maximum temperature of 105°C)
    • XLPE insulation: 125°C to -51°C

Automotive Wire Approvals

  • SAE J-1128
  • Ford
  • Chrysler

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about automotive wire? Please contact our Sales Team or visit one of our Allied University blogs below to learn about all aspects of automotive wire: