Making & Mending - DIY Coax Cables
Coax is one of the oldest types of cables and has withstood the test of time, still being used over 100 years after its invention. While many stores today have pre-made coax cables available, sometimes another option is needed. Users may need a cable in an unusual size or just need to replace a broken connector. This guide will show users how to put coax connectors onto the end of bare coax cable.
The installation process can vary a little depending on whether a crimp, solder, compression, or twist-on connector is used. In this guide, the first few steps will apply to all coax installations and then branch off into specific steps taken for the different coax connectors.
Example video guides detailing the below steps can be found at the bottom of the article.
Step 1: Gathering the Supplies
There are a few simple supplies that will be needed for an installation or repair. The key components are the bare coax cable and the coax connectors. Coax connectors come in different types, but the front end of the cable will always be the same size for each type. For example, an F-type male will always connect to an F-type female. There are not different versions of the two.
The back of the coax connector that actually attaches to the cable is a different story. Coax connectors are rated for different types of cable; they are not one-size-fits-all. Some coax connectors can work with multiple kinds of cables that are similar in size. This BNC connector, for example, works with both RG59 and RG62 cable. Make sure the connectors and cables selected are compatible with each other. Most coax cables have writing on the outside stating what type of cable they are for verification.
Like connectors, tools are also rated by the types of coax cable they are compatible with so be sure to select the correct ones. For any type of coax connector, a cable stripper will be required to remove the outer layer of the cable (called the jacket). The other tool needed will depend on the type of connector.
Crimp connectors require crimpers, solder connectors require soldering irons and a wrench (or similar tool), compression connectors require compression tools, and twist-on connectors do not require any additional tools. Additional details about each tool are highlighted in their respective sections below. A cable tester can also be handy for making sure any newly made/repaired cables will work correctly.
Step 2: Stripping the Jacket & Dielectric
Take the cable stripper, place it about ¼” from the end of the cable, and spin it around the outside jacket. Higher-quality strippers will have pre-set depths, so they cannot cut too deep and damage the rest of the cable. Other strippers may run the risk of cutting deeper. Be sure to not cut too deep or metal core of the cable (called the conductor) could be damaged. If that does happen, cut the end off the cable and try again. After the jacket and dielectric have been cut, pull the end off to access the conductor.
The next step will change depending on what type of connector is being used.
- For crimp connectors, continue to step 3A below.
- For solder connectors, skip to step 3B.
- For compression connectors, skip to step 3C.
- For twist-on connectors, skip to step 3D.
Step 3A: Attaching a Crimp Connector
First, insert the small metal ring (called a ferrule) over the cable jacket. Then pull back any loose shielding and insert the center pin of the connector onto the conductor. Next, put the main body of the connector on top, pushing tightly to firmly secure the connector in place. Move the ferrule back up so it touches the main body of the connector. Finally, line up the crimp tool and squeeze the ferrule into place to secure the connector. Many crimp tools are compatible with multiple cable sizes, so be sure to use the correct part of the crimper. Using a size too large will not secure the crimp connector correctly and using one too small could damage the connector.
Ignore steps 3B, 3C, and 3D. Skip to Step 4 if using a cable tester; otherwise, you are finished.
Step 3B: Attaching a Solder Connector
Pull back any loose shielding and insert the center pin of the connector onto the conductor, then solder it into place. Slide the remaining pieces of the connector onto the cable in the correct order. If unsure of the order, please locate the part’s SKU number on our website and use the pictures and/or video on that page as a reference. The solder video at the bottom of this article can also be used as a general reference. The main piece of the connector will slide over the pin last and then screw together to the rest of the pieces. Start by hand tightening and finish tightening with a wrench for a secure connection.
Ignore steps 3C and 3D. Skip to Step 4 if using a cable tester; otherwise, you are finished.
Step 3C: Attaching a Compression Connector
Fold back the cable shielding to expose the conductor. Place the connector over the end of the cable. Now insert the connector into the compression tool and squeeze the tool’s handle to secure the connector to the cable.
Ignore step 3D. Skip to Step 4 if using a cable tester; otherwise, you are finished.
Step 3D: Attaching a Twist-On Connector
Fold back the cable shield and insert the connector over the conductor. Apply pressure and twist the connector to ensure a firm, stable connection is being made while pushing it onto the cable. Just a pair of bare hands should be sufficient to secure the connector properly.
(Optional) Step 4: Testing the Connector
After any type of connector is attached, give it a good tug to make sure the connector has been secured properly. Once that has been established, a cable tester can be used to check whether the cable can transmit a signal from one end to the other properly. On most cable testers, a green light means the cable works correctly while a red light means it does not.
If the cable does not work, the pin is likely not making enough contact with the conductor. This results in a signal that is too weak to accomplish anything. Should this be the case, the only option will be to cut off the connector and try again. Connectors cannot be reused, so having a spare or two if installing/repairing coax for the first time is generally a good idea.