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Wiring headlight relays

Inhoudsopgave
Introduction............................................................................................. ...............2
Relays.............................................................................................................. .......2
What's a "relay"?........................................................................................ .........2
Why is this useful?..............................................................................................2
Relay Ratings and Configurations........................................................................3
Typical Automotive Relay....................................................................................4
The wiring.............................................................................................................. .5
My modification........................................................................................... ........5
Why you really want to do this............................................................................5
Safety tips and application data..........................................................................5
Technical Summary.............................................................................................6
The gory details..................................................................................................6
Where to run the wires.............................................................................. ..........8
Wiring diagram.............................................................................................. ......8
Parts list................................................................................ ..............................9
Selecting wire sizes.............................................................................. ...............9
Wire capacity chart..............................................................................................10
Measuring Wire Capacity.............................................................................. .....10
Stranded vs. Solid Wire.....................................................................................11
Open Air vs. Bundles and/or Conduits...............................................................11
Wire Length......................................................................................... ..............11
Duration of Usage.............................................................................................12
Electrical Calculations.......................................................................................12
Capacity Chart..................................................................................................13
The diagrams.......................................................................................................14
Typical Automotive Relay..................................................................................14
Wiring diagram, this story.................................................................................15
Wiring diagram, other story..............................................................................16
No relay....................................................................................................... ...16
With relay............................................................................................... ........17
Introduction
This page is all about wiring relays to drive your headlights so they are brighter
and/or you can use higher output bulbs (if desired) without the risk of overloading
your existing headlight wiring. If you have no idea why you might even want to
do that, let alone how to do it, read on. If you don't even know what a relay is,
read the next part carefully.

Relays
What's a "relay"?
It's a electrical device that functions something like a wired remote control
switch. Instead of having the switch you push/flip/whatever do the work of
supplying power to whatever you wanted it to, you have it control a relay which
then does the real on/off switching work. That's it. It's really not very
complicated, now is it?

A mechanical relay does this through the use of an electromagnet - a magnet


that is only "on" when there's power running through it - that pulls a set of spring
loaded contacts to make or break the connection and achieve the on-off effect.
This is called the "coil" or trigger wire - the other wire coming out of the coil is
connected to ground. Whenever you apply power to the other coil wire (the
trigger), the relay is on. As soon as power to this trigger is turned off, the relay
turns off. Simple, huh? There are also "solid state" relays that achieve the same
effect through transistors. Either one functions the same way, the solid state stuff
just has no moving parts to wear out, but they tend to be more expensive and
not as readily available since the regular mechanical ones are inexpensively and
readily available as very high quality, durable units.

Why is this useful?


For one big reason - some devices use a lot of power and that means large wires
and heavy duty contacts inside all of the switches and connectors are needed.
And you want to use as little wire (in length/distance) as possible. It's more
expensive and heavier that smaller low-power wires and it's harder to work with.
If the wire develops a short, it's a much bigger problem - and the longer the wire
involved, the more chances you have for something to go wrong.

Additionally, heavy-duty switches are large, cumbersome, and generally have a


very poor "feel" to them. By "feel", I mean the tactile sensation you get from
using the switch - is it a smooth silky operation with a nice delicate "click" to tell
you what's happening, or is it more like Igor straining to flip a massive and
cumbersome switch to turn on the power to bring Dr. Frankenstein's creature to
life? You get the idea. It's easier and cheaper to make a low power switch in the
quality you would expect in a fine automobile. And it will last longer. That's a
good thing!
A relay alleviates this by using a single relatively small and low power wire to
control the on-off of electrical flow. You mount the relay near the device it
controls, and run a simple large power wire to the relay. Then you run a small
wire back to the switch. The switch you flip just supplies power to the relay coil
and functions as a trigger - if the coil has power, the magnet energizes and the
relay contacts move to make (or break - it can work both ways) the high power
connection to your device.

Relay Ratings and Configurations


Relays are typically discussed in terms of several things.

* How much power the high power side can handle in Amps
* The voltage and power type (AC or DC) the coil needs to operate
* The number and type of contacts the relay has

The first thing, the power rating, is very simple - a relay is rated for it's capacity
to handle power. That's what it's for, and that's what you hear most often. It will
be described as a 20A, 30A, or whatever relay. This must be as big as or bigger
than the maximum rating of the thing you want to control with the relay. It will be
rated at some voltage as well, so be sure it all matches.

The second things, the coil voltage and type, is typically omitted when working in
a known environment. All automotive relays use a 12V DC coil, so this
information is implied if the relay is intended for use in a car. For use in other
environments (home, industrial, etc.) there will be a rating on what the relay coil
expects. Just match this to what the trigger wire will have in it. Note that the coil
does not have to work on the same voltage as the voltage being sent over the
high power contacts. There is no need to send high voltage to the small switch -
the whole point is to use small wires and switches to control the relay, after all.
The common case here is a doorbell in your house. The actual pushbutton
outside is typically being fed 24V AC and it hooks up to a relay inside the doorbell
chime unit to make the chime happen. The chime will often work on 120V AC
(normal household electricity), so the relay controls this.

The third thing, the number and type of contacts, is used to control various things
at once and control them by turning them on or by turning them off. This is
described in the same way any other switch is described - by the number of poles
and the number of throws. Most automotive are very simple and of the SPST or
SPDT variety - read below to learn what that means.

The number of contacts (or poles), is the number of things that the relay can
control at once. The relay is just an electromagnetically controlled switch, and
you can have the same electromagnet flip a number of switches in unison the
same way you could mount a bar across a number of different switch levers to
force them to be switched in unison. A good example of this are the circuit
breakers in your house. Some of them will be two breakers tied together with a
bar so they switch together to make a a two pole switch out of two single pole
switches. With a relay, this is very useful for making one switch control two
different things - like turning on the parking lights and the dash lights in your car
with one switch.
The number of throws is the number of distinct contacts you can send power to -
the number of places you can "throw" the switch to. (Think of an old fashioned
blade switch - like Igor used - to get the mental image here.) Typically, you have
one input and one or more outputs. If you can connect the output to one thing, as
in a simple on-off switch, you have a single throw. If you have two outputs, like in
a power window switch where you have up and down, you have two throws. If it
was more like a dial switch where you could select from three or more things, like
the fan speed control switch, then you would have three or more throws.

This is number of poles and number of throws is designated with a simple


abbreviation like "SPST". This stands for Single Pole, Single Throw. Another
popular one is "DPDT", which is for Double Pole, Double Throw. Beyond that they
are usually designated with numbers, such as "3PDT" (Three Pole, Double Throw)
or "SP4T" (Single Pole, Four Throw". By looking at this information, you can tell
how the relay can switch things, and find out if it is right for your needs. As noted
above, most automotive are very simple and of the SPST or SPDT variety - they
can control one thing and switch it on or off, or apply power to one of two
different things.

Lastly, the contacts in the switch or relay are described as "normally open" (NO)
or "normally closed" (NC). This simply describes what the "at rest" state is. For a
relay, that means if no power is applied to the coil/trigger wire. In the typical case
where you want to turn something on, you use the "normally open" set of
contacts so that when you apply power to the relay, the contacts close, and
power is sent to the desired device. This is used for things like turning on your fog
lights or things like that. In the case of wanting to turn something off, you use the
"normally closed" set of contacts so that when you apply power to the relay, the
contacts open and the power is no longer sent to the desired device. This is used
for things like an emergency stop switch or other more unusual "control" cases.
One example is in certain multiple relay electric fuel pump setups on fuel injected
vehicles to control when the pump is on and to ensure it turns off in case of the
engine stalling - this is used to reduce the risk of fire (due to the pump still
pumping fuel) in case of an accident and a ruptured fuel line.

Typical Automotive Relay


This diagram shows a typical Bosch relay used in the automotive world. It is the
closest thing to a universal relay standard in the automotive world, so you will
see this type of diagram and/or contact numbering system often if you work on
cars enough. This is especially true in the hot-rod or "aftermarket" arena where
these style relays are often used to achieve custom or "trick" effects on a vehicle
such as anything that opens or closes with a motor, or the "no door handles" look
where the door is unlatched electrically instead of mechanically.
at the end of the document there is a bigger version

This relay is a SPDT relay with a single NO contact (terminal 87) and a single NC
contact (terminal 87a). These relays usually have a small wiring diagram molded
into the top of the relay and all of the contacts are clearly labeled on the relay so
you can trace the wiring with ease. They also use a standard size and
configuration for their plug-in terminals so that you can get a standard molded
plastic base with the proper wiring hookups in it. This enabled you to unplug all of
the connections all at once for ease of servicing - such as if you need to test or
replace the relay itself.

The wiring
My modification
I made this modification years ago on one of my cars after installing higher
output headlights - I needed to solve the "flickering headlights" problem that
resulted when I used my high beams. The new lights drew so much more power
that the existing circuit breaker in the headlight switch was being overloaded.
This was both annoying and downright unsafe - so I fixed it with this change. I
later found out about the benefits for just getting brighter headlights courtesy of
an article written by the Southern California GS chapter of one of the various
Buick clubs I know of and get information from. (I can't find the name of the club,
but I do have a photocopy of the article itself. If someone cares to remind me who
I ought to be giving credit to for this, please remind me so I can update this
page.) The voltage drop information and encouragement for me to create an easy
to read wiring diagram comes from their article. There was lots of good info in
there, but the hand-drawn wiring diagram was less than readable - even for
someone like me who actually understands how this all works. :-) So, I decided to
put this page up to host a better wiring diagram and explain it in my own way
along with details for the high output headlights. Since I'd done this myself years
before I'd ever read their article, and I'm giving them credit for some of the extra
details, I don't feel like I'm ripping off their idea. :-)

Why you really want to do this


Why would you care about doing this? For one (or both) of two basic reasons. The
first is that you have installed high output headlights (off-road units, etc.) and
you're having problems with your headlights "flickering" on and off again while
you drive. The second reason is to simply improve the brightness of your existing
headlights. This is because the factory wiring for the headlights has lots of long
"just big enough" wires, and after many years of service, this leads to extra
resistance in the wiring and at each connection. That resistance sucks up
electrical energy that could be used to produce light at the headlights, so your
lights are dimmer than they could be. To put this into perspective, a 10% drop in
voltage between the battery and the headlight is not uncommon - and that can
cause up to a 30% drop in light output! That's the difference between being able
to see to stop in time and having an accident - so this is a very useful safety and
drivability modification. The total cost is less than $50 and can be done in an
afternoon by anyone who is even vaguely familiar with how to do simple wiring
work. $50 to get up to 30% more light from your headlights is very much worth it.
So read on and learn how to do this.

Safety tips and application data


The standard set of safety disclaimers apply - this is for your information only and
none of this should be attempted unless you are sure you know what you're
doing. This is not guaranteed to be 100% correct and you should use common
sense when attempting any repairs or modifications to your vehicle. It is not my
fault if you fry yourself, anyone else, or your car. I did not tell you that you should
do this - only that you could do this. It's up to you to determine if and how this
information applies to your car.

On the subject of application information, this entire page is focused on vehicles


that use a traditional "positive switched" headlight system like most older
American cars. This is where power goes from the + battery terminal to the
switch, then to the headlights, then to ground and back to the battery. Some
import cars, particularly Toyota's from the early to mid 1980's use a really weird
"negative switched" system that runs power direct to the headlights and puts the
switch after the headlights in the wiring diagram. You can do the same relay trick
in those systems, but several key wires are inverted, and you need to be really
careful about what you do because most people have trouble thinking about the
system working "backwards".

As a side note, these "reversed" systems are prone to strange behavior when a
headlight burns out - things like having all of the headlights burn out at the same
time are not uncommon with these systems. That said, you may want to think
about doing the extra work to use the relay along with some extra wiring to invert
the system so it works "correctly". It's more work, but it can be done. I'd do it if it
were my car, but I do things that most folks never notice or care about, so take
that recommendation with a (not so) small grain of salt.

Lastly, the physics purists who want to pester me about actual electron flow from
negative to positive can save it. I know about this, but it's confusing to most
people and not relevant to the discussion here. This entire page is written from
the perspective of the traditional positive-to-negative power flow in an electrical
circuit. If you know what that means, now you know. If this is gibberish to you,
don't worry about it - it was just the elitist purists trying to confuse you. :-)
Technical Summary
This one is pretty easy to conceptualize if you understand how a relay. You splice
two 20A relays into the existing wiring harness right out near the headlights so
one relay controls the low beams and one controls the high beams. Use the
existing high and low beam wires coming from the firewall to trigger the relay,
run a new high power feed (with a fuse!) direct from the battery, and hookup the
existing high and low beam wires from the headlights to the "normally open"
contact on the relays. The hardest part of all this is typically finding the right
wires in the existing wiring harness and finding a place to mount the relays - the
actual wiring is pretty easy. Any SPST/normally open relay will do, though most
automotive relays are of the SPDT variety - just don't hook anything up to the
"normally closed" contact on the relay (pretend it's not there) and you'll be fine.

Note that if you pick some really monster sized off-road headlights that draw
more power than the ones that you can plausibly use "on the street", you must
use higher amperage relays than what is mentioned here. You must also use the
appropriate sized power wires and you may very well end up replacing all of the
headlight wiring from the relays out to the headlights themselves - don't forget to
upgrade to a larger headlight ground if you do this! See my Wire Capacity Chart
for more details.

The gory details


Now, for the rest of humanity that has no clue what I just said, here's a step-by-
step list of what you need to do. You should read the entire list and understand it
before you start this project. If you are knowledgeable in such things, you should
be sure to solder all of your connections in addition to crimping them. This helps
ensure that you will have a more secure and lower resistance connection that will
not degrade over time.

1. Find the existing wires that go to your headlights in the wiring harness out
near the headlights. There will typically be two wires - one for the low
beams and one for the high beams. The headlights are usually wired
together as part of the harness in a daisy chain fashion - if not, there could
be four wires in the harness - one for the left low beam, one for the right
low beam and one for the left high beam, one for the right high beam. If in
doubt consult a factory wiring diagram for your car or break out the old
multi-meter and do some testing and tracing of the wires in your harness
to figure out what goes where.
2. Figure out where you will mount your relays - make sure it's reasonably
safe/dry, out of the way, close to the existing wires you just found, has
space for the relays, and is reasonably close to the headlights. Make sure it
does not interfere with anything like closing the hood or getting to
anything else you may need to service on the engine in the future.
3. Disconnect the negative battery terminal so you don't fry yourself or the
car. :-)
4. Make a careful note of which wires are for what and then cut the existing
wires for the headlights where you want to splice in the relays. If you pick a
point in the harness after the wires split for the left/right side headlights,
you'll have two wires to deal with. You can either tape off one of the low
beam wires or connect them both together where you make the relay coil
(trigger) connection. I prefer to connect them both together.
5. Hook up the existing low beam headlight wires coming from the firewall to
the relay coil (trigger) as shown in the wiring diagram.
6. Repeat the same process for the existing high beam wires coming from the
firewall.
7. Hook up the existing low beam headlight wires that go from your "cut
point" out towards the headlights to the relay "normally open" output
connection as shown in the wiring diagram. If you picked a point for the
relays after the wires split for the left/right headlights and had two wires to
deal with in the above steps, then you must connect both of the low beam
wires together where you make the relay "normally open" output
connection. If you do not do this - only one headlight will work.
8. Repeat the same process for the existing high beam wires that go from
your "cut point" out towards the headlights.
9. Hook up the ground wire from the relay to a new ground or to the existing
ground wire for the headlights. This wire only needs to be 16 gauge (it
carries very little power) and it should be black.
10.Run a new red 12 gauge feed wire over to your battery or to any other
place (such as the starter solenoid connections) that gets full battery
voltage and can be easily connected to. Make sure you put a minimum 30A
fuse or circuit breaker into this wire as close to the connection with the
battery (or other wiring) as possible. Failure to install a fuse or circuit
breaker in this wire will create a safety and fire hazard in your new wiring!
This is the wire that will carry all of the power to run your headlights -
make your connections securely and cleanly so that your headlights are as
bright as possible.
11.Mount the relays and make any final connections. Make sure all
connections are taped and/or covered in "heat shrink" tubing so they are
watertight - stuff under the hood gets wet and electricity and water don't
play well together.
12.Go back and double check all of your connections against the diagram. If
this is your first time doing wiring work, go back and triple check it to be
sure. Seriously.
13.Make sure the headlights are turned off!
14.Reconnect the negative battery terminal. Nothing should be out of the
ordinary here. If stuff starts smoking or melting, disconnect the battery
right away and figure out what you messed up and fix it before
reconnecting it again.
15.Turn on the headlights and make sure they are on low beam and make sure
1) nothing is smoking/melting/burning, and 2) just the low beams are on. If
any problems occur, turn off the headlights and unhook the battery
immediately - then find and fix the problem.
16.Switch the headlights to high beam and make the same two checks as on
the low beams.
17.Clean up - you're done. Enjoy your brighter headlights.
Where to run the wires
Next, you need to choose a place to draw the power for the headlamps. The two
most common choices are the alternator output (B+, BAT) terminal, or the
battery positive post. Some cars with remote-mounted batteries or underhood
fuse panels have underhood power points, and these can be a good selection as
well. So, which is the best power point?

On cars with full-current ammeters (mostly pre-1976 Chrysler products) it is best


to take power from the alternator output terminal, rather than at the battery
Positive (+) terminal. This so that when everything is in its 'normal' state (ie,
engine running, battery charged) then the power for the headlamps doesn't go
thru the car's existing wiring at all. This is the wise way to do it on cars with full-
current ammeters, because such gauges must carry *all* current for the entire
car. Keeping heavy current loads out of this area reduces stress on the entire
wiring system, and eliminates much voltage drop on the charging side of the
wiring.

The vast majority of cars, however, do not have full-current ammeters, which
makes it OK to take your choice, based on access and convenience, of the
alternator or battery positive terminal (or power point terminals, on cars so
equipped). These points are all electrically common, and any of them will serve
equally well.

You may have heard that it's not good to take headlamp power from the
alternator output because of "voltage spikes"; this is a myth. No voltage spikes
are present in an electrical system with good voltage regulation, and any spikes
that are present in a system with bad voltage regulation are present in equal
magnitude across the entire system. If your charging system is "spiky", indicated
by vehicle lamps that flash brighter and dimmer with the engine running at a
steady speed, then you need to fix the problem that is causing the spikes!

Another consideration when tapping at the battery is the potential for corrosion.
Keep those terminals clean-clean-clean, and once you've added the power wire to
the positive battery cable, usually via a ring terminal, be sure to overspray the
terminals with plastic-based spray made for the purpose.

Wiring diagram
The wiring diagram below shows what you need to end up wiring to make this
work, so if you know how to read a wiring diagram and feel like "skipping ahead",
just go click on the thumbnail for the wiring diagram and check it out in full size,
full color glory. It's shown for a four headlight system - if you have a two
headlight system on your car, pretend the two inner "high beam only" headlights
aren't there and you'll be fine. The wire colors shown here represent a typical GM
vehicle (the green and tan wires, along with some of the black wires) as well as
the proper/correct/desired wire colors to use on any new wiring you do (the red
and some of the black wires). Also, this is shown as a typical "Bosch style"
automotive relay with the connections numbered as such. If your relay is not
numbered like this, then just identify the wires by function and go from there.
there is a bigger version at the end of this document

Parts list
See the bottom section of my All About Relays page to get some ideas for where
to buy parts from. Whatever you do, just be sure to get relays that have a
connector and wires with them along with a way to mount them. For reasons I am
unable to fathom, some people produce and sell relay kits that have no way to
mount the relay. (Go figure...) The circuit breaker can be obtained from your local
parts store - they sell units that mount to any flat piece of metal and have simple
screw-on terminals for the wires. (I think the one I used was an Echlin CB6339
based on what I looked up on NAPA's website...) The wire, tape/heat shrink, crimp
on connectors, and screws to mount things can all be obtained locally at any
decent auto parts store. If you know how to solder and opt to solder your
connections, then you should already know where to get solder and a soldering
iron, aka, your local Radio Shack. :-)

* Two 20A or greater mountable automotive relays with connectors


* One 30A circuit breaker
* 10' of red 12 gauge wire
* Electrical tape and/or "heat shrink" tubing
* Crimp on connectors as required
* Screws/bolts to mount the relays and circuit breaker
- some sheet metal screws should do the trick
* Solder and soldering iron if you decide to solder your connections.

Selecting wire sizes


Use only stranded wire, never solid (household type) wire, in automotive
applications.

Wire gauge selection is crucial to the success of a circuit upgrade. Wire that is too
small will create the voltage drop we are trying to avoid. On the other hand, wire
that is of too large a gauge can cause mechanical difficulties due to its stiffness,
particularly in pop-up ("hidden") headlamp systems.
The headlamp power circuit ought to use no less than 14-gauge (2.5 mm2) wire,
with 12-gauge (4.0 mm2) being preferable. 10-gauge (5.2 mm2) can be used if
bulbs of extremely high wattage are to be used, but it's usually overkill. Be sure
to pick a kind that flexes easily if yours is a hidden-headlamp system.

Do not fail to use the large wire size on both sides of the headlamp circuit!
Voltage drop occurs due to inadequate grounding, too! you will only sabotage
your efforts if you run nice, big wires to the feed side of each headlamp, and
leave the weepy little factory ground wires in place. Most factory headlamp
circuits run the too-thin ground wires to the car body. This is an acceptable
ground--barely--on a new car. As a car ages, corrosion and dirt build up and
dramatically increase resistance between the car body and the ground side of the
vehicle's electrical system. It takes little extra effort to run the new, large ground
wires directly to the battery Negative (-) terminal or to the metal housing of the
alternator, and this assures proper ground.

Wire capacity chart


Measuring Wire Capacity
The amount of power a wire can safely carry is related to how hot it can safely
get. All wires have resistance, and as power flows through a wire that resistance
causes heat - and it can be quite a bit of heat. The more power you put through a
wire, the hotter it gets. Insulation breaks down as it gets hot, and at some point it
will melt away leaving the wire exposed to whatever is around it - other wires,
grounded metal, people, etc. The heat can even be enough to start a fire in the
surrounding material in some cases. Electrical fires are nasty and tend to start in
the hardest to reach places - where the most heat builds up back in dark corners
and tight spaces. This is why using the right size wires is important for your
safety and for safety of others using your wiring work.

In some respects, the capacity of a wire is actually best measured in watts, not
amperage. Why? Because a watt is a unit or power that is a combination of
amperage (volume), voltage (pressure), and resistance to the power flowing
through that wire. Watts measure the amount of power (aka, heat) a wire can
safely dissipate. However, most wire charts are done in amps. This is unfortunate
because it means the wire chart is sort of assumed to be at a single voltage level.
For most usage, this is fine because the chart has an assumed usage. As an
example, charts for amperage ratings of of various sizes wires for 110V AC house
current charts are popular and reasonably well-known. On the other hand, the
amperage ratings are very different for common/typical 12V DC automotive
usage. For example, a 12 gauge wire is commonly rated at 20A for 110V AC
home usage, but in automotive 12V DC use 12 gauge wire is commonly used for
circuits carrying 60A! A prime example would be the main charging wire from the
alternator to the battery and out to the main electrical circuits of the car. I
thought I had a satisfactory explanation posted here previously, but a few folks
took aim at it and blew gaping holes in my understanding - without actually
explaining what I was trying to understand or explain here. As of yet, I have not
gotten a satisfactory explanation for this discrepancy. No one I've talked to as of
yet has been able to explain it to me, but if you think you know the magic
answer. Maybe I'm missing something obvious. Maybe I'm just not understanding
this as well I as think I am. Who knows... At any rate, the chart below reflects the
difference in 110V AC vs. 12V DC usage, even though I'm still at a loss to explain
the details.

Remember, if in doubt, it's always better to put in too big of a wire than too small
of a wire.

Stranded vs. Solid Wire


This one is a bit of a mind-boggler, but it's important. When electricity flows
through a wire, it mostly flows on the surface of the wire, not through the middle.
This effect is more pronounced on high frequency AC than it is on DC or low
frequency AC. This means that a "wire" of a given size that made up of many
smaller strands can carry more power than a solid wire - simply because the
stranded wire has more surface area. This is one reason why battery cables in
your car and welding cables are made up of many very fine strands of smaller
wire - it allows them to safely carry more power with less of that power being
dissipated as heat. However, this "skin" effect is not as pronounced in a typical
12V DC automotive application, and the wire and cable used there is stranded for
flexibility reasons.

When looking at a chart or description of wire capacity, take note of whether it is


referring to stranded or solid wire - some charts may not specify but instead
assume a default based on the typical wiring used in a given application. For
example, almost all automotive wiring is stranded while almost all home wiring is
solid. For most applications, flexibility or the lack thereof will be more important,
but for very high frequency AC applications, stranded wire might be a
requirement.

Open Air vs. Bundles and/or Conduits


Heat is the primary determiner of the maximum amount of power any wire can
carry, and the ability of that wire to dissipate that heat has a large impact on the
final rating. Wires that are run in bundles (such as in a wiring harness or wiring
conduit) cannot dissipate heat as easily as a single wire run in "open air", and as
such must be "de-rated" to less than their maximum value to account for this.
Also, wires that are run in areas that are unusually hot (such as in an attic or in
an engine compartment) may need similar de-ratings. If both situations are
encountered together (bundled wires in an unusually hot environment) then you
need to de-rate for both factors and the capacity is further reduced.

In a car, almost all wiring is run in a bundle, and much of it runs near the engine.
In a house, a lot of wiring typically runs through the attic, often in a bundle/group
and sometimes in a conduit. Pay attention to this and size your wires
appropriately.

Wire Length
Since all wires have resistance, the longer the wire, the greater the resistance.
This means that for longer wiring runs you need to use a larger wire to
compensate. This phenomenon is often referred to as "voltage drop", and for
lower voltage automotive systems, the loss of 2V or even 1V can be significant.
On longer wire runs, plan on using a larger size wire. There are specific voltage
drop calculations that depend on the wire size in use, the length of the wire, the
load applied, and the voltage in use. The National Electric Code has tons of charts
for this. You'd be surprised at some of the voltage drops you can find just form
the wiring in use, so experiment with the calculator a bit to see if it's worth going
to the next highest size wire in your application. On automotive applications of
only 12V, losing a single volt of power in the wire is a whopping 8% loss, so it can
be a big deal for voltage critical applications like your headlights where more
voltage = more light.

Duration of Usage
Some electrical loads are continuous for long periods of times (like a light in your
house or the headlights on your car) and some are much more intermittent (like a
garbage disposal in your house or the starter in your car). This affects the wire
size used - the longer a wire is in use, the more heat it will tend to retain. A wire
for something that is only used for short periods (like the starter in your car) does
not need quite as large of a wire as something that will be in use for very long
periods of time. This means that for long-duration uses, you must de-rate the
wire even further and use a larger size.

Electrical Calculations
There are four basic units of measurement for electricity:

• Power, measured in Watts, commonly referred to as "P"


• Current, measured in Amps, commonly referred to as "I"
• Voltage, measured in Volts, commonly referred to as "V"
• Resistance, measured in Ohms, commonly referred to as "R"

There are a number of formulas that relate each of these four things - they all
change in relationship to one another such that if you know any two you can
calculate the other two. Lots of folks on the Internet have easy-to use calculators
that allow you to do this online - http://www.sengpielaudio.com/calculator-
ohm.htm is one. The formula wheel below was on their website and presents the
info in a pretty easy to understand format.
Capacity Chart
This chart is a simple "max capacity" chart for a short wire run. Increase the wire
size for long runs - for example the wires running to the back of a vehicle to
power the taillights may need to be one size larger to account for the length.

Gauge 12V
22 5A
20 8A
18 10A
16 20A
14 40A
12 60A
10 100A
8 150A
6 ??A
4 ??A
2 ??A
1 ??A
0 ??A
Wire capacity chart

The diagrams
Typical Automotive Relay
Wiring diagram, this story
Wiring diagram, other story
No relay
With relay
Bronnen
Voor dit stuk heb ik de volgende pagina’s gebruikt:

• http://www.rowand.net/
• http://www.danielsternlighting.com/tech/relays/relays.html

Alle tekst is ook van deze pagina’s gecombineerd.