Cables are one of modern life’s true essentials. Everybody owns them and everybody needs them. Having a cable stop working at an inopportune moment can lead to all manner of inconvenience, and having to constantly replace cables is irritating and potentially expensive. So what can we do to make sure our cables live the fullest life they can?
Why do my cables break?
First of all, let’s clear up a few of the basics. What is it that actually causes a cable to stop working? Contrary to popular belief, cables actually don’t tend to “wear out” internally simply through charging or being plugged in. Corrosion in the wiring will eventually become an issue, but a decent quality cable that is never moved can theoretically last decades. The most common reason for a cable to stop working is damage to the wiring caused by bending and other external stresses. So with this in mind, let’s move on to the advice!
1. Avoid sharp bends at the joints
The joint is the weakest part of the cable and if it spends the whole day forced into a 90 degree bend the wiring is unlikely to last long. Stretching the PVC jacket through this kind of bending can also cause it to split or become detached from from the connector casing, exposing bare wire. Often just a little bit of thought and care can avoid contortions like this take a lot of the strain off your cable.
2. Don’t throw your cable loose into a bag
Throwing a cable into an empty bag actually might not be too terrible, but a cable thrown loose into a crammed rucksack or squeezed into a overfilled suitcase will suffer a year’s worth of wear and tear in one journey. It will get bent, crushed and squeezed a hundred times over, all the types of stress cables hate. Best to wrap it up in the method described below.
3. Don’t wrap your cable tightly around an object
A lot of people will wrap their cables around the object closest to hand, for example a power bank, but this is not the best way to wrap a cable. Wrapping a cable tightly around a bulky or sharp-edged object will create kinks in the cable which may take a long time to get out. These kinks are particularly damaging to the internal wiring and are guaranteed to reduce the lifetime of the cable. The ideal way of wrapping a cable is a technique called coil wrapping (seen below), where you loop the cable around several times to create a circular shape. This avoids kinks and bends while still allowing for convenient storage and transportation.
4. Use a velcro tie or cable clip
All eeco cables come to you bound by a snazzy velcro cable-wrap. This isn’t just packaging, you can use this to help protect your newly purchased cable. Aside from using the velcro to help wrap your cables when traveling (holding your nicely coil-wrapped cable in place), you can also use it to hold an extra loop at the connector that prevents damage in the event of a sharp tug. A similar effect can also be created by using a cable clip.
5. Protect them from pets
If you own a pet you’ll know that some furry friends just can’t resist a good chew. Rabbits in particular will make short work of even the strongest cables. Where a problem exists a solution will never be far, and a quick search on Amazon reveals that there are sellers specializing in products designed to keep gnawing teeth away from your beloved cables. Strengthening cables is certainly an option, but the most popular solution is to apply a scent coated cover that makes your cable not seem like quite such a tasty treat.
6. Be careful when using your phone as it charges
Despite a few urban myths to the contrary, using your device while it charges doesn’t damage the battery, but your cable may not be so lucky. If you like to keep your phone charging while using it in bed or kicking back on the sofa chances are you are fully extending the cable and giving it all the bending and twisting it hates. If you are right beside the charging point or have a long enough cable there isn’t much of an issue, but for many people staying comfortable while charging your phone will put your cable through a lot of discomfort.
7. Use a magnetic snap-on cable adapter
A solution to the issue above is to use one of the new magnetic adapters that have appeared on the market recently. Apple’s MagSafe was an early example, and recently Znaps has received a lot of attention. Such systems allow fast and easy connecting and disconnecting of cables through the use of a magnetic adapter that plugs into the charging port of your device. This means you can connect and disconnect your phone with one hand even in the dark, reducing the temptation to stretch the cable and use it while it is still plugged in. It also means that a violent tug, for example when you trip over the cable, will merely result in disconnection rather than damage to the cable or your device being thrown across the room (not to mention preventing you falling flat on your face).
8. Buy longer cables
This is probably the simplest way to avoid stretching and straining your cable. Longer cables are often a little more expensive but they are value for money. People always underestimate the length of cable that is practical, and short cables lead to inconvenient charging and regular strain. It doesn’t help that the cable that comes packaged with most phones tends to be as short as possible to save costs. The tiny 30cm (1ft) charging cables that some manufacturers provide are almost guaranteed to be stretched to an early grave as they will constantly be pulled to their full length and more. 1.8m (6ft) cables may sound overly long at first, but in most household situations the full length will be put to use on a regular basis. Longer cables are more convenient and last longer, surely worth investing the extra few pennies.
9. Add tape
Electrical tape may not be particularly attractive, but adding it to your cables is a great way of extending their lifetime. Adding plenty at the connector joints will strengthen the weakest part of the cable and reduce damaging bending. And of course, any part of the cable that has become frayed or where the wire is visible should have tape added straight away if you want it to last.
10. Don’t buy cheap cables
A bit of an obvious one but always a sound piece of advice. There are several reasons why cheap cables break quickly. Firstly, the cable jacket will usually be thin and of low quality, meaning the wiring is poorly protected from stress and it won’t take much wear before you’re through to bare wire. Cheap PVC jackets are also prone to melting, even just through exposure to sunlight. The wiring itself will also have been produced with little care or precision and won’t be able to withstand much stress before breaking. Finally, many cheap cables aren’t properly compliant with the relevant specifications and don’t have correct resistors. This can lead to the cable drawing more power than it was designed for, which can burn out the wiring and in some cases even damage your hardware. Best to stick to certified cables from trusted brands.