What are Electrical Connectors?

A connector is something that allows two or more things to be joined together. The electrical part of that phrase refers to the connecting or joining of two or more electrical pathways, usually wires, so that electrical current can flow from one to another in an uninterrupted flow. These electrical connectors can be temporary or permanent.

That sounds fairly simple, Right? Well, a good portion of the electrical connectors are designed to satisfy the code requirements of State and local safety boards, so the specific connector needed for a particular project may sound more complicated that it needs to be.

If all you need to do is connect one wire to another wire, or two, all you need is a wire connector. There are several types; the barrel, the cap twist or the winged. These are nothing more than a bell shaped cap with a metal insert with threads that ‘screws’ onto the ends of the wires you wish to join together. A crimp on connector is available to connect just one wire to another. This is a straight barrel with that metal insert, again, (all these metal inserts are so the electrical current can be transmitted from one wire into the others) you simply plug one wire into one end, and the other wire into the other end. By using a hand tool you ‘crimp’ or form a physical bond between the metal insert and the wire. It’s pretty straight forward.

Getting a little more into the advanced connectors, you have terminal blocks. A good example of this would be the circuit breaker in your home. A board or box that has a lot of connectors in a small place all run by the same electrical power coming into the board. There are electrical connectors call blade connectors. They come in all kinds of patterns. Some have holes, some are U shaped. Some look like USB port plugs, and some have barrels on the end. They are crimped or soldered onto the ends of a wire and are used to attach to a terminal block or a post.

Types of Electrical Connectors

There are electrical connectors that are waterproof, designed specifically for marine use, made out of magnetic materials and those that are designed to be used for extremely high voltage and those for very low voltage. There are electrical connectors that are designed for radio frequencies only. Most of the specialty electrical connectors are ‘keyed’. That simply means that the two parts of the connector cannot be put together unless both sides are rotated so that they can only be put together in a certain position. This is because all the wires inside one wire needs to match up to the correct wire on the other wire.

There are electrical connectors that are specifically designed for the automotive industry with the direct current systems in them! There are electrical connectors that have as many wires coming into them as you could imagine, such as the connectors in computers, many of which have very complicated wiring patterns, some for which you need a very good microscope to work on. Remember, electrical connectors are used in everything – including cars, computers, cell phones, and even toaster ovens.