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How To Fix Damaged or Broken Audio Cables

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While most people fix wires by just wrapping them together, you can lose quality and strength that way. When joining cables – audio or not – soldering will make a huge difference, and here’s how to do it properly.

Broken Cables and Soldering

Broken audio cables of all kinds can be fixed pretty easily and painlessly with a little time and a touch of solder. Small, cheap cables are expendable, but nicer cables – especially those attached to expensive equipment – aren’t as easy to just throw out. In general, thicker cables are easier to fix without a drop in quality and also require a more powerful iron to solder with. Thinner cables require more care and you risk damaging them if you’re not careful.

Many people wonder if soldering is important. When it comes to digital cables, skipping the soldering won’t hurt your quality, but it will affect your cable strength. For analog audio, soldering is an absolute must, otherwise the quality will degrade quite a bit. There’s no real reason not to solder; you’re getting better quality, better cable strength, and ensuring longevity. This is absolutely imperative when you want a solid connection for things like your car stereo, where vibrations and bumps can shake things loose.

Be sure to check out How to Use a Soldering Iron: A Beginner’s Guide if you’re not sure what exactly to do one, but it’s pretty easy and straightforward as long as you’re careful.

Cutting and Joining Wires

Start by isolating the damaged area of your cable.

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Cut that portion out of your cable, and start stripping the wires.

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If you plan on using heat-shrink tubes, now is the time to slip them on the wires. My cable’s small, so I’ll stick to electrical tape.

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Again, depending on what kind of cable you’ve got, this may be more or less of a chore. the main thing to remember is that you want to keep track of which wire is which, and you want room. My cables are pretty small, so I’ve got an 1-2” of stripped wire to work with. Cross one set of wires.

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Twist the end of one wire around the other wire, and vice versa.

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Try to get a good, firm wrap without knotting things up and perhaps causing the metal to break.

When you’re ready, heat the joint and add some solder.

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You can see that I’ve added a bit too much solder to the joint. You don’t need so much, just enough to fix the joint and get a good connection.

Lather, rinse, and repeat with the other wires. Take care to join matching colors, otherwise you may end up with unintended consequences.

Electrical Tape or Heat-Shrink Tubing

You can coat the unshielded portions of the wires in some electrical tape, and then wrap the joint as well. For larger cables and when strength really matters, you may want to look into heat-shrink tubing.

Soldered DC Lead With Shrink Tube

(Image credit: makerbot)

“Heat-shrink” is plastic tubing that will shrink tightly over joints and ends when heat is applied through a heat gun. If you have a really powerful hair dryer, that may suffice as well.

Heat Shrink Tubing To Heater Block Lead Connection

(Image credit: makerbot)

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Above, you can see various sizes of “solder seal heat-shrink.” When applied with a heat gun, the special solder will melt at a relatively low temperature and bond with your joint. It’s made to be a one-step solution, but the solder quality can vary.

Heat-shrink provides a professional touch and can really help keep your cables strong, but be sure to thread it onto your wires or cable before you start soldering. In basic applications, though, electrical tape wrappings work fine. Either way, make sure that all your wires (except for the ground) are covered. You don’t want to short anything or have mixed signals by having them touch!


A little solder can go a long way when fixing cables. It’s especially important when you’re working on your car’s speakers and the like, since easier methods can come undone so quickly. Soldering won’t give out due to vibrations and bumps, and heat-shrink will give you that professional touch.

Have any cable fixing tips or stories? Share them in the comments!

Yatri Trivedi is a monk-like geek. When he's not overdosing on meditation and geek news of all kinds, he's hacking and tweaking something, often while mumbling in 4 or 5 other languages.

  • Published 06/16/11

Comments (12)

  1. Jr.

    You can also use a Lighter with “Heat-shrink”.

  2. IRA SCHWARTZ

    WHEN I SODER CABLES I MAKE THE MECHANICAL CONECTION STRONG, AND I DON’T SODER THE JOINTS NEXT TO EACH OTHER. I STAGER THEM SO THAT EVEN IF THE TAPE COVERING THEM FAILS, HEY STILL CAN NOT SHORT OUT AS THEY ARE NOT NEXT TO EACH OTHER. SORT OF LIKE LEAP FROG!

  3. Lady Fitzgerald

    Excellent advice but I would go a bit further. I would strip the jacket considerably farther back, then adjust the location of the splices so they are staggered along the length of the cable, say 1/2″ or so apart (depending on your mechanical dexterity), so no two splices are alongside each other. This will reduce the bulkiness of the splice.

    Before splicing anything, slip two short pieces of heat shrink tubing over a leg of each wire to be spliced. One just long enough to cover only the bare wire that will remain after making the splice (electrical tape can be used instead of this shrink tube). This will level the splice with the insulation. The second should be long enough to cover the break in insulation between the wire’s own insulation and the splice. Also slip a piece of heat shrink tubing over the jacket of the cable itself that is long enough to cover the splice area and to overlap over the cable jacket by 1/2″ or more. Electrical tape can be used instead of a heat shrink tube to level each spliced wire before insulating with a length of heat shrink tubing instead of trying to figure out what size strink tube to use for leveling. This is the only place tape should be used since, unless encased in a shrink tube, it can (and probably will) unwind.

    To make the splices, twist the wires to be spliced together. The twists should be tight enough to keep the wires from pulling apart. Tight twists will also make a less bulky splice. Do not depend on solder for mechanical strength. When soldering the joint, use only enough to wet the joint; do not pile it on (sorry, but the examples pictured have way too much solder on them). You should be able to clearly see each strand of the joint through the solder. Use only 60/40 rosin core solder. Heat the joint enough to melt the solder when the solder is touched to the wire, not the iron. Let the joint cool before moving it.

    Soldering is important to ensure there will be little or no resistance in the splice. An unsoldered connection will eventually build up corrosion, increasing resistance until the cable is no longer usable. Even digital signals will eventually be affected.

    After soldering the splice, either use a piece of heatshrink or some electrical tape to level the spliced wire with the wire’s insulation. Once all the splices have been done, again use a heat strink or electrical tape to level splices with the cable’s jacket. Cover everything with a heatshrink to secure the splices, protect them, and insulate them. The resulting splice should be pretty much lump free and only slightly larger than the cable itself.

  4. Snert

    A word to the wise – If you’re repairing a guitar cord, or any such input type shielded cable here’s somthing to consider – the woven shield that surrounds the center wire should be made continous or you can pick up rf signals, even from a 1/4″ break in the shield. A PITA.
    I’ve had fairly decent luck with aluminum foil wrapped around the joint. 5-6 wraps making sure both ends are tight as you can get around the cut ends of the shield for electric continuity tape it as tight as you can or use heat shrink tubing. I’ve never been able to solder aluminum foil.
    Speaker wires are output and making sure the electical connections are solid will work.

  5. Lady Fitzgerald

    Braided shielding can be salvaged from an old cable and slipped over the cable before splicing, then pull over the gap and bonded to the cable’s shield with a bit of solder (too much will wick up the shield and make it too rigid).

  6. Scott

    I am going to agree with the consensus and say the soldered joints ought to be staggered, I would also suggest tinning the wires prior to soldering. If you can create a joint which is clean and fairly tight it not only looks better but works better as well. If there is braided shield in your cable salvage a bit from a discarded cable and solder it in place, take it easy on the solder here a little bit goes a long way. A lighter works quite well for shrink tubing just don’t stay in one spot with it for too long.

  7. TJ

    I also use “Silicon Joiners” that can be found at your hardware store. Mainly used for your garden Retic. All it requires is a clean cut on both ends, stick both ends up the slots of the joiner and clamp down with multi grips (A metal barb peirces through the wires forming a connection)

  8. Vaidya

    How to know where the cable is broken, when there are no external indications.

  9. Ankur

    very useful . i had to fix broken audio cable recently for my home theater ..

  10. Scott

    @ vaidya, That can be difficult. If there is an internal break with zero external indicators, it may be just as easy to replace the whole cable. One method I have used with some success is the use of tone generator. Sometimes the break is too tight for such a method. One other way is to gently test flexibility along the cable, a sensitive touch will notice slightly greater flexibility at the break, it is also common to spot “bruising” at the point of the break.

  11. herval

    nice info…

  12. Abhishek S.

    Excellent article, Yatri. Loved the clear image of how the twist needs to be made…

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