Apple doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to cable life. Their Lightning cables don’t seem to be as durable as some users expect them to be. Just browse an Apple forum to discover disgruntled posts about cables fraying, breaking, or wearing out before users believe they should have. Whether Apple’s cables are actually less durable is a matter of debate. It’s hard to make a definitive statement based only on anecdotal user posts. People can be rough with cables without meaning too, not realizing how fragile they can be. If you want your lightning cables to last longer, whether Apple made them or not, there are a few general rules you can follow to make your Lightning cables last longer. These same rules go for cables of all kinds as well, so you can protect the rest of your cable stock by following exactly the same steps.
1. Wrap Properly
Every cable is made up of a series of twisted wires. Sometimes more wires, sometimes fewer, but even the simplest of cable contains a copper wire inside the plastic sheathing. Taking care of the cable means taking care of the copper inside the wire. And while the copper wire is flexible, it’s not impervious to damage. The thin copper strands that make up most wires will break over time, causing signal degradation and eventually failure. Cable mishandling accelerates the wear process, so the less careful you are with your cables, the shorter their lives will be.
When wrapping a cable, never wrap around your arm, hand, or wrist. That’s the easiest way to break a cable and its fragile copper interior. Wrap the cable in a loose circle, following the contours of the cable’s natural curve. Allow the cable to roll lightly in your fingertips to follow the wire’s natural wrap. If you lightly guide the cable in circles with your fingertips, allowing the cable to roll naturally between your fingers as it winds, you’ll ensure the longest life for your cables. This is easier to do with thicker gauge cables, but with practice, you can apply it to all your cables.
Consider this video guide, which describes what’s called the “over-under” method commonly used for wrapping musical cables, like XLR or TRS cables. This wrapping method is absolutely necessary for thickly shielded cables or cables with multiple copper cores. This allows the cable to unfurl without kinking or wrapping up on itself. And great grief upon the roadie who applies any other method of wrapping
Shorter cords, like Lightning cables or other thinner, single-core cables, can be safely wrapped using the simpler “over-over” method. This means making the cable loop in the same direction each time, rather than alternating. Give the cable a half turn with your fingertips at each wrap, and you’ll follow the natural “curve” of the copper coil. Go with the grain, rather than against it, to extend the life of your cable.
2. Store Carefully
Most tech enthusiasts probably have a big box of tangled cables, where you’ll find ancient printer cables, PS/2 cables, RCA patches, ethernet cords, USB extenders, and a bunch more rarely-used cables that you can’t quite bear to throw away. If you ever need anything out of this box, you’ll be forced to dump the whole thing out and decipher the Gordian knot the wires have tied in your absence. If you wrap your cables carefully and then casually throw them in a pile, you’re just undoing all your hard work.
After you’ve wrapped your cables properly, secure them with a velcro tie or a left-over twist-tie from electronics packaging. Once they’re firmly wrapped, cables of similar sizes can be stored next to one another like records or like pizzas, depending on the shape of your container. There’s a ton of clever ways to organize smaller cables, either in paper tubes, grid boxes, plastic containers, hooks, or other storage methods. For my money, I prefer zip-top bags. They’re cheap, they can be easily labeled, you can see what’s inside, and they come in a range of sizes. You can also find more durable nylon bags on Amazon or AliExpress.
3. Keep Cables Sorted
This doesn’t specifically prolong the lifetime of your cables, but it reduces cable loss. This means fewer cables get buried at the bottom of a milk carton, never to be seen again, crushed under the weight of a thousand other wires or wedged between box edges.
By keeping your cables organized, you can make sure you’re not losing track of a cable you might need later. It saves time in the future, and you won’t need to run out to Best Buy to replace the USB cable you were sure you had somewhere.
Gallon plastic bags make good sorting containers for most cables. They’ll fit everything up to XLR cables, including Ethernet, power, and other bulky cable types.
Honorable Mention: Cable Management in Use
You also want to take care of your cables when they’re in use. Cables most commonly fail at the ends, near the connecting points. This is because these junctions are subject to the most stress. The connectors are where the cable is manipulated the most. Yanking or bending a plugged-in cable will damage the connection eventually, so don’t make a habit of it.
Never put a cable under stress or leave a cable holding weight. Make sure that cable connectors are not kinked, bent, pulled, or jammed up against something when the device is in use. There should always be a smooth arc of cable coming out of the connector. That will protect the delicate bond between the connector and the wire itself, which is where most cables tend to fail. The connector and wire are often only soldered together, even on quality cables.
Moral of the story: take care of your cables, and they will take care of you.
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