Wires out of control? Try this!

Apr 09, 2014 7 Comments by

 

Here are three simple ways to wrangle in those wild wires floating around inside your aircraft. From left to right: cable tie available in different sizes, Velcro cable ties and just some good old-fashioned electrician’s tape.

Tidy Strips, available from Model Aviation Products (modelaviationproducts.com), are perfect for cleaning up wire (and air lines) in aircraft. These strips can be cut down and glued to the side of the fuselage. The one on the left is perfect for servo wires and the one on the right is great for retract air lines or 16- to 14-gauge battery wires.

WHETHER THEY’RE ELECTRIC, glow, gas or turbine powered, one thing all planes have in common is the fact that there is wire traveling from point to point inside. These could be servo wires (from servos to receiver), power wires (from battery to ESC to motor), flight battery wires (from switch to receiver) or power wires going to electric retracts (which is what any true E-pilot would use). Add to that the fact that some 2.4GHz receivers have extra wires going out different remote antennas, and it becomes clear there’s a lot of wire inside our aircraft. No matter what you fly, there will come a point when you have to do something with all the wires going to and from things. I found that out when I decided to convert a B-17 to all electric; let me tell you, there were a ton of wires to deal with!

This month I’d like to share with you some of the things I use to wrangle in all the wires we have with any electric conversion (or any large RC aircraft).

WHY WRANGLE?

I have had many people say to me, “Why even bother? They won’t hurt anything.” While that may be true for a while, that’s not the case in the long run. When they’re left untethered inside the aircraft, wire will bounce around and tug on the ends. This will eventually cause wear points on the plastic covering and expose the wire. This continuous movement will also weaken at points that are not moving, such as at the plug or connector’s point. I don’t know of anyone who would want a power wire breaking free during a flight. Another thing to consider is that an aircraft has limited space; those free range wires can get tangled up in moving servo arms.

The other issue people bring up is that if the wires are tied down and they crash the aircraft, the wires will get pulled out of the servo and make them completely un-useable. My advice to you on that is: don’t crash.

WHAT TO TIE UP

Basically any wire that runs through the fuselage or wing of the aircraft or anything that can move around during flight, should be tied down. For larger electrics, there are wires coming from the ESC, motor and batteries to add to all the servo wires. Planes with multiple motors will add to the crowded wire grouping and you’ll almost always have “Y”- harnesses that are much longer than they need to be. With all the “Y” harnessing I had to do, there were a lot of extra wires on my B-17. If room is tight and you have to have multiple batteries because one large one will not fit, that will add to the wire population in the fuselage. Let’s not forget charging and balancing plugs on the battery packs; they also have wires attached that need to be wrangled. Non-electric planes (glow and gas), especially as they get bigger, have a lot of wires running around in the fuselage. Our electric aircraft will have many more wires added to the mix and do require some consideration on how to keep them in line and tied down.

RESTRAINING THE WILD WIRES

These sticky back plates use cable ties to keep bundles of wire in line. Place them wherever you need them inside the plane. I use an extra bit of epoxy around the edges to make them a permanent bond. The one on the left I pur-chased from an electrical supply store and the one on the right is from a home improvement store.

If you don’t like using cable ties, these clips make it easy to remove the wires when needed. Both are available from electric stores like Radio Shack. I use an extra bit of epoxy around the edges to make them a permanent bond.

Directing plugs and wires through cutouts like this is a perfect way to keep wires under control inside the aircraft. Most new kits have similar cutouts that allow you to guide the wires around the inside of the fuselage.

My good friend and regulator contributor, Jason Benson, turned me on to expandable braided sleeve covering. This is sold through electrical outlets and stores and is perfect for keeping groups of wires together on long runs, such as dual elevator servo wires running from the back of the plane to the front. As you push through the larger plug, the material expands and contracts for a nice tight fit on the wires.

There are many ways to keep your aircraft wires in line and many of the available products for this are highlighted in the photographs throughout this article. But other methods for keeping your wires together could include something as simple as bunching them up and tying them to each other. This alone will keep the wires from flying around in the aircraft. You could us small strips of tape, wire ties, twist ties, or any other simple way to keep them together.

Electrics, How-tos

About the author

West Coast senior editor About me: I’ve been involved with RC aircraft since high school and have flown just about everything. I started my RC career with scratch-building, but now like many pilots I rely on ARFs to get me in the air. My main focus is on pylon racing, aerobats, combat and scale warbirds.

7 Responses to “Wires out of control? Try this!”

  1. James Graham says:

    Good info. Keep up the good work

  2. Thomas says:

    I have been using plastic coated wire from packaging to joining two or more wires together. It is cheep and light.

  3. FHH says:

    Lets not forget the classic rolled paper tube installed into the model.

    Split a sheet of typing (computer printer) paper in half the long way. Roll around an appx 3/8 to 1/2 inch dowel and tape. Slide the dowel out. You have a tube. Glue that into the model wherever needed to control wire routing.

    3/8 in dia will allow up to 3 wires with the larger end of an extension able to slide through.. Very easy when replacing servos or extensions. (unlike most other wire organizing methods)

    You can use model rocket body tubes also… but hand rolled paper tubes are lighter and far cheaper.

    ****************

    For keeping the wires securely plugged in:

    http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/wti0001p?&I=LXXWK7&P=ML

    Or similar…

  4. Vernon Jones says:

    Never form wires into any kind of loom. By all means bring them together to pass through tubes etc. when required. When wires are bundled into close proximity a shorted battery line anywhere in the loom will melt the insulation on the main affected wire and susequently melt just about all the insulation in the loom. This then becomes a major repair, replacing all affected wiring. As an electronics serviceman I’ve seen these affects on a number of occasions, not in my own installations, thankfully. Sorry to throw a spanner into the works, but avoid the loom whenever possible.

  5. Vernon Jones says:

    A further comment on looms. Before you say, “Yes but full size aircraft always use looms, stretching from the nose to the tail. If it’s good enough for them……..etc.”
    Full size aircraft have the luxury of inserting circuit protection, circuit breakers etc. at the head end of all power lines. As for the humble aeromodeller, these are not practical, so just avoid grouping lines together.
    As for the reason for a short circuit, any system component that must develop some power, servos for example, cannot have any limiting resistance in their power line and are thus wide open to this problem, should any internal component on its power line break down, an excessive current is very likely to flow.
    Installations these days commonly use multiple batteries, which on most occasions will have their respective common/negative/black/brown wires all connected together within the model, usually converging at the receiver. Simultaneously charging these batteries whilst inside the model then connects together the common/black terminals of all chargers involved. If all the chargers are being powered from a single source eg, a 12.6V flight/field box, this can then cause an excessive current to flow due to the shorted common terminals disabling the current regulation of the charger/s. The effects of this I have witnessed & had to replace all the wires in the loom.

  6. Ken says:

    Does one need to consider the impact of the magnetic field generated around power wires on the signal wires for receiver antennae and servos when mounting wiring? My limited background in electricity/electronics causes me to wonder if the magnetic field surrounding power wires can negatively influence or impact the signals sent through wires carrying a low voltage signal between the receiver and servos and the antennae signal be received from the transmitter; or, are the voltages and subsequent magnetic fields generated in the power wires negligible? If so, the distance between the power and signal wires and receiver antennae would not cause a problem. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

  7. Alan_In_Pgh says:

    Good Suggestions;

    One thing that I have done for a few years now is to minimize extra length and electromagnetic
    noise by “braiding” the 3 wires that go between my esc and my brushless motors.
    A bit of tape to hold the braid together on both sides of the bullet connectors and if needed a tie wrap or two to secure to the fuse.

    Science or Superstition?

    I have a degree in electrical engineering, and know that the idea of twisting wires to
    cancel electromagnetic fields is common practice.

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