How to Properly Crimp Spade Connectors

Spade connectors are a type of electrical connector used to join wires together. They get their name from their spade-like shape. Learning how to properly crimp spade connectors is an important skill for anyone working with electrical wiring. This guide will walk you through the entire process step-by-step to ensure you make solid, reliable connections every time.

What are Spade Connectors?

Spade connectors are electrical connectors that have a flat metal tab or spade on one end that attaches to a matching receptacle. The other end has a round metal barrel that you crimp onto the stripped wire.

The spade end slides into a connector housing on a device, such as a light switch or outlet. When inserted fully, the spade tab makes a solid connection through spring tension or a set screw. This allows you to efficiently connect and disconnect components without soldering.

Spade connectors come in a variety of sizes to accommodate different gauge wires. Common sizes include 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 AWG. Make sure to select the proper size connector for the wires you are joining. Using an undersized connector can result in a loose connection and overheating.

Benefits of Spade Connectors

There are several benefits that make spade connectors a popular choice for electrical work:

Tools Needed for Crimping Spade Connectors

You don't need much in the way of specialty tools for crimping spade connectors. Here are the basic items required:

Optional items that can be handy include:

How to Strip Wires for Crimping

The first step when crimping spade connectors is stripping the insulation off the wire ends:

  1. Use the automatic stripper's built-in ruler to measure the correct strip length needed for the connector. This is typically 1/4" to 3/8".

  2. Adjust the stop on the automatic stripper to the measured length.

  3. Insert the wire fully into the stripper jaws until it hits the stop.

  4. Squeeze the handles tightly while pulling the tool off the end of the wire in one smooth motion. This will neatly cut and remove the insulation.

  5. Inspect the stripped wire to ensure no stray strands are poking out. Trim as needed to clean up the end.

  6. Twist the stripped strands tightly together using pliers. This keeps the wire neatly bundled when inserting into the connector.

Pro Tip: When working with stranded wire, twisting keeps the fine strands together and prevents fraying during crimping. Solid core wires can skip this twisting step.

How to Insert Wires into Spade Connectors

With your wires stripped, you're ready to insert them into the connectors:

  1. Ensure you are using the proper size connector for the gauge of the wires. There should be a code like "10 AWG" stamped on the connector.

  2. Hold the connector vertically with the spade tab facing down and barrel up.

  3. Insert the stripped wire all the way into the open barrel end until it bottoms out. You may need to give the wire a slight twist as you insert it to compact the strands into the barrel.

  4. Visually inspect that no stray strands are poking out from the barrel. All strands must be fully captured in the connector.

  5. Repeat steps 2-4 to insert the other wire into the opposing barrel end.

  6. Orient the wires so they both enter straight into the connector. The wires should not overlap inside the barrel prior to crimping.

How to Properly Position Crimping Tools

With your wires inserted, you're ready to crimp the connector barrels. Using the crimp tool properly is critical:

Proper tool positioning minimizes the chance of deforming or damaging the connector during crimping.

How to Crimp Spade Connectors

You are now ready to crimp the connector and complete the wire splice:

  1. Ensure your crimp tool is still properly positioned on the connector barrel. Double check both sides.

  2. Slowly squeeze the crimp tool handles together using smooth, even pressure. Avoid sudden "bite-and-release" type motions.

  3. Continue compressing until the ratchet on the tool releases. This ensures full closure.

  4. Repeat the crimp process on the opposite barrel, taking care to properly position the jaws.

  5. Visually inspect both crimped barrels. They should be compressed evenly with no cracks or deformation.

  6. Tug firmly on the wires to confirm they are securely anchored in the crimped connector. The wire should not pull out.

  7. Trim any stray wire strands flush with the end of the connector barrel using diagonal cutters.

That completes the crimping process! Now you can plug your spade connector into the intended socket and confirm proper electrical function.

How to Ensure a Quality Spade Connector Crimp

Follow these tips to ensure optimal, long-lasting crimp connections:

Troubleshooting Tips for Crimping Issues

Here are some potential problems and solutions if you encounter difficulties:

Problem: Connector barrel becomes distorted during crimping.

Solution: Use proper sized jaw on crimp tool. Ensure connector is centered in jaws. Avoid crimping at severe angles.

Problem: Crimped connection falls off or pulls out easily.

Solution: Wire not fully inserted in barrel before crimping. Use correct wire gauge for connector size. Ensure crimp tool is closing fully.

Problem: Crimps crack or break when bent or vibrated.

Solution: Overcompressed with too small of crimp tool jaws. Use recommended jaw size for connector and do not exceed crimp tool limits.

Problem: Corrosion buildup on terminals over time.

Solution: Use dielectric grease inside crimp barrels and on spade tabs to prevent corrosion and oxidation.


Crimping spade connectors is easy once you understand the basic steps involved. Using proper tools, careful wire insertion, and quality technique will ensure solid, long-lasting crimp connections. Be sure to inspect all crimps closely and tug-test the wires. Taking your time to crimp connectors right the first time saves frustration and avoids costly redos down the road. With a little practice, you'll be crimping like a pro in no time.