Taming The PL-259 Connector!


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Taming the PL-259 Connector
Article Provided Courtesy
 LD Blake - VE3VDC
(no longer active in ham radio)

"There's no longer any need to invent new swear words."

Created April 26, 2006

The enemy A lot has been written over the years about the correct way to install PL259 connectors on coaxial cable. Entire flame wars have taken place on the internet and on-air about this delicate and often confusing topic.

Regardless of the method used connector failures almost always are the result of bad solder work. To weld the braid side of the coax to the connector is neither simple nor ordinary soldering. Probably a third or more PL259s I've replaced had bad connections to the braid.

However, there is an easy way to install these connectors that totally eliminates the need to solder braid or solder to the connector housing. This greatly reduces the risk of cold solder or overheat damage to the coax.

Connectors and Adapters My project was to make a patch cord to go between my radio and SWR meter, which is hooked up only for testing. To make handling things easier I decided to use .6 meter (2 feet) of RG8-X coax which is about half the diameter of RG8. I thus needed an adapter for the PL259 Connectors used to hook to my radio and SWR Meter.

The connectors and the required adapters are shown at the left. The smaller adapter tubes screw into the back of the connectors to take up the size difference in the cables. There are adapters for several cable sizes, make sure you get the right ones for your coax.

Stripping the outer insulation Step 1: Strip the outer insulation of the coax for about 3/4" (the length of the adapter tube).

Flip the braid Step 2: Flip the exposed braid back over the insulated part of the coax. Be careful doing this as the braid has to lay smoothly over the coax or the next step will be impossible.

Force on the adaptor Step 3: Force the coax into the adapter so that the braid is inside the tube as shown. The front edge should be even with the inner edge of the adapter tube. The easiest way is to treat the coax like it's threaded and twist the adapter on using downward pressure.

Dress the center wire Step 4: Dress the inner conductor of your coax as shown. There should be only a small amount of the inner insulation left projecting forward from the end of the adapter. Tin but do not cut the center conductor at this time.

Assemble the connector Step 5: Assemble the connector. First slip the threaded outer sleeve over the cable. Next making sure the center wire goes through the center pin of the connector, screw the adapter into the back of the connector housing. Tighten the adapter with pliers. Finally, solder the wire into the connector's center pin.

All done and ready to go Step 6: Clip away the excess center wire and spin the outer ring forward over the connector housing and the connector is now ready to use.

All I had to do was repeat this on the other end of the coax and my patch cord was complete. I performed 2 final checks... First, I tested the cable for shorts and continuity with an ohmmeter then, to be extra sure, I hooked it up between a dummy load and my SWR meter and tested it at 50 watts. I got a 1:1 SWR, telling me the cable is good.

A similar process can be used with full size RG8 cable as well.

  1. Strip off 3/4" of outer insulation.
  2. Fold the braid back over the coax.
  3. Cut away the inner insulation close to the edge of the braid, exposing the center wire.
  4. Tin but do not cut the center wire at this time.
  5. Slip the outer ring onto the coax.
  6. Twist the connector housing onto the coax, over the exposed braid.
  7. Solder the center pin and cut away the excess wire.
  8. Bring the outer ring forward and you're done.

I've come to trust this method and it's very simple. Yes it's cheating, but it does work. I've done CB, Amateur and other installations this way and while I still had the occasional connector failure, I'm confident I had fewer than I would by relying on a solder spot through the side of the connector housing for my grounds.

It works, it's easy... give it a try!

Editors note.

You can't expect good results with your ham station on the air now or in the future unless you use good high quality PL-259 connectors to begin with. There are many PL-259 connectors on the ham radio market that come from overseas that are not high quality silver coated types with good insulation like Teflon. They are cheap copies with little or no quality control and marked up to outrageous prices and sold to those who don't know any better!

Many hams, to save a dime, are using their old worn out corroded connectors over and over that will eventually cause them a huge headache.  Don't be one of them. Never skimp on rf connectors...they are your "pathway" to getting a great signal out!

"So I recommend that you use new high quality silver coated/brass connectors whenever possible. I personally have some silver coated PL-259s that I bought in the mid 1960s and they are just as good now as 50 plus years ago!!!! You can't skimp on quality!" You can quote me on that! N4UJW
Click the banner for some great quality and great prices on connectors for your ham radio needs.