Soldering to EL Wire

EL wire is a little tricky to work with. It is made of three wires, one large middle wire and two very thin 'corona' wires. In the closeup above, you can see the two thin wires wrapped around the core. These two sets of wires are the leads we must solder to. But first, we have to get to them!

You'll need the following tools and items:

That's it! You're now ready to plug the El wire strand into an inverter.
Start by cutting the wire to be as long as you want, and add an inch (or if you're starting out, a few inches) for the wire connection. Remember, its very easy to make the wire shorter but hard to make it longer!
Next, we'll need to remove the outer coating. This is the hardest part of the process so don't be disappointed if it takes a few tries to get it right! Use the 20 AWG or 18 AWG slot and strip off the PVC coating about 1/2" (1 cm) away from the end.
If you accidentally cut off one of the corona wires (or both) cut the core and try again.
If you arent succeeding at getting the PVC off without damaging the wires, you can try not-quite-closing the cutters all the way (the image below is an exaggeration of how much to close it) and giving it a good yank.
Upon success you should have three wires sticking out.
Make sure you really didnt damage the corona wires by giving each one a gentle tug.
OK place the end of the wire in your third 'helping' hand tool, essential for all kinds of wire soldering.
Next, cut a 1" or so piece of 1/4" copper tape. Dont use scissors to cut copper tape, use wire cutters!
Unwrap a few mm of tape from the backing and stick it right next to the edge of the stripped EL wire. Fold the two thin wires on top.

Heat up your soldering iron to 650 degrees F and make sure its hot by melting solder onto the tip, it should melt easily. Now press the tip of the iron to the two wires and copper tape and quickly dab some solder in. Then remove the iron. This should not take more than a second or two or the EL wire casing will melt.

Check that the wires are soldered to the tape.
Now wrap the remaining tape around so that it covers and protects the solder joint.
Cut it so that it wraps around once, you dont want it too bulky.
Now that the corona wires are tucked away safely, we can work on soldering to the middle wire. First we must remove the phosphor, by scraping it off. Some people use a lighter to burn it off but we like to just scrape it with a razor. Either way, remove some of it.
You don't have to remove all of it, just half of the wire is fine.
Now tin the wire by heating it up with the soldering iron tip and melting solder onto the wire, this will coat it with solder - makes it easier later to solder on the wire.
Next get your wire ready, ours come precut and tinned. If not, cut so that one side is about 1/2" longer than the other tin the ends. EL is AC-powered so you dont have to worry about 'polarity'.
Before you solder it on, get a piece of 1/8" heat shrink and cut it so its as long as the middle wire piece (1/2" or so).
Pull the wire apart so that you can slip the heat shrink on and have 1/4" or more of clearance from the end of the wire, otherwise the soldering iron will prematurely shrink it. Solder the wire to the middle conductor.
If you're having problems, go back and tip both wires with plenty of solder so you can just heat them up while touching!
After 15 seconds check that the solder connection has cooled, then slide the 1/8" shrink over the middle joint.
Now you have to heat up the heatshrink to get it to shrink. You can use a heat gun, hair dryer, hold it above a lighter (carefully!) or you can try 'rubbing' the non-solder part of your iron gently against the shrink.
When done correctly the middle wire will be completely protected.
Now we can revisit the corona wires. Using the tip of the soldering iron, heat up the copper tape and melt a little solder on.
Then solder the other wire to the copper tape.
Slide a 1" piece of 1/4" heatshrink from the other end of the EL wire.
Use your heat gun again to shrink the heatshrink over the whole assembly, to protect it.
Last updated on 2016-09-12 at 10.57.17 PM Published on 2012-07-29 at 11.58.38 AM