When you take a look around your home or office it’s likely you’ll notice a range of different cables all doing their job to connect devices together and potentially power those devices, too.
Sometimes our devices are in tricky to reach places and so there is a tendency to run our cables to suit the environment that they’re needed for.
However, you may be wondering how far you can bend your cables to do this. In this article, we take a look at 9 different cables to help you understand whether bending them is a good idea.
Here’s If You Can Bending Cables:
Almost all cables have a certain degree of flexibility. However, the specific cable and the material of its outer layer will dictate how far it can be bent. Certain outer coatings will provide more resistance and flexibility to avoid damaging the wires within the cable.
Bending a cable past its threshold and damaging the wires within can lead to cable failure, and potentially, create a safety risk.
Can You Safely Bend Power Cables?
Power cables were made with the purpose of transmitting electrical power from one location to another.
You can safely bend power cables, but to what degree will depend on the type of cable in question; each type of cable will have a limit to how far it can be bent.
Electrical cables have outer coatings that are designed to be flexible, meaning that they can be safely bent to a certain degree.
The 3 most common types of external material used on cables to protect the internal elements are as follows:
- Plastic PVC
That being said, when you bend an electrical cable you have to be aware that you are putting stress on the outer curve of the protective material that is insulating the more delicate copper wires beneath.
If you push this too far, you can create too much stress on the outer material, and that material can then become damaged.
When the outer insulating material breaks, the copper wires can become exposed.
These internal copper wires do not have much durability when it comes to being repeatedly kinked or bent and will become damaged fairly quickly.
There are dangers associated with over-bending an electrical cable, such as:
- Exposing the copper wiring which can result in an electric shock to the individual handling the cable.
- When the protective layer is damaged there is an increased risk of an electrical fire, which is detrimental to the health and safety of those in close proximity to the damaged cable.
- If the live and ground wires come into contact a spark can be created.
Therefore, it is always best to know how far you can bend a cable before you do so.
The flexibility of a cable can be identified by something called its ‘minimum bend radius’.
To calculate the minimum bend radius you can use this formula:
“Minimum Bend Radius = Cable Outer Diameter x Cable Multiplier”
If maths isn’t your strongest point, don’t stress. You can simply look up what type of cable you have and what its minimum bend radius is.
Doing so will let you know how far a cable can safely be bent before it can sustain damage.
In summary, the smaller the bend radius of a cable, the more flexible it is; meaning it can be safely bent much further than a cable with a larger minimum bend radius.
This can however become quite technical, so here is some general advice when it comes to the safety of bending cables:
- Never twist a cable – this can put unnecessary stress on the external and internal materials.
- Do not completely bend a cable back on itself 180 degrees. No cable is designed to do this and therefore this will definitely cause damage.
- Avoid unnecessary kinks.
- Try to avoid bending a cable at the plug socket, or right where it is connected to its source device.
- Purchase a 90-degree bend adapter if you are constantly having to bend a cable, for example, an HDMI to a TV.
Can You Bend USB Cables?
“Universal Serial Bus” cables, or USB for short, are one of the most common types of cables designed to connect devices to computers or USB plug sockets.
In this day and age, most people have USB cables to connect their phones or other consumer products to a source of power.
USB cables are designed to be flexible – just how flexible, or how far you can bend them, is dependent on the outer material.
There are 3 main materials commonly used for USB cables:
- PVC plastic coating.
- This is an incredibly common material because it is durable, flexible, and water-resistant.
- This is one of the most environmentally friendly materials and is more durable than PVC.
- Most smartphones will have a USB cable made from TPE.
- Nylon braiding.
- This is the most flexible and durable outer material commonly used on USB cables.
- It can withstand more stress than the previous materials and is a great option if you want your USB cable to stand the test of time.
It’s worth noting USB cables, however durable or flexible, can still be subject to damage from over bending so it is always best to make sure you take care and look after your USB cable properly.
You should be able to safely bend a USB, especially those with Nylon braiding, as long as you do not push it to the extreme.
Can You Bend Ethernet Cables?
Ethernet cables are an incredibly useful alternative to wireless connection methods in order to grant internet access to your devices.
Wi-Fi is the most common way to connect common household devices, such as gaming consoles and laptops, to your home internet or local network.
Ethernet cables, however, are known for producing a far more stable and reliable connection by physically connecting a device directly to a router or modem with a wire.
Generally speaking, it is safe to slightly bend Ethernet cables, but it is not advised to repeatedly do so.
Unlike some of the other cables on this list, they are much less flexible, and unnecessary kinks or bends should always be avoided.
Not only can this damage the wire, but it can also cause a failure in transmission.
There are two main types of Ethernet cables, and they differ in flexibility:
- Standard Ethernet cables
- Solid Ethernet cables
Solid Ethernet cables, as the name suggests, are less flexible than standard Ethernet cables.
Stranded Ethernet cables are therefore both easier to install and are also much less prone to damage from bending.
As a general rule of thumb, take a quarter (an actual physical coin) and place it in the bend of the wire.
If the Ethernet cable is being bent more than the radius of the quarter then it is bent too far, if not, you should be okay.
Can You Bend Charger Cables?
Having a working charging cable is crucial to recharging the battery of your electronic devices, and it’s worth noting that they can be quite costly to replace.
There is nothing more frustrating than your smartphone running out of battery mid-conversation, or your laptop going to sleep mid-essay, only for you to realize that the charging cable is also broken.
Sadly, in this situation, your friend or your professor will just have to wait.
Most of us will be aware that the leading cause of damage to charging cables is actually because of excessive bending or kinking.
Bending charging cables is inevitable as they are made of flexible material, but these cables can be quite fragile, especially charging cables for mobile phones.
Therefore to improve their lifespan it is always a good idea to avoid bending them unnecessarily – especially at the port.
Can You Bend Power Strip Cables?
A Power strip is a handy tool that enables us to connect multiple devices to one wall socket.
They consist of a square or rectangular plastic block that has a row of plug sockets, all connected to one flexible cable.
Most power strips tend to have circuit breakers that reduce the likelihood of overloading, though it doesn’t completely remove the risk.
Overloading can result in damaged wiring and also increases the risk of an electrical fire. For this reason, it is not advised to over-bend the cable of a power strip.
A damaged cord with exposed copper wiring due to excessive bending will only serve to dramatically increase the risk of an electrical fire.
So for your safety, and the safety of those around you, try to keep bending this type of cable to a minimum – especially at the join or plug.
Can You Bend Extension Cords?
Similarly to power strips, it is not advised to over-bend the wiring of an extension cord.
Excess bending can cause the outer protective material on the cable to crack, exposing the wiring beneath.
Yes, they are designed to be flexible, but due to the purpose of this type of cable, it is definitely worth avoiding any exposed wiring to prevent electrical fires.
Can You Bend Ribbon/SATA Cables?
Ribbon or SATA cables are a unique type of cable that are both very wide and flat. They consist of many electrical wires all running parallel to each other.
The name of this type of cable is derived from its resemblance to a piece of fabric ribbon.
They were designed to replace thicker, more inflexible cables, and are commonly found inside computer hard drives or floppy drives.
Ribbon/SATA cables are very flexible by design, but are not intended to withstand repeated movement.
The wires can crack and break if this type of cable is subject to constant bends or movement
This type of cable should also never be folded as it can create irreparable damage.
Therefore, when looking to properly and safely maintain the life of this cable, try to avoid bending or kinking it unnecessarily.
Can You Bend Coaxial Cables?
A coaxial cable is a special type of copper wire that is designed to transmit radio frequencies.
They are commonly used by cable TV companies to connect the satellite to the customer’s home and consist of 4 layers:
- The center copper core.
- The dielectric plastic insulator surrounding the core.
- A braided copper metal shield that reduces electromagnetic interference.
- External PVC plastic shielding.
These are delicate cables that cannot withstand being bent to much.
Imagine wrapping this wire around a coffee mug, if the bend is much tighter than this, then it may well be damaging the cable.
Unfortunately, because of the common use of this cable, sometimes tight bends cannot be avoided.
If this is the case, as previously mentioned for HDMI cables, try purchasing a 90-degree bend adapter.
This reduces stress and strain on the many layers of coaxial cables.
Can You Bend Fibre Optic Cables?
As described by techtarget.com, the term fibre optics:
“(…) refers to the technology that transmits information as light pulses along a glass or plastic fiber.”
This type of cable has both faster transmission speeds and higher bandwidths compared to its copper wire rivals.
They are designed to have some degree of flexibility, but as with all the cables on this list, you should always avoid over bending this type of cable to avoid permanent damage.
The outer casing does not have to be visibly damaged or cracked in order for the internal fibres to be broken. Simply folding or kinking fibre optic cables is enough to break them in multiple places.
Can You Generally Bend Cables 90 degrees?
Generally speaking, you can safely bend most cables 90 degrees.
As long as you do not bend the cable further than its minimum bend radius, no damage should be caused to the wire itself.
However, it is best to avoid:
- Repeated movement.
- Most cables, such as USB phone charging cables, will easily withstand a curve of 90 degrees, but if you flex the cable repeatedly back and forth, it will dramatically increase the potential risk of damage.
- Bending the cable at the connector or plug socket.
- This part of the cable is normally subject to the most physical strain and excess bending can loosen or damage the connective end of the wire.
- For HDMI cables, if they are bent right at the point of connection, the delicate pins inside can become damaged, resulting in intermittent video or audio outputs.
- A kinked cable is normally beyond repair and will need to be replaced. This can happen if you bend a cable further than it’s capable.
As previously mentioned, if your cable is having to bend 90 degrees near its source, you can purchase a 90-degree adaptor to prevent any unnecessary stress on the wire itself.
Read our blog here about is bending and HDMI cable ok?
- Fibre Optics (Optical Fibre)
- UK RS-Online: Everything You Need To Know About Coaxial Cables
- Intelleinet Solutions: Ethernet Cables Everything You Need To Know
- Gore: Tech Note: Understanding Cable Stress and Failure in High Flex Applications