How to Wire an RCA Plug

by David Weedmark Google
    RCA plugs include a connector and a collar that slides over the cable.

    RCA plugs include a connector and a collar that slides over the cable.

    Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

    If you have a soldering gun, you can wire your own RCA plugs. When choosing cable, coaxial cable generally gives you better performance, especially over long distances, because it is designed to shield the wires from interference that could degrade signal quality. A multimeter is essential to test the connectivity of your plug and to ensure there are no shorts. If you are trying to connect another type of cable like S-Video to an RCA jack, you might want to consider an RCA adapter. The cost is about the same as buying an RCA plug, without the work.

    Wiring a Plug Yourself

    Step 1

    Cut the end of the cable, leaving a clean 90-degree cut. You can use a sharp utility knife, but a pair of coaxial cable cutters will ensure a clean cut that doesn't crimp the cable.

    Step 2

    Slide the RCA connector's collar or insulator over the wire. This will be attached to the connector after the soldering is done.

    Step 3

    Cut 1 inch of outer sheathing from the cable to expose the braided metal foil beneath. Unbraid the foil and twist it into a wire shape.

    Step 4

    Cut off the exposed insulation that was beneath the metal foil with a utility knife. Beneath this are two insulated wires.

    Step 5

    Set the end of the cable beside the RCA connector to determine the length each wire should be. You have three wires: hot (usually white), cold (usually colored) and the metal foil. For most RCA connectors, the hot wire that goes in the center of the connector needs to be a quarter-inch longer than the cold wire and foil. Trim the wires as needed using wire cutters.

    Step 6

    Cut one-quarter inch of insulation from the cold and hot wires using a pair of wire strippers. Touch the end of each wire with a hot soldering iron. This "tins" the wire in preparation for soldering.

    Step 7

    Slide the RCA connector over the wires. Securing the RCA connector with a clamp or vise will make it easier to apply the solder.

    Step 8

    Line up the hot wire with the connector's center pin so that the exposed wire doesn't touch anything else. Touch the center pin and wire with the tip of a hot soldering gun for several seconds to warm them up. Touch the center pin with the soldering gun while touching the end of the wire with solder to secure it in place.

    Step 9

    Solder the foil and cold wire to the solder strip on the RCA connector. Use only enough solder to secure the wires.

    Step 10

    Slide the heat shrink over the connection if you are using it. Seal the heat shrink with a heat gun.

    Step 11

    Wait a few minutes for the metal and heat shrink to cool. Slide the RCA connector's crimp ring around the outer jacket.

    Step 12

    Test the connectivity of your work with a multimeter. Touch the center pin and outer shell to ensure there is no circuit between them. Touch a conductor at the other end of the wire and the appropriate point on the RCA connector to ensure a current passes between them. Repeat this for the second conductor.

    Step 13

    Slide the insulation over the connection. You may choose to fill the cavity of the RCA connector with hot glue to guard against possible shorting. Keep the glue away from the threads.

    Step 14

    Slide the collar over the wire and onto the body of the plug. Screw the collar into place, or crimp it with a pair of pliers, depending on the plug model.

    Step 15

    Test for a short between the center pin and shell of the RCA connector with a multimeter before using the cable.

    Using an Adapter

    Step 1

    Select an appropriate adapter for your cable to connect it to an RCA jack. For example, if you are connecting an S-video jack to an RCA jack, you can get an RCA to S-Video cable to connect them, or if you already have the cables, use an RCA to S-Video adapter.

    Step 2

    Connect your cable to one end of the adapter.

    Step 3

    Connect the adapter to the RCA jack, or connect an RCA cable to the other end of the adapter as needed.

    Required Items

    • Coaxial cable cutter
    • Utility knife
    • Wire cutters
    • Wire strippers
    • Pliers
    • Clamp or vice
    • Solder
    • Soldering iron
    • Multimeter
    • Heat gun (for heat shrink only)
    • Hot glue gun (optional)

    About the Author

    David Weedmark's articles have appeared in dozens of publications since 1989, including "The Windsor Star" and "The Ottawa Citizen." As well as being a technology consultant, he is the author of several books, including "The Tanglewood Murders." Weedmark studied English at the University of Toronto.

    Photo Credits

    • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images