EL Wire Tips and Tricks

We’ve learned a lot over the past two years repairing EL Wire on the Playa.  Here’s some tips you can consider:

  1. If your wire gets ripped out of your driver, take out the batteries.  A driver that is on, with no wire attached, will burn out and be ruined.
  2. Do not make tight turns or knots in EL Wire or tighten zip-ties onto EL Wire too tightly.  The very fine corona wires inside the EL Wire’s vinyl coating are very fragile and will break easily.  The wire will stop glowing or be dim at the first break (at best) or will short out and burn out your driver (at worst).
  3. Use a good technique when Terminating EL wire (e.g. using copper foil, heat shrink tubing and hot-melt glue.) Poor terminations fail and the diagnosis and repair often takes far longer than it would have taken to do it better to begin with.
  4. Every segment of EL Wire should have its own connector — never daisy-chain segments.  Soldering one wire to the end of the previous one may save you a few pennies on connectors, but it will cost you potentially hours of frustration trying to debug your project, and reusing segments will be inconvenient at best.  If each segment has its own connector finding which segments are shorted is trivial!  You don’t have to start cutting wires to isolate shorts.
  5. EL Wire Projects are fragile — handle with care.  If you’re just winding EL Wire around your bike, do that after you arrive on the playa, and remove it before you go home.  Store fun-lights in plastic bags after wrapping the wire around your hand. Store clothing  in flip-top boxes.  Store larger projects in boxes that protect the wire.
  6. If you discover a short in a piece of wire, clip off about 1/8″ from the end with a sharp scissors.  It is not uncommon for the end to be the location of the short circuit, and in any case it is easy to do and won’t harm the wire.  If the short isn’t there, it is probably at the termination itself… which probably wouldn’t have happened at all if a good termination technique was used.