Wire AWG Chart – Thickness Diameter For Quadcopter RC

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge, which is a wire gauge standard based on the diameter of the wire. The diameter of the the wire chosen for RC models and quadcopters is important. It determines how much current should go through it and can go through it safely without failing.

What Types of Electrical Wires to use for Quadcopters and RC?

Thicker wires have a larger diameter and cross section area, and thus can handle higher current. Wires with higher strand count are more flexible and easier to work with than single-stranded wires.

Also, using silicone insulated wire is the best for RC applications. Silicone insulated wire is much more flexible than the standard PVC insulation (great as multirotor frames and components keep getting smaller). It’s lightweight and has a wider temperature range that can handle more heat, which is nice when soldering as the insulation doesn’t melt or shrink back near as much. And generally they hold up better in extreme environments.

When drawing more current than the wires can handle, they simply start to heat up and eventually melt. It also becomes the bottleneck in your power system and struggles to deliver the power for your motors.

What AWG wire should I choose?

Look Up Table

Simply work out what the maximum amp draw is, and look it up in the table below. The current rating is continuous current. The amp requirement can be increased for our hobby since we choose wires according to peak current (at 100% throttle, which doesn’t normally last longer than a few seconds in most cases from my experience.

Here is an example guideline from an electrical manufacturer.

current draw wire awg thickness diameter table chart

Example – Wire AWG and Current ratings

The following table is what I personally follow if when considering max burst current for a short time. Please note that current rating has a lot to do with wires quality and material, this guide is only an estimation for the copper wires I have experience with.

13AWG Wire - 130A
14AWG Wire - 110A
16AWG Wire - 70A
18AWG Wire - 45A
20AWG Wire - 27A
22AWG Wire - 17A

Avoid Bottlenecks

When connecting 2 wires, the max current you can run through them is always limited by the thinner wire. So when you are connecting 2 components, you should always match the gauge wire that is already installed on the existing component.

For example for the XT60 connector pigtail (between XT60 male connector and PDB), I always use the same gauge wires on the battery discharge lead. If the batteries I am using have 14awg wire, then I should use 14awg wire for the XT60 pigtail.

Another example, if I want to extend the ESCs power wires, and they come with 18awg wires, then I shall use 18awg wires too.

This way usually works and provides suitable wires for the components you are using. You may use thicker wires, it won’t bring any benefits but extra weight.

Why  current ratings are different from different sources?

You might find different standards and current ratings from different electrical wires manufacturers. They represent the maximum current for which the heating and the losses are below a specified level. Firstly like I mentioned, wires could be made from different materials thus the difference. Secondly, each industry has different standard and specification. For RC quadcopters, the above table should be sufficient.

Does Voltage matter?

Voltage is not that important for RC applications, since the voltage range we deal with are normally within 30V. Note that the wires we used are normally designed with a nominal voltage of 600V and tested at much higher voltage e.g. 2000V.

Some More Tips

Wire Quality

The chart above is based off of decent quality copper wire. Cheap, low quality wire might be made of brass or aluminium instead, which could have a negative effect on the max current it can conduct and handle. The consumer would not know this effects unless technical electrical tests are done on the wires. Therefore, make sure to buy wires from trustworthy sellers.

Wire Connectors

As mentioned above regarding “current rating bottlenecks” in the wires itself, limitations can also take place in the attached connectors. As an example, 22 AWG wire might good for up to 15 amps, but the connected JST connector might be limited to 5-6 amps.

More Info and Discussion

We have a similar topics on the forum if you fancy more information and discussions.

Edit History

  • May 2014 – Article created.
  • Apr 2017 – Article revised.

21 thoughts on “Wire AWG Chart – Thickness Diameter For Quadcopter RC

  1. Dave

    Hi Oscar,
    What AWG wires would you recommend for the following:

    [1] from [Flight Controller] >>> [KISS ESC 2-5S 24A Race Edition]?
    [2] from [Battery 3S/4S] to [PDB]?

    Thanks
    Dave

    Reply
  2. Markus

    Hi Oscar,

    I have these ESC’s
    (banggood.com/de/DYS-BL20A-Mini-20A-BLHeli-ESC-OPTO-2-4s-for-RC-Multicopter-p-975798.html)
    and want to know the cross-section of the power cables (red and black).
    Do you know the thickness of these wires?!

    Thanks in advance for your help!!!!

    Markus

    Reply
  3. Mathijs Groothuis

    I have 20A littlebee’s and 2300KV E-Max. Should I then go for the theoratical values of:

    4 X 30 A (Littlebee’s Burst) which makes about 120 AMPS, needing 12 AWG?

    Still need to buy batteries, but can’t find the AWG size of them (looking on HobbyKing)

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      nah just match the size of the cable with the batteries you are using, and you should be fine. For most 1800mah 4S 65C for example they normally use 14Awg.

      Reply
      1. Bruno

        Oscar i noticed many 4S battery are now coming with 12 AWG wire (Lumenier 1300mAh 4s 75c LiPo Battery (XT60), PULSE Graphene 1550mAh 4S 14.8V 95C Battery w/ XT60, Thunder Power Adrenaline Series 1300mah 4s 80c, Tattu etc, etc, etc) Should i still use a 14 AWG as usual or i should upgrade my battery pigtail?

      2. Oscar Post author

        If you don’t mind the few extra grams, I think it’s safer to use 12awg :) But I don’t think 14awg would cause any problem either :)

  4. Erick Cruz

    Thank you for this useful article.

    Just wanted to ask, I’m planning to tranfer my existing quad to a 500 frame and would need to extend the existing wires I have from my 2212kv motor to my 20A ESC. I had trouble finding 20AWG wires and only found 18AWG wires. Would there be any specific issues I might encounter if I hook those up to extend the existing wires?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      apart from more weight, it’s absolutely fine running thicker wires.. or combining different awg wires, shouldn’t be any issue.

      Reply
  5. Russ

    Hi Oscar,
    The ESC KDE 35A might not be the correct esc. Typically for the motors that are being used the KDE 55A are recommended.

    Reply
  6. Chris

    Hi Oscar,

    Thank you for writing very useful and informative articles. They have certainly helped enormously with my quad build.

    I would like to ask you advice in regards to wire type when connecting the ESC signal wires to the FC.

    I run BL30A ESC (Opto). I plan on replacing the signal and ground wires that are on the ESC’s with just a single signal wire. (The ESC’s will be grounded to the PDB). I would like some advice if possible in regards to wire type. Should I run stranded bare copper wire or tinned copper wire?

    I have read that tinned copper wire provides extra durability to the copper wire but I am wondering if bare copper provides better signal performance than tinned?

    Also what AWG do you recommend using for the ESC signal wire, 26AWG? or thicker?

    Thanks in advance. :)

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Hi Chris
      Any electrical wire should be fine. 26awg is perfect, signal wire doesn’t carry much current, and it’s usually fairly short anyway.

      Reply
  7. moosestang

    So i’m having an oscillation problem on a small quad i built with 18a spider esc’s. The thing is small, 141 grams with battery. I’ve tried every pid combination i could thing of, tpa, etc, etc, but still it oscillates at full throttle. Googling it i found someone that supposedly fixed their oscillation by changing to a higher gauge wire for the escs, so i looked over all my wires and the battery wire is 18awg, but my jst power wire is 22awg. I’ve ordered some 18awg jst connectors, but i wonder if this bottle neck in the power distribution can cause such oscillations? I have the esc’s soldered to a pdb.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      anything is possible in this hobby :D but 22awg wire for the main power cable does sound small, and when ESCs might not get enough power at high throttle and start to struggle.
      best thing to do is check your motor/prop combo and see how much current they draw to work out best awg wire to use… otherwise you can just use same awg wire on the battery.

      Reply
      1. moosestang

        sorry, it’s actually 20awg, but still it’s a bottle neck. it could be a lot of things i know. I end up replacing the esc’s with dys 20a just to rule them out i’m sure.

  8. Zewill

    Hi Oscar,
    I have a question regarding the jst connectors. I have a 3s lipo 1500 mah 35c with xt60 connector with 14 or 16 awg. I would like to do an adaptor for jst but my jst wires are quite fin (22 awg). Would that be problematic? What could happen? It’s only to power a light plane so 1 engine esc and 3 servos! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      depends on your max current draw through that JST connector? For around 10A your 22awg wire should be fine… you might get away with a bit higher current going through it, but it might start to heat up.

      Reply
  9. Jo

    Great article and very informative!

    I would love to have your help with something which is related to this article.

    My X8 octocopter won’t lift off when I add more payload to it. Right now the AUW is 15lbs (with no gimbal, cameras or FPV accessories). When I connect one battery it hovers fine but will only fly for a few mins, but when I add two batteries, in parallel, then due to the added weight it takes off for two seconds and lands hard as it starts yawing to the right.

    My power distribution board had 3.5mm connectors but changed them to 5.5mm Castle Creation connectors. Because of that I replaced also the bullet connectors from the ESCs end side to 4mm. I also upgraded the wire to 10AWG but even after doing all that I’m still having the same issue. Now the only connectors I haven’t replaced yet are the motor bullet plugs from the motors, as well as the connectors on the speed controllers to the motor side which are 3.5mm.

    The propellers I use are 15×5.5 T-motor equivalent.
    Frame: Gryphon Dynamics GD-X8
    Motors: KDE FX4014 380kv
    ESCs: KDE 35A
    Battery: “MonsterRC” 35C 6s 10000mAh
    FC: NAZA V2 (with low voltage alarm disabled)
    AUW: Estimated to be 14-15lbs without gimbal, camera or other components.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      sorry i don’t have much experience with multirotor of that size.
      but by the sound of it, it’s a power issue? could you upload a video in this group?
      facebook.com/groups/Copter.Fans

      Reply
    2. Alexander James Curtis

      I’ll answer it. That’s far too heavy a battery for the power being generated by those motors. 20,000 6s in insane. Try a 5000 6s at most

      Reply

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