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Tech Article #7 - Applications and Installation for Safety Wire

by Kevin Smith

Safety wire is available in several different thicknesses for different applications.  It is not expensive, it is strong, easy to install and dependable in whatever your application.  While there are different materials used to manufacture safety wire, brass and aluminum, we recommend type 302/304 soft temper stainless steel.

.025” safety wire is very thin, not very strong, but you can bend it around just about anything.  You use it to wire light bolts or fittings where you need to bend the wire around a lot of corners, and where the wire does not have a lot of pull on it.

.032” safety wire is the most common.  It’s a little easier to work with, reasonably strong and should work on anything you might need to safety wire, especially on a racecar.

A must for anyone using safety wire is a set of safety wire pliers, available in 6” or 9”, which will make your job a lot faster and easier.  Wrap the safety wire around whatever it is you are securing, bring both ends back into the pliers mouth, close the mouth down on the wires, lock it (the pliers have a spring loaded mechanism) then pull the round knob located between the handles at the back of the pliers.  When you pull on the knob the plier handles turn and the wire wraps around itself.  When you have the amount of twists required, grasp the handles and squeeze.  This will release the wire from the jaws of the pliers.  Use the cutters in the jaws to cut the safety wire to the proper length, then bend the end of the wires over so that you don’t poke yourself on them next time you reach in to work on something.

Areas where you may use safety wire include around bolt heads or nuts where there is no means of locking them.  Fill & drain plugs on rear ends and transmissions, brake calipers, brake rotors, control system linkages, such as transmission or carburetor linkages and any areas where movement and vibration occur are just a few that come to mind. 

Other areas that safety wire can be used:

  • As hose clamps around the fuel lines, fuel pump or carburetor.  Using the pliers it is easy to use the .032” wire.  Simply wrap it around the hose two or three times then bring it back to the pliers, lock the wires in the mouth of the pliers and pull the twist knob.  There you have it, a clamp that is less expensive, effective, dependable and easy to remove.
  • Secure carburetor nuts and bolts.  They have a tendency to vibrate out, so you would drill a hole in the stud and nut, then safety wire it back to the carburetor to stop them from turning.
  • You could even secure spark plug caps to spark plugs.

Below are a few basic rules to follow when properly installing safety wire:

  • If you are safety wiring a nut or bolt FIRST torque the nut or bolt to its proper torque.  Where possible align the holes that are going to be used to safety wire the units in place.  BUT DON’T OVER TORQUE or UNDER TORQUE them to achieve this!!
  • After installation the safety wire should be tight! So as not to allow the unit(s) to move.
  • Safety wire should always be installed so as to make the nut or bolt “TIGHTEN” itself.  That is the safety wire should come around the top of head of bolt/nut and back onto the securing unit so that the safety wires PULL is in a tightening direction.
  • NEVER over stress the safety wire.  This weakens it, which could cause it to break under vibration or load.  This is generally caused when you “over wind” the safety wire.  Safety wire should never be nicked or kinked.
  • When cutting the safety wire always leave 4 to 6 turns after the loop.  REMEMBER to always bring the safety wire AROUND the head of the bolt/nut in a tightening direction, in as small contour to the bolt/nut as you can get.

Here are a few examples of proper safety wire techniques

This article was published on Tuesday 20 March, 2007.
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