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Cable Tie Buying Guide: Fit to Be Tied

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The humble cable tie – sometimes called zip tie – may be one of the handiest, least celebrated tools.

What a long way the cable tie has come in 60 years! Originally created back in 1958 to secure wiring bundles and harnesses in aircraft, today’s cable ties have tens of thousands of different industrial, office, recreational and home applications.

Durable and easy to use, not only are cable ties used for wire bundling, they’re also used for security. Cable ties are often placed on the doors of truck trailers to prevent cargo tampering and to prove that truck trailer doors were not opened after leaving the dock of the original shipper . So while most of us are familiar with the more common cable ties, other highly specialized variations exist. Each operates, however, in the same basic manner.

  1. A ratcheting lever inside the head of the strap locks into one-way ramps on the strap itself.
  2. In general use cable ties, the lever is made from the same material as the strap.
  3. With specialty ties, a metal lever is bonded into the strap during manufacturing, making these ties stronger than the common nylon ties.
  4. Styles include standard, releasable, mountable and those with ID tags.

Types of Cable Ties

Cable ties come in as many variations as there are differing types of service requirements. Depending on where and how you’ll be using your cable ties, strengths range from light duty up to extra heavy duty. Consider the different construction materials, including metals and nylons, lengths, locking styles, tensile strength, temperature rating, whether they’ll be used indoors or outdoors and the diameter of the wiring bundle they’ll be wrapping (if applicable). We’ve included several of the basic cable tie types below. Our Dedicated Account Advisors will be glad to help you find the ideal solution for your needs.

Standard Nylon

The most common zip tie is the Nylon Cable Tie. Standard nylon comes in everything from light duty (you can snap it with your hands) to heavy duty thick nylon that is quite durable. While they come in a myriad of colors, white and black are the most common. A minimum of 2% carbon black is required for standard nylon zip ties, which provides a high degree of UV resistance for outdoor use.

Stainless Steel

When it comes to high heat application, Stainless Steel Cable Ties are often the answer. Automotive uses include exhaust wraps and repairs, as well as securing heavy items, up to 400 pounds. These ties do not use a lever lock, instead they have a ball lock or resistance locking mechanism. Because Stainless Steel ties are not a single piece, it’s possible to damage them if you over tighten the head.

Aluminum

Like stainless steel cable ties, Aluminum Cable Ties are often found in industrial environments, where they need to be durable and long-lasting, more so than standard nylon ties. Aluminum ties are lightweight, non-flammable, UV resistant and can withstand extremely high and low temperatures, making them particularly useful for challenging environments. They can be used for cable, conduit and equipment bundling, attaching marker plates for pipe identification and many other applications.

Releasable

Releasable ties are available for just about every type of cable tie. They’re designed to be reused, so they do not lose strength when released like typical nylon cable ties.

Security

Whether used for securing a latch or restraining a suspect, security cable ties are a necessary component. Though they can still be cut, they’re typically thicker and more durable than standard nylon ties. For law enforcement, cable cuffs even have two locking heads, one for each wrist. These are tamper-proof, so they can’t be easily unlocked with a pin. Other types of security ties have tamper-proof heads and may also include sealing serial numbers.

Specialty

There are some specialty ties available for singular purposes, such as radiator cable ties. These are designed to go through the fins of a radiator to secure cooling fans and other finned coolers (oil, transmission, and A/C) to the radiator. There are also specialty ties that have screw mount holes molded into them for positive mounting with a screw.

Food Grade

The food industry uses cable ties, though this can present a problem, as you would not want an errant piece of tie ending up in prepared food. To eliminate this, all food-grade ties are blue and have metal particles in the nylon itself. This allows them to trip metal detectors that scan containers.

Halar

For chemical resistance in corrosive application, Halar (ECTFE, Ethylene ChloroTriFluoroEthylene), is used where corrosive acids are present in high concentrations and temperatures.

Tefzel

These ties are designed for use in high-radiation environments. Made ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), which is called Tefzel, these ties are resistant to radiation and high temperatures.

Using Cable Ties

Using a cable tie is a breeze. It’s as simple as loading the small tail into the head and pulling. You will hear clicking when the tie is correctly loaded into the head. It is possible to put the tie together backwards, where the locking ramps are upside down and not making contact with the lever. This does not damage the tie; it just won’t work until you flip it over.

The most important thing to know when using cable ties is to make sure your application matches the ties you have. If you are securing some wires of a component under the dash, a standard tie will work great, but light duty ties are only good for a few pounds of pressure. It’s a good idea to keep a few different grades of cable ties on hand for every situation you may face.

We take cable ties pretty seriously here at Imperial Supplies. Which is one reason we stock such a depth and breadth of products. In addition to one of the fleet supply industry’s widest varieties of cable ties, we also stock complete cable tie kits and assortments, gear ties, cable tie guns and tools, mounts and clips, hook-and-loop cable ties and much more.

We’ll be happy to answer your questions around any cable tie product. Simply Contact Us directly at any time during business hours (6 am to 6 pm) by phone or Instant Chat. If you’d prefer, send us an e-mail, or connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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