What is the Difference Between a Wire Harness and a Cable Assembly?

If you’ve spent any time researching electrical components, chances are you’ve come across two phrases: ‘wire harness’ and ‘cable assembly.’ You understand that both of these terms are used to describe an organized bundle of cables and wires used to power a single electrical system, but what is the difference between a wire harness and a cable assembly?

Trick question, right? They are two different names used interchangeably for the same thing. In fact, in addition to ‘cable assembly,’ a wire harness can also be called a wiring assembly or a cable harness. However, the idea that a wire harness can be called a cable assembly and vice-versa is something of a misconception. In reality, a wire harness and a cable assembly are two different products. Here’s what you need to know.

Wire harness vs. cable assembly: What’s the difference?

First and foremost, let’s get down to the basic difference between a cable and a wire. A wire is a single strand of electricity-conducting material, while a cable is a group of two or more wires bound together to run a system. Since cables are often bound together, they tend not to look much different from wires, but there is a pretty major difference between a single wire and a cable.

The key difference between a cable assembly and a wire harness is the level of protection they are designed to give. Since cables are typically found in harsher environments than single wires, cable assembly manufacturers design their products with durability and protection from elements such as heat, moisture and friction. Their main purpose is to shield electrical cables from these potentially hazardous environmental factors.

Wire harnesses, on the other hand, are designed with the purpose of bundling and organizing wires and cables that are already protected by another outer layer. Keeping the electrical system arranged neatly is the primary focus of a wire harness.

Can cable assemblies and wire harnesses be used together?

Yes! Since wire harnesses are used primarily as an organizational tool, many engineers use them in conjunction with cable assemblies. Since wire harnesses tend to be priced lower than cable assemblies, engineers can use them in parts of their electrical system that are not at risk of being in extreme weather conditions and save the more expensive cable assemblies for the systems that need to be able to withstand the elements.

Knowing the difference between a wire harness and a cable assembly, and when to use each one, can help save money on your project as well as give you optimal results. Contact Rapport, Inc. today for your custom cable and wire harness assembly!