• Untwist/Kink extension cable

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  • Ok, so like a fool, I had been wrapping a 100' power extension cord using the "elbow to hand" method, which I later found out is no good and hard on the cable. Well, now I've got an extension cable that wants to kink up and twist around itself as well as the cables inside the shielding actually twisting, causing a spiral appearance of the shielding. What is the best way to untwist/unkink an extension cable of this length?

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    Question by levi mefford

I've done a fair amount of rock climbing, and I've seen similar issues with climbing ropes. The solution with the rope is to lay it out in a pile, and starting at one end, go through it foot by foot and untwist it using your hands to squeeze, turn, and otherwise manipulate the rope, then coil it as you go. Apologies if this isn't a clear explanation; it's easier to show than describe.

Answer by Bill Horvath II

The best way to unkink and straighten an extension cord, is a trick on learned on the convention center floor during setup by electricians.

Simply put, you tie one end of the cord to a stationary object. Typically at a show this would be the cushman electrical cart, but any solid railing would do.

Then starting at the tie off point, you use a very large screwdriver, or a small length of straight metal pipe. Really anything easy to grip, but that has a long hard straight edge. A handle of a hammer for instance. You hold the screwdriver by the shaft, and put the plastic handle under your cord. The screwdriver/pipe will be perpendicular to the cord, as you pull the cord taunt, you fold it over the handle, and start to very firmly pull the handle along the length of the cord.

The process is similar to how one would curl ribbon using a scissor. It uses quite a bit of force to do, don't be afraid to throw your weight into it. I typically will form a "u-shape" in the extension cord, and place the screwdriver handle inside of it, and pull. Pull really hard while passing more and more cord past the screwdriver, stretching and flattening it as it runs along the handle. This should leave you with a nice straight cord. It is what is needed in order to tape a cord down along a floor.

Answer by mje

I too did this to a cord. I secured one end of the cord to something (I think it was a hand railing) then I straightened it out and I just untwisted it until most of the twists were gone, whip the cord up and down to get the last remaining twists to free themselves from the friction of the ground. You’ll be able to feel the cord wanting to twist if it is still twisted. To get kinks out of the wire may require what MJE described.

I still use the hand to elbow method. But I first unplug the cord, lay it out across my lawn so it is fairly straight. Then I begin to wind the cord using the hand to elbow method, but I do not walk toward the other end, I stand there and let the cord come to me. As the end of the cord comes near me I can see the end of the cord turning as it bounces through the grass. The bouncing helps the cord unwind as you wind it, doing this along the sidewalk or driveway is not as effective as through the grass.

I have been doing this with the old cord I twisted and my new cords for a few years now and I have not had any more problems with twisting.

Answer by edntroy

Depending on the gauge of the cord, sometimes uncoiling it, and laying it out on a warm surface, or even on the lawn on a warm, sunny day will do the trick. After that , if you have an elevated position to coil it back up, letting it hang allows the twists to undo themselves. This will not work for severely kinked cords however, and you should be made aware that extreme kinking is a danger sign that the braided wire inside may be in bad shape, and possibly short, potentially causing fire, or shock hazard. Some times it is better to learn a lesson, and buy new cord just to be safe. As a contractor for over 30 years, I can tell you the best way to "coil" a cord is to loop it from one hand, to the other, arm extended( about a 3' loop), and as said above , let the end come to you, it will not twist in it's usable lifetime.

Answer by blair

As a landscaper for 20 years, I wrestled many cords. We used this technique. Two people hold the cord at each end or at a section if it is really long. One person swings the cord over in an arc , kind of like in jump rope. You must go in the opposite direction of the twist. Every once in a while tug on the cord and then see if it needs to swing further. This is for unkinking the cord NOT to un -tangle a cord which is not the same issue at all.

Answer by theresa barnhart

First lay the cord out completely, shaking to relax the irregularities as much as possible, coil one large coil on one hand (the one that can hold the weight of entire cord) then with a swinging motion draw the cord to you, twist the cord so that the coil added will lay in smoothly with the previous coil or coils. Taking the time to maintain the cords unkinked condition will pay for itself in loss of tantrums.

Answer by chloe501

This isn't the answer to your actual question, but I wanted to supply the method that is, in my experience, the best way to prevent it from re-kinking: the over-under coiling method. Roughly speaking, you make a coil, twisting in one direction. If you were coiling normally, you'd make the next coil the same way. In the over-under technique, you make the second one by twisting in the opposite way. This coil ends up with the end coming out under the loop instead of over it. The best way to learn how to do it is to look for a site with pictures. It looks very odd, but once you've done it a few times, it becomes second nature.

The over-under method is most effective because you introduce a twist, then reverse the twist, ending up with an overall neutral stress on the cord. There is still some stress in each loop, so you end up with a slightly wavy cord. But after doing this for about ten years with my all my cords, they look much less corrugated than the ones I used before now.

But wait, there's more! The cord will also uncoil incredibly neatly. No stored twist making a heavy gauge cord want to writhe around on its own. Just neat even unwinding. This is even more important with a pneumatic hose. It takes no more effort to do than normal coiling. The only con is that if an end gets pulled through loops, they'll knot up.

Answer by jack wood

Adding to what Jack said, I learnt the over-under technique back in my youth while working as a roadie. If you know anyone in the music/theatre world they can show you this, and there is a link to an old video here http://stagecraft.theprices.net/gallery/cablewrap/

I still wind all my extension cables, hoses, ropes like this and they don't knot or kink. I can also take a 30m+ cable and completely unwind it just by holding an end and throwing the coil in the direction I want the cable to go.

Answer by matt greensmith

The trick we use with climbing ropes, lifelines, and extension cords is to "take them for a walk". Hold on to one end and walk across a good-sized chunk of lawn. An alternative method is to hang them off of a tall scaffold tower, or other high place, and swing them around in the opposite direction of the kink. Then coil them up using Jack's "over-and-under" method.

Answer by gough

Wish I could provide a more insightful explanation, but when I was working on a movie set I got chewed out by a gaffer for "over-undering" stingers.* Apparently it was appropriate for XLR type audio cable (I was in the sound dept) but a big no-no for stingers. Something to do with the differences in the way they are arranged inside the sheathing? Or maybe yet another way to differentiate tribes.

*as they called extension cords

Aha, I found the thinking behind this (no comment on whether it's correct):

"Interestingly enough, there is conflicting evidence that says that coiling electrical cables (power, feeder, SOCA, speaker, etc) is best done in the same direction rather than over-under. This is because typically they contain stranded wire, which contains a twist built into it. When you coil against the twist, you are also subjecting the cable to stress that will break the strands down faster. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t apparently!"


Answer by taylor
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