Most cables get plugged in and left alone for years at a time. All those power and HDMI cables connecting your home entertainment system together rarely get touched. The cables meticulously organized at your work desk may as well be cemented in place.
But the cables we use everyday – the computer and smartphone chargers – go through hell. They get twisted, yanked and bent on a daily basis, and they’re bound to fail at some point.
If one of your cables is beginning to fray, you can counteract the damage with one of these quick fixes.
One of the most cost-effective fixes for a cable that’s about to meet its end is a bit of electrical tape. It’s not going to be pretty and it won’t be the most secure method. But electrical tape can be found for between $1 (about £0.69 in the UK or AU$1.39 in Australia) and $5 (£3.46 or AU$6.93) per roll.
You can take your time neatly wrapping the cable to reinforce it, but the best way to prevent any more damage is to wrap the split or fraying part of the cable several times with electrical tape, then work your way out from that spot. This helps to prevent any further damage and immobilizes any broken cables. Just don’t expect it to last forever.
A more long-term solution is heat shrink. The downside is that heat shrink can be more expensive and not as effective if the cables are longer than the ends.
Heat shrink tubing comes in an array of sizes and can range from just a few bucks to upwards of $20 (£13.81 or AU$27.73) or $30 (£20.71 or AU$41.59) for an assortment pack.
When you find a size that will fit your fraying cable, slip it over one of the ends, position the heat shrink over the affected area and use a heat gun or hair dryer on high heat to activate it. The heat will cause the tubing to shrink and cling to the cable, immobilizing and reinforcing the damaged area.
Sugru is simply great to have on hand for a number of reasons – one of those being old and worn out cables. It’s a rubbery substance, which you can mold to almost any shape. Once it has cured for about 24 hours it will harden into a rubbery material.
If you mold the Sugru over the broken part of a cable, it can help prevent any more damage to that area. However, Sugru doesn’t come cheap. A 3-pack of single use packets of Sugru costs between $9 (£6.21 or AU$12.48) and $12 (£8.29 or AU$16.64). It’s reliable.
A repurposed spring
A DIY solution that might work for a short while is removing the spring from a retractable pen, stretching it out and wrapping it around the cable to reinforce it towards one of its ends.
These springs are not very rigid, and won’t protect your cable from further damage, especially when stretched. An alternative, though, would be to install a spring over the damaged area, followed by some heat shrink tubing. The combination of the two materials will provide extra rigid reinforcement for little to no extra cost.
Broken cables are a nuisance so, to no surprise at all, a number of products exist to help counteract the daily wear and tear. These products are also quite expensive. The TUDIA Klips are about $7 (£4.83 or AU$9.70) for a pair, which is meant to protect a single Lightning cable. This is almost one-third of the cost of an Apple Lighting cable.
Technically, they’re designed to help prevent damage, but they’ll also work if the ends of your cable – no doubt the most fragile part – have started to break. Slip one of the Klips over the cable and slide it up to the plastic connecter, then slide the lock over the Klip to secure it in place.
Amazon will return thousands upon thousands of similar products when you search for “cable protector”.
It may be time for a replacement
If your MacBook or computer charger is beginning to give out, the cost of one of these fixes is usually a small fraction of the price of replacing the charger, which can often cost upwards of $80 (£55.24 or AU$110.90). If that’s the case, it’s probably best to explore your options before buying an entirely new charger.
That said, if you’re dealing with a broken micro USB, Lightning or even USB-C cable, in most cases, the best option is to just replace the cable altogether. These types of cables can often be replaced with reputable third-party options for between $5 (£3.45 or AU$6.93) and $10 (£6.90 or AU$13.85).