How To: Terminate a Shielded Cat6/6A External Ground Pass Through RJ45 Connector
Written by Don Schultz, trueCABLE Technical Sales Representative & Fluke Networks Certified Technician
Bar none, one of the most challenging Ethernet cable terminations is the shielded Cat6 or Cat6A RJ45 connector. The challenges include getting a thick shielded cable to fit inside the RJ45 connector and bonding the cable shield to the metal housing. Not a trivial task! Many different types of shielded RJ45 plugs exist, and they all fall short in one way or another. If you are like me, you want it all. So trueCABLE evaluated everything on the market, found the strengths and weaknesses, and then proceeded to design our own. You see, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Recommendation? I suggest you watch the video and read this blog as both bring their own detail level to the table.
Designing an easy-to-use and effective large, shielded RJ45 plug is no small task. Here were our primary design targets:
- Ability to handle the thickest shielded Ethernet cable...to the point that if you were to go any thicker you literally would need to use a keystone jack or patch panel because RJ45 connectors won’t fit anymore.
- Pass through design. Load bars can be a pain to work with, especially if not designed well.
- Multiple ways to bond the cable shield and/or drain wire to the metal housing of the RJ45 male plug to ensure a good ground path. This part was necessary, as I wanted it to be easy to work with.
- Very well documented so there is no guesswork.
We came up with a shielded RJ45 connector that:
- uses an external ground collar but can be categorized as internal AND external ground!
- does not make use of an internal strain latch but has the cut out for the strain latch presser bar
- by design, the rear half of the plug is entirely metal, so it is easy to bond your cable shield
- fits and has been performance tested with the entire line of trueCABLE shielded Cat6 and Cat6A Ethernet cable (even the big direct burial stuff)
Metal rear on the inside. Now you know our secret!
Can you use our Cat6/6A shielded external ground plug on another manufacturer’s cable? Sure, but first, you should make certain that your cable will fit onto our RJ45 plug. The whole “category” thing is very misleading unless the cable and RJ45 plug are made by the same manufacturer, as is trueCABLE. We stamp a Category on the bag because we go the extra step of confirming fitment and performance with our cable. If your Ethernet cable is of a different brand, you need to ensure fitment. A great resource is Selecting the Correct Connector.
For those who would like to understand more about RJ45 plugs and why there can be such a great deal of confusion surrounding them, please read What is an RJ45 Connector?
Enough of that! Let’s jump right into terminating, shall we?
Tools you will absolutely need are:
- All-In-One trueCABLE RJ45 Crimp & Termination tool (trueCRIMP)
- Leave the strain latch presser bar set to ON (the tool comes this way from the factory) even though the plug in question does not technically have a strain latch inside.
- Our older pass through crimp and termination tool (V1) is not compatible with these Cat6/6A Shielded Pass Through RJ45 Connectors. The strain latch presser bar on that tool will crush the rear of your shielded plug.
- Flush cutter
- Cable Stripping & Cutting Tool (optional but recommended-- our All-In-One Crimp and Termination Tool has a very good cable stripper on it, but ultimately, the dedicated cut & strip tool is more versatile)
Tools of the trade
Recommended tools to make your life a lot easier (and less painful):
- Light work glove (you only need one)
- Smooth metal shaft of some kind, like a screwdriver shaft
You will definitely want to use these!
Pre-Step: Bend the external ground crimp/strain relief collar downward from the default position of 45 degrees.
The idea is to get the collar out of your way
Step #1: Initial cable preparation.
Using our dedicated Cut & Strip tool is one option for jacket stripping..remove about 2.5” of jacket
- Before you place your cable into the stripping tool, adjust the blade all the way up since it may be too low and cut too deeply. You need to do this only once at the start of your session.
- When adjusting the stripping blade downward, use just enough pressure on the cable jacket to score it, but not cut through it. Since Ethernet cable is not perfectly round, I learned a quick tip to make the end of the cable jacket (more) circular by rolling it between your thumb and index finger prior to stripping. It does help!
- If you accidentally slice too far into the cable, you will likely nick a conductor, and that will result in a bad or poorly performing termination--you may need to start over.
Using the built-in stripper on the All-In-One trueCRIMP tool is another option for stripping the cable jacket...remove about 2.5” of cable jacket
- The built-in stripper is self adjusting.
- The size compatibility is 6.00mm to 8.00mm cable jacket OD, which covers everything from trueCABLE Cat5e Shielded Riser and thicker.
- It helps to roll the cable between your thumb and forefinger to make it more round before stripping. This reduces the chances of slicing the cable shield or nicking a conductor.
Now, pop the jacket open at the score and remove the jacket. Keep the jacket piece; it will be a free tool for at least five minutes. I promise.
Properly scored jacket being “popped”. Don’t toss the stripped off jacket piece just yet.
Remove the nylon ripcord. Check for slices in the cable shield near the cable jacket edge. If you see any, you may have nicked a conductor. Keep your eyes open!
Fold cable shield backwards. Snip off ESD drain wire. Remove any PE tape or waterproof tape. Check again for nicked conductors if you saw slices in the cable shield. If any conductors were nicked, then you need to start over.
The ESD drain wire may be removed during this step. Since the cable shield is making contact with the rear inside the plug housing and is bonded when terminated in this fashion, the ESD drain wire is not required. There are many ways of bonding the cable shield to the plug-- this is one of them and the easiest.
Remove spline by making four snips. Rest the clippers on the cable jacket edge and snip each “wing” downwards. Be careful not to nick a conductor. DO NOT remove the spline by cutting straight across--it will make termination more difficult.
The internal spline is found on all trueCABLE Cat6 and Cat6A cables. The purpose is to improve performance by reducing pair to pair crosstalk. We did not add it to make your life difficult!
Extreme close-up of how those cuts should look.
Twist spline to remove
Step #2: Prepare conductors for termination.
Untwist time. You can toss your free tool when done. Check to be certain the conductors are untwisted as much as practical, but not more than necessary. In other words, right down to the cable jacket but no further. But how do you get the kinks out...
Remember that glove and metal rod?
- The glove and metal rod will make this much faster and far less painful.
- Work the conductors individually, starting at the end of the cable jacket and going to the ends.
- Easy does it. Don’t use too much pressure, as you are liable to remove the conductor insulation right off the copper.
- The straighter they are, the easier it will be for you to put the connector on
This is a good time to snip off excess cable shield. Remove all but 3/4” or so. Put the conductors into the proper color sequence. I am using T568B. Be warned that the spline will fight you every step of the way. Keep the cable jacket area “clean” and neat. Less neat = more difficulty putting on the connector.
Locate a good spot, about 1.5” away from the cable jacket, to flush cut the conductors. T568B sequence shown. I like to work from top down (if I can). White-orange at the top, and solid brown at the bottom. Flush cut the conductors straight across.
- You can use either T568A or T568B for your sequence. One is not better than the other. Just be sure to use the same sequence at both ends of the cable unless you want to create a cross-over cable.
- Once you have those conductors lined up, keep the pressure on them, so they don’t get out of order on you. They will trust me. Try it once to see what I mean...
Step #3. Terminate.
Push the conductors into the plug so they come out the nose. Don’t fully seat the cable yet. The conductors will automatically stagger for you. Check the color sequence again.
The plug staggers the conductors because they will not physically fit inside the plug in a normal “8 across” fashion. Conductor insulation thickness is the reason. The staggered design has the side benefit of potentially reducing crosstalk at the connector.
Fully insert the cable jacket into the plug. Seat to the green line as indicated. Alternate between pulling on the conductors and pushing on the cable jacket.
Hinge the ground collar back up in line with the cable jacket
Using the nose of your clippers or a flat blade screwdriver, bend the ground collar tabs downward to pre-start the crimp
Insert plug and cable assembly into the trueCRIMP tool. Use only light pressure and then press the tool lever fully downward.
Check to be sure all eight golden contacts are down, and the conductors are fully flush cut
Step #4. Crimp the ground collar.
Use the larger crimp cavity FIRST. This is the “start” cavity. The plug should be latch-side down as shown.
Cycle lever fully down to perform the “start” crimp
Now switch to the smaller “finish” cavity. Again, the plug latch-side should be down. Fully cycle the handle lever to complete the crimp.
Finish crimp being performed
Step #5. Admire (and check) your work!
External ground tab properly crimped. You want it to slightly compress the cable jacket, but not mangle it. You don’t want it loose either. This may take practice! Side view of the crimp. Notice how it slightly compresses the jacket?
All done! So, there you have a Cat6/6A shielded external ground RJ45 connector on your cable now. Go plug it in and HAPPY NETWORKING!
Something not right? Your cable not performing your expectations? You could have a bad or poorly terminated RJ45 plug. Better check out What Does a Bad Termination Look Like?
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