How To: Terminating a Cat6-6A Standard Load Bar Unshielded RJ45 Connector
Written by Don Schultz, Technical Sales Representative and Fluke Networks Certified Technician
This combined video and written blog will show you how to put on one of the most easy to terminate standard load bar unshielded plugs. I do not make this statement lightly, as I find this plug a joy to work with, and the load bar is unique. This style of plug has a solid nose, and a staggered, green load bar for organizing the conductors prior to insertion into the plug housing. Think of the load bar as the third hand you always wanted, but could not afford to get grafted onto you. The conductors don’t pass-through the front prior to termination onto your cable with this kind of plug. I recommend this plug as readily as the pass-through kind. Let’s get started!
Recommendation? I suggest you watch the video and read this blog as both bring their own level of detail to the table.
You may be asking yourself why you would want to use one of these load bar RJ45 plugs when you have access to the latest and greatest new fangled pass-through kind? Believe it or not, there are quite a few people who prefer them for the following reasons:
- That is what they were trained with and prefer to this day. Not broke? Don’t fix it.
- These types of plugs cost quite a bit less than the pass through style
- Some installers' perception is that pass-through style RJ45 plugs may present an issue with PoE devices (power over Ethernet) by being more prone to short circuit. Interestingly, this is true to some extent but not because they are pass-through in design! Bad fitment or insufficient flush cutting of the conductors at the plug nose is the root cause.
First, you should make certain that your cable will fit onto the RJ45 plug. The whole “category” thing is very misleading unless the cable and RJ45 plug are both made by the same manufacturer as is the case with trueCABLE. trueCABLE will 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 confirm 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 the little beast, shall we?
We will demonstrate this termination with trueCABLE Cat6A Unshielded Riser Ethernet cable. This cable has been fitment and performance tested when using our Cat6-6A Standard unshielded plug. In fact, all of our Cat6 and Cat6A unshielded cable will fit this plug!
Tools you will absolutely need are:
- RJ45 crimp and termination tool (the pass through kind will work fine for standard plugs)
- If your crimp and termination tool has an adjustment for the strain latch presser bar, make certain to set it to ON as this plug has a strain latch
- Flush cutters
- Cable cut and strip tool
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!
Step 1: Strip your cable jacket
Strip off about 1.50” of cable jacket, carefully!
- Before you place your cable into the strip tool, adjust the blade all the way up since it may be too low and cut too deeply. You need 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, a quick tip I learned is 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
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”
Step 2: Inspect your conductors
Look at the conductors at the cable jacket edge. Check for nicks (slices in the conductor insulation or even noticeable copper).
Step 3: Remove the nylon ripcord
Flush cutting that ripcord right off. You don’t want it.
Step 4: Remove the spline
This internal spline skeleton is present on all trueCABLE Cat6 and Cat6A cables. The purpose of the spline is to minimize cross-talk (NEXT). Never cut the spline straight across. You want to snip each “wing” of the spline and then twist to remove. Cut at a slight downward angle. You want as much spline removed as possible.
Make four cuts. Snip each wing while resting the clippers on the end of the cable jacket and clipping downward at a slight angle. Be careful not to nick a conductor. Twist to remove
Step 5: Untwist the pairs
You get to use your free tool now! 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.
Untwist time. You can toss your free tool when done.
Step 5: Kink removal
Don’t have too much fun on this step.
Remember that glove and metal rod? Use it now.
- 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 load bar on
Step 6: Put the conductors into the proper color sequence
Be warned that the spline will fight you every step of the way. When doing this, be sure you don’t excessively cross over the conductors at the jacket edge. Keep the cable jacket area “clean” and neat. Less neat = more difficulty putting on the load bar right. If you are using T568B like I do, the solid green wire will cross over, so that you will have to live with.
T568B sequence shown. I like to work from top down (if I can). White-orange at the top, and solid brown at the bottom.
- 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 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...
Here is a handy reference for you. When looking at the conductor color sequence, be sure you understand the orientation of the plug itself! Yes, it is quite possible to get the sequence correct and put the load bar or plug on upside down. I have done it, so don’t be a Don.
Step 7: Flush cut and put on the load bar
For this part, you will need to grab a load bar. Ideally, you will have this close by and handy so you don’t have to take your fingers off the conductors. You know what happens if you do that.
The load bar is position sensitive (it only goes on one way), so be sure you have oriented the load bar properly in relation to your conductor sequence!
Flush cut straight across. Leave about 1” or so of conductor left. Notice how neat and organized the conductors are at the cable jacket edge? Yeah, you want it like that.
Take note! The conductors will only slide easily into the flared end of the load bar. Be sure the 45 degree angled load bar “ledge” is up (towards you) and the white-orange conductor is on “top”. The conductors will automatically stagger for you.
Confirm the color sequence is still correct. Slide the load bar down towards the jacket as far as it will go. The picture demonstrates a good position.
Precisely and completely flush cut the conductors at the front of the load bar.
The load bar 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 stagger design has the side benefit of reducing crosstalk at the connector and improving performance.
Step 8: Put the load bar assembly into the plug itself
With the RJ45 plug housing flat side up (bottom towards you), start pushing the load bar assembly into the plug.
- When inserting the load bar assembly into the plug housing, use the bottom (non latch side) of the plug as your reference point
- Have the plug nose pointing to the right
- You may need to pinch the cut edge of the cable jacket to get it to start into the plug housing with thicker cable (like Cat6A or outdoor types).
- If you are in a situation where you must use the latch side of the plug as a reference (like not enough slack while you are on top of a ladder) then you will need to make certain you understand the color code you are using in reverse. For T568B, I would need to be certain solid brown is at the “top” and the white-orange conductor is at the “bottom”. In this situation, the load bar angled ledge would be pointing away from you.
Step 9: Push the load bar assembly fully into the plug until it stops
The load bar fully seated at the plug nose. The load bar will put the conductors right under the golden contact pins for you, so once it stops you don’t need to push any further.
Step 10: Time to crimp the plug down to terminate it
The plug will only go in one way. Use light pressure to insert and hold the cable. Do not force it. Cycle the handle fully down. Once you start to cycle the tool, you can remove your hand from holding the cable in place. The strain latch presser bar will come upwards and lock the plug into the tool until you raise the handle back up.
Step 11: Admire your work!
All done! So, there you have a Cat6-6A standard load bar 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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