Factors Affecting Resistance

Five factors determine the resistance of conductors. These factors are length of the conductor, diameter, temperature, physical condition and conductor material. The filament of a lamp, the windings of a motor or coil, and the bimetal elements in sensors are conductors. So, these factors apply to circuit wiring as well as working devices or loads.

LENGTH

Electrons in motion are constantly colliding as voltage pushes them through a conductor. If two wires are the same material and diameter, the longer wire will have more resistance than the shorter wire. Wire resistance is often listed in ohms per foot (e.g., spark plug cables at 5W per foot). Length must be considered when replacing wires.

DIAMETER

Large conductors allow more current flow with less voltage. If two wires are the same material and length, the thinner wire will have more resistance than the thicker wire. Wire resistance tables list ohms per foot for wires of various thicknesses (e.g., size or gauge ... 1, 2, 3 are thicker with less resistance and more current capacity; 18, 20, 22 are thinner with more resistance and less current capacity). Replacement wires and splices must be the proper size for the circuit current.

TEMPERATURE

In most conductors, resistance increases as the wire temperature increases. Electrons move faster, but not necessarily in the right direction. Most insulators have less resistance at higher temperatures. Semiconductor devices called thermistors have negative temperature coefficients (NTC) resistance decreases as temperature increases. Toyota's EFI coolant temperature sensor has an NTC thermistor. Other devices use PTC thermistors.

PHYSICAL CONDITION

Partially cut or nicked wire will act like smaller wire with high resistance in the damaged area. A kink in the wire, poor splices, and loose or corroded connections also increase resistance. Take care not to damage wires during testing or stripping insulation.

MATERIAL

Materials with many free electrons are good conductors with low resistance to current flow. Materials with many bound electrons are poor conductors (insulators) with high resistance to current flow. Copper, aluminum, gold, and silver have low resistance; rubber, glass, paper, ceramics, plastics, and air have high resistance.

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