Just Ask Copperhead®

Because customer satisfaction is everything to us, Copperhead’s industry-leading professionals are happy to answer any and all questions regarding CCS tracer wire. See our frequently asked questions below.


What is Copperhead® tracer wire?

Copperhead copper-clad steel (CCS) tracer wire has a steel core with a copper covering. The two metals are metallurgically bonded together with heat and pressure making them inseparable after the cladding process is complete . CCS offers the strength of steel with the conductivity of copper providing utilities an intelligent alternative to solid copper tracer wire. All Copperhead tracer wire is insulated with a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) jacket which is designed for direct bury.

What are the advantages of copper-clad steel (CCS) wire vs solid copper?


  • More durable, longer lasting performance
  • Twice the breaking strength of solid copper
  • Reduced material cost
  • More stable, longer term pricing
  • Reduced threat of theft due to lack of after-market value
  • Lighter weight, resulting in lower shipping and handling costs
  • Fewer breaks during installation, fewer breaks over time

Can THHN be used for direct bury tracer wire?

NO.  THHN (thermal high heat nylon) is the material used for the wire insulation and is very susceptible to water and moisture. Over time, this causes breakdowns in the insulation and eventually the wiring under adverse conditions. Variable changes in temperature, acidic soil, and moisture all cause THHN to wear down and erode rendering it useless over the course of several years. In all likelihood, when used in a direct bury application THHN insulation will erode exposing bare tracer to the earth allowing a locate signal to ground out. THHN insulation is not designed for direct bury and will not hold up over time.

What is the history of CCS wire, and in what applications has CCS been used?

CCS was first produced by Copperweld® in Rankin, PA, in 1915. Through the years, it has been used in various markets. Telecommunications, CATV, telephone, and utility grounding applications are a few of the industrial applications. Commercially this product is used in various goods such as antenna wire, chain link fencing, trolley cable, catanery wire, ground rods and mats, vacuum cleaner hoses, electronic pins and connectors, guy strand, detonation wire (TNT), and it is even used in revetment mats to stop erosion on riverbanks.

How is CCS wire manufactured?

Copper cladding is the process of metallurgically bonding solid steel with solid copper. CCS starts as a steel rod and two copper strips, bonded together by heat and pressure. To obtain the correct diameter, CCS is drawn to an intermediate size, heat treated; then final draw to finished size; final heat treating for annealed product. Heat & pressure, along with the drawing process of the copper cladding, ensures the uniform and concentric copper thickness in CCS. The metallurgical bond of the solid components in CCS makes the rod/wire perform as one metal. This allows the wire to maintain a consistent copper-to-steel ratio and thickness uniformity throughout the drawing process.

Should I ground my tracer wire?

Yes. Grounding tracer wire at all dead-ends will enhance the locate signal and improve locating efficiency.  The low voltage tone from the locate transmitter will take the path of least resistance to ground. Be sure not to overground tracer wire mains. Copperhead recommends a 1.5 lb magnesium drive in anode to ground all dead-ends.

Should the fact that the CCS is made up of two dissimilar metals create any potential corrosion concerns?

An electrolyte needs to be present for galvanic corrosion to occur. Galvanic corrosion will take place if the two metals are exposed to oxygen/moisture. This only happens on CCS at the cut ends of the wire. The bond that is created between copper and steel through pressure and heat is a metallurgical bond. This manufacturing process produces a wire that performs as one metal, thus inhibiting the presence of an electrolyte.

What corrosion testing has been performed on Copperweld® wire and Copperhead® CCS wire?

Copperweld spearheaded testing of corrosion on CCS products.  Testing monitored by Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, over a five year period studied the effects of corrosion at various intervals of time on a multitude of samples, including impacted (dented), cut, scraped, standard bare and coated wire. The samples were buried in a variety of soil conditions, removed and tested. If left undisturbed, the performance of CCS wire is equal to standard copper wire.

Keep in mind that the impact required to notch Copperhead CCS tracer wire will completely sever solid copper wire of the same size.

CCS wire has been sold globally in applications such as pole ground, ground rods, substation grounding, and messenger cable and is continually tested in every environment imaginable with positive results. Bare CCS wire installed over 80 years ago by electric utilities is still in service today.

What are the weight comparisons between copper and steel?

Perception is that a steel core wire is heavier than a solid copper wire, but that is not the case.

Steel density is lighter:
Steel .283 pounds per inch cubed
Copper .3212 pounds per inch cubed

Solid Copper vs. 21% Conductivity Copperhead Dead Soft Annealed per 1000′
AWG Diameter Solid Copper Wire / Annealed Copper Clad Steel / Annealed
#10 0.1019″ 31.43 lbs. 28.23 lbs.
#12 0.0808″ 19.76 lbs. 17.75 lbs.
#14 0.0641″ 12.44 lbs. 11.17 lbs.

* based on density in NBS Copper Tables and ASTM B3

CCS wire has roughly an 11% weight advantage over solid copper wire.

How does the resistance of CCS compare to solid copper?

The resistance of the CCS is slightly higher than that of solid copper. The resistance is inversely proportional to the percent conductivity of CCS relative to solid copper. For the tracer wire application of sending low and high frequency locating signals down the wire, the higher resistance has no effect on the performance of the wire.

Will a locating signal travel as far on CCS tracer wire as on standard copper tracer wire?

For alternating current (AC) applications, such as locating tracer wire, the signal frequency is what determines the appropriate conductivity (copper thickness) due to the skin effect. Skin effect is the tendency for alternating current (AC) to flow mostly near the outer surface of a solid conductor. As a result, locating signals will travel as far on CCS as it would with standard copper tracer wire.

Will a reduction in gauge size have any effect on the conductivity of the wire?

No, since the ratio of copper to steel remains constant in the drawing process, the conductivity also remains constant.

What are the typical methods used to join two CCS wires?

Connection devices used for standard copper tracer wire can be used for CCS wire. They include: solder, crimp connections, split bolt connectors, greased wire nut or silicone filled wire nut, and silicone filled direct bury lugs.

Explain the differences between The following Copperhead® products; HighStrength, SoloShot™ Extra High Strength, and SuperFlex™.

Copperhead High Strength (HS) product was designed as an improved product over standard solid copper wires commonly used as tracer wire applications. The High Strength (HS) product was designed with 2 times the breaking strength as standard solid copper.

Copperhead SoloShot Extra High Strength (EHS) product was designed specifically for the directional drilling tracer wire application. SoloShot Extra High Strength (EHS) has a breaking load of 1150 lbs. in a 12 AWG wire. This is 6 times stronger than standard 12 AWG solid copper.

Copperhead SuperFlex (SF) was designed for use when the same flexibility as solid copper and added strength are combined to make a wire that has a breaking strength 40% greater than solid copper.

What is the typical ordering description for Copperhead CCS Reinforced Tracer Wire?

Example #12 AWG Reinforced Tracer Wire, 500′ spools:

Direct Burial #12 AWG Solid (.0808″ conductor diameter), 21% conductivity annealed copper-clad high carbon steel high strength tracer wire, 380# average tensile break load, 30 mil. high molecular weight-high density yellow polyethylene jacket complying with ASTM-D-1248, 30 volt rating.

Copperhead Part Number – 1230Y-HS-500