Any product can claim to be "safe" or "waterproof," but when you're purchasing for a specific application, you need hard data, not vague promises. That's where ingress protection codes, or IP codes, come into play. Here's what they do, what they mean, and how to use them when purchasing.
What Is "Ingress Protection?"
Certain things can get into an enclosure or part depending on circumstances. Ingress protection breaks these things down into four main categories: dust and particles, water, intrusion by hand or tool, and miscellaneous. That last category is simply there to describe other information you need about a part, such as how it was tested and what can be expected of it in certain circumstances.
How Is This Protection Ranked?
Of note, each number and letter has a very specific designation; before ordering any part, you should look up each part of the code to ensure it adheres to the standards you need. Dust and water protection both have a number value. Dust is graded from zero to six, with zero being no protection and six being dust tight.
Water has a value from zero to 9K, with zero being no protection and 9K being ranked to be able to withstand high pressure and high temperature water jets. Note that there's both a 6 and a 6K; 6 is a rating for water jets with a 12.5mm nozzle, while 6K is rated for a 6.3mm nozzle. Also, there's no 9 rating; the scale goes from 8 to 9K.
Intrusion by hand or tool has a letter grade from A to D, with A being back of the hand and D being intrusion by wire. This overlaps somewhat with the dust scale from 1-4; only 5 and 6 are dust rankings, and occasionally you'll see a dust-tight device simply not coded for intrusion. Finally, the miscellaneous category has different letters appended to it.
Dust protection can be surprisingly important.
How Do I Read IP Codes?
IP codes are read from left to right, with dust, water, intrusion, and miscellaneous in that order. For example, if you had an enclosure that was completely sealed against water and dust, it would be marked with the code IP69K. Note that if a part hasn't been specifically tested for ingress, but has been shown to have some degree of resistance, there will be an "X" marking in that category. As an example, if our enclosure above hadn't been dust-tested, but was dust resistant, it would be coded IPX9K.
What Does The "Miscellaneous" Category Designate?
There are four codes:
- f, in lower case, designates a product as oil resistant.
- H marks a high voltage device.
- M is to show the device was moving during its water testing.
- S shows the device was still during its water testing.
- W designates a device resistant to weather conditions.
How Should I Use These Codes When Ordering?
Generally, the codes are useful shorthand for getting exact understanding of vague terms, but it's important to know what the parts will be subjected to during standard operation. Ask your shop head how much resistance is needed in each area, and how parts might be cleaned or otherwise treated when a vehicle is brought in for repairs.
To see a detailed Ingress Protection ratings guide, click here.
Ingress Protection ratings can be complex to understand. Our team is Wired To Serve™, so please reach out with any additional IP questions you may have.