IP Rated Enclosures explained

waterporoof speaker IP rating explained
This JBL Flip speaker has an IPX6 rating... meaning its waterproof but not dustproof.

If you’ve purchased a mobile phone, a head torch or even the new Land Rover Defender you might have noticed an IP rating… read our IP rated enclosures explained.

Almost everything that’s designed to be used outdoors carries an IP rating. And for some purchases knowing what the rating is and means is vital to making sure the product your buying will do the job you need it to do.

What is an IP rating?

An IP rating is defined via the international standard EN 60529 (and its variations in different jurisdictions) and relates to an electrical products protection from dust and particles and moisture. IP stands for ‘Ingress Protection’ and the two numbers following carry a specific meaning. The first one relates to the level of protection to you from the object’s moving parts and protection from foreign matter getting inside the thing. The second number relates to the product’s protection from moisture.

A bit of trivia

The Land Rover Defender’s electrics carry an IP67 rating which as you’ll read below is one shy of perfect. It means the Defender’s electricals are sealed completely against dust and is sealed against immersion in water at depths between 150-1000mm for up to 30 minutes. Impressive.

Land Rover Defender

What if I see an X?

Some products will carry an IPX rating (read the X as a 0) and that’s because they’re not ingress protection rated. If you see one that says, say, IPX6 you can assume it offers no dust protection but some moisture protection. Flip the numbers and you can assume it offers dust protection but nothing against moisture.

Top Tip

When it comes to choosing driving lights, it goes without saying you want to choose something with an IP68 or greater rating. And if you’re looking for driving lights on your fourby then IP69K should be the only ones you’re considering; these have been tested to handle dirt, dust, mud and water.

4x4 water crossing
Photo by Gilles Rolland-Monnet on Unsplash

So, what do the numbers mean?

First Digit (intrusion protection):

  1. Protection from a large part of the body such as a hand or from objects greater than 50mm in diameter;
  2. Protection against fingers or other object not greater than 80mm in length and 12mm in diameter (accidental finger contact);
  3. Protection from entry by tools, wires etc, with a diameter of 2.5mm or more;
  4. Protection against solid objects larger than 1mm);
  5. Partial protection against dust that may harm equipment; and
  6. Full protection against dust and other particulates, including a vacuum seal, tested against continuous airflow.

Second Digit (moisture protection):

  1. Protection against condensation;
  2. Protection against water droplets deflected up to 15-degrees from vertical;
  3. Protected against spray up to 60-degrees from vertical;
  4. Protected against water splashes from all directions. Tested for a minimum of 10 minutes with an oscillating spray (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects);
  5. Protection against low-pressure jets (6.3mm) of directed water from any angle (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects);
  6. Protection against direct high pressure jets;
  7. Protection against full immersion for up to 30 minutes at depths between 15 cm and 1 metre (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects);
  8. Protection against extended immersion under higher pressure. Precise parameters of this test will be set and advertised by the manufacturer depending on the equipment type.
  9. (K): Protection against high-pressure, high-temperature jet sprays, wash-downs or steam-cleaning procedures – this rating is most often seen in specific road vehicle applications.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.