Installing wiring in a camper van can seem like a daunting task, but it's really not that difficult. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process step-by-step. We'll start by discussing how to access the wiring areas and determine the route of the wiring. Then we'll show you how to make any necessary modifications so the wiring will fit, and how to secure and protect the wiring. Finally, we'll teach you how to connect the components and test the installation. So don't worry - with our help, you can do it yourself!
1. Plan the Route
The first thing you need to do to install your wiring is to plan the wiring route.
The VanLab wiring loom easily integrates with additional components not included in the kits. If you're planning on adding accessories to your electrical system, now is the time to consider them. We recommend the following additions to your electrical system to live a better vanlife:
- Leisure battery - a 12 volt battery that will power the van's camper components, preventing draining of the starter battery. The Camec 120 amp/hour slim battery is one option.
- Inverter - converts DC current to AC current for small AC powered appliances. Make sure you get a pure sine wave inverter. Consider how many watts you'll be using when choosing an inverter. Wagan EL2610 Gray 400W is an option for U.S. users that are on 110V systems. New Zealand users should get a 240V inverter, like the Dometic MSI 912
- Refrigerator - Dometic CF18 12V electric cooler/fridge/freezer
You should find the locations of all of the connection points of your system, including batteries, outlets, switches, lights, appliances, and any other components you plan to use. You should also identify areas where the wiring can easily be routed and secured to the van's structures.
To make the process easier, it's helpful to make a sketch of your van's layout to visually understand where the wiring and components will go. VanLab includes an overhead view of one of the kit's layout with a rough idea of where items are located. Creating additional sketches and views can help visualize your wiring installation even further.
VanLab Example Wire Routing Plan
If you need to make any modifications to the van's structure, like drilling a hole to pass wiring through a bulkhead, mark out the locations on the diagram and the van itself as well.
2. Remove Parts to Access Wiring Areas
Next, you'll want to remove any parts that will be in the way of your work to install the wiring and components.
These could include parts in the engine compartment, trim pieces, access panels, seats, headliner, and the like.
If you discover any areas where wire routing will be too difficult after accessing them, identify an alternative route and make any access there if needed.
3. Gather Tools and Materials
Now, you should make sure you have tools and materials for the work. Here are some recommendations:
- Electric Drill
- 13 mm drill bit - for passing wiring through bulkheads
- Phillips head bit
- Silicone sealant - for sealing holes that are exposed to the elements
- Rust preventer - for treating exposed metal after drilling
- Cable ties
- Cable tie mounts - attach the mounts to structure, and secure wiring to the mounts with a cable tie. Other cable tie mounts can be used that suit the application. Note: self adhesive type mounts may come loose over time, so using glue or epoxy, or a screw may work better to secure them.
- Diagonal cutters - for cutting cable ties, wiring, or any other applications
- Grommets - rubber grommets for 13mm or other sized holes to prevent chafing in a feed through
- Screws for mounting any components
- Adjustable wrench or socket set - for securing ring terminals
4. Prepare Wire Routing Areas for Installation
Before you begin routing the wires, install cable tie mounts or other wiring standoffs. These will be used to secure the wiring so that it is not free to move about or vibrate during driving. A general rule of thumb for spacing of the mounts is about 6".
Drill or modify routing areas to provide access for your wires. Install grommets in holes to prevent chafing to the wiring before it gets fed through the holes. Be sure to clean up any debris from modifying structures, and apply a rust preventative coating to unpainted metal.
Make sure your route preparation won't put the wiring in any areas where there are sharp edges. The idea is to keep the wiring secure, and away from any abrasives to prevent damage to the wiring, which could result in a short or break and lead to faulty electrical system, fire, or electrocution.
Do not connect any of the wiring to batteries until the wiring is routed, and all other components are connected. Connecting the wiring to the positive terminal of the batteries presents an electrical shock hazard, as there will be current passing through the wiring.
Make sure you connect ground wiring before positive wiring when connecting the batteries.
Inspect your work before you connect components to make sure the wiring won't be damaged or over stressed by van components. Sharp objects, abrupt bends, or pinch points can damage wiring.
Red and white wires are positive (+).
Black and brown wires are negative (-).
When connecting spade connectors, make sure you fully connect them, and then slide the insulation over the connector so that no metal is exposed. If you don't slide the insulation over the connector, it could cause a short and result in electrical shock or a fire hazard.
5. Route and Secure the Wires
Now that the wiring areas are ready, you can start routing and securing your wires.
When routing wiring, it's a good practice to make sure the wiring runs parallel with each other if you have multiple groups of wires contained in the black sleeving in the run. You don't want the wiring groups to become twisted around each other while securing.
Begin at the starter battery in the engine compartment. Do not connect the wires to the battery yet, but position them so that they can be connected to the battery with enough slack so that when you secure them they won't be strained. Secure the wires to the cable tie mounts using cable ties, and work your way backward.
Example - Securing Wiring to Cable Tie Blocks
From the engine compartment, route back to the next area, such as the location where the leisure battery will be, again securing the wiring with cable ties.
Route the main loom from the leisure battery area out to the other component locations like switches, lights, and outlets, and secure with cable ties as you go. Again, make sure there is enough slack for the electrical connections before you begin routing to other components.
Once all of the wiring is routed, you can begin making connections to the components.
6. Connect the Wires to the Components
Now, you can start connecting the wiring to the different components of your system.
Again, make sure you do not connect the positive terminal of the batteries yet to prevent risk of electrical shock.
Make sure any switches are in the "Off" position before you begin.
Example: Connecting Ring Terminals
Connect wiring with ring terminals to their respective posts, such as fuses, pedestals, master switch, voltage sensitive relay, or inverter. Make sure the polarities (positive and negative) are connected to the correct location. Put the ring terminal over the post, then install the lock washer, followed by the nut. Tighten the nut such that the ring terminal won't move on the post if you wiggle the wire.
Connect wiring to the components with spade type connectors by pushing the male end into the female end. For outlets, connect the positive wire to the positive terminal, and the negative wire to the negative terminal. Make sure you fully connect all spade connectors, and then slide the insulation over the connectors so that no metal is exposed.
Double-check all of the component connections to make sure they are secure and properly connected. Then, move on to the battery connections.
After all wiring is connected to the components - except for the batteries - make sure the master switch is in the "Off" position.
On the leisure battery, connect the negative (black) wiring terminals to the negative terminal on the battery. Then, connect the positive (red) wiring terminals to the positive terminal on the battery.
On the starter battery under the van hood, connect the negative (black) wiring terminal to the negative terminal on the battery. Then, connect the positive (red) wiring terminal with the 50 amp fuse to the positive terminal on the battery.
Now, go back and secure any wiring that was loose near the connection points throughout the van, allowing some slack so that the wiring isn't strained at the connection points. Cut any cable tie tails that are left from the routing and securing process as well.
Finally, we can move on to testing the components.
7. Test the Components
Test all of your components that you have installed:
- With the master switch still in the off position, make sure the voltage meter for the leisure battery is off.
- Turn on the master switch for the leisure battery.
- Make sure the voltage meter for the leisure battery is on and outputting voltage readings.
- The USB outlets should have a blue light on. Plug in a device to the outlets to make sure the device charges.
- Switch on all light switches, and make sure the lights come on. Switch off the lights to make sure they turn off.
- If you have a refrigerator, make sure it turns on and off.
- If you have an inverter, plug in an appliance to make sure it works.
- Check the voltage sensing relay (VSR) by doing the following steps (a buddy can be helpful here):
- Monitor the voltage meters, and start your van's engine.
- The starter battery voltage meter should drop to about 9 volts while the engine is cranking, and then go back up to about 13 volts after the engine has started and cranking stops.
- The VSR should click when the voltage goes up to 13 volts, and a red light should come on - the leisure and starter batteries are now connected, and the leisure battery is charging.
- Make sure the leisure battery voltage meter reading is the same as the starter battery voltage meter - about 13 volts.
- Turn off the van's engine.
- Make sure the VSR clicks again (when the voltage drops below 12 volts) and the red light turns off - the two batteries are now disconnected.
If you have power to all of the components, and the VSR is operating properly, your electrical system is functional!
Be sure to apply silicone sealant to any holes you drilled that expose the van's interior to the elements, like through the engine compartment bulkhead, to prevent moisture from entering the van.
Care for the Leisure Battery
As you use your van's electrical system, remember to check the voltmeters periodically.
Recharge your leisure battery if the voltage falls below 10.8V by running your van's engine.
A healthy range for a 12V deep cycle battery - like the one suggested in this guide - is 10.8 - 13.5 volts.
Installing wiring in a camper van can seem daunting, but by following this comprehensive guide, you can do it yourself with confidence. Wiring is crucial for powering all of the components in your campervan, so it's important to get it done right. By taking your time and following the instructions carefully, you can have a safe and convenient electrical system installed all by yourself.
If you decide to use other van conversion kit ideas to supplement your VanLab setup, remember to follow this general wiring installation process to install any other electrical devices and wiring to work with additional kits.
If you have any specific questions about your VanLab electrical installation, feel free to contact their great support staff at email@example.com. They'd love to help you out!