It is almost a daily occurrence that a customer will contact me about an electrical issue. When your headlights, an LED or your winch is in use, they draw an electrical current through a wire. As the electricity passes through the wire, it causes friction (resistance) and heat.
As resistance increases, so does heat, and as heat increases, so does resistance. Eventually, the resistance and heat will melt the wire and could cause a fire.
So, with all that in mind, let’s discuss some of the dos and don’ts for when it comes time to install that LED bar or winch.
DO! Use the proper gauge wire. If at all possible, use the wiring harness provided by the manufacturer. They know how much power their item takes and will supply the correct gauge wire. If you need to extend the harness by more than a few feet, consider replacing the wire with the next larger size.
Nuts and Bolts
Veteran Jeeper Ed Johnson advises off-roaders to heed a long list of dos and don’ts for installing electrical equipment, including:
- Use the proper type and size of wire and fuse.
- Secure your wiring and check your grounds.
- Never leave bare wire unprotected or wrap it around a battery terminal.
- Ask for help if you lack experience.
DO! Use the proper size fuse. The purpose of a fuse is to protect the wiring — and you — by cutting the power to the circuit before there is damage. If the manufacturer supplies one, use it! If not, find out what they recommend. If the fuse is too small, it will just blow. If it’s too big, the wire could overheat and melt first. Fuses should be installed as close to the power source (battery or bus bar) as possible.
DO! Use the proper type of wire for automotive use. Solid-core house wire and extension cords are not made for the temperatures and vibration encountered in a Jeep!
DO! Use the proper connectors and tools. Crimp-on or solder-type terminals and heat-shrink tubing should be used. Marine-grade connectors have heat shrink tubes and gel that seals out moisture and keeps the connection clean. They should be your first choice. Terminal ends should be “ring”-style so they do not come loose from vibration.
DO! Secure the wires. Use tie-wraps, clamps, grommets or loom to keep the wires from moving around.
DO! Check your grounds. Most electrical issues can be traced to dirty, corroded or nonexistent grounds.
DO Not! Wrap bare wire around a battery terminal and hope it will stay! It will come loose, short out and, worst case, start a fire.
DO Not! Leave wires unprotected. Wires that are run near the edge of sharp metal, hot exhaust and rotating parts are a disaster waiting to happen.
DO Not! Overload a circuit by adding more load than it can handle. If needed, add a switch system like an sPOD, a Trigger or any other device designed to handle the extra electrical requirements.
DO Not! Undertake more then you are capable of. If you would not replace switches and outlets in your house, ask for help! Electrical wiring, when done correctly, should last the life of the vehicle. Doing it right may not be cheap, but it will be cheaper than trying to fix it later or replacing burned and melted harnesses.