Before embarking on any electrical work project, it is essential that you have the right know-how as well as the right tools and materials for the job. Regardless of, install Do you head device or replacing a headlight, you may need a few basic tools, depending on the complexity of the job:

  • Wire strippers.
  • Soldering iron or crimping tool.
  • Digital multimeter (or a pilot light if you’re in a pinch).

In addition to your tools, you will need some materials to complete your electrical work project:

  • Solder or butt connectors.
  • Correct wire gauge.
  • Insulating tape or heat shrink.

Check Schemas

Fluke DMM Unboxing

Fluke DMM.
Hiroshi Ishii / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0

If you have a wiring diagram, you can use it to find the wires you need to connect your new hardware. It’s still a good idea to use a digital multimeter (DMM) to check that you have the correct wires. With a digital multimeter, you can check circuit polarity and check for correct voltage.

A test light will also help you, but the tests are a little different from DMMs. Because test lights use incandescent bulbs to indicate the presence of voltage, they place a load on the circuit. It doesn’t matter much in most cases, but if you have a DMM, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Disconnect battery

Disconnecting the car battery
Dave Schott / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0

One of the most important tips for any DIY wiring project is to disconnect your car battery before you start. The only time the battery should be connected is when you’re checking the wires to make sure they have power or a ground, or when you’re checking your new hardware before you zip everything up. Leaving the battery connected while connecting new electronics can damage the new device or other equipment in your car, so it’s a good idea to simply pull on the negative battery cable.

If your wiring project does not replace the factory radio, make sure your existing head unit does not have anti-theft protection, which works every time the battery is disconnected. If this happens, you need to know a special code to get the radio working again. A reset code or procedure is sometimes found in the manual, but your local dealer’s service department can help if this is not the case.

Use a wire stripper

Self-adjusting tile floor wire stripper

Self-adjusting wire stripper.
Andrew Fogg / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0

Wires can be stripped with any sharp object, but the easiest and cleanest way to get the job done is with a wire stripper. Scissors, razor blades, and other sharp objects can also help, but you run the risk of accidentally cutting all the wire or ruining things altogether. With a wire stripper, you can strip just the right amount of insulation every time.

Do not use wire nuts

Wire nuts and butt connectors in a stack
flattop341 / Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0

Wire nuts are good for electrical wiring in your home, but you shouldn’t be squeezing the freeway at 70 mph in your home or going down a rough country road. Due to the vibration generated when driving a vehicle, even the strongest wire nuts can loosen over time. At best, it will simply stop working. In the worst case, something may fall.

Use solder or butt connectors

Solder wire in a spool
Windell Oskay/Flickr/Creative Commons 2.0

The best way to complete any wire project in your car is with a soldering iron and some electrical solder. If you know how to solder and have the equipment, there is no better way to get the job done. good solder the connection will stand up to normal vibration and protect the wires from oxidation.

If you don’t know how to solder, butt connectors are another good option. These connectors look like little plastic tubes with metal sleeves inside. You use them by stripping the wires you want to splice, inserting the wires into a butt connector and then crimping it with a crimping tool. This is the easiest way to wire any new electronics, but you will need a crimping tool to get it right.

Isolate the wires


The last, and possibly most important, DIY wiring tip is to properly insulate your connections. Whether you use solder or butt connectors, proper insulation will help make sure that your wiring job doesn’t fall apart, corrode, or short out in a few years.

Heat shrink is the best way to insulate wiring connections, but you have to remember to cut the tubing and slide it over the wires before connecting them. You can then slide it over the connection and heat it up until it creates a tight seal around the wires. Some soldering irons have special tips that are designed to activate heat shrink tubing, but simply placing the tip of a hot soldering iron near the tubing will often do the trick.

Be careful not to melt the heat shrink by touching it with the soldering iron.

Electrical tape will also get the job done, but you have to make sure to use a high-quality product. If you use low-quality electrical tape or other kinds of tape, it may peel off, crack, or wither over time.

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