If you have an old car that's seen better days, rewiring it can breathe new life into the vehicle without breaking the bank. With some basic tools, inexpensive materials, and a bit of time, you can fully rewire your clunker for less than $50.
Assessing Your Car's Electrical System
Before diving into a rewire, you'll want to thoroughly inspect your car's existing electrical system. Look for:
- Frayed or cracked wiring
- Corroded connections
- Signs of overheating like melted plastic around lights or fuse box
- Flickering lights or accessories not working
- Strange smells from burning wires
If you see any of these warning signs, it's likely time to replace the old wiring.
Gather the Right Rewiring Supplies
Rewiring a car requires some basic supplies you can pick up affordably at your local auto parts store:
- Automotive primary wire - Used for high current circuits like starter, alternator, etc. Get several feet in various gauges.
- Automotive secondary wire - Used for low current applications like lights, signals, sensors. Get spools in 18-20 gauge.
- Roll of automotive wire - Multi-conductor color coded wire for easy circuit identification.
- Wire stripper - Removes insulation from wires
- Crimping tool - Connects wire lugs and terminals
- Electrical tape - Insulates wire connections
- Cable ties - Keeps wiring neatly bundled
- Volt meter - Tests circuit continuity
- Fuse box - Contains fuses protecting electrical circuits
- Fuses - Replace blown fuses protecting circuits
- Terminals - Connect wiring to devices
- Wire loom - Protects wires from heat/debris
With these supplies, you'll have everything needed for a complete DIY rewiring job.
Working with a car's electrical system can be dangerous if proper precautions aren't taken:
Disconnect the battery - Prevent shocks/shorts by disconnecting ground cable first.
Discharge capacitors - Avoid capacitor shocks by grounding the terminals.
Wear eye protection - Protect your eyes from debris while working.
Use care with tools - Don't strip wires or slip with sharp crimping tools.
Take breaks - Rewiring an entire care takes time and focus. Take breaks to avoid mistakes.
Ask for help - If you're unsure about any electrical work, consult a qualified mechanic.
Following basic safety measures will keep you and your vehicle protected.
Step-by-Step Rewiring Instructions
With supplies gathered and safety in mind, you're ready to rewire your clunker. Follow these key steps:
1. Remove old wiring
Take photos - Document connector locations to make reassembly easier.
Label wires - Identify purpose of each wire as you remove it.
Unbolt & remove - Methodically remove wiring from interior panels and engine bay.
Inspect connectors - Clean corrosion from connectors and replace if severely damaged.
2. Mount new fuse box
Select spot away from extreme heat/moisture.
Use mounting bolts to securely fasten fuse box in place.
Make sure fuses are removed to avoid shorts during wiring.
3. Run new wire harnesses
Route bundles from fuse box through car to endpoints.
Use wire loom to protect exposed sections against elements.
Wrap bundles together and secure neatly with cable ties.
4. Connect wires to endpoints
Reconnect lights, ignition, instruments, etc. referring to labels/photos.
Insert stripped wire ends into connectors and crimp terminals securely.
Use volt meter to check for continuity once connected.
5. Reinstall panels and reconnect battery
Check that wiring is clear of moving components and heat sources.
Secure interior panels and replace trim pieces.
Reconnect battery ground cable last to avoid sparks.
Wrapping Up Your Rewire
Once all the wiring is cleanly installed and connected, here are some final steps:
Turn the key to test all electrical systems for operation.
Start the engine to test charging system and diagnose any issues.
Take the car for a test drive to confirm normal function.
Consider adding a main kill switch to de-power the system when not in use.
Maintain your new wiring by inspecting it regularly for damage.
Completely rewiring your old clunker can be a big project, but it's very rewarding to breathe new life into a classic car on a budget. Taking methodical steps during the process will result in a clean and functional electrical system.