Rewiring a 20 year old minivan can seem like a daunting task, but with some preparation and the right tools, it is quite doable as a DIY project. As the owner of a 1997 Dodge Caravan, I recently decided to give my old minivan an electrical overhaul. After doing a lot of research and getting my hands dirty, I successfully rewired the entire van. Here's how I did it, as well as tips to make your minivan rewiring project a success.
Planning the Rewiring Project
Before starting any work, it's crucial to make a plan for the rewiring project. Here are some key steps I took:
Determine Scope of Work
- Make a list of all electrical systems and components that potentially need rewiring. For my 20 year old Dodge Caravan, this included:
- Lighting - headlights, brake lights, turn signals, interior lights
- Ignition and charging - starter, alternator, battery
- Accessories - power windows, power locks, radio, gauges
- Prioritize the most important systems to tackle first. For me, it was lighting, ignition, and charging.
Purchase Needed Materials
- Wire - I opted for 16 AWG automotive primary wire for most applications. Use wire gauges suitable for each circuit.
- Terminals and connectors - get male and female bullet connectors, ring terminals, butt connectors, etc.
- Circuit breakers and fuses - upgrade old fusible links to modern circuit breakers and ATC fuses.
- Loom and tape - protect and organize wires with split loom tubing and electrical tape.
- Tools - you'll need wire strippers, crimpers, multimeter, soldering iron, and basic hand tools.
Consult Wiring Diagrams
- Obtain the factory wiring diagram for your specific minivan make, model, and year. This is an essential reference during rewiring.
- Highlight each circuit and make notes on the diagram during the rewiring process.
Removing Old Wiring
With the plan and supplies ready, it's time to get hands-on. Removing the old wiring takes time and patience:
Disconnect the battery - this cuts power and prevents short circuits as wiring is removed.
Remove interior trim panels - take out all interior trim pieces to access wiring paths. Label pieces for easy reinstallation.
Extract wiring and harnesses - work systematically from each end pulling towards the middle. Cut zip ties and electrical tape as needed.
Inspect condition - look for cracked, brittle, and melted wires that must be replaced. Also note loose or damaged connectors.
Consult diagrams - highlight wires on the diagram as they are removed. This helps identify each one when reinstalling.
Discard unneeded, obsolete wires - for example, my van had an ancient car phone system that I ditched completely.
Removing the old wiring is dirty work, but necessary to start fresh. Be safe by wearing eye protection and gloves when extracting wires.
Installing New Wiring
The fun part is installing the fresh new wiring. Follow these tips for smooth installation:
Route Wires through Loom
Plan wiring paths avoiding moving parts and heat sources.
Group related wires together and insert bundles into split loom tubing. This protects and organizes them.
Attach loom securely along the routing path using zip ties. Leave access for connector terminations.
Connect New Circuits
Refer to factory diagrams to connect refreshed circuits one-by-one.
Insert stripped wire ends into connectors and crimp using proper crimping tools.
Use solder or heat shrink tubing for extra solid connections when needed.
Label both ends of each wire with its circuit function. This avoids mix-ups.
Avoid loose, hanging wires by anchoring with zip ties.
Attach zip ties to solid chassis points like seat brackets and door hinges along the path.
Keep wiring away from moving suspension and engine components using anchors.
Reinstall Trim Panels
Once wiring installation is complete, reinstall all interior trim panels removed earlier.
Pass wiring through factory holes and channels in the trim pieces.
Go slowly to ensure wires are routed correctly as trim is replaced.
With the new wires cleanly installed, bundled, and anchored, the minivan rewiring is nearly complete.
Testing and Finishing Touches
The final steps are to test all the refreshed circuits and complete the rewiring process:
Perform continuity tests
Use a multimeter to test for continuity between both ends of each wire prior to connecting power.
Verify wires have no shorts or opens by checking for zero resistance.
Connect battery and test function
With all wiring passed testing, reconnect the battery.
Turn the key to test operation of all lights, ignition system, gauges, and accessories.
Protect exposed terminals
- Once operation is verified, wrap exposed wire terminals with electrical tape or heat shrink.
Secure relays and fuse boxes
- Ensure all relay boxes and fuse panels are securely mounted in their factory locations.
Final wire bundling
- Bundle loose wires together with zip ties or electrical tape for a clean, finished appearance.
Replace trim panels
- For maximum tidiness, reinstall any remaining trim panels that were removed during the rewiring process.
When all systems are working properly, the minivan rewiring project is complete! Taking methodical steps during the planning, installation, and testing allowed me to successfully rewire my 20 year old Dodge without major issues. With some time and diligence, you can refresh your aging minivan's electrical system and keep it running for years to come.