Why Rewiring Your Car Can Save You Money
Rewiring your car yourself can save you thousands of dollars in mechanic fees and repair bills. Mechanics often charge $100 per hour or more for labor, so any repairs or upgrades that require wiring can add up quickly. Doing it yourself allows you to learn about your car's electrical system and make upgrades and repairs for a fraction of the cost.
Some common rewiring jobs that save money include:
- Installing a new car stereo or speakers
- Adding accessories like lights, power inverters, dash cams
- Fixing electrical issues like shorts, bad grounds, faulty connections
- Upgrading old wiring to handle higher loads
Even if you've never worked on car electrical systems before, with some basic tools and safety precautions, rewiring your car is totally doable for the average car owner.
Safety Tips for Working on Your Car's Electrical System
Rewiring your car involves working around potentially dangerous electricity, so safety should always be your top priority.
Here are some key safety tips to follow:
- Disconnect the negative terminal of your battery before starting any work. This cuts power to the entire system.
- Wear insulated gloves and eye protection. Protect yourself from shocks and loose wires.
- Use proper fuse ratings for any new circuits to prevent overheating.
- Install connections securely and insulate exposed wires. Loose connections can cause shorts.
- Follow diagrams carefully when replacing wires and connectors.
- Test lights and accessories before reconnecting the battery. Check for shorts, bad connections, and functioning parts.
Working slowly and deliberately is crucial. Rushing can lead to costly mistakes like damaged components or electrical fires from shorts. Take your time and prioritize safety.
Basic Equipment Needed for Rewiring a Car
With some common tools and inexpensive equipment, you can handle most basic rewiring jobs yourself. Here are the basics you'll need:
- Insulated gloves to protect from shocks
- Safety glasses or goggles to shield eyes
- Long sleeves and pants to prevent burns
- Basic hand tools - wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers
- Wire strippers - for removing insulation
- Crimping tool - for securing wire terminals
- Electrical tape - for insulating connections
- Multimeter - for testing wires and fuses
- Soldering iron - for certain connections
- Wiring - get the right gauge for your needs
- Terminals - ends that connect to components
- Fuses - essential for overcurrent protection
- Zip ties - to secure wires in place
Having these basics on hand will allow you to carry out most common rewiring jobs. You can always purchase additional tools and specialty items for more advanced tasks later on.
Step-by-Step Process for Rewiring
The specific steps involved in rewiring your car will vary depending on the job, but the general process follows this outline:
1. Research and plan
- Look up wiring diagrams for your specific vehicle and model year.
- Decide which components you'll be installing or rewiring.
- Obtain the necessary tools and parts.
2. Disconnect the battery
- Remove the negative terminal from the battery to cut all power.
3. Remove interior panels
- Take out any trim pieces to access wiring.
4. Locate and remove old wires
- Identify the existing wires that need to be replaced.
- Cut old wires and detach them from components.
5. Run and secure new wires
- String new wires through conduits and secure with zip ties.
- Allow extra length for adjustments.
- Add terminal ends to attach to components.
6. Connect new wires and test
- Follow diagrams to connect new wires to all components.
- Verify solid connections and insulate with tape.
- Reconnect battery and test operation of lights, stereo, etc.
7. Reinstall panels and accessories
- Place interior trim pieces back into position.
- Mount any panels, stereos, etc.
Taking it slow and double checking all connections is crucial. But with good diagrams and safe work habits, rewiring tasks can be very manageable.
Top DIY Rewiring Projects
To give you an idea of common rewiring projects, here are some of the most popular jobs for DIYers:
Installing New Speakers
Upgrading your car's sound system with new high-end speakers can transform your driving experience. Running new speaker wires is much cheaper than paying a shop.
Fixing Electrical Shorts
Over time, exposed wires or loose connections can cause electrical shorts. You can save money by diagnosing shorts yourself and replacing bad wires and connections.
You can add many aftermarket accessories by wiring them directly to your car's electrical system. Dash cams, interior lights, power inverters, and more can all be installed through basic rewiring.
Replacing Old Wiring
Old, cracked, and damaged wires in engine bays or behind dashboards can be replaced with new wiring harnesses. Just match specifications closely with OEM wires.
Installing a New Stereo
Car stereos are a classic upgrade - you'll need to connect power, ground, amp turn-on, and speaker wires. Having the right dash kit and wiring harness adapter makes installation much easier.
The key is starting with projects that match your skill level and working up from there. With practice, you'll gain confidence tackling more advanced rewiring jobs.
Protecting Your Car's Electrical System
Your car relies on electricity for everything from ignition to headlights, so maintaining and protecting the system is important. Here are some key steps:
Use diagrams to identify fuse/relay locations. Keep spare fuses and relays on hand.
Inspect wires and connections regularly for damage. Repair issues immediately.
Ensure solid ground connections to the chassis/body at all times.
After any major collision, have the electrical system tested for damage.
If a component fails, check related fuses, relays, and wires first when diagnosing.
Add dielectric grease to connections exposed to moisture to prevent corrosion.
By troubleshooting issues quickly, inspecting components, and making repairs as needed, you can get many more years of service from your car's electrical system.
When to Call a Professional
While many common rewiring tasks are doable for a novice, some jobs still require a professional mechanic. Here are instances when it pays to hand it off:
- Major body wiring harness replacement/rewiring
- Diagnosing complex intermittent electrical issues
- Fixing short circuits that could cause fires if mishandled
- Hybrid/electric vehicle high-voltage systems
- Reprogramming ECUs and other vehicle computers
unless you have specialized training. Electrical diagnosis and repair can be a very rewarding DIY skill. But it's also important to know your limits - some jobs require professional tools and expertise.
Rewiring your car stereo, running new power wires, installing dash cams, and fixing electrical issues can all be done at home for much less than taking your car to the shop. Just be sure to educate yourself, follow proper safety procedures, and allow plenty of time. With the right techniques and equipment, tackling your own automotive electrical projects can save you thousands over the life of your vehicle.