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Proper way to distribute power (new circuit)

Discussion in 'Technical Chat' started by SCFirefighter, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. Oct 5, 2010 at 5:09 PM
    #1
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    So I'm starting on my various 12v projects in my Tacoma. For starters I've added a cigarette lighter socket under the dash to hardwire my GPS. I used an add-a-circuit that I plugged into the 7.5A ACC fuse.
    I found a bolt for the ground. All is well.

    Next thing I wanted to do is add a switched +12V circuit for my interior emergency lights. The LED switch is in, but I feel like I've done a crappy job wiring it up. Mind you only the LED switch is connected; nothing hooked up to the +12V lead coming out of the switch.

    I ended up using those ugly wire splices from Walmart to tap into my new +12V and my GND wires so I could hook up the LED switch.

    I already hate it. It's messy, looks bad, and I want to get away from splicing. What is the "proper" way to redo my my newly created circuit so I can easily distribute +12V to wherever I need it?

    Also, since the switch only has one outgoing +12V terminal, and I have at least 3 interior lights I want to hook up to it, what is the best way to do that? (Should I run three wires directly from the +12V lead, or what?)

    I want to do things right. LOL .. funny story: a fellow firefighter burnt up wiring and part of his interior when he wired up an old-style halogen light bar wrong. Well, see my point? :eek:
     
  2. Oct 6, 2010 at 7:38 AM
    #2
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    13 lookers and nobody who has ideas on how to properly setup automotive electrical circuits?
     
  3. Oct 6, 2010 at 7:50 AM
    #3
    jspadaro

    jspadaro Well-Known Member

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    Well, for my exterior accessories, I plan on replacing my ridiculous number of wires going to ground and the battery with a small fuse block.

    Somebody else did a fuse block inside the cab. Running your 12v power to the fuse block and then powering each device off of the block itself would be the "proper way", I think. Certainly cleaner than what you have now.

    Quick google, I'm talking about something like this: http://www.google.com/products/cata...og_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q8wIwAA#
     
  4. Oct 6, 2010 at 8:04 AM
    #4
    Jreays

    Jreays Member

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    I did an install on my truck for ER lights. I ran a 4 gauge line from the battery to a distro fuse block under the drivers seat. My siren and Strobe power supply are under the seat and the 12volt always on for those are connected directly to the fuse block. I used a tap a fuse to a master power switch. This switch powers a relay under the seat. This relay powers all the ER lights and applys power to the siren and strobe trigger wire.
     
  5. Oct 6, 2010 at 11:58 AM
    #5
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    I'm not familiar with relay wiring to be honest. Since all of my stuff is LED based, minus the 100W powering siren I'm not sure if I need to go with something like a 4 gauge.
    I was hoping to run everything based off the 14 gauge wire I used in my add-a-circuit.

    Good, bad, ugly? I also found out what I'm looking for is a terminal block? (one hot wire in, several out)
     
  6. Oct 6, 2010 at 12:03 PM
    #6
    jspadaro

    jspadaro Well-Known Member

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    Ugly. You mean, by add-a-circuit, the fuse taps they sell at autozone or whatever?

    That's OK for small stuff, but at the very least your siren should be run straight from the battery. The real way to do this is exactly what I and Jreays are saying:

    Run a thick wire (4 gauge may be overkill, but something like 10 should be good for you) from the battery to a fuse block.

    Then wire everything to this fuse block.

    If you need stuff to turn off with power, you can use your fuse tap to power a relay, and we can talk you through how to do it, it isn't too hard.

    A terminal block is bad juju. A fuse block will let you have a fuse for each device, one for the siren, one for each LED (or all of them together) and this will allow you to make sure your wiring doesn't overheat and a fuse blows in case of a short. Use a fuse block.

    What you might be able to do is running most of your stuff off the fuse tap, and then just wire the siren straight to the battery. If you're already running a wire to the battery though, I'd just as soon run everything that way.

    Edit: By "Turn off with power", I meant turn off when your engine turns off.
     
  7. Oct 6, 2010 at 12:43 PM
    #7
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    I see what y'all are saying (thanks for the visual Jim). I really want to do things neat in my truck, but I don't want to pay our local light shop $250 labor to wire everything up. I want to do the install and learn, like I did with my lift install.

    One switch for the lights, all of them (LED interior and led strobes), and then let the always-hot (remote) siren be controlled by its wail/yelp remote control button. This is what I'd like to accomplish.

    I'm not completely incapable of reading circuit schemas. I guess if I'd look at a one that includes a relay I can make sense of it.

    Now if I can only find easy ways to get all the wiring I need neatly tucked away and going to this one central point under my seat. I'll have stuff in my back window and two sticks behind my visors, and two lights for my grill. Oh, and I bought something for inside my hood scoop :)
    I have a 90W strobe kit from my previous car but I wanted to install LED strobes in my truck; haven't bought them yet though.
     
  8. Oct 6, 2010 at 12:57 PM
    #8
    jspadaro

    jspadaro Well-Known Member

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    OK, well, that should be pretty easy.

    If the siren already has power control, you do not need to use a relay with it, just make sure it has a fuse (if it's powered by the fuse block, you should be covered, just make sure the fuse block can deal with 100 watts on a single circuit, otherwise just wire the siren directly to the battery with a fuse inline on the power lead)

    As for the rest, whether you need a relay depends on how many watts the lights are. Really low-wattage stuff (a watt or two), like small LED's, you can just cut the positive power lead to the light, and wire it straight to a switch.

    The issue comes in on higher-wattage devices, like if you have a whole bank of LEDs or are using incandescent lights. If you wire a switch in-line like that, it may not be able to handle the high power draw of the device.

    What a relay essentially does is allows a lower-wattage circuit to control a higher-wattage one. So you have 4 connections on a relay, and it usually looks something like this:

    Battery ---- Relay high power in | Relay high power out --- Big light positive

    (Of course the big light negative side goes straight to ground)
    And then the other side of the relay:
    Add-a-circuit ---- Switch --- Relay low power in | Relay low power out ---- Ground

    So if the add-a-circuit has power and the switch is turned on, the relay's low side gets power. When this happens, the relay will bridge its two high power leads and your light will get power. This allows a small switch to control more power than it otherwise could, safely. Automotive relays are cheaply available in most hardware / auto stores.

    Additionally, if the add-a-circuit itself has no power, like if you plug it into the cigarette lighter fuse and turn the engine off, that will also turn off your light. The switch must be on AND the add-a-circuit must have power for the light to go.

    So if you want all your lights, big and small, to be on one switch, you should be able to have:
    Add-a-circuit
    |
    |
    Switch
    |
    |----Small Device 1
    |----Small Device 2
    |-----Low side Relay for big device 1
    |-----Low side RElay for big device 2

    And to ground them:

    |----Small Device 1 negative side
    |----Small Device 2 negative side
    |-----Low side Relay for big device 1 (second connection)
    |-----Low side RElay for big device 2 (second connection)
    |
    |
    Ground

    etc

    Edit: of course, between every device and the battery you should definitely have a fuse. Between the add-a-circuit and any small devices using it for power, you want to put a small fuse in too.
     
  9. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM
    #9
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    Thanks, I've got a picture in mind how to wire things up and keep options for additions.

    And I thought that was going to be the hard part! lol. NOT.
    Any useful tips on how to run all the wires without taking apart all of my interior paneling?
     
  10. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM
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    Jreays

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    Glad you have an idea. Running the wires really wasn't to bad. I think taking the panels off is the best way for it to look stock. Where are you going to put your switches?
     
  11. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:17 PM
    #11
    Yoytoda

    Yoytoda The Little Truck That Could

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    i also stay away from crimp connections. solder and heat shrink for best appearance and no worries of corrosion and or connections pulling apart
     
  12. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM
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    Jreays

    Jreays Member

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    I hate crimp connectors!
     
  13. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:41 PM
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    bjmoose

    bjmoose Bullwinkle J. Moose

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    Hijack: I think you guys are giving crimps a bad rap.

    I've done a lot of boat wiring in marine environment, and marine grade crimps on tinned wire are more reliable in saltwater environment than solder and shrink wrap!

    Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing though:

    THIS:
    [​IMG]

    Not THIS:
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Oct 6, 2010 at 1:45 PM
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    Jreays

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    They might work but I don't know how they could possibly be better than solder and heat shrink. I know some crimp connectors like above have a sealant inside.
     
  15. Oct 6, 2010 at 3:20 PM
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    Evil Monkey

    Evil Monkey There's an evil monkey in my truck

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    I don't use crimp connectors anymore. I like Posi-Lock connectors. They're much easier. They rarely come apart but if they do, you just reconnect it. You can find them at some Walmarts where they sell the crimp connectors.

    Distribution panels and ground blocks are good ways to clean up electrical connections. I've done the ground block on my motorcycle. Make it so much easier than trying to hunt around for a screw.
     
  16. Oct 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM
    #16
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    I have one switch (http://www.oznium.com/gsw-45-led) already wired up in one of the blank spots near the fog light switch etc. It's got an so-far unused accessory +12V lead ready to go wherever it needs to go.
    I'm not sure where I'm going to put the panel for my siren. It's small and only has two rocker switches (http://www.galls.com/wafop/style.html?assort=general_catalog&cat=&style=SK123). I could feasibly mount it anywhere in the cab.

    The siren box has its own fuse, so wiring it up only requires an always-hot +12V.

    I don't need to take the seat out to mount stuff under there do I?
     
  17. Oct 6, 2010 at 4:03 PM
    #17
    The_LAB

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    As stated before run the power for device from a relay. Avoid running power through switch.

    Better yet get one of these
    http://www.4x4s-pod.com/products?pa...page.tpl&product_id=17&category_id=5&vmcchk=1

    All pre-wired and relays are setup with fuses in place looks factory.
    Enough for 6 devices.

    I wire stuff for a living and will be going this route when I get to the lights on my truck.
    The man hours alone it will save is enough for me the plug an play is just that much better.

    -LAB
     
  18. Oct 6, 2010 at 5:50 PM
    #18
    SCFirefighter

    SCFirefighter [OP] on idiot patrol ;)

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    I'm not concerned with large amounts of current running through my switch. At most all my LEDs combined will be less than 2 amps, maybe 3 tops. The switch is rated for much more than that. However, I agree that it will look a lot cleaner and will make expansion easier if I would centralize stuff with relays.

    $345 for that unit? Holy crap. I can't even see exactly what it is or what it does because there is no description and the damn image keeps cycling so fast. Either way, it's a little out of my budget for the moment.
     
  19. Oct 7, 2010 at 5:30 AM
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    Jreays

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    I removed my seat just because it was really easy. I just took out the 4 bolts and leaned it back. It gave me plenty of room to work. To mount the siren and strobe amp I just put a piece of Velcro on the bottom and it sticks to the carpet perfectly.
     
  20. Oct 7, 2010 at 7:15 AM
    #20
    cinch

    cinch Member Extraordinaire

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    X2, if it's a good shiny solder joint.
     
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