Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 08-15-2018, 10:37 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NW Florida
Posts: 34
Year: 2001
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT-466
Basic Electrical Help

Hi everybody!

I've learned a ton through this forum, though I've mostly been a lurker. My wife and I purchased our bus at the beginning of this month, and we're steadily moving through the process of gutting it. While we still have some time left in that process, I'm getting more and more nervous about the electrical work once I reach that stage. I have virtually no knowledge of electricity. I'm partially still convinced that it's all just black magic. I typically can learn how to do things if I watch a good video or read some good instructions, but I can't seem to find a good step-by-step walkthrough for this, so I was wondering if anyone here could help me out or point me toward a good instructional place (video/website/book/etc) where I could learn. I partly want to just hire an electrician, but I'd much prefer to know how my future skoolie works so I can fix things myself. Here's where I'm at:

- I've figured out how to calculate how much usage we'll need. I've got my very own kill-a-watt, and I'm monitoring different devices. Ultimately, we'd like to go solar eventually, though maybe not immediately due to finances. But I can figure out how to calculate how many panels/batteries we will need. It's more how to wire everything once I start to install it. That's where I get lost.

- I'd like to do some 12v and some 120v if possible. (12v would be stuff like led lights, phone chargers, backup camera, and other various things that we can run on 12v) But I don't know how to connect it all.
  • How do I connect to the batteries without electrocuting myself?
  • How do I know what fuse box to buy, and how do I connect each device to it? (12v & 120v)
  • How do I ground everything so I don't electrocute my entire family? (12v & 120v)
  • How do I know what size wire to get? (12v & 120v)
  • How do I connect some lights on one circuit with a switch, and other lights on another circuit with their own switch? (12v)
  • I saw something on here about grounding or not grounding depending on if my inverter is... grounded or bonded or something? How do I know and what does that all mean?
  • When I get my inverter/charger, how do I connect that into the circuit, and how do I wire it so I can connect to shore power?
  • Umm... and while I'm at it, how do I add a cigarette lighter plug connected to the existing fuse box so I can use my GPS and backup camera when driving?
  • I'm considering the possibility of having a generator to top off my batteries on cloudy days. How do I wire that into this huge equation?

Beeb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2018, 12:02 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Picton,Ont, Can.
Posts: 1,189
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: GMC
Engine: Cat 3116
Rated Cap: 72
I understand your willingness to learn but a tradesman spends many hours to gain the knowledge you want to have, thru input here.

Nobody can do that so hire an electrician. You can still understand how it works even if you didn't build it.
Does a dentist fix his own cavities?
I think the potential for you to get hurt is huge. Why do so many think they can do this on their own or with tutoring?
What is your life worth playing in all these systems.
My 2 cents,


John
__________________
Question everything!
BlackJohn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2018, 01:00 PM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NW Florida
Posts: 34
Year: 2001
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT-466
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackJohn View Post
I understand your willingness to learn but a tradesman spends many hours to gain the knowledge you want to have, thru input here.

Nobody can do that so hire an electrician. You can still understand how it works even if you didn't build it.
Does a dentist fix his own cavities?
I think the potential for you to get hurt is huge. Why do so many think they can do this on their own or with tutoring?
What is your life worth playing in all these systems.
My 2 cents,


John
Thanks BlackJohn for your 2 cents! I am strongly considering that option, as this is all a bit overwhelming, and i'm not too keen on dying.

Would any ol' electrician be able to do all this? Or would I need someone who specializes in auto electric? Or an RV specialist?
Beeb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2018, 04:21 PM   #4
Bus Crazy
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Picton,Ont, Can.
Posts: 1,189
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: GMC
Engine: Cat 3116
Rated Cap: 72
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
Thanks BlackJohn for your 2 cents! I am strongly considering that option, as this is all a bit overwhelming, and i'm not too keen on dying.

Would any ol' electrician be able to do all this? Or would I need someone who specializes in auto electric? Or an RV specialist?





Glad you responded because I did not want to alarm you really, just tell you this gets complicated for anyone.
No, just any ol electrician likely can't do this, partly yes. You need a mix of competency due to the use of ac, dc auto electrics, battery experience, computer maintenance etc, helps and there is a lot that has to work together for a bus to run and be safe as a camper. All these systems should work flawlessly together in an ideal world.

Along with that there must be an ability to troubleshoot any of these systems or face the consequences.

Your best bet is to read these forums and see and hear what we are talking about.
Most end up diving into things they do not understand and then post here because they tore something apart without any understanding. These can be expensive to fix and hard to determine here from a distance. This doubles when the person cannot explain his/her predicament in proper electrical terminology. So it pays to get some understanding.
None of us knew anything but hunger when we were born. Some people take different paths so do not feel bad about being overwhelmed.


You can build a safe bus though, with some thought.



John
__________________
Question everything!
BlackJohn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2018, 06:41 PM   #5
Bus Nut
 
JDOnTheGo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: The West
Posts: 857
Year: 1998
Coachwork: MCI
Chassis: 102 EL3
Engine: DD 60
Howdy Beeb!

The good news is that none of this is rocket science.

The bad news is that some of it can kill you.

It's probably best to start with DC power - specifically 12VDC (or less, like 5VDC). 12VDC is a very benign thing to the human body. I suppose there might be some conditions where that is not the case - maybe if you have a pacemaker or something. Maybe start with a small 12VDC battery (car battery or even smaller) get some LED lights, a few switches, a few fuses, and start playing around. Connecting/Disconnecting a 12VDC battery by hand is done all the time and it doesn't hurt the body. That said, if you have a huge amount of current running thru those cables when you disconnect them, it will be like a welder (huge arc) and will melt metal and burn skin. So, start with very small current devices (LED lights). DC is easy to understand - positive and negative. Lots of good articles on the web, it'll just take some reading and questions to make sense of it all. There might even be some "electric learning kits" available that could be helpful (something like this??).

AC, on the other hand - especially at 110 or 220 volts - is lethal. Don't mess with it til you understand it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
How do I know what size wire to get? (12v & 120v)
A wire size calculator and/or chart is your friend. Pick one that is for the appropriate power and voltage (12VDC). You then plug in the length of the wire and the number of amps that will be passing thru it. This then tells you the resistance and the requires size/gauge of wire (simple answer but hopefully enough to get to the next step).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
I saw something on here about grounding or not grounding depending on if my inverter is... grounded or bonded or something? How do I know and what does that all mean?
Don't worry about that yet - an 'advanced' topic but really not an issue to be worried about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
When I get my inverter/charger, how do I connect that into the circuit, and how do I wire it so I can connect to shore power?
Again, baby steps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
Umm... and while I'm at it, how do I add a cigarette lighter plug connected to the existing fuse box so I can use my GPS and backup camera when driving?
A great starting point! First question; do you have an open fuse slot or do you need to tap into an existing circuit?
__________________
JD - Full timer out west
Missy - 1998 MCI 102-EL3 - 1.7kW Solar - 10kWh Lithium
My Adventures & Build
JDOnTheGo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-15-2018, 08:14 PM   #6
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NW Florida
Posts: 34
Year: 2001
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT-466
Quote:
Originally Posted by JDOnTheGo View Post
A great starting point! First question; do you have an open fuse slot or do you need to tap into an existing circuit?
Thanks for all your help! I definitely will not try to do anything that's over my head. But I also want to learn. Ideally, I'd love some professional to do it and explain to me what they're doing while they do it. But most professionals don't want to babysit me.

I'll have to look into the fuse slot. At the moment, my fuse box is behind a door that is stuck closed. I have a bus mechanic coming out on Friday to remove my wheelchair lift and rear heater. Hoping I can get him to figure out how to open it for me. Once I know, I'll get back to you!
Beeb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-16-2018, 08:52 AM   #7
Bus Nut
 
JDOnTheGo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: The West
Posts: 857
Year: 1998
Coachwork: MCI
Chassis: 102 EL3
Engine: DD 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
Ideally, I'd love some professional to do it and explain to me what they're doing while they do it. But most professionals don't want to babysit me.
Nor do they want to work on an RV/bus (from what I hear).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beeb View Post
I'll have to look into the fuse slot. At the moment, my fuse box is behind a door that is stuck closed. I have a bus mechanic coming out on Friday to remove my wheelchair lift and rear heater.
Your options generally boil down to an open fuse slot so creating a new fused 'circuit' or tapping into an existing circuit. If you tap into existing, be sure to pick one that has sufficient fuse capacity for the load you are adding. You can do this with one of these or these (or similar, depending on what type of fuse block you have) or tap into the wire (with one of these, butt splice, or something along those lines (depends how 'professional' you want it to be).
__________________
JD - Full timer out west
Missy - 1998 MCI 102-EL3 - 1.7kW Solar - 10kWh Lithium
My Adventures & Build
JDOnTheGo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2018, 06:50 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: NW Florida
Posts: 34
Year: 2001
Coachwork: International
Engine: DT-466
Quote:
Originally Posted by JDOnTheGo View Post
First question; do you have an open fuse slot or do you need to tap into an existing circuit?
Ok! So, I took pictures of everything behind the big scary door. It's a mess. Looks like I have fuse slots open (I think). Here are the pictures I took. I labeled them so I know I'm looking at the right spot. I think "Picture G" is where my fuses are, based on what I've seen in my car before...

Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSC_0003.jpg (192.6 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0013.jpg (238.7 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0011.jpg (211.7 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0010.jpg (198.6 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0009.jpg (142.0 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0008.jpg (171.5 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0007.jpg (217.1 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_0006.jpg (185.8 KB, 8 views)
Beeb is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-17-2018, 11:23 PM   #9
Bus Crazy
 
somewhereinusa's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Andrews,Indiana
Posts: 1,832
Year: 1991
Coachwork: Bluebird
Chassis: AARE
Engine: 3116 Cat 250hp
Rated Cap: Her, me and Molly
G is mostly circuit breakers with a few fuses and relays, looks pretty clearly marked. E looks to be circuit breakers although, I haven't seen the type before, again pretty clearly marked. Same for A and B. D is just a terminal block, a place to hook up wires. Believe me that is NOT a mess, looks like everything is pretty clearly marked with nothing Extra added. You have the wiring diagrams right in front of you.
somewhereinusa is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-18-2018, 08:34 AM   #10
Bus Nut
 
JDOnTheGo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: The West
Posts: 857
Year: 1998
Coachwork: MCI
Chassis: 102 EL3
Engine: DD 60
From the photos, A/B (same thing, I think?) would be the easiest place to add a new circuit.

So, get yourself whatever socket you need (maybe like this??).

The wire size is important. How long will the wire be to reach from this fuse panel to the socket that you are installing? Remember wire doesn't usually straight from point A to B, include plenty of extra for all the round and round. With that info, look at this chart and decide what gauge wire you need. An example would be 30' of wire carrying 5 amp (12VDC) would require 16 gauge wire.

If you don't have a crimper, connectors, and such; you'll need them. Cheap tools (and connectors/terminals) are usually not worth your time. Get reasonable quality stuff and save yourself some frustration. The wire terminals found at most auto parts stores are not the best but will do the job.

If you go with parts like I mentioned above, you'll need some female quick connectors like these.

That should get you setup for the 12VDC positive (red) wire/power. You'll also need a grounding (black) wire from socket to ground. I'm not familiar with your rig to know anything about how it is currently wired. Sometimes there are grounding points available in various places, sometimes you have to run it all the way back to near the battery, and sometimes just grounding with an existing bolt/screw (into the chassis/frame) is sufficient. This is where a multi-meter is very handy (to determine where ground exists).
__________________
JD - Full timer out west
Missy - 1998 MCI 102-EL3 - 1.7kW Solar - 10kWh Lithium
My Adventures & Build
JDOnTheGo is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
120v, 12v, electrical, question, wiring

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


» Featured Campgrounds

Reviews provided by

Powered by vBadvanced CMPS v3.2.3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 09:26 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.