Wiring Basics – Components

At some point a Jeeper decides to install a new gadget or modify an electrical component.  Often these electrical items are a CB radio, auxillary lights, or a piece of audio equipment..the list goes on.  So many times we see poor wiring techniques it’s amazing there isn’t more failures and fires.

To start off we will identify the components involved in vehicle wiring and then dive into the specifics about them

bad-jeep-wiringThere are some simple rules to follow to make a proper wiring job.  Taking the time to do it correct will ensure your installation will work and your connections will not become a danger.

In the article below we will cover the proper way to wire certain accessories an the proper use of vehicle electrical connectors and wire.



A winch is usually the single accessory that we add to our Jeeps that require high amounts of amperage to operate.  Most winches are equipped with massive cables that should always be hooked direct to the battery terminals.  In the case that you have a battery that has dual posts like many Optima brand batteries do you should always attach the winch to the top terminals.  The top terminals are connected direct to the the battery’s cells.  In most cases the side terminals are wired to the top within the battery using a short piece of wire.


Auxiliary lights often take 2nd place in the what draws the most power list.   Lights come in many varieties and each have the rated power needs.  When installing lights follow the manufacturers recommendations regarding wiring.  In many cases adding a relay is the best option with lights, more on this later.  Modern vehicle lighting is no longer limited to incandescent bulbs which require high energy.  HID and LED lighting has become more popular, these lighting systems require much less energy with increased life expectancy.

Old Jeeps especially the CJ series have been known for dull factory headlights.  Many people have rewired their CJ’s to correct the factory wiring and get their Jeep’s lights brighter.  A few years ago we did a how to on the jeepfan.com CJ.  It’s worth a read – Brighten Your Lights


High power audio comes with high energy needs.  Audio amplifiers can consume a fair amount of power (and generate heat) be sure to follow the manufacturers wiring recommendations when installing a high performance audio system.

Other Electrical Accessories

We install such a variety of equipment in our Jeeps that require power.  Below is a list of common items that don’t consume large amounts of power but need proper wiring – as with anything you add.

  • CB Radios – Almost every Jeep you find on a trail is usually equipped with a CB.  Often they are temporarily powered from a 12V power outlet or wired direct.  Often it is a best practice to wire your CB so it stays on when the ignition is off.  Be sure to use a proper fuse.
  • Chargers – Who doesn’t have a gadget these days that needs charging? Chargers are most often used with a 12V power outlet.  Older Jeeps may have a factory cigarette lighter that can serve as a 12V power outlet or one can be installed.
  • Power Outlets – New Jeeps come with a few power outlets in convenient places within the Jeep.  These are great for powering chargers and other equipment.  Installing one in an older Jeep is a valuable accessory.  Typically power outlets are wired direct to the battery.  As always be sure to use the proper wiring and circuit protection.
  • Power Inverters – These devices convert the 12V DC vehicle power to 120V AC found in a home.  This enables the use of chargers and other equipment not designed for vehicle use.  Inverters vary by their power output, when selecting an inverter look at your power requirements and choose the proper inverter based on that.

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