Generate power for corded tools anywhere you go without the cost and hassle of a gas-powered generator by wiring a power inverter to your truck battery.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine:September 2011
No matter how good your battery-powered
saw or drill is, sometimes
you need a plug-in tool to get the job
done. Don’t have an AC receptacle
nearby? Well, if you have a truck,
you already have most of the makings
of a rolling AC generator. Just install
an AC inverter and you’ll have about
1,800 watts at your fingertips. The
basic setup runs about $450, and the
upscale version (with auxiliary battery
and isolator relay) about $700. The
installation takes just a few hours and requires only a drill and hand tools.
Locate one fuse block between the main battery and the relay. Mount a second one
after the relay. Install the third one between the auxiliary battery and the inverter.
Pop 1-in. chase nipples into the holes in the bed and the box and spin on locknuts. Then
push the "smurf" tube and cable through the nipples and connect them to the inverter.
AC inverters come in two styles:
modified and pure sine wave. A modified
sine wave inverter (such as the
AIMS No. PWRINV1800W; available from
theinverterstore.com) is less expensive
and works great with power tools. For
“cleaner” power to run a computer, TV
or portable tool battery charger, buy a
pure sine wave inverter. Be sure it has
built-in overload, over-temperature,
over-and-under voltage and fault protection,
as well as neutral isolation.
You’ll also need one 200-amp fuse
block/fuse kit (two if you add a second
battery and three if you add a battery
isolator). Order separate lengths of
1/0 cable for the positive and negative
connections. Adding a 100Ah valve
regulated lead acid (VRLA) absorbed
glass mat (AGM) battery is optional.
It adds a few hundred dollars to the cost, but it
helps prevent alternator overheating
and helps maintain the voltage
under heavy loads. Add an isolation
relay at the same time to prevent
draining your main battery.
Inverters create a lot of heat, so mount
yours in a spot with adequate airflow
like your truck bed toolbox or on the
floor behind the driver's seat. Open the
toolbox lid or the cab door when the
inverter's in use.
Every vehicle is different, so I can’t
give you a “one-size-fits-all” wire routing
scheme. But the most important
rule is to keep both cables away from
the engine block, pulleys, steering
components, and the exhaust manifold
and pipes. And run a separate negative
cable from the inverter back to
the main battery. To protect the cables
under the vehicle, run them (especially
the positive cable) inside flexible plastic
3/4-in. conduit. (This Carlon Flex-Plus Blue product, nicknamed “smurf”
conduit by electricians, is available in
10-ft. lengths in the electrical department
at home centers.) Then drill two
1-in. holes in the truck bed and two in
the toolbox and install electrical fittings
(Photo 1). Next, mount the inverter.
Mount the optional battery isolation
relay under the hood and connect the
trigger wire to a switch-powered “hot”
wire. Install the optional auxiliary battery
close to the inverter. See Figure A for the complete wiring diagram.
Clamp the cable ring terminals under the serrated washers and install the fuse. Then
tighten the nut and install the protective cover.
Connect the positive cable to a fuse
block before attaching it to the battery
(Photo 2). Finish the job by connecting
the negative cable to the battery.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.
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