To install a power inverter in your car you need the following:
- Power inverter
- Power wire (4 gauge preferred)
- In-line Fuse (ANL works)
- Ring terminals
- Wire cutter
- Wire insulation stripper (or blade)
- Sand paper
The easiest way to get most of the tools required is to buy a 4 gauge amplifier kit, which includes the power and ground wire, ring terminals and fuse. They cost around $15 on eBay or Amazon.
Then you need to choose a power inverter that suits your needs. For most small household electronics I recommend an 800W power inverter. You can grab a Cobra CPI 880 on Amazon for around $50 bucks. This model has two AC plugs, one USB input and is fan-cooled.
The goal of this installation is to hard wire the device to your car so that you can use it anytime, inside the cabin. To do this you need to run a power wire from the battery’s positive terminal, through the car’s firewall inside the car, under the carpeting, and connect it to the inverter. The inverter will be mounted in a fixed location. A small sized inverter can fit under the glove box compartment or somewhere near the passenger’s side foot rest area. You can mount the inverter with 4 screws, but if you don’t want to drill holes in random places, just use a strip of industrial type Velcro.
The first step is to disconnect the positive terminal on your car’s battery. Cut a 12-15” piece of power wire. Strip the insulation on both ends, about ½”. Attach a ring terminal to one end. The other end will be connected to the inline fuse. The closer the fuse is to the battery the better.
The second step is the most time consuming step in this installation depending on your car. We will need to find a suitable opening to run our power cable from the engine bay to the inside of the car. The easiest way is to find an existing grommet. To find this grommet, use a flashlight to look under your dashboard. Years ago you would’ve had to either find an opening yourself, drill a new hole, or take the car to a shop to have the work done, which would defeat the purpose of this article. Nowadays you can just Google or YouTube you car’s year and make followed by the words “firewall,” and chances are you might come across a video that shows exactly how other people found a way through the firewall in the same vehicle.
Once you’ve found a way to run the wire, use an old car antenna or wire from a clothes hanger to guide the wire through, the pull it from the other side. Decide where the wire is going to run in the engine bay as well as inside the car. In the engine bay put some plastic wire insulation, included in the amp kit, around the wire to protect it from engine heat. Inside the car you can just hide the wire under carpeting or paneling. Once you’ve run the wire up to the inverter, cut it to length, strip the end, and put a ring terminal on it. The next step is to install the ground wire. The ground wire runs from the negative terminal on the inverter to the chassis of the car, the shorter the wire the better. Find an existing bolt that comes in contact with the chassis of the car and, using a ring terminal, attach it to the bold. The terminal should come in contact with the bare metal of the vehicle for the best possible connection. If there’s paint in that particular area, sand it off.
Plug the power wire to the positive side of the inverter and the ground to the negative. Only after you’ve verified proper connections, connect the power wire to the car’s battery and install the inline fuse.
Test your inverter by plugging in your favorite small household device. A power inverter is a great way to power your devices when you are on the road. You can plug in your cell phones, tablet, laptop, small TV, game console or DVD player.
Tip: to prevent battery discharge use your inverter only with the vehicle turned on.