Wiring a vehicle is one of those subjects where most people tend to cut corners a lot. Be it cost savings or simply a lack of time to do it right, a botched electrical system is basically a ticking time bomb. Partially because of the complex nature of today's electrical componentry and also due to the fact that most of us were never trained as electricians, many simply don't realize how important wiring can be to the longevity of a 4x4. Recently we had the opportunity to shadow Dustin Chernoh of DC Customs in Ukiah, California, as he mapped out the wiring system for his recently built tube-chassis rock buggy. In doing so we discovered a whole assortment of new technology that makes wiring a rig from scratch much easier than ever before. Follow along as we highlight some of the products and wiring techniques Dustin employed for his build.
This is ISIS Intelligent Multiplex System by Littlefuse. This system is the new golden standard for aftermarket vehicle wiring. It is designed to simplify the process of wiring a vehicle by eliminating the sheer number of wires needed to power each and every component of a vehicle thus cutting wiring installation time in half. You don't need any experience working with electrical systems to get the job done. Simple premade cables allow you to connect each of the various loads to the included power distribution centers or Powercells. Next you connect a small premade networking cable to the Mastercell or brain, and bingo, power is distributed safely and simply. Think of it like this: The Mastercell communicates with each Powercell via a digital code thereby eliminating the need for individual power wires running down the length of a vehicle. When you flip a switch on the dash a digital signal is sent to the appropriate channel on the rear-mounted powercell thus enabling power to the channel. The system even has a self-diagnostic mode that checks to ensure everything is working properly. This can take all the frustration and troubleshooting hassle out of a complex electrical system. With this setup you control 10 individual circuits per powercell to command any electrical function up to 25 amps. A single Powercell is capable of supporting up to 100 amps continuously.
Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, Littlefuse released a dash-mounted touch screen interface that allows users to control every function of the ISIS system. The idea here is to completely eliminate all switches from the dash of the vehicle. Instead simply touch a preprogrammed area of the touch screen and a signal is sent to the mastercell. Though still in prototype form when we shot this, the ISIS inTOUCH interface should be available when you read this.
Another handy device Dustin plans to use in his buggy is the Racepak EFI UDX digital display dash. This unit packs quite a punch and is well worth the $899.95 (suggest retail). Capable of displaying up to 21 different functions, this addition virtually eliminates any need for traditional type gauges. There are five numeric displays, plus the engine rpm sweep bar. You get four separate screen pages that can display information from a variety of sensor types. Scrolling from one page to the next is accomplished simply with the push of a button. The 7.25-inch x 2.62-inch LCD screen is backlit for night time operation and programmable warning lights are located on each side of the screen. You have the ability to assign high- or low-threshold alarms to your choice of monitored functions. The buttons at the bottom of the panel are used to scroll through the screen pages as well as to activate various functions. Additional sensors can be added by using the popular individual V-Net sensor and modules. The dash can be mounted easily against any flat panel as long as you have at least 2 inches of clearance behind the dash. Included are mounting fasteners, connection wires, sensor bushings, and three individual sensors. Additional accessories are available to customize monitoring functions.
Here you can see a close-up view of one of the ISIS Powercells. These units feature waterproof construction and offer users a level of programmability unlike any other wiring system available today. For example, let's say you want one of the 10 channels of the Powercell located at the rear of the vehicle to turn on a blinker light when a switch on the steering column is actuated. No sweat. The brain of the system can be programmed to pulse the voltage at a predetermined frequency, thus enabling a flash effect without the need for traditional flashers. That's not all though. If you really wanted to get fancy you could program any one of the 25 inputs of the Mastercell so that when you power up a channel, a sequence of delayed or soft-start functions begins to occur. This is particularly handy for vehicles with electric cooling fans or 12V pumps. All mating electrical interfaces use top-of-the-line Delphi Packard sealed connectors and each channel can be manually overridden in case the mastercell is damaged on the trail. This may seem like a lot to digest initially, but trust us, this technology is the future of automotive wiring.
Another cool feature of the ISIS system is the inLINK RF control module. Essentially, this keychain remote control allows you to operate vehicle functions just like those found on all late-model OEM vehicles. Want to start up your rig from the tent on a cold morning? No problem. How about warming up those seat heaters prior to getting on the trail? It's all possible with InLINK and the ISIS Intelligent Multiplex system. The programmable key fob allows you to control up to 16 functions from 100 feet away.
When you know a bundle of wire or loom may need to be removed to gain access to an area of the rig or if you simply want a more temporary method of securing lines to tubing, check out Chassis Clipz by St. George Motorsports. These simple plastic fasteners are an inexpensive yet effective way to secure hoses, lines, and groupings of wire to tubing. Simply snap each clip around the tubing in the desired location. Chassis Clipz come in a whole assortment of size combinations for an array of uses. At just $21.25 for a bag of 25, these are a great alternative to zip ties.
This is the new solution for keeping your braided hoses, brake lines, and wiring secure when mounting along tube chassis, suspension links, or other tubular components. Poly Performance offers these fasteners to fit tightly around 1.5- to 2-inch tubing. We like them because they keep things securely mounted and movement-free, plus they protect wire looms and other lines from being pinched or frayed. To install line clamps, simply spread the rubber isolator, place the line and fasten the supplied hose clamp. Sold in packs of five for $15 each. You simply can't find a cleaner method of permanently securing lines to tubing.
This is the MEGA Fuse by Littlefuse. Designed in cooperation with the large automotive OEMs to ensure proper protection of the battery and alternator from short circuiting, this is perhaps the best circuit protection money can buy. Using patented "Diffusion Pill Technology," the MEGA fuse provides time-delay protection of high-current circuits that use heavy gauge wiring. We like them because the current is guaranteed a resistance-free pathway where each fuse interfaces with the housing. A bolt secures each fuse to the housing which eliminates any possibility of an improper fit. At just $24 per pair, these fuse blocks are hard to beat.
Tools of the Trade
No matter how you wire your rig you should start with a few basic handtools that will make the job much easier in the end. Shown here are Stripmaster wire strippers. These are great for large wiring projects because the knife-type blades cut insulation with ease and the spring-action motion increases leverage and reduces operator fatigue. A pair of "Double D" Weatherpack crimp pliers are mandatory for terminating wire with the popular Weatherpack-type terminals. For regular terminal-type connectors, a standard terminal crimping tool and a small handheld butane torch are standard issue. With this basic arsenal, virtually any wiring task can be accomplished.