Welcome to Part 2 of the DIY van-build tool series. This article covers the essential tools we recommend you to obtain if you want to install and connect an off-grid electrical system, including a lithium battery and solar panels.

Click here for a full list of tools we recommend for converting or renovating your van, motor home, tiny home or other mobile dwelling.

Essential Tools for Electrical System

Gadgets and Electrical Tools

  • Compact Multimeter: This is useful to quickly test many different electrical systems, check the voltage from your solar panels or battery, and check for faults or errors in devices or cables. For basic DC installations a pocket size multimeter is perfectly fine to use. Link: http://tiny.cc/pobunz
  • Soldering Iron: While most of our connections are crimped and shrinked, there are occasions when you will need to use a soldering iron to add/remove solder welds on your cables and device connections. Definitely worth having in your kit. Cordless or AC or DC powered plug is are good. The butane versions are less user friendly. Link: http://tiny.cc/aqbunz
  • Heat Gun: This tool will help speed up attaching heat shrink to your cable terminations. While a lighter Link: http://tiny.cc/kn1rnz
  • Multi Stage Battery Charger: This one isn’t essential, but it’s really handy to have on hand especially if you go with lithium batteries. The charger will help you to charge and balance your battery cells and as a 12v power source to test run devices before our battery was connected. We also use the charger to keep our van’s starter battery topped up while in long term storage. It’s strongly recommend a high quality, multi-stage smart charger with multiple output options to suit different battery types. They cost more, but it’s worth it. Link: http://tiny.cc/n6bunz

Pliers and Hand Tools

  • Insulated Crimping Pliers: For crimping insulated (coated) cable lugs. Find one with a ratcheting mechanism and a good ergonomic grip so it’s easier to get a good crimp on your lugs. Link: http://tiny.cc/ltbunz
  • Non-insulated Crimping Pliers: Used to crimp standard non-insulated (no plastic cover) cable lugs. These can be good for certain lugs if you aren’t getting a strong connection using the insulated crimp pliers. Cover the exposed lug/cable connection with some heat shrink. Link: http://tiny.cc/vvbunz
  • Hydraulic Crimper: Invaluable for properly and neatly crimping large cable lugs to thick cable used on your direct battery connections, busbars, battery shunt connections, inverters and any other devices that require a thick cable and large lug. Hydraulic power and different size dies make attaching large lugs very easy and quick to do. Link: http://tiny.cc/zxbunz
  • Cable Stripping Pliers: These come in various shapes and styles, but do the same job. Find one that has plenty of different sizes for different cables and cuts neatly. It is designed to quickly and easily cut and remove the out plastic insulation around the inner cable core when terminating (attaching) a lug or other connection to the cable. Link: http://tiny.cc/e1bunz
  • Cable Cutter: A simple tool that makes cutting through electrical cable very easy and clean. These tools generally have two notches to suit different thickness cables. Make sure that it is large enough for the thicker cables you will use such as 0 or 2 AWG. Link: http://tiny.cc/y2bunz

Prefer to watch/listen? Check out the video we made on the topic here:

What did we miss? What is your favourite tool for installing electrical systems in your home on wheels?

Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!