If you use your van to work from in the winter, you’ll know what it’s like at the end of the day, when you’re trying to find that last screw, fixing or tool to finish the job and it’s dark. You try to use the torch on your phone but you need three arms to do that, and climb over boxes, tool bags and other random stuff in the back.
So, you decide to fit some LEDs in the back to help you see the light! Here are some quick tips and advice to help you make a job of it and keep your lights shining for years to come.
1 – Buy a kit with a festoon adaptor. What’s a festoon adaptor I hear you ask?! It’s a small connector that fits into the standard courtesy light fitting, instead of the bulb. This is the quickest way to run power to your LEDs, as you simply remove the cover from your light fitting, remove the bulb and clip the adaptor in it’s place. One thing to think of when you do this, is that many vans have the courtesy lights on a timer, and so you could find that the lights go out after a while if you do this. In the past I’ve used www.led-it.co.uk for a kit with festoon adaptors. They aren’t the cheapest, but you have everything you need and the components are very good quality.
2 – If you need lighting for a long period of time, then a festoon adaptor isn’t the way to go to power them up. You need to find a constant 12V live wire somewhere to connect your lights to. Have a look around in the back of your van to see if there’s a 12V Auxiliary (or Cigarette Lighter) socket. You can either wire a plug onto your LEDs to plug into the socket, or you can run the LED wires behind trim, or wherever you can to connect them directly into the wiring for the socket. Some auxiliary sockets are switched live instead of constant live (this means they are only powered up when the key is on in the ignition), so you need to check this.
3 – Many LEDs have double sided sticky backing to stick them directly to the top of the van. If the kit is a good one, then it should come with an alcohol-based cleaning wipe or similar, to clean the surface you are going to stick to. If there’s no cleaning wipe in the kit, then use a contact cleaner or similar to give the area you’re going to stick to a thorough clean before you start. The last thing you want is to have your LEDs fall down in 2 days time!
4 – Make sure you have an on/off switch! If you wire your lights into a constant live, then you will need a switch to turn them on and off. It sounds simple, but many kits are designed to be wired into the existing lighting circuit and so don’t come with a switch to control them.
5 – Your lights are all connected, but they don’t work! LEDs are polarity sensitive – that is, they need to be connected up the right way round. Usually there’s some marking as to which is positive and negative, so check this first. Don’t worry, you won’t damage them by connecting them the wrong way round, but they won’t work either.
I hope you may find this useful, these are all things we have learnt through fitting LEDs into our customers’ vans. We believe that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, and sometimes a few tips from someone who has done it before can go a long way.
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