In this short guide we give you tips on how to mount your inverter in your semi truck or vehicle. Spoiler alert: it’s easy and anyone can do it.
When you’re out on the road as often as most truck drivers, trying to make your truck as comfortable as possible during your ten hour break periods is important. Knowing how to install a power inverter in your semi truck is important if you want to power external devices like:
- Mini fridges
- Hot plates
Yet due to the size constraints and limitations of many semi truck sleeper areas, it could be difficult to enjoy time inside your truck as much as you would like. A lot of driver enjoy watching movies or playing video games and the lack of a good power supply makes it difficult.
If you’re an over the road (OTR) driver, having a good power inverter is one of the must have items you need to invest in. Inverters power a variety of appliances from electric frying pans, CPAP machines, microwaves and tons of other appliances to make your truck like home (well, almost).
With a power inverter (our list of best power inverters), you can convert your battery’s DC power into AC, which is the standard for North American home electronics. But what are the steps that one should take for this upgrade? Below is a point-by-point guide that’ll help you navigate the things you must to install a power inverter to your trucks. Keep reading to find out how!
How to Install a Power Inverter in a Semi Truck
To install a power inverter in a semi truck you will need the following items:
- Power inverter
- Good location for mounting to keep it cool
- A way to mount the unit (velcro or drill holes)
- Copper lugs
- Battery cable crimping tool/soldering iron
- Battery cable
- Zip Ties
What you Need to Get Started
To get started, be sure to have these essentials so that you can finish out the job in one sitting. If all goes well, you can have hookup done in about one or two hours.
Video: Installing an inverter
For a semi, you don’t want a power inverter that would go in your standard automobile. We’re talking RV sizes here. Try to avoid going low; the more wattage, the better. Anything over 1500 watts is best, especially if you anticipate powering lots of devices simultaneously. If the inverter comes with cable, it’s suggested that you acquire more in case you accidentally damage it during setup.
Drill and Drill Bits
The cable that attaches your power inverter to your battery must be run to the interior cab. Unless holes have already been drilled to your semi from the battery box, you’ll have to do this yourself.
If you don’t want to drill holes in the interior, Velcro provides alternative and is a good way to secure the unit. It also allows you to change locations later if you’d like.
Lugs will be attached to your battery cables. They’re pretty easy to find and you might even have some already lying around your garage. Consider getting several, just in case you make a mistake when attaching them to the cables.
Battery Cable Crimping Tool
A crimping tool is used to strip off the rubber along the outer portion of the battery cable. The space will help you get a firm attachment with the lugs. You don’t want this to be loose, since it’s what attaches to your truck’s battery.
A soldering torch works as an alternative to using a crimping tool. A butane torch will do, just as long as it gets hot enough to melt and coat the lugs to the wire.
With battery cables, be sure to buy an adequate length that’ll reach to your cab. And remember that you’ll need a bit of slack to prevent the cables from coming off when your truck’s shocks move them around a bit.
Zip ties will keep your battery cable from moving around once everything’s plugged in. Alternatively, you could try smurf tubing as a conduit for the wire that protrudes into your semi’s cab area.
Installing a Power Inverter
Here are the steps that you should take to get your inverter hooked up properly. Before beginning, be sure that your semi and battery are turned off.
Step 1: Insert Lugs and Negative and Positive Cables
First, strip your battery wire down to a level that allows the lugs to be firmly attached to. You can use a utility knife or boxcutter to do this. Then place the lugs over the exposed copper. If you have a crimping tool, you can crimp the lugs into the copper. Another option would be to solder the lug to the cable wires.
While the former is quicker, the latter is a better option for people that don’t want to worry about replacing lugs for a long time. But to solder, you’ll need a soldering torch. Whichever way you decide to go about this, the important thing is that you fasten the lugs to the wires well, to the point where it doesn’t move at all.
Step 2: Drill Holes From Battery to Interior Cab
Remember, If you’re driving a company truck to get permission before drilling holes!
If your semi truck has no drills leading from the cab to the battery, you’ll need to drill the holes yourself. As with anything modifications made to a vehicle of any kind, ensure that you understand where your drills lead to before doing anything.
Find a spot in your cab that gives you an easy route to the battery box. Drill in an area that gives you the shortest ling possible while also considering the distance that your electronic devices are going to be placed from the power inverter.
For example, maybe you want to hook up a television set. If you have it available, test the length by marking off where the inverter will go, and how much cable it would take for the TV to reach is. You’ll need to find out the length of its cable to do this.
Step 2A: Use Velcro
Don’t want to drill holes? No worries! Velcro attached to the power inverter and to the surface you want to mount the unit works just fine. Just make sure that you clean each surface (where you’ll mount the unit and the unit itself) before mounting it.
The nice thing about velcro is it allows you to change the inverters location if needed and the only thing you’ll have to clean up is the left over adhesive on the vinyl.
Step 3: Find a Mounting Location for the Power Inverter
After you have everything positioned where you want, place your power inverter there. If it rests on the wall, it’s recommended that you hang it securely to where nothing moves during a bumpy ride. If close to the floor, keep it away from nearby liquids or anything else that could accidentally get into the outlets.
Step 4: Feed Cables through Holes and Connect to the Battery
Once you have it set where the inverter will go, it’s time to begin connections. Before fastening the cables on the inverter’s side, test the lugs to ensure they hook to the positive and negative terminals securely.
You only have to attach both cables to one battery. Once you’re satisfied with their attachment, feed the wire to the cab and connect the power inverter. Remember, you want to leave a bit of slack on the underside that leads to the truck interior. If the cables are too tight, they might snap off when you hit a bump due to the movement of your semi’s shock absorbers.
Where you don’t leave slack, place zip ties along the wires to keep them in one place. As the wires protrude from the area you drilled in the cab, use smurf tubing until it reaches an amount that’s comfortable with you. You don’t have to run the wire’s entire route with this tubing (if you don’t want), but a foot or two should do.
Step 5: Test Power Inverter with Electronics
Now it’s time to check over your work. Are all zip ties and connections securely fastened to the battery and inverter? Is there enough cable for the wires to hold a steady connection to your battery while you’re actively driving the semi?
If you’re confident with your setup, go ahead and turn on your semi’s battery. Plug in your electrical components, making sure to not go over the limitations of your power inverter’s wattage. Some power inverters have digital indicators that show you how much power is being used.
Furthermore, check if your inverter is compatible with surge protectors before running one to its outlet. This can vary between sine wave inverters so check with the manufacturer if you’re not sure.
That’s it! If you followed all of the steps using the items that were listed, your hookup should be well done.
Periodically check the cable wire that’s running through your semi. Eventually, it’ll need to be replaced. When it does, simply disconnect the wires and run new cable through the same holes that were drilled. Place zip ties and smurf tubing along the feed until it reaches into your cabin.
Note – if you know how to use a multimeter, this may be a better option which will give you specific information.
Getting extra power into your cab or sleeper isn’t hard and now you know how to install a power inverter in a semi truck. You don’t even have to be a professional vehicle electrician (thankfully!.
While having someone else do it for you might be less of a hassle, the process to do it yourself involves only an hour or two of your time. And when the installation is finished, you’ll be able to quickly turn your semi’s cabin into a literal extension of your home!
If you want double the power, check out this article on connecting power inverters in parallel.