What do you get when you combine an RV enthusiast, living in the Pacific Northwest with a need for power? I’m often asked this question. The answer is a pretty simple-a generator! But if you’re new to the lifestyle of full-time RVing, or are considering adding one to your rig, it can be daunting thinking about which size might work best for your needs. There’s also the added challenge of figuring out where and how to install it. Lucky for us there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube that show us just how easy it can be! So here’s my take on installing a generator in a van based on these videos. Enjoy!
Components, Materials, and Tools Needed
Step By Step Process on how to install a generator in a Camper Van
Setting Up The Generator Bay
- If possible, remove the original battery bank or its fuse so it doesn’t pose a safety hazard while working on the bay. Be careful not to disconnect any cables that are important for keeping the batteries connected to each other, starter solenoid or Alternator.
- Remove all loose tools and screws from the generator compartment’s floor. You can use an old newspaper as a mat for this, but make sure it gets set aside with your scrap metal instead of being discarded with normal trash. Use masking tape to keep some items together if you want to make sure they don’t get lost during this process (e.g., electrical ties).
Clear the Space
Get rid of the shelving, cabinets, or anything else that is in your way. Objects can be placed on the ground outside (e.g., nearby storage compartments) until you are done with wiring and testing the generator. Check whether everything electrical in your van stays on when you turn off the main battery switch inside. If this doesn’t happen, relocate items so they won’t get in your way during this process (e.g., fridge).
Finding A Good Spot For The Generator
- The generator should be placed under the van’s floor for weight distribution reasons.
- Depending on how much space is available, you can either bring some or all of your items inside again to make room for installing the generator in your van.
- Assuming there’s no cable running through this area, place the generator where it won’t occupy any existing electrical sockets (e.g., fridge).
Installing The Generator Floor Bracket
- Attach a metal bracket to the ground with screws and bolts to create a solid foundation for mounting the generator later on.
- Use four bolts and nuts per bracket so you can easily remove the generator if necessary.
Installing The Ac-Outlet
Attach the AC outlet to the back of your van’s wall with self-tapping screws so its power cord will be running through a hole afterward.
Generator Power Cable Installation
- The cable that connects your generator to an AC outlet needs to run from inside your van’s cabin to the outside where you are placing the outlet.
- This not only keeps it safe from water but also means you don’t need to cut any holes in your walls to route it through them (see how this is done).
- Put a hole in the side of your van with a drill. Attach a grommet to make the cable run smoothly behind your wall plates.
- Using a knife or scissors, cut a section of rubber from an old truck tire tube that is roughly as wide as your cable’s diameter and long enough to go between the generator bay and the outside wall.
Securing The Cable To A Stationary Point On Your Walls
- Use plastic ties to secure the cable to one of your existing screws where it passes through a wall plate so you won’t have to worry about it being pulled out by accident.
- Secure these cables somewhere where they won’t get in the way during this process (e.g., another wall plate).
Installing Your Generator and Ac-Outlet
- Place your generator where it won’t be exposed to water or sharp objects that can damage its enclosure.
- Use a power cable with an integrated fuse rated at 20A, which is more than enough for most generators’ loads on a campsite.
- Turn off your main battery switch before working on anything electrical inside your van so you don’t accidentally cause a short circuit while doing this project.
- Attach one end of the power cable to the generator’s output and tighten it with pliers or a wrench if needed.
- Attach the other end to the AC outlet’s input and tighten it with pliers or wrenches if needed.
Safety Tests Before Turning The Generator On
- Use your multimeter to test how much voltage is running through the power cable’s input (yellow wire) and how much comes out of its output for each generator set.
- Once you turn on your generator, measure how much power is actually getting transferred into your van before testing how hot your generator enclosure is getting or how loud its noise levels are since these things can increase after prolonged use. 3 . Make sure everything passes before turning off the main battery switch and letting your generator run without being monitored.
Tips And Advice
- Your generator should have enough space to hold all of your electrical devices, can be moved around easily when you need to go somewhere else in your van, and the power cable doesn’t get in the way while driving.
- If you plan on using a 3000W+ generator, make sure it has at least 25A input amperage (or roughly 20A output amperage and 25A peak) to run an AC outlet without tripping the circuit breaker.
- Use a 2000W+ generator at your own risk, as their output amperage is normally too low for most AC outlets (roughly 15A).
- Your cable should be long enough so it can stretch from inside your van’s cabin to outside, but not so long that it will get in the way when driving or put you at further risk of it being snagged by wind or tree branches.
- For generators with a higher load requirement you might need a second power cable with its own fuse that runs back into your van for those loads if space constraints prevent them from being plugged into the generator’s secondary outlet.
You can install a generator in your van or RV with the help of some basic tools. With just a few easy steps, you’ll be able to power up on the go.
Note: This is content is not intended as actual advice on how to install a generator in a camper van. Always make sure you test all safety precautions before turning anything on or testing anything from this website. If you want professional services to help you do it the right way, please contact professionals who can give realistic process and budget prices.