When it comes to vehicle operation, few things spook drivers away from helpful tech like electricity. Many drivers simply struggle with pinning down electrical issues within a car—often failing to maintain their vehicle proper working order.

Still, you needn’t fear handling your car or truck’s electronics. Installing a power inverter can make your life a little easier. Whether you need to charge your phone or simply need the extra electrical outlets for emergencies, a power inverter can save you plenty of stress and time.

First Thing’s First: Understanding the Inverter

These gadgets, powered by 12V DC input currents, normally give off about 110v to 220v of electricity. This electricity is provided through AC output—which takes available electricity from your ride’s cigarette lighter, or energy accessory socket, and lets you use it through a standard electrical outlet.

Inverters are hugely popular because they give you more freedom of your electronic use on the road. Not only can you keep your phone charged, but you can keep a number of electronics onboard from now on that you normally wouldn't. Inverters are great for things like:

  • Camping equipment – lights, mattress pumps, electric heaters
  • Tools – for those who use saws, drills and other heavy duty equipment on the road that require an AC outlet
  • Electronics – game consoles, laptop chargers, anything really

Power inverters are favored by modern on-the-go workers for this reason. They offer a lot of utility, making them instantly recognizable as must-have accessories for any road trip. Plus, power inverters are just good safety gadgets to keep in your vehicle, regardless. If you break down, you can use it to access your vehicle’s electrical system.

Installing a Power Inverter

If you’ve never installed a power inverter before, don’t worry: Many people haven’t. A surprising number of people haven’t even used a power inverter before—missing out on its astounding benefits. A power inverter is the only way you’ll power your tech gear outside the house, so there’s no time to waste.

You should still take a look at your vehicle before purchasing a device, however, as some vehicles may not be suitable partners for this nifty piece of modern automotive technology.

Inverters can be installed almost anywhere, but you’ll be running yours from within your car. Inverters can get hot, so you’ll need to set aside a safe place in your car for effective heat dissipation. Don’t worry: You can plug a small power inverter into your cigarette lighter, or even your car’s accessory socket. If you want to get a larger inverter, however, you’ll need to wire it directly.

1. Pre-Installation: Allocating Your Ride’s Power

To install a power inverter successfully, you’ll need to pair an inverter with your electrical. To figure out what inverter is right for you, multiple the amps of your chosen tech-to-be-charged. This will give you the devices needed wattage. The inverter you get will need to have at least this amount of wattage available if you intend to keep your car-bound devices charged.

2. Connecting the inverter

Many drivers don’t need more than 150 watts of extra power. This is why they tend to buy small-load power inverters, which are cheaper—and more reasonable, in terms of energy conservation—than their hefty, high-powered competitors.

If you’re in the same boat—or car—as most drivers, you’ll also be able to plug your power inverter into your car or truck via a cigarette lighter adapter. Fair warning: Don’t use the inverter to power heavy machinery—as the cranked up power expense can cause damage to your vehicle’s internals.

What If I Need a Heavy-Load Power Inverter?

If you do need a heavy-load inverter to fulfill your lifestyle needs, you still have plenty of options available. If you need to power over 150 watts in either small machinery, charging stations, laptop use or something else, you can connect a power inverter directly into your car’s battery.

It may be intimidating to consider this, but have no fear: A lot of drivers do this. Still, you’ll need to pick up a few things before installing a power inverter with more juice. First, you’ll need an 80-amp in-line fuse breaker or circuit breaker. Install it near the inverter’s batter. You may not need it, but you’ll wish you’d have had one if a short circuit starts a small fire in your vehicle.

3. Grounding Your Power Inverter

Similar to most high-energy tools, a power inverter should be grounded. If you didn’t find a grounding wire in your power inverter’s packaging, you’ll need to buy one separately. The ground wire should have the same gauge as your inverter. It should also touch your vehicle’s metal directly—or be used on your car battery’s negative terminal.

To get started, look for a bolt or screw on the side of your vehicle—such as the door. If the bolt or screw touches your vehicle’s metal body, you’re good to go. Attach a ring terminal to the end of your ground wire. Slip it under the washer—replacing the screw or bolt after.

Short-Term and Long-Term Use

You can use your vehicle’s power inverter for GPS units, USB-charged tech, laptops tablets and more. If you feel you’ll be using a heavy-duty inverter for a long time, however, you should install the inverter into your car or truck for good.

So, how do you do this? You’ll install your inverter into your vehicle’s fuse box. Locate your car’s fuse box under the hood, and make sure there’s enough room to fish wires through your ride’s mechanical components. Use a new fuse, of course, when installing your inverter.

Or, even better, use a spade connector to hook up your inverter. A spade connector can hook into the front of your fuse box—giving you better accessibility and wire management. As you draw power from your vehicle’s fuse box, take the time to make sure all connections have power throughout your use.

Your inverter will only transfer power when your car’s ignition is turned on, but it can provide endless stress relief in our high-tech, high-charged world. If you haven’t yet, browse online for an inverter suitable to your driving needs. A simple electrical modification can change your life for the better.