Updated: Aug 18
Cutting a hole in your van to install a solar cable entry gland can be a little scary - it's one of the first things you need to do for your van conversion and one of the most important! However fret not, it is actually very easy. In this guide I will show you the simple, no-nonsense approach to installing a solar cable entry gland in your campervan. By the end your van will be ready for solar power! I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for several years, I'm the van conversion instructor at Udemy, author of The Van Conversion Newsletter, and the proud owner of a beautiful self-build campervan called Beans. So let's jump in and have a look at how to install the solar cable entry!
These are the supplies you need
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9 steps to installing a solar cable entry gland in your van
A solar cable entry gland will be needed if you plan on having solar panels on your van (a necessity in my humble opinion).
I personally have 400W of solar power on the roof and it allows me to be completely off-grid most of the year.
Here are the steps to installing a solar cable entry gland in your van:
1. Choose a bi-metal holesaw that fits your solar cable entry gland
A 5cm hole saw should be perfect
You will be cutting a hole in the roof with this holesaw and its important it doesn't overlap the cable entry!
2. Place the holesaw on the roof and trace it with a pencil
3. Drill a pilot hole in the middle of the traced circle and two more pilot holes close by on either side
4. Tape a piece of scrap wood to the top of the van to cover the three holes you just drilled
5. Hop onto the top of your van and screw down into the piece of plywood to secure it to the roof.
6. Attach the hole saw to your drill and drill into the van from the roof
N.B: We attached the plywood to the van to prevent the holesaw from wandering when we use it - they can be a little tricky to use in thin metal.
7. Apply metal paint to the exposed metal to prevent rust
Ensure you also clean all the metal shavings (swarf) off your van. If you don't you will have a lot of problems with rust in the future - they corrode quickly.
8. Apply sikaflex to the solar cable entry gland
9. Stick the cable entry to the roof (apply some pressure!)
And that's it! There are a few steps, but it's really quite easy.
Beware of the following when using a hole saw (N.B!!):
Use LOTS of oil on the metal you are cutting (WD40 will do) - you will destroy the hole saw if you don't
Use the drill on a low RPM (rotations per minute) - you will destroy the hole saw if you don't. This means that you shouldn't press your finger all the way down on the trigger of the drill
Pulsate the drill while you are cutting - you will destroy the hole saw if you don't. Use a stop and start motion while drilling, this gives the holes saw a chance to cool down (it gets very hot)
Learn from my mistakes; I bought a very expensive bi-metal holesaw and destroyed it within 5 minutes because I didn't follow the advice above.
Careful of the swarf:
When using mechanical tools on metal, a lot of metal shavings are produced ( known as 'swarf'). It is vital that you remove all these shavings from the van when you are finished, if you don't they will very quickly rust and damage your vehicle. They are quite sharp, so be careful when handling them.
Always wear goggle while using mechanical tools on metal; if swarf gets into your eye, it could have very serious consequences. You should also wear earmuffs - these tools are VERY loud!
I hope you found this guide to installing a solar cable entry gland useful! You are well on your way to a beautiful self-build campervan! Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion.
If you're converting a van but unsure of how to do it, you could also check out the Van Conversion Course on Udemy. In the course, you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!
Until next time,