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How to Wire 12v Campervan Lights (Ultimate Guide)

In this guide you will learn how to wire 12v Campervan lights (campervan LED strip lights, LED puck lights, and LED lamps). You will even be able to control the campervan LED strip lights on your phone via bluetooth! By the end you will have a beautifully illuminated van!


I'm Shane, I've been teaching people to convert campervans for years; I'm the author of Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan, writer of The Van Conversion Newsletter, Instructor of The Van Conversion Course over at Udemy. And full-time vanlifer for 4 years!


Now let's jump in and see how to wire 12v campervan lights!

How to Wire a Campervan Switch Panel

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click a product link and buy anything from the merchant (Amazon, eBay, etc.) we will receive a commission fee. The price you pay remains the same, affiliate link or not. By using these links, you are helping me to continue writing free educational content!


Index

 

Note: Before we hop in, you will definitely want to grab yourself a wiring diagram which you can get for free by signing up to The Van Conversion Newsletter

 
Campervan Electrics Guide

Supplies list 🛒

12v campervan switch panel

12v rocker switch

Crimp connectors

Crimp connectors

For connecting wires

T-tap connectors

​T-tap connectors

For splicing one wire into another

heat shrinks

​Heat shrinks

For protecting wire connections after crimping


Heat gun

​Heat gun

For compressing heat shrinks on crimp connections

12v fuse box


12v dimmer switch

12v dimmer switch

Dimmer switch for the roof lights


12v LED lamp


12v LED puck lights


12v LED strip lights

LED strip lights

Bluetooth-controlled LED lights


LED strip light connectors

Strip light connector kit

For wiring strip lights in your van


Crimping multitool

Crimping tool

For crimping wires


Wire strippers

​Wire strippers

For stripping wires


Cable ties and adhesive mounts

Cable ties and adhesive mounts

For sticking wires to roof

DC 8 way splitter

​DC 8-way splitter

To connect puck lights together

What is an LED light?

An LED (light emitting diode) is a semiconductor that emits light when electricity flows through it. Electrons in the semiconductor combine, releasing energy in the form of photons. The colour of the light is determined by the energy required for electrons to cross the band gap of the semiconductor.

LEDs have many benefits over traditional incandescent lights, including: lower power consumption, longer lifespan, robustness, smaller size, and faster switching. However, for all their benefits, LEDs are generally restricted to low voltage and DC. This makes them perfect for van conversion lights!

Campervan 12v lights
Cosy lighting; @camperdreamin

What types of LED lights are used in campervans?

There are three types of LED lights typically used in campervans, those are:

In this article we will look at wiring led lights to a 12v battery for each of the three types above. We will also examine how to wire the campervan LED lights to a switch and the 12v light switch wiring diagram.


Wiring 12v campervan lights in series vs. parallel

A puck light has two wires extending from it: a positive and a negative.

12v LED puck light

There are many different ways to wire up puck lights, and while there is no one right way, wiring lights in parallel is generally preferred over wiring them in series.

There are two problems with wiring puck lights in series (daisy chained):

  1. If one light breaks, every light after that one will also turn off.

  2. Wiring LED lights in series can cause different lumens to be output from the puck lights. The first light will be the brightest and the last light will be the weakest. The effect is amplified as we add more lights.

One nifty device you can use to wire up all lights in parallel is a DC 8-way splitter (if you have 8 puck lights). It connects 8 wires into 1. You can just snip off the heads and wire it up to the lights.

However, while wiring campervan LED lights in parallel is preferred, it can cause a lot of extra wiring to be needed. Because of this, most people will opt for a mixture of parallel and series wiring.

Campervan lights wiring diagram

How to wire LED lights to a switch

In the previous campervan lights wiring diagram, the two LED puck lights in each set are wired in series. But the sets themselves are wired in Parallel.

For example, if the first light of the first set blows, the last two sets will still stay ON, but the second light in the first set will turn OFF.

As we can see from the diagram, we will be installing a dimmable switch for the puck lights. We install this after the fuse box. You can learn all about fuses and fuse sizing in this guide.

Note: You will want to purchase some dimmable LED puck lights; we will be looking at how to wire them to a 12V dimmer switch.


campervan electrical diagrams

How to wire campervan LED puck lights

Campervan puck lights
Beautiful overhead lighting; @chasingthewildgoose

Step #1: Lay the cabling

Laying wiring is one of the very first things you do in a van conversion; before touching any insulation or carpentry.

Before laying the cable you need to know where in the van you are going to put:

  1. The 12V lights

After you have decided where these things will go, go ahead and lay the wire. 0.8 mm² (18 AWG) wiring should do the job just fine (though you should do your own wiring measurements). Some people choose to run the wiring through conduit / split looming to keep it neat, others will keep the wires exposed. You can attach the wires to the metal surface of the van with cable ties and cable tie adhesive mounts.

wiring puck lights campervan roof
Puck light wiring attached to ceiling with cable ties

It is common to install 6-8 LED puck lights in the ceiling of the van. We run a Positive (red) and Negative (black) wire out to all the lights.

We can use T-tap connectors in two places in order to wire the puck lights per the wiring diagram provided. The T-tap connectors will allow us to wire the LED lights in parallel.

You can learn all about how to cut, crimp, and use T-tap connectors in this article on crimping.

Step #2: Wire the LED puck lights

We can attach the puck lights to the wire using crimp connectors.

  1. Strip back the wire insulator half an inch on both the puck light and the wire

  2. Add a male crimp connector to one wire and a and female blade crimp connector to the other wire

  3. Crimp the connectors down with a crimping tool

  4. Add a heat shrink on top of the connection to insulate the connection (Only do this after you have cladded/panelled your van are ready for the final installation)

Note: In a set of two puck lights in series, the negative of the first puck light runs into the positive of the second puck light.


Step #3: Wire the switch

Most people will want a 12V dimmer switch (like the one shown below) rather than a simple ON-OFF switch - so that's what we will look at here.

12V light switch wiring is quite simple: Positive and Negative IN (from the battery) are on the one side of the dimmer switch, the Positive and Negative OUT (to the puck lights) are on the other side of the dimmer!

Step 4#: Wire the switch to the fuse box

From the switch, the Positive and Negative IN will run to the 12V fuse box, which in turn runs to the bus bars and on to the leisure batteries.


How to wire LED strip lights in a campervan

Campervan LED strip lights
Expertly installed strip lights; @fogcampers

The second type of LED light we can wire in are campervan LED strip lights. I have two sets of LED strip lights in my van, wired to turn on in unison. I also have a bluetooth dongle that allows me to control the colour and brightness of the strip lights from my phone. So, let's look at how to wire that system up.

Like the puck lights, we will run positive and negative wiring from our fuse box out to where we expect the campervan LED strip lights to be.


How to wire 12v led lights to a switch

How to wire campervan LED strip lights

Step #1: Stick the strip lights

The strip lights have an adhesive strip along the back which allows us to stick them to almost any surface. I chose to install mine under the overhead cabinets.

Step #2: Install a switch

We install a switch (non-dimmable) after the fuse box and then wire up the strip lights in parallel.

Step #3: Cut the strip lights to length

You will need to cut the campervan LED strip lights to the desired length, which you can do at one of the cut points on the strip.

Step #4: Add strip connectors

After you have cut the LED strip you will need to add an LED strip connector to the end of it so that it can be wired up. These strip light connectors can easily be bought online.


Step #5: Install the connector dongle

We will be adding a bluetooth dongle to the end of each LED strip light so that we can control the colour and brightness from either a remote control, or from our phone. Plug the bluetooth dongle into the strip connector we just added at the end of each LED strip.

LED strip light bluetooth connector
Strip light bluetooth dongle

Step #6: Wire the Bluetooth dongle

Snip the end of the Bluetooth dongle off and rewire it. Run the Positive end to the switch, and run the negative end back to the fuse box. We can splice the Positives and Negatives of multiple strip lights together with T-tap connectors; this means the strip lights are wired in parallel.


Renogy Electrics

How to wire LED lamps

I installed two LED lamps (12V campervan lights) in my campervan; one in the kitchen, and one by the bed for reading. These are very straight-forward to wire up.

Run wire from the fuse box out to where the LED side lamps will be. We are wiring these lights in parallel, so splice the wires together using T-tap connectors near the switch panel.

We can then simply connect each side lamp to the wire using quick disconnects. Be sure to heat shrink the connection afterwards to secure it.

12v led lights flickering problem: How to fix it

Sometimes when the inverter (or other appliances) draws a heavy load (eg. to power a space heater), you will encounter a 12V LED lights flickering problem in the campervan. A larger, high quality pure sine wave inverter will help solve this problem. If the problem persists, you might consider running the inverter directly from the leisure batteries, rather than from the shared bus bar. This adds a degree of separation from the 12V appliances.

How to fix 12v led lights flickering problem

What size cable for 12V LED lights

To calculate the size (diameter) of wire needed in a system we need three variables:

  1. The length of the wire (distance to the appliance AND back)

  2. The amps the wire will be carrying (ie. the amp rating of the appliance)

  3. Acceptable voltage drop

Note: Voltage drop occurs when the voltage at the end of a section of cable is lower than at the beginning. Voltage drop normally occurs when there is resistance in current flow usually due to cables or connectors. For critical circuits we should use the value ‘3%’, for non-critical circuits (eg. LED lights), we can use the value ‘10%’.


With these three pieces of information we can consult the diagram on the following page. Given the length of wire, amperage, and circuit type, it will tell us the gauge of wire we will need. Alternatively, you could use the calculator at circuitwizard.bluesea.com


You can learn all about wire sizing in this guide. In most van conversions, you will use 1.5mm² (16 AWG) for 12V LED lights - though I encourage you to do your own wire sizing calculations.

12v dc wire size chart (mm²)

What fuse to use for 12V LED lights

After you have calculated what size cable is needed, you will need to find out what fuse to use for 12v led lights.


We use blade fuses for 12V LED lights; they are installed in a 12V blade fuse box.

Blade fuse kit

The rule of thumb in fuse sizing is that you should 'always select a fuse size to protect the wire according to its rating.' However, most amateur campervan builders should always size wires larger than they think they need. Most of us are not looking for maximum cost/weight efficiency, we are looking for maximum safety.

So, to calculate the fuse size, we should calculate the total amp rating of the appliance the wire is feeding and add on a 25% buffer. When we talk about the 'size' of a fuse, we mean its 'rated amperage' as mentioned above.

Example: Let's say we have eight 12V puck lights which are 3W each. The amp of each light would be 3W ÷ 12V = 0.25A. We have eight of them so: 0.25A × 8 = 2A. We want to give ourselves a 25% buffer, so we will choose a 2.5A fuse for this system.


Conclusion

And that's about it! Everything you should know about 12v campervan lights!


Don't forget to subscribe to The Van Conversion Newsletter for everything you need to get started with your own van conversion (I'll send you a free wiring diagram when you join).


If you're looking for some guidance with your van conversion, you might be interested in Roaming Home; The Comprehensive Guide for Converting Your Van Into a Campervan. In the 380-page book (or ebook), you'll learn directly from me how to convert a van into your dream home - no prior experience needed!

campervan book

Until next time,

Shane ✌️

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