Skills and tools required for self-installation
When buying aftermarket gear, do you ask: “Should I fit it myself or pay someone to install it for me?”
It depends on the complexity of the installation and any requirement to integrate with vehicle subsystems from a legal or safety aspect. Do you have appropriate skills, access to the right tools and the time to figure out a one-off installation of something you’ve never done before?
Self-installation avoids fitting costs and allows you to control the location and appearance of equipment and wiring to your precise requirements, needs and expectations.
Don’t get me wrong; most professional workshops do an excellent job of fitting the products they supply without any incidental vehicle damage.
However, fitters work to a tight time schedule and it’s not commercially viable to spend a day or two removing dozens of body fitment clips and panels installed in interlocking layers, to neatly mount that remote microphone in a cunningly unobtrusive position and run a show-car standard, fully concealed wiring harness.
If you want the visual pleasure and viscerally satisfying Colorbond moment of a perfectly elegantly fitted accessory, be prepared to spend plenty of weekends fiddling and adjusting as universal brackets almost never line up to your particular vehicle.
You’ll also need an array of tools, sound mechanical and/or electrical knowledge, plus access to a full machinery workshop to bend custom nifty brackets is invaluable.
By and large, instructions for how to fit after-market equipment vary from excellent (for universal fit, high volume international products such as driving lights and radios) to absolute appalling makes-no-sense-at-all rubbish from companies that don’t properly tailor instruction guides for different makes and models.
Many companies assume only workshops with the resources and capability to work things out for themselves will install their products. They discourage DIY enthusiasts who are more likely to complain that having spent good money they expect a professional product, including detailed instructions.
Each product varies in complexity and difficulty to fit. Some difficulties are physical — lifting a long-range tank into position is easier when the vehicle is mounted on a hoist. If lying on your back in the garage, plan ahead and con a strong mate to come over with the promise of a post-installation barbecue.
Fitting storage drawers and cargo barriers is like a big Meccano set — ours came with the jigsaw puzzle frustration of missing bolts and instructions that partially related to our vehicle but had guidance photos for a totally different make of vehicle.
Installing driving lights or a CB radio needs some auto-electrical nous to avoid blown fuses or frustrating non-operation. Older vehicles with simple wiring harnesses are the best place to get your L-plates as they don’t have sensitive engine management systems or complex multiplexing CAN bus data -transfer cabling.
Without time and patience, a solid understanding of your vehicle’s systems, an effective tool kit and the skills to use those tools, leave it to the professionals and be prepared to pay a little more for any special custom installation. Otherwise you might end up spending far more than you saved.
© The West Australian
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