Pro­ject Garage

Part four: Fit­ting electrics and LED light­ing.

Car Mechanics (UK) - - Contents -

Rob Hawkins needs power sock­ets and light­ing in his garage, so he calls in a qual­i­fied elec­tri­cian to help. Plus, he re­fur­bishes his old work­bench.

With the con­struc­tion and in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion of the garage com­plete, it was time to start think­ing about an elec­tri­cal sup­ply. Over the years of work­ing in­side a sin­gle garage, I’ve learnt that you can never have enough power sock­ets and light­ing. So I drew up a few plans for where to po­si­tion this equip­ment, bought plenty of it from my lo­cal Tool­sta­tion, then fit­ted it. The only job I wasn’t al­lowed to do was in­stall the wiring, so a lo­cal qual­i­fied elec­tri­cian was given this task.

I chose to fit noth­ing but LED light­ing, opt­ing for flu­o­res­cent-shaped bat­tens that prom­ise up to 7200 lu­mens. How­ever, I soon re­alised I could ben­e­fit from a cou­ple of flood­lights, es­pe­cially over the work­bench and the en­gine bay of a ve­hi­cle, so I sourced a cou­ple of these from Draper, which pro­duce an im­pres­sive 1950 lu­mens. These have made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

As for the power sock­ets, I made a rough cal­cu­la­tion for where the work­bench would be lo­cated and where most of the whee­larch- and sill-re­lated jobs would be con­ducted, as these would re­quire an an­gle grinder or drill. I quickly re­alised that I could have filled the garage with sock­ets at ev­ery con­ceiv­able point, so in­stead I’m an­tic­i­pat­ing that I may need to use an ex­ten­sion cord at times.

Se­cur­ing all this equip­ment, in­clud­ing light switches, re­quired sev­eral lengths of wood in some cases. I didn’t want to drill into the con­crete walls for fear of hit­ting any steel-strength­en­ers, so I chose to drill be­tween the pan­els, sink a few wall plugs, then se­cure lengths of wood on which to mount sock­ets, switches and any­thing else that needed

to be fit­ted. As for the LED bat­tens, most of these could be se­cured to the steel beams in the roof.

A con­sumer unit was fit­ted in­side the garage, close to where the new ca­bling came through, which is routed to my house and con­nected to the do­mes­tic fuse­box. In­side the garage, ca­bling had al­ready been fed through to the in­spec­tion pit, so when the elec­tri­cian ar­rived, he spent half-a-day wiring all of the lights, sock­ets and switches, leav­ing me to tidy ev­ery­thing up with plas­tic trunk­ing and ca­ble clips at a later date.

The new light­ing has proven to be highly prac­ti­cal, whether I’ve been work­ing on a ve­hi­cle or tak­ing pho­to­graphs. The power sock­ets are gen­er­ally in the right place, al­though I in­evitably al­ways find a new spot where an ad­di­tional socket would be use­ful. The light­ing in­side the in­spec­tion pit is dif­fi­cult to get right, es­pe­cially for pho­tog­ra­phy, where the low lights along the walls can cre­ate spots in the pic­tures. I’ve found that a cou­ple of the LED work­lights tested in the April 2018 is­sue have helped with this prob­lem.

On the bench

I was re­luc­tant to part with my trusty 7ft all-steel work­bench, which has plenty of space for a large vice and a pil­lar drill. How­ever, it was in a sorry state, hav­ing en­dured 20 years of abuse and paint thrown at it, so I de­cided to try strip­ping and re­paint­ing it. To my sur­prise, it worked. The step-by-step pic­tures (see left) re­veal all.

I’ve be­come in­creas­ingly con­cerned with work­ing safely over re­cent years – pos­si­bly a sign of get­ting old and re­al­is­ing that I’m not in­de­struc­tible! What­ever the rea­son, I de­cided to make sure I had plenty of equip­ment to keep me safe, so I spent a few hours look­ing through the Draper cat­a­logue and choos­ing ev­ery­thing from earplugs to safety glasses and even a hard hat. The hard hat might seem like overkill, but I’ve taken too many chunks out of my head when work­ing un­der­neath a ve­hi­cle, es­pe­cially in­side an in­spec­tion pit.

One as­pect of safety I’m al­ways con­cerned about is fire. Be­ing the owner of a clas­sic VW camper­van, which are no­to­ri­ous for petrol-fed fires, I’m wary of fight­ing a fire in the garage, should one arise. So I’ve in­vested in fire ex­tin­guish­ers and a fire blan­ket, and will be look­ing at fit­ting a fire alarm. I’ve also re­cently fit­ted a car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tor.

In­juries are in­evitable when work­ing on ve­hi­cles, so a first aid kit from Draper was or­dered along with an eye­wash sta­tion, even though I’m hop­ing I won’t need to use them. My only ac­ci­dent to date has in­volved me bump­ing into the first aid kit that’s mounted to the wall! I man­aged to knock the kit off its mounts, break­ing the part of the box that con­tains all the plas­ters, ban­dages and wipes, so I’ve had to re­fit it with a bungee to hold it all to­gether.

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