Part four: Fitting electrics and LED lighting.
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.