To make the installation of a DCDC charge controller easier, KickAss also offers a wiring kit with the required components to finish the installation of a controller in a literal snap. Yep, snap two wires together and connect the other end to your starter battery. Voila!
The wiring kit includes 8 gauge cable, pre-wired and weatherproof fuses, pre-crimped Anderson connectors, and a handful of spares to make it easily adaptable to your specific installation. It is genuinely a one-stop shop for all the components you’ll need to connect the charger to your car and go, and they’ve taken the work of pre-installing the Anderson crimp ends for you. While this might seem like little stuff, consider it this way — if you don’t already have the tools needed to install that crimp ends, you might spend $30-50 just to buy the tools to do that crimp yourself, never mind the cost of the raw parts. Save your money and headaches, opt into the pre-wired kit and get back to the trails faster.
KickAss vs Renogy vs Redarc This review would be incomplete if I didn’t spend a moment comparing the KickAss charge controller against the other most prominent choices in the US market - the Renogy and Redarc controllers. While there are other options, those two are the most well-known, so that’s what I’ll compare against.
KICKASS VS RENOGY
The Renogy options for battery controllers are a little cheaper than the KickAss product, but when you dissect the product, you’ll see there are a number of differences that make up this price difference. For starters, the Renogy kit does not come pre-wired, and their documentation for wiring the system is not nearly as friendly for a novice installer. Time is money, and a few hours spent wiring a Renogy controller will offset the cost savings very quickly. Secondly, the Renogy controller is not IP67 rated, meaning it’s not designed to handle the abuses of off-road and overland travel. If you have a motorhome that never gets off pavement and you don’t expose to the elements, then maybe this isn’t important to you. But I do care about this — even if I don’t intend to spray a hose into the back of the Jeep and soak the controller, having the rating says something about the quality of construction and components, and that gives me peace of mind as I bump down the trail. I have been caught with the windows down and Jeep freedom panels off during a rainstorm, and I don’t want those moments to ruin all my electronics. Finally, the user interface on the KickAss product is far more friendly, allowing you to quickly set the battery type and see the current charging status. In my mind, all of these benefits for the KickAss controller make up the price difference.
KICKASS VS REDARC
Redarc, another Australian-made product imported into the United States, is arguably the biggest competitor in the current market to KickAss. The DCDC charger offered that is most similar to the KickAss version comes in a little cheaper, but is far more similar to the KickAss one in terms of functionality and features than the Renogy offerings. You have to dig a little deeper to pick out the differences in capabilities, but the most notable ones are again the friendly user interface on the KickAss model, and the fact that it comes pre-wired. Again, it’s up to you to decide what the value of a plug-and-play model is to you, but for me, that time savings is worth the extra cost.
Redarc does offer a higher-end product line that incorporates additional features not seen in the KickAss product line, but those products are not fair to compare given the vast difference in features and price. Installation To integrate our Kick Ass battery and controller into our 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon, we opted for a DIY box to house the components. This box, made from 10 series extruded aluminum, was designed to hold everything needed in one spot and integrates nicely with our Goose Gear drawer storage system. If you are interested in reading more about how we built this box — dubbed the InPowered Adventures module
— then check out this post
where we walk you step-by-step through the setup. Likewise, Jeep-specific install instructions can be found in that post. Installation of the KickAss DCDC Charger with MPPT Controller was a snap. The most difficult part of the installation involved routing the wiring from the engine bay to the controller, which is located in the trunk of our Jeep.
I wanted to make all the wiring clean and hidden, so I spent a few hours on my creeper under the Jeep routing the wiring under the frame, through a drain hole, above the gas tank, and using zip ties to make sure nothing could get caught or snagged on the trail. For our install, we took advantage of the external ignition switch wire on the controller by running an additional wire to the fuse box under the hood. Using a fuse tap, I located a fuse controlled by the ignition and connected the wire. Thankfully Jeep’s manual instructed which fuse was ignition powered, but if you do not know, use a voltmeter to check some of the fuses in your vehicle. Remember, you want an ignition-controlled fuse - not one that can be powered by the accessory set. Because of the variety of fuses on the market and the diversity of sizes, KickAss does not include a fuse tap in their wiring kit — so do a little research and order the fuse tap you need from an automotive shop. For the Jeep JL Wrangler, I used fuse 52, which is for the front cigarette lighter, and it requires a micro 20amp fuse tap.
We also set up the optional external LED feature for our KickAss controller. Again, you’ll have to supply your own wiring because there are endless install options here, but it cost less than $10 in parts to add this LED to our setup. We got a small green LED from Amazon
and wired it into the controller via the external LED wire. We then mounted that LED on the front passenger side grab handle. This was an ideal location — it is out of the way enough that it won’t distract me while driving yet it remains visible in the corner of my field of view.
The LED essentially mirrors the “charging” light on the controller itself - it flashes to let you know when the system is charging. There’s no other information conveyed via the light, but it’s still worth wiring up so you can have a sense of what is happening in the trunk while you are focused on the trail. Depending on where you place the controller relative to your starter battery, that part of the installation is likely to be the most time-consuming. So it was a relief when I finished and the rest of the installation required connecting a few Anderson cables together. These connectors literally snap fit, so the rest of the process was a breeze. In our case, we added an external battery monitor to the setup as well. Since we mounted the controller in a place that isn’t readily visible, having an external monitor is a nice way to keep an eye on the battery. Again, depending on where you choose to mount the controller, this may be less relevant to you. However, since we did add an external monitor, we did have to wire the negative wires for our various accessories through a shunt, which added a little extra install time. With all of the wiring done, it was time to connect our loads to the battery. We have the following accessories connected to the battery:
- Light strip in the tailgate/camp kitchen
- Lighting in our rooftop tent (switched so that wire is only hot when we are using the tent)
- Our Dometic CFX-35 fridge (via the Dometic hardwire kit)
- External accessory USB and 12V cigarette ports
If we had only done the most basic installation, it would have taken only a few hours, because KickAss made the installation so easy by pre-wiring components and with the extra wiring kit. I would highly recommend the additional wiring kit to speed up the installation on your own build. In our case, the installation turned into an all-day affair, because we used this opportunity to run 25ft of wiring into our rooftop tent so that we would no longer be hauling battery packs into the tent to power our lights, fans, re-charge iPhones, etc. This wiring was a little more involved since we had to drill a hole through the roof of the car, route the wiring, install fuses, etc. None of it was particularly difficult, but it was time-consuming to get it done just right — again, check out this post
if you want to know more about our specific installation to copy it yourself.