Introduction: Custom Digital Clock From Wood and Jeep VIC

Picture of Custom Digital Clock From Wood and Jeep VIC

    I was trolling through the junkyard in the usual Jeep section awhile back and I came across the Grand Cherokees. I saw that almost everyone of them still had the vehicle information center display still in them. I seen online that these displays show the time and date among other things like issues with the vehicle and a top image of the jeep showing whats wrong. That's when it hit me; I'm going to make a clock for my room out of that!

There are two videos of the complete project below.

Step 1: Tools and Parts

Picture of Tools and Parts

        -- Jig saw 
        -- Power sander
        -- Wood glue 
        -- Hacksaw blade
        -- Wood 
        -- Soldering iron and solder

        -- Jeep VIC (vehicle info center) 93-97 Jeep grand cherokees ( $6 at junkyard)
        -- Wood for case. I used poplar wood from Lowes
        -- Wood stain and sealer
        -- Paint brushes
        -- switch (radioshack) $4
        -- power supply (scrap from work)
        -- any extra parts or pieces you come up with along the way

Step 2: Preparing the VIC Unit

Picture of Preparing the VIC Unit

  There's about twenty wires on this "clock", and I didn't know what wire went to what and I was sure more than two were needed to power it and also how much voltage and current was needed. I Googled images on it and found a schematic for the wiring. I put it in the images and marked what wires do what. After I found the right combo of wires I got a few plugs to try out. As I thought, it runs on twelve volts and after testing a couple power supplies on it, found out it pulls about two amps. I tried lower amp power supplies that worked but they just overheated really fast and I didn't want to risk it. I had a 2500ma plug that works perfectly and doesn't get hot. I'll explain what specific wires do what later on. 

  I needed to alter the VIC unit a lil bit to get the desired slim look of the wood case I wanted so the screw mounts and clips had to go. To get rid of these things I just took a hacksaw blade and cut them right off. Neatness is not necessary here as none of this will be seen. The only issue that I came across with this is now I don't have a way to secure the unit inside the case but that turned out not to be an issue once I designed the case parts which will be shown later on. 

Step 3: Cutting and Gluing the Wood Case

Picture of Cutting and Gluing the Wood Case

The wood I used was poplar wood because it's a light wood but really sturdy and has a good look to it. I set the unit on top of the wood plank and took a few measurements. I wanted to get the case as slim as I could to give it that sleek look. I used a battery powered jig saw to cut the wood since it was easy to use, but you can also use a circular saw. If you want to use that by all means do so. I cut the top and bottom piece at the same time. This saves time by not having to cut two pieces of wood and they will be the exact same. 
  I used only glue on this project because the thickness of the wood is very thin and I didn't want any nail or screw heads showing. The glue turned out to be very strong to where once it sat for 15 mins I couldn't get it to separate so I reckon nails weren't needed.
  The next thing I did was measure the quarter inch trim piece that will go on the front of the clock. I made it so that the longer pieces will go on the top and bottom of the clock so I cut them to those top and bottom pieces. I liked the way it recessed the face of the VIC and it also doubled as a way to keep it from falling out the front of the case. I then took some Gorilla wood glue and glued the trim to the pieces of wood and let them dry. I went and did this now to size up the next steps. 
  Place the clock on the bottom piece of wood and then place the top piece of wood on the top of the clock. Now we can see where the sides need to be measured and cut. I cut the sides with the jigsaw at the same time also. Before I went any further, I took the power sander and sanded all the edges of everything to smooth out any jagged cuts.

Step 4: Gluing Continued...

Picture of Gluing Continued...

  Once the pieces are all cut minus two front trim pieces, the cabinet can now be glued together. I glued one of the side pieces to the bottom part of the case with glue to start off. I then got a square half inch dowel that I bought from Lowe's (they come in 4ft sections) and I cut four pieces of them in two inch pieces. these will be used to strengthen the structure and give more bonding surface for the glue. If you wanted to use nails or screws, you would put them through these. 
  Place the clock inside the case in its place. I did this step now so I can find the place to glue the square dowel on. The dowel will be what holds the clock inside the case. The trim on the front holds it in place and these square dowels will hold it in place from the rear. The only downside once the case is all done is that if the VIC goes out there's no way to change it from the case, but... oh well.
  Wait about fifteen minutes for the glue to stiffen up a bit before you move on to the next side piece. Go ahead and glue the other side piece on and let it dry for a time. 
  If everything was glued properly and square, the top piece should fit on good and go ahead and glue it on also. Use the last two square dowels to secure the clock in the case by pushing them all the way against the clock and the sides just like the bottom two. You can refer to the images to see how I done it. Let the glue dry a bit before moving on, about 30 mins.

Step 5: Finish the Front Trim

Picture of Finish the Front Trim

  This was the hardest part of the build. The two top and bottom trim pieces should be glued on already. Now all that's left is the side trim. I measured the length of trim I needed and went ahead and cut it with the jigsaw. I placed it next to the clock and marked where I'll need to cut and angle the pieces. I made the initial cut with the jigsaw at a 45* angle. I then used a power sander to get my desired angle that I wanted which is the curved angle of the trim. I never done this before but I took my time and checked it against the case a bunch of times and it eventually looked good enough. I did this with the other piece too. Once the pieces are good, you can glue it in place. 
  Its ok to have the trim not even with the rest because it will be sanded down to even and smooth it out next. 

Step 6: Cutting the Back Cover

Picture of Cutting the Back Cover

  Take a piece of wood and measure and cut the back cover which will hold the switch and cover up the back. To cut the hole for the switch. I read the instructions on the back of the package and it said a 3/4 inch hole is needed to mount it. I used a 3/4 inch paddle drill bit to make the hole a quarter way on it. I also drilled a small hole for the power cord to go through.
  Feed the power supply wire through and tie the wire into a small knot on the inside so it wont pull out once the case is finished. Solder the negative wires together which were three different wires as marked in the schematic and then to the negative power wire. (Black, black/orange, and light green/ orange). Then tape it up and tuck it inside.
  Twist the three positive wires together but do not solder them yet. (red/white, yellow/green). Just push it through the switch hole to finish later. Go ahead and trim off the other wires on the harness since they wont be needed.
  Cut two more square dowels and glue them to the back sides of the side walls. Then glue the back cover on and let it dry.

Step 7: Sanding and Rounding Edges

Picture of Sanding and Rounding Edges

  The box is starting to look good now but its far from complete. It looks like something a ten year old would build at this point. We need to do some fine detail work now. Start by sanding the front area with the sander. This smooths out the wood and more importantly will even out the uneven wood. Im not sure what grit sandpaper it is but probably 220 or so. 
  Now perhaps the one detail that makes it look professional. Rounding the edges! Use the sander to slowly round the edges by working the sander up and down the edge and rolling it top to bottom. 
  Dont' forget to sand the entire case to smooth everything out!

Step 8: Prepping and Staining

Picture of Prepping and Staining

  Tape off the face with newspaper and masking tape so no stain or sealer gets on it. Go outside to stain the case because it stinks and isn't good to breathe. Start on the bottom with the color stain you chose to see if you really like it. I chose this color so it'll match my night stand and other bedroom furniture. Lowe's also sold spray paint versions of stain and sealer but that's totally up to you if you want that route or not. Staining the wood is pretty idiot proof. just get all the wood. You can put it on thick at first then just thin it out with the paint brush by running over a few times. I only put one coat of stain on as that's what the instructions recommend. Let it sit for about three hours to fully dry. 

Step 9: Sealing in the Awesome

Picture of Sealing in the Awesome

  The next thing to do after the stain is dry is to seal it to keep the color safe and to give it a shine. I put three coats of the semi gloss sealer on the case. The first coat looks like it doesn't do anything because its soaking into the wood but the next two start to give it a nice smooth shine to it. let it dry about two hours between coats.
  Remove the paper and tape once its dry or tacky enough to handle. The paper may be stuck to the wood like mine was because the stain and sealer dried to both. Just use a razor blade or knife to score the edges and it'll come right off.
  You don't have to do this next part but I got some car wax and polished the front screen on the clock to remove and seeped stain and to remove and scratches from its hard life in the Jeep it came from. It made it look new again. 

Step 10: Soldering and Mounting the Switch

Picture of Soldering and Mounting the Switch

  One last step to do is to solder the switch in place and install it. You should have the three twisted wires sticking out of the back. Twist the red/white stripe wire together with the remaining positive wire coming from the power supply. Go ahead and solder it to one of the switch posts on the back. the red/white wire will have a constant voltage to it so the clock can remember the time when its off as long as it stays plugged in. Kinda similar to a car radio. The yellow/green wire will be soldered to the remaining post by itself. This wire is what turns the display on and off. 
  The last step to do is to insert the switch into its hole and pull out any excess power supply wire to the knot you tied earlier. My switch fit into the hole nice and tight so I didn't use the provided nut to secure the switch earlier. 
  As a side note, as you can see from the pictures what a difference the camera flash makes on the color of the wood. The dark brown ones are without the flash and the more redder ones are with it. 

Your clock is now ready to fire up!

Step 11: Finished Clock

Picture of Finished Clock

Nothing left to do now but plug it in and fire it up. Mine always shows the miles left to service. If you wanted to you can reset it to 3000 miles by holding down the select button when its showing it. You set the clock by holding down the set button until the number blinks then you put the set button again to set the number. The select button moves it to the next one. Once its set the "rear lamp failure" cycles for about two minutes then it will go away and show just the time from that point on. Every time the clock is turned off and on again the "rear lamp failure" will cycle through but it will go off.
This display will also show 4 wheel drive modes also if you want them to. the top view of the jeep will have all four tires lit up instead of the back two and it can be wired to show "full time" or "part time" or "LO" on the bottom part of the display. It looked pointless to me to have those words showing on it. If you want them to just comment below and i'll tell you how to wire it for that. If its not done right, the display will just cycle "service 4 wheel drive switch".

I got the desired color stain I was looking for to match my nightstand and now just enjoy your new clock!


pikeymarks (author)2016-06-26

this is a much better use for this over engineered idot light/lube sticker/mis-information center

does it tell your washer fluid is low

"you've installed the wrong brake light bulbs "

florlayamp (author)pikeymarks2016-08-01

haha it tries to but gives up, it says brake light failure for about a minute when i first turn it on but it goes away until i turn it off and back on.

azudai96 (author)2015-02-24

this is great!! i own a 99 wj grand cherokee (with nore problems than a lada ;_;) and wanted to do something like this. ill take some tips and make one for sure! thanks man for the inspiration

florlayamp (author)azudai962015-03-02

For sure man, be sure to show us what you make!

94zj318 (author)2014-07-01

I would like one depending on how much you would want for one. If it'd save you money, I could try and pull a VIC from a Jeep at the pick 'n' pull... the VIC's were only good for time and date anyways.

florlayamp (author)94zj3182014-07-02

I'd love to build you one, I'm in the process of relocating for a new job so it would be awhile before I can start on it. The parts aren't expensive and I do have an extra VIC so that's ok, This one took a week on and off to build so I'm not sure what a value on the overall thing would be at the moment.

purpleleopard12 (author)2013-11-16


mos68x (author)2013-09-11

That is a very nice colored stain! I used it when I built my bed and the light in your photos unfortunately doesn't do it justice. It is a very beautiful stain and best photo'd in the sun lol

florlayamp (author)mos68x2013-09-11

Thanks, you're too right about the lighting on it. pictures, especially inside don't do it justice!

Ceiling cat (author)florlayamp2013-09-16

If you want it bad enough, you could build a separate alarm clock into it with an Arduino. That would allow for a lot of options for your configuration and button interface. It might even be possible to rework the circuit a little so that the buttons on the VIC go to the Arduino instead, which would detect their being pressed and then send the necessary info to the VIC to set the time. Then you could program the Arduino to also use the buttons with a sort-of macro (multiple buttons pressed at the same time) to set the alarm. Like you hold one button and press the other to set it. Though it looks like that's how you set the time. In that case you'd just need to add a small macro button on the back instead.

florlayamp (author)Ceiling cat2013-09-16

That'd be awesome, It sounds like you got the whole idea down for this.

Ceiling cat (author)florlayamp2013-09-28

Haha. Thanks. I'm just going off of what I've seen other people do in their projects on here. I've never used an Arduino, and I know almost nothing about coding. But I know it can be done. I'm just not the one to do it. lol

Ceiling cat (author)Ceiling cat2013-09-16

I forgot to mention:
The Arduino would have a speaker, or a piezo, or something attached to it for the alarm, and you'd have a alarm function programmed in.

Ceiling cat (author)Ceiling cat2013-09-16

I really love this idea though! Great job! I totally want to make one now, but we still use both our Grand Cherokees. Haha!

florlayamp (author)Ceiling cat2013-09-17

You're a Jeep family too? nice nice We have two XJ's and a CJ

Ceiling cat (author)florlayamp2013-09-28

Oh, gosh, yeah. We still have our '94 Grand Cherokee Laredo which my younger brother now drives. We also have another one that is currently sitting. It just needs a pretty simple repair, but we just don't really need it at at the moment. Then my mother drives an '03 or '06 Liberty, and my dad drives an '06 Commander. They're great, and I guess I'd say my family stands by them.

florlayamp (author)2013-09-15

There is a 1 and 2 connector VIC, I think you have the two connector VIC. I found a diagram on google that should help you. Pin #33 needs 12V+ to also power up

Grunambulax (author)florlayamp2013-09-26

I was able to use telephone butt connectors shortened and then crimped to the connections in back and then hot glued into place.

florlayamp (author)Grunambulax2013-09-26

Those work great by the looks of it, and that's a good way to work around not having a harness.

Grunambulax (author)florlayamp2013-09-17

This is brilliant! Thanks so much. I searched fruitlessly. I have not found a harness but I think I found a work around. I got what are essentially the little sleeves that fit into the harness. I plan to clip three off and attach them to # 1,2, and 33 and I hope, Voila!. I'll be sure to send you a picture of the completed project.

florlayamp (author)Grunambulax2013-09-17

Thanks, I'd love to see a pic when its done. Also, I'm not sure is pin #7 needs ground either, and you can put pin #33 on a switch like I did to turn the display on and off

Grunambulax (author)florlayamp2013-09-17

I wired it with the three wires to 1,2,33 and it powers up. I did not leave it on long enough for the emergency messages to stop but I watched your video and expect they will. I am able to work around the wiring harness but just barely. the pins are small enough that they don't really fill my pin connectors so I might either have to try to make the connector tighter (maybe put a piece of wire into it to reduce the diameter or directly solder to the pin. I hope to work on this in early October, so I will keep you informed. By the way, the cheapest offer I got from a junkyard for the harness so far was $25. Ouch. The VIC itself cost 21.99 with 10.99 shipping. If I'm lucky I'll come across one in a local junkyard.

florlayamp (author)Grunambulax2013-09-17

Hey that's great. It takes about 2 minutes for the error messages to go away on mine. I have two of the same ones. They both do that. When it comes to going to the junkyard to get a harness, Just snip it off with some wire cutters and off you go. Its stupid to charge you for something they don't know what it is other than some wires. It has no value to anyone but the person that wants it. Is that price you said from ebay or something? It's pricey on there. I look forward to see what you do with it.

florlayamp (author)florlayamp2013-09-15

The best place to get a harness is the junkyard, It shouldn't be hard to find one

jeepsg2012 (author)2013-09-16

So how do you wire it to show the 4wd? :)

florlayamp (author)jeepsg20122013-09-16

Well, It will say "full time", "part time", or "LO" when its in 4wd mode and the front tires on the diagram light up. To make the "full time" words come on you need the GY/OR wire together with the BK/TN wire, and both of those connected to ground. That should make that come on. If its wrong it'll just throw a 4wd error message. Let me get back with you on the other words. The wiring is tricky. haha

midnite17 (author)2013-09-13

I wish it was $6. I went and had to pay $32 at the junk yard. Found it in the last Jeep they had.

florlayamp (author)midnite172013-09-13

Ouch! That's quite a bit but still cheaper than the only guy on Ebay is selling them for

midnite17 (author)2013-09-13

Instead of giving the side trim pieces a rounded angle, you could cut both ends of all trim pieces to a 45* angle, but cut the side trim pieces in such a way that they slide behind the top and bottom trim. That way it reduces the gaps you can see in pic #3. It would also be easier to use wood putty, because it would be a smaller area to be filled.

florlayamp (author)midnite172013-09-13

I see what you're saying. That's a good way to do the trim pieces

Kasm279 (author)2013-09-12

Nice, VFDs!

ibwebb (author)2013-09-12

Very impressive. I have thought about doing this with an old radio I have I took out of one of my cars I had in the past (honestly cannot remember which one I took it out of or why I saved it. lol). Anyway, do you know of a way to hook up an alarm to it so that it can be an alarm clock? I have thought it over several time, but just cannot seen to come up with a way that would really work.

florlayamp (author)ibwebb2013-09-12

I've been trying to think of a way to add an alarm to it also, I don't know of any automotive parts that have a time related alarm on it. I considered scrapping an alarm clock and adding its parts to this one but I would have technically two clocks in the one case.

maniacse (author)2013-09-11

I'm thinking about something like this 3 or 4 years, but I have a whole panel from my old BMW E30 with clock instead of RPM meter.. But Im still thinking about battery supply (I have to measure power consumption first). So, great idea, and thanks for reminding me my old thoughts.. :)

florlayamp (author)maniacse2013-09-11

I know exactly what BMW panel you are talking about. I've seen them in the junkyard. That would look great sitting on display on desk or something.

psargaco (author)2013-09-11

Brilliant, it looks really good. If it had a radio alarm, then it would be perfect.

florlayamp (author)psargaco2013-09-11

I was thinking the same thing. I need to find a vehicle that has an alarm type thing built into its clock.

markpa (author)2013-09-10

very smart.and nice..... look and the t.i.d from gm opel ...

florlayamp (author)markpa2013-09-11

That looks like a nice display also. I like that fact that it goes to an Opel.

Jakob2803 (author)2013-09-11

It's trawling not trolling.

l19bal (author)2013-09-10

that looks absolutely beautiful! will definitely do this when i have time

florlayamp (author)l19bal2013-09-10

Thanks! I was amazed myself. I had no idea where I was going with this as I went along. It just ended up being what it is when I took a step back and looked. Please share your version with us when its done and let me know if you need help with the wiring or anything.

modipsu (author)2013-09-10

If you can get the Vic out jeep forum has an article about getting rid of those codes which may help

florlayamp (author)modipsu2013-09-10

Thanks for the advice. Those Jeep forums are great!

stumitch (author)2013-09-10


onemoroni1 (author)2013-09-10

Very nice re-purpose.

iOskr (author)2013-09-10

Great idea!!! thanks for sharing.

BigMrTree (author)2013-09-09

That's a really great clock!! Great job!! You should add a chrome JEEP emblem on the top of the wooden clock body!!

florlayamp (author)BigMrTree2013-09-09

I thought of putting an emblem on it actually. I was thinking about wood burning the word Jeep in with my soldering iron somewhere on it.

BigMrTree (author)florlayamp2013-09-09

That would be cool too!!

About This Instructable




Bio: I love building things, and I'm a twin, we both are electrical engineers and inventors. Feel free to ask anything else
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