Introduction: DIY - Kawasaki USB Smartphone Charger Install
Many new models of motorcycles from Kawasaki now (finally!) come pre-setup for accepting a "bolt-on" charger. While installing a USB Charger (or 12v port) isn't all that complicated of an install on any motorcycle, it can be hard to locate a suitable location (including fairing cutting), as well as finding a switched 12v wire (which turns off when the vehicle is off) with sufficient current capability. Kawasaki now takes care of the electrical and location part of the equation for us. The only thing left is to install the thing, so let's do it!
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Tool Requirements: 2 out of 5
Time: 2 Hours
Working on any vehicle can be risky to both yourself and the vehicle. No warranties or guaranties, explicit or implicit, are made or implied regarding the compatibility, suitability or effect on any current warranties. All modifications should be made within the reader's capability and under their own exclusive responsibility.
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Step 1: Which Bikes Does This DIY Apply To
While this installation is being done on a 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS, we can be presume that the process will be either identical or extremely similar for most of Kawasaki's new models accepting the same part. This includes, but is not limited to, the following models:
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS KRT Edition
- 2015-2017 Versys 650 ABS
- 2015-2017 Versys 1000 ABS
- 2015-2017 Versys 1000 LT
- 2015-2017 Versys 650 LT
- 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
- 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS
2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS KRT
We can take for granted that future models of many of these bikes (and/or other models from Kawasaki) will also be compatible.
Step 2: What You'll Need
The following links are to either Amazon or Ebay. Whenever possible, I'll try to link the site with the lowest price, best service and free shipping; to help make things easier if you try to follow the project.
- 12v Port: The hole in the motorcycle's fairing will fit most (if not all) standard 1-1/8" (2.85cm, roughly) dash panel mount devices. That's the diameter of your average "cigarette lighter" port. That will give you plenty of options regarding what to install there. That includes, but is not limited to, 12v direct ports/Cigarette lighter, USB Chargers, Battery Monitors, Switches, etc. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this DIY I think the two best options are:
MICTUNING 4.2A Dual Port USB Charger with Voltmeter: These days, I wouldn't go with anything less than a Dual Port USB charger, with at least 2A per port, and an integrated voltmeter. The voltmeter can prove invaluable to let you know why the bike won't start, or if the voltage is so low you should charge it right away. It also helps out with alternator diagnosis, too. There just isn't really any benefit to not having one. If you want to see if Ebay has it cheaper, or other options, click here.
BlueFire Waterproof Cigarette Lighter Socket + Charger: If you simply want a standard 12v cigarette port so you can plug in whatever device you like best, this is a decent option. One benefit is being able to use higher quality chargers, swap broken chargers, or being able to plug other devices in. However, since this wire is switched, you won't be able to charge your bike's battery through this port (which reduces the usefulness), and with the tiny 5A or under fuse, you won't be able to power devices like a tire air pump. Plus, you lose the waterproofness with the charger installed. I'd personally just pick the unit with the integrated USB ports, which is what you'll use most these days.
16 Gauge Speaker Wire: You can get away with less (thicker will probably be a bigger inconvenience), but 16 Gauge is a nice thickness for a project like this. Speaker wire is good since it's color coded and binded together. You probably already have some, somewhere, but if not a roll is great to have around.
Bullet Terminals: Another component that you probably have a few units of, somewhere, but if not an assortment is useful. Since I wasn't quite sure of the bullet connector size, I bought a set for this project. It ended up being your more or less standard, 4mm diameter bullet connector. You'll need one male, and one female to connect to the motorcycle.
Spade Connectors: Just about any DIYer with a garage has an assortment of these laying around. You'll need two female connectors of these for the charger side.
*Extra - Phone Mount Charger for Motorcycles: In this case I wired a second USB Charger plus phone mount for redundancy. Eventually all chargers end up failing, so this way I at least have a backup. Plus, these are just as good as the Ram Mounts in my experience.
*For Versys - Relay Kit: If you're installing on a Versys, you'll also need the Kawasaki Relay kit, too.
Tools and Supplies - (Within parenthesis means optional)
Since people tend to end up wondering what I used, I'll try to include links for everything just in case. Most of this you'll already have, or you won't want to use. But at least the list helps you find everything in your garage before starting the project.
(Soldering Iron): I really like this unit because of the long cable (great for working on vehicles), adjustable temperature, and On-Off switch.
(Ratcheting Terminal Crimper): This is a must-have for automotive electrical work. It's the only right way to crimp terminals. If you get one, make sure it includes multiple jaws. The one I use (albeit a little expensive - but worth it) is this one.
Kawasaki Original Part - DC Power Outlet - 99994-0485
While we should definitely be grateful for Kawasaki to finally include an OEM location for the power outlet, their OEM part is ridiculously overpriced and should hardly be considered. Their component has an MSRP of 84.95$ and is no better than any outlet you can find in the discount bin of your local AutoZone. The only benefit is that it comes with the wiring harness pre-made, but that's a sub-1$ part with standard components that most of us will already have. Nonetheless, if you would to see the part:
If you would like to see the OEM installation instructions for the part, click here.
Step 3: Remove the Fairings
Sadly, you're not going to be able to install this with the fairings in place. The first step is to remove the side fairings. While you should be able to complete the project with just the side fairings removed, it's very little extra effort to remove the headlight, so you might as well remove it too, if you have the time and patience to do so. It will make your life easier later on.
Step 4: Remove the Panel Blank and Test Fit the Charger
You'll need a phillips screwdriver to remove the single screw holding the dash panel blank in place. Remove it and push the blank out the front.
This would also be a great time to just confirm that the charger you have is the right size. Test fit it and make sure you're satisfied.
Step 5: Find the Wiring
Confirm that your bike has the wiring to power the socket. It's already fused upstream, so you shouldn't have to worry about adding a fuse here (but it wouldn't hurt, either). The connectors are 4mm diameter bullet connectors, which are the standard ones. The female bullet connector (pictured with the green sleeve) is the positive (+12v), whereas the male bullet connector is Ground (0v, or "connection to chasis). Do not connect them together! That would be a short circuit and a blown fuse.
Step 6: Make the Harness
You'll need a short stretch of wiring to connect the cables from the bike side (bullet connectors) to the spade connectors on your charger. The wire only needs to be 3-6 inches long, to your preference.
Personally, I like tinning the wire before attaching the crimp connectors since it helps make a more mechanically secure connection, and I imagine would also help keep the wire from wicking up water (to a small degree). I'd recommend most people do the same if they have a solderer on hand. This is debatable however (and very controversial, oddly enough), so it's by no means obligatory.
In my case, I decided to wire two chargers in parallel. I don't intend to use them simultaneously (I doubt the bike's wiring is designed to take it), but since I have had plenty of motorcycle USB Chargers fail me in the past (water gets into the port, bend the connector, random spontaneous death) this time I decided to install a backup charger. That way I can use whichever one suits me better. Plus, to my surprise the X-Grip Phone holder that came with it is just as good (if not better) than Ram Mount's version. The ball connector arm is metal (Ram Mount's is plastic), the size of the X-Grip is better suited for my smartphone (it doesn't touch the power/volume buttons), and it doesn't wobble (When gripping something, Ram Mount's design wobbles due to poor design). After finishing the project, I'm glad I decided to do this. If you don't want to (which is fine), just don't add the white male connector.
You'll have to add a male and female bullet connector to the wire to connect to the bike. On the cable your making, the male connector will connect to the +12v female bullet connector on the bike side, and the female connector on the wire side will connect to the male ground 0v bullet connector on the bike side.
Once you're sure everything is right, crimp the connections.
Step 7: Test to Make Sure It Works
Wire it up, without yet installing everything in place, and make sure it works.
Step 8: Install Permanently
Once tested, install everything in place, organizing the wiring and tightening things up. I'd recommend putting a dab of dielectric grease on all the electrical connections to help with waterproofing.
Step 9: Extra - Current Test. So You Don't Have To.
When using a smartphone on a motorcycle as a GPS (brightness maxed out for sun glare) and music player (for the Sena bluetooth Intercom), your phone's current draw is going to be as high as it can be. With most budget chargers, you'll be lucky if you can maintain battery charge. Not all chargers will actually be able to charge your phone while you're using it this way. And the same applies to charging cables, which is why I test my chargers and cables before putting them in use to make sure I have a properly working pair.
Here I used a DROK LCD Pocket Digital Multimeter USB and a DROK Micro Load Tester Board along with a high quality Anker PowerLine+ Micro USB (3ft) to make sure that both chargers lived up to their claims of 2 Amp charging current. The X-Grip charger passed flawlesly (though I wouldn't recommend even a bit over 2 Amps, as it was getting toasty), whereas the MicTuning went in to over-current protection mode and would not power up the test board. It may have been due to some USB protocol issue, since it didn't want to turn on even when the test board was set to lower current draw.
The conclusion is that the X-Grip charger is probably a more brutish charger with less self protection, but it will put out the 2 Amps. I guess the MicTuning might be able to put out 2 Amps on a single port, if your lucky, but I think it's designed to go into protection mode at around that amperage. Whether or not that matters in the real world is up to debate. The most my Samsung Galaxy S5 wanted to take in was 1.20 Amps, which is a decent charging current. I would have liked to see more, but it's hard to know if that's due to the charger not being able to output more, or my phone simply not wanting or needing to charge faster. In any case, in the real world an output above 1 Amp is pretty acceptable.
While the quality of a charger (read output) is more important than the quality of a cable, it's also easier to pick out the good chargers then it is to pick out good charging cables. Not all USB cables can put out 2 amperes.
In my experience, half the time my phone isn't charging quick enough, it's because of a free, no name charging cable. I definitely recommend testing any cables before putting them in to use for high current draw applications like this. You'd be surprised how many cables are out there that won't go above .7 amps even when the charger can perfectly output it.
Step 10: Enjoy!
Well that's it!
I hope it was helpful, and that the setup will last you plenty of miles to come. If you pulled off the project, please indulge me and post a picture below (at least so I know my time writing this up wasn't a waste).
Anyway, thanks for reading!
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