Introduction: How to Install a Custom USB Charger in Your Motorcycle

This is "How to Install a USB Charging and 5 volts DC power circuit in your Motorcycle."

I wanted more power in my charger, and I wanted the flexibility to do more with it like hook up a Raspberry Pi... so, here is this instructable on how to get it started and installed.

Some highlights of my install:

- Custom cabling was made with CAT5 (white) and used the TIA-568B standard
- Allows charging at the triple clamp and in the trunk

[NOTE: 12/5/15 I've finally continued to document my work and share it on Instructables. My charging circuit is not home grown anymore. I currently run 3 of these on a BMW S1000RR. These chargers are plenty for a Raspberry Pi, a screen, an iPhone, etc... my work is focused on getting new technology to work on mobile, not creating something that I can find off the shelf for a reasonable price. I decided to save time and install these instead. I wired them up to the battery, put two in the trunk and one by the triple tree. I had to install an extension by soldering it and using heat shrink to protect the solder points.]

Step 1: Why Would You Want a USB Charger on Your Motorcycle?

1.  To charge you Android or iOS Smartphone!

2.  To charge your GoPro, but I would personally rather use a Raspberry Pi  ;-)

3.  To power your Raspberry Pi!

4.  To power your Radar or GPS

In my setup we do not use an inverter or those small USB chargers that plug into a cigarette lighter socket.  Instead, we use a DC-DC converter (DC to DC converter) that provides 5VDC + at up to 3A.    

This allows us to more than enough power and allows us to efficiently, and reliably have a 5VDC charging circuit on our motorcycles.

In my experience the little adapters you buy at retail tend to fail after a while.  This setup has proved more reliable and efficient.

Step 2: Tools Needed to Install USB Charging and 5vdc Power in Your Motorcycle Using the TIA-568B Standard With CAT5 Cabling and Connectors

If you want to do a nice job and want  a quality finished product, then you must have the right tools.  Learning about stripping and crimping CAT5/CAT6 is something that takes some practice.  With the right tools, everything becomes much simpler. 

Tools Required:

- CAT5 Crimper
- CAT5 Stripper (Orange)
- Shears (Scissor)
- Wire Strippers
- Small Screwdriver set
- Needle Nose Pliers, curved are advantageous but not necessary.
- Voltmeter
- Soldering iron

Step 3: Parts List for Mobile Charger...

(1) DC-DC Converter 12vdc - 5vdc (Meanwell SKE15A-05 accepts 9-18 volts in and outputs DC 5V 3A)
(1) Perf board
(2) CAT5 Female RJ45 Jacks
(1) Approx. 15ft CAT5 cable, white or whatever is your preference or within your budget...
(1) about 5 inches of solder
(2) Female USB Jacks (from Jameco)
(1) Mini Fuse Holder (from Jameco) make sure to get fuses at 3A or higher

NOTE:  I tried the Meanwell SCW12A-05 (from Jameco as well) but it did not give me a solid 5 volts out so I upgraded my setup to the more reliable SKE15A-05.

Step 4: Prepare Your Circuit/idea/materials... for the Build of an Awesome Mobile Charger

It's best to be organized said the grasshopper...

Start with laying your materials out in an organized fashion, this is important to get a nice circuit with minimal frustration.

I layed out everything on a table first:

- DC-DC Converter
- Perf Board
- USB Connectors
- CAT5 RJ45 Female Jacks

This allows me to get a visual of what my circuit will look like in the end.  It also allows me to temporarily test the circuit (with tape if need be) or with jumper wires.  

As I am going along prototyping I constantly take measurements to ensure I have a good fit, especially since we are doing this on a motorcycle with limited space.

I do this many times before I am done, even though it takes longer but it will be worth it said the grasshopper.

Step 5: Start Soldering, Stripping & Crimping... Solder Your 5v DC Circuit So You Can Have Some Fun on Your Motorcycle ;-)

Never mind the terrible picture of the TechShop soldering iron, this Weller is an awesome adjustable soldering iron and I turn it up to 700 degrees when I get ready to solder, it gives me a nice fast steady flow of solder.

Proper crimping is essential, and this requires proper stripping of the cable as well.  I use two pair of CAT5 wires for each conductor (positive and negative.)

For the connectors I use standard automotive type crimp connectors to go to the battery.  For the back of my circuit I solder everything by putting my DC-DC converter on a perf board and then attaching wires to the back.

For the USB connector I bought dual connectors from Jameco and only soldered the negative and positive leads (pins 1 and 4.)  If you are charging an iPad or iPhone you may need to add some voltage at pins 2 & 3 (more on that later, iPhones require a voltage on the data pins to charge.)

Step 6: Install the Charger in the Trunk and Connect to Battery

Here you can note that I used the proper automotive type ring connectors that are crimped on.  It's best to get the proper connections so that your circuit works right the first time and more importantly so that everything is safe.

In my circuit I  wired the connectors straight thru with the TIA-568B standard for CAT5 cabling.  This worked out nicely and I can easily cross connect power in my circuit with a normal store bought CAT5 cable (but I make my own so I can make custom lengths that are just right for the motorcycle.)

Step 7: Completed Custom Charger for Motorcycle or Mobile

When you are done you will have a custom charging circuit with 4 USB outlets, 2 in the front under the handlebars, and 2 in the trunk.  You can decide how many USB ports you want for your setup, I just like having flexibility for expansion.

From here you can integrate the USB ports into any custom molding or enclosure.  I simply heat shrank the USB connectors after I soldered the power leads from the CAT5 cable.  The heat shrink for this had to be at least 5mm in diameter.

For the trunk I ended up cutting out a box on the laser cutter that would hold the DC to DC converter, and a fuse.  I cut this out of clear acrylic and added the Suzuki GSX-R logo.  It sits under the seat so you don't really get to see it, but that's just the way I like it.


P.S.  I will promise to improve this instructable with more detail, comments are encouraged as I hope some people are able to make these on your own.  Good luck and remember, if you got tape on it it ain't done yet, or uhh maybe it's a prototype...

Step 8: Advanced Topics

Here are some ways to use CAT5

- for servos

- for Micro USB cable

- for Lightning Cable

- for LEDs


ImanZ5 (author)2016-08-22


I am curious why you use Raspberry Pi on your moto?

hitekmike made it! (author)ImanZ52016-08-23

Hello Iman25, Thanks for your question this is a good question, I ask myself the same question sometimes.

I really enjoy using the Raspberry Pi for prototyping, right now it's my favorite but there are new boards with more power so I might try something else soon. I enjoy making things customized for my specific need. Sometimes the need is accomplished better with something off the shelf. (actually in most cases... ) but I do it anyways to see if I can come up with a final product that is better and offers more of an all in one solution. I'd like to work with OBDII and log the data from my BMW S1000RR for example, while tracking the GPS signal...

I suppose at the end of the day I could just go to Best Buy and buy a GoPro and a GPS from Garmin but where would the fun be in that? :-)

I have currently have 4 GoPros on my bike (with 3 USB chargers connected to the battery), 2 Mini Jamboxes, I use the iPhone for GPS data logging, and I have a bluetooth connected to the OBDII via iPhone App but I still find prototyping with the Raspberry Pi more fun. I plan on using a long cable for the Pi cam to conceal it somewhere a GoPro would not fit. I'm also planning to build a shroud to integrate a screen into the tank cover.

Maybe someday I'll make something useful enough to share with others.

rbailey19 (author)2014-06-03

Any chance of a schematic???

hitekmike (author)rbailey192016-08-23

Still want a schematic? :-o

MilanW1 (author)2016-04-16

Small question, I want to charge my smartphone (Huawei Ascend Y530) on my motorcycle with 4AH capacity. How long will the battery last when I keep it plugged in?

Thanks in advance!

hitekmike (author)MilanW12016-05-21

Hello, thanks for your question. Well, I didn't do any calculations for your battery, but I believe my current battery is 7AH. There are some things to consider besides the AH capacity, like the temperature. I find that in the cold temperature while the bike has not been ridden much yet there will be less capacity available.

If you are running the motorcycle on the ride you will be charging your battery so there should be no significant loss. This means you should be able to charge it all day if you are riding the motorcycle.

hitekmike (author)MilanW12016-05-21

Hello, thanks for your question. Well, I didn't do any calculations for your battery, but I believe my current battery is 7AH. There are some things to consider besides the AH capacity, like the temperature. I find that in the cold temperature while the bike has not been ridden much yet there will be less capacity available.

If you are running the motorcycle on the ride you will be charging your battery so there should be no significant loss. This means you should be able to charge it all day if you are riding the motorcycle.

BrianL159 (author)2016-05-10

This looks interesting, but I'm really struggling to understand the merits of using CAT5 solely for power distribution, especially in an environment regularly subjected to the elements and high vibration.

First off, you reference the TIA-568B standard, but that is a communications standard and I don't think it addresses power distribution at all. More importantly, using multiple strands together to carry current will allow for less of a voltage drop, but introduces greater failure points - for instance, if just one signal strand breaks it will reduce your effective wire gauge without providing any notice of such.

It seems to me that a better method of distributing power would always be a single pair of stranded wire (insulated, or course). This can be made just as modular as CAT5 by using any form of standard male/female connectors, such as the SAE connector (my preference for automotive/motorcycle use). I'd love to hear the justifications for contrasting opinions, though!

hitekmike (author)BrianL1592016-05-21

Hello Brian, thanks for the questions.

Let me start off by saying that Iately I do not use CAT5. Once I finish my project I use the appropriate gauge and only what I need for a clean install.

As for using CAT5 and the TIA-568B standard I stand by this 100%. You can use any standard you want (just as in telecom, as long as you know what you have on both ends.) Many people have already memorized the standard so it's a no brainer. One huge benfit is that if you need to extend a run and don't want to crimp your own cable you can just go to the store and but a cheap off the shelf CAT5 cable... The assortment, reliability, size of the connectors and cross connects in CAT5 works better for me than SAE.

If you are worried about breaks in using multiple strands just use more strands. I've seen 24vdc and I believe 48vdc going over long distances with this method for POE on cameras.

AlanH42 (author)2015-11-16

connected this to my rear light/tail light and it shows my phone is connected but when I am running my GPS on my phone, it's not charging, it's draining. Any ideas? not enough power?

hitekmike (author)AlanH422015-11-23

I tried one of the other Meanwell DC-DC converters because this one was only giving me about 4.6volts. What is the voltage you are getting? And what kind of connectors did you use?

hitekmike (author)hitekmike2015-11-23

If you don't need more than 2AMPS per USB socket try this:

AlanH42 (author)AlanH422015-11-16

By "draining" I mean it's just running on the phone battery

tgeliot (author)2015-08-18

This would be much more helpful if you told us how to wire up the voltage regulator component. Also, why CAT5 cable rather than just cheap stranded wire from Home Depot?

hitekmike made it! (author)tgeliot2015-09-01

So..., thanks for your patience. I believe this is the datasheet:

(with the datasheet you would have enough to make a schematic)

I need more time to make you guys a nice schematic, but I will include some pictures of my prototype today. I've been out of DIY for some time, but I am starting back up on a new project on a BMW S1000RR which I will share.


Good question, I can give you so many reasons why. I'll give you just a few to get you started. Please keep in mind that I don't always use CAT5. It depends on the purpose and need for extra leads.

1. Modularity

2. Cheap, easy to find (free for many IT guys)

3. Connectors allow for easy removal or modifications without a screwdriver

4. More leads in a single wire

5. The sheath on the CAT5 provides insulation and in most cases looks better (white CAT5 looks great,) but for some projects you can find just about any color (e.g. Hot Pink) to dress it up. It's more about a neat appearance when you have multiple leads, for example if you plan to add sensors to an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi

hitekmike (author)hitekmike2015-09-01

by the way, this is referred to as a DC-DC converter not a regulator. I believe you can Google some differences.

Neelg (author)2015-07-03

I dont understand proper circuit connections Can u please mention the circuit diagram

bryan.reid.585 (author)2015-04-20

About to head out on a long road trip in a month. Was thinking of installing an charger for my Samsung 5S and iPad... any chance on getting a shematic & parts list?

hitekmike (author)bryan.reid.5852015-04-23

I am working to update my instructables with schematics. Which part are you more interested in? Check this out:

bryan.reid.585 (author)hitekmike2015-04-23

Hey that's great... thanks for the lead.

Honus (author)2013-12-17

Very cool!

hitekmike (author)Honus2015-04-23


avijayakumar2 (author)2014-04-24

Hi this is great.The only thing is I don't understand the wiring.could you help me out.

hitekmike (author)avijayakumar22015-04-23

Sure, what part do you need help in?

Damutsch (author)2013-12-16

Hi, first things first, great instructable! very nice bike aswell! But what exactly do you do with the raspberry pi? And did you use one of the cheapish car monitors to use it with? Did you manage to power the monitor from the battery?

Again, well done!

hitekmike (author)Damutsch2015-04-23

Currently I use the Raspberry Pi to capture HD video. I am now using a 3.5" LCD that is normally used for Testing Surveillance cameras, it has a built in battery.

hitekmike (author)Damutsch2013-12-16

Haha! Great questions and thanks! I was wondering if anyone would find this useful or interesting...

I actually had a nice Mini DVR I bought a while back it has about a 2" screen which worked surprisingly well. I just needed it to check to see if the Raspberry Pi booted properly once in a while. I normally just SSH into the Pi from my Galaxy S4 using Juicy SSH...

I didn't use the DVR function of this device because it failed a long time ago, but it allows the analog NTSC video from the Pi to pass through onto the display.

I used 5VDC + from the DC to DC converter to power the display, Pi, Camera, and charge my Galaxy and it worked fine.

The display was mounted in a center mount that attaches in the triple clamp. I velcroed a cell phone holder to it and normally use it for my cell phone but it worked perfect for the screen.

Anyways, I mounted the Raspberry Pi camera to my license plate to capture a rear view HD video. I can attest to the fact that at over 147MPH hanging off my license plate at Thunderhill Raceway on my motorcycle the Raspberry Pi Camera still works. :-)

But more on that later in my next Instructable...

mtvdklr (author)2015-03-16

hitekmike (author)2013-12-16

If you are brave enough to do something like this, take note that I used an Apple mini USB Keyboard to work with the Raspberry Pi on my motorcycle.

It works great, but I forgot to take it out of the trunk (it slips under the seat and over the battery on the Suzuki GSX-R 750.)

I went to the racetrack at Thunderhill Raceway and forgot all about the keyboard, anyways the keyboard survived as well and I didn't even notice it was there.


About This Instructable




Bio: & I am an IT Consultant in the San Jose Bay Area USA. I support Linux, Mac, and Windows ... More »
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