Instructables

How to install a cool looking power panel in your vehicle

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I wanted to share how I built a power panel in my truck consisting of:
2 x 12 volt plugs,
1 x 5 volt usb plug and
2 x 120 volt ac plugs.

Check out my other instructables here

If you like this instructable, do me a favor and shoot me a digg

This is a video podcast I made of the build as well



 
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Step 1: Materials

You will need a strip of aluminum, mine was some scrap about 1/8" thick.  I chose aluminum because it is easy to work with when cutting and filing.

You will need a power inverter.  I got mine as a present so I don't know what it cost. luckily it had pop out plugs because I could not find cool ones at the hardware store.  It also had a 5 volt usb plug which I thought would be cool to use.

All vehicles are different but you will need tools to get behind the dashboard plus whatever you are mounting the plugs to.

You will need wire and connectors to attach to the battery and the from the hidden inverter to the plugs. Be sure to use appropriate gauges for what current load you are expecting.

You will also need some inline fuses and a 12 volt extension plug.  The one I got had two outlets side by side.

I used a drill, an angle grinder, a jigsaw some sandpaper and some files.

2 small bolts and nuts to mount the panel.

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orksecurity4 years ago
Pretty, though I too would be happier if the sockets were coffeeproofed.

What I might have done differently:

I would have been inclined to leave the inverter box closed (preserving the warranty) and just design a wiring harness that plugged into it and extended the 110VAC and USB connections out to the panel. The only problem with this approach is that your inverter has a push-on/push off switch.

If your inverter had a simple toggle switch, it could be left turned on, and power to the inverter run through a panel switch -- or, perhaps better given the peak power draw, a high-current relay could be controlled by a lower-power switch circuit.  An advantage of the latter is that the switch  could be fed from accessory,  or could be a three-way which tapped either accessory or an always-on circuit, to reduce the risk of leaving the inverter drawing power when it shouldn't and running your battery down. (Same reason dome lights are now three-way, and many headlights go off when -- or shortly after -- key is removed.)

Given the pushbutton... Hm. What happens if the button is held down before/while 12V is applied to the inverter? Would that be enough to cheat it into being externally switchable? If so, rigging something to hold the button down continuously would be easy and -- again -- would probably not void the warranty.

Yeah, the motto here is "If you can't open it you don't own it" -- but if you can find a way to achieve the same result with less work and without having to open it, that's preferable.

Great project, the final product looks very good.

To solve your coffee issue, you might simply get some of the child-safety outlet covers that pug into the outlet.

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GIven how cheaply you can pick up inverters, I don't see this as an issue at all. In fact I like the way he did it using the original inverter plugs on a new faceplate.
chickerson8 months ago
This is officially my new project
veskeyw1 year ago
A fuse in a device is to protect the device, a fuse in the wire close to the bat( the closer the better) is to protect the vehicle!
Evolrocker1 year ago
Awesome Job.
Thank you for your time and effort GREAT Tutorial - !!!!! You can pick one up from HarborFreight -> http://www.harborfreight.com/400-watt-continuous-800-watt-peak-power-inverter-66814.html for 30 bucks!!
Church11823 years ago
OUTSTANDING!! I have been contemplating doing this in my Xterra ever since I bought it and saw that they already include a 12V in the back. Now I have some better ideas for going about it.
My only thought is to add more USB's. Seems like everything mobile is going to USB charging. If I get around to doing mine I'll let you know how it turned out.
itobor25253 years ago
Good idea but: Did anyone else notice that the (liquid) cup holders are a scant distance from live AC? Why are all 3 leads from the AC plugs the same color (red) instead of black (hot), white (neutral) and green (ground)?
dave spencer (author)  itobor25253 years ago
thanks for skimming my instructable then posting a negative comment that if you had actually read it, looked at previous comments or watched the video you would have found addressed. As for the wires, I used what was on hand and it is not hard to trace back 3 ft of wire.
ratoon563 years ago
I agree with jeffharbert.
whiplash3 years ago
my only problem with this is working with the 110 volts, i believe all the necessasary regulations should apply to any "high voltage" system wether in a car or not

acutually i do have another problem with this... it wont fit in my car :P
3366carlos3 years ago
Very cool! You are Mr. Power Supply.
nubie4 years ago
If you want panel mount power jacks you can find them in the swamp cooler parts section. They are used to connect the water pump to the swamp cooler. I don't know how cool they look, but they should be available from your local hardware store. You shouldn't need to take apart your inverter now.
Darkshot4 years ago
Thanks for inspiring me for my next little college project! :D I am a gadget-junky but love to create electronics (go figure). Im going to college soon and want a laptop case that not only charges my laptop but also is not a lot of $$$. After seeing your 'ible at the beginning of the contest i realized I could put this exact same principal into the portable design! Basically build a solar powered laptop case, I first need to aquire the materials/money but it'll eventually happen. Im gonna mount the same set-up inside the top of the case, except my whole top will be one whole sheet of almuminum :) Thanks again -Tvman
tranoxx4 years ago
if you decide you want to run wires to your gps the same way that he did MAKE SURE YOU DONT HAVE SIDE CURTAIN AIRBAGS... that would be bad
dave spencer (author)  tranoxx4 years ago
yeah! that's probably a really good point. Thanks
DieCastoms4 years ago
Very Nicely Done! I glanced over your instructable at first and spotted the line including "wood wedges, epoxy and double-sided tape" and was honestly expecting a hack-job. I was pleasantly surprised at your end result. As others have said, the aluminum panel looks very neatly done and professional. A few comments I wanted to make: I would love to see some sort of safty covers added at LEAST to the 12 volt sockets. An errant penny in one of those will quickly blow fuses. I understand your comments that you rarely keep drinks in the cupholders, but weird things happen. Child safety covers are easily available for the 110 outlets. I am curious about the cooling characteristics of the inverter. Devices are generally designed to have a specific airflow through them to be sure certain components GET airflow. I wonder what your modification of the case has changed? I am NOT saying the what you did is detrimental, just being curious. Ingenious method of transferring the template to the panel.. just cut off anything that is painted.... All in all, I think it is a really well-done build and I intend to use some of your ideas when I continue on to my own similar project in a 97 Mazda Protege.
dave spencer (author)  DieCastoms4 years ago
Thanks and good point about the 12 v penny catchers. To be honest I always have those two plugs full in my truck. One for my bluetooth and one for my phone charger. My spare empty one is the factory one in the dash. It would probably be a quick and easy hack to create some sort of plug for those though. Again though, if you dropped a penny in or spilled liquid in you are only looking at a blown fuse as a worst case scenario. I see what you are saying about the airflow in the inverter as well but I have used this for over a year with no problems.
Hey Dave. Nice job by the way. With all the mention of covers for the sockets, I wondered if the original covers from the inverter might have been used somehow?
dave spencer (author)  legless4 years ago
Yeah, I could have totally reused those. It would have been about 2 minutes with a file to fit them into the panel. Honestly though I just threw them out.
Thank you for an awesomely fast response!
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Radioshack and Walmart have carried rubber caps for the 12 volt receptacles, but if you always have something plugged into them, then they would probably be in the way more than useful..  A friend had her accessory fuse start blowing out seconds after replacement and I took her stereo out to check the aftermarket wiring..  I spent at least 90 minutes searching for faults or shorts before she told me that a cellphone charger had fallen apart inside the cigarette lighter socket.  A chrome ring from the tip of the charger was still inside the lighter socket and was cooking fuses almost immediately ......  What a hassle that all was . . .  Oh well.
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In my Mazda, originally, there was a stereo head-unit at the top of the dash and a seperate CD player unit further down in the dash.  The aftermarket stereo all fits in the top location, so the bottom unit's bay as well as the ashtray and cigarette lighter areas further down will be replaced by a single aluminum panel.  A new 12 volt outlet with a rubber cover, two 110 outlets, and various toggle switches (for my amplifier, inverter, eventual neon lighting, etc.) will be located in the panel as well.
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Also, I really hate that 'ible's comments do not recognize hard returns ...
jdtwelve124 years ago
Slick project. The brushed aluminum looks great. One thing I noticed from the photos was that your cup holders are right behind and above the power outlets. In my car, I often get condensation dripping from the sides of cold drinks. It might just look this way in the pictures, but I wonder if you don't risk shorting from having liquid so close to current?
At risk of getting a flame warning I just have to say it. Geez give the guy a break. He mentioned that there could be problems several times. It is an instructable of how HE built and uses HIS power panel. Above all it can be considered a guide not a rule book. Most writers of Instructables assume quite reasonably I think that people are going to engage their brains before doing some stuff. I never use "cup holders" in my car.
No flame war necessary. This was a question for discussion, not a detraction. The author pointed out that he addressed my question in the video, of which I'll admit to having skipped parts. I stand by my comments that he did some slick work and it looks great.
dave spencer (author)  jdtwelve124 years ago
There is absolutely potential for a short to happen from drinks. I don't use the drink holder very often and I am very careful when I do. I did talk about this decision in the instructable and in the video. It was the best spot for me but not for everyone.
Inkydog4 years ago
Nice! You might want to consider affixing a label showing the maximum wattage above the AC outlets. Never know if someone is going to try plugging a hair dryer into the thing...
PCfreak Inkydog4 years ago
who would use a hair dryer in a car anyways?
moorea7 PCfreak4 years ago
How about my 26" CRT TV that I'd love to have along on a camping trip? Can I plug my toaster and griddle in so I can cook breakfast too? - Plenty of opportunities to overload. This probably will not happen while you own the truck, but a future buyer might try this!
legless moorea74 years ago
This would be really easy to prevent when he sells the car by just removing the inverter. As he said he is careful.
dave spencer (author)  moorea74 years ago
worst case scenario is a blown fuse.
The same people who would use it while showering, hence the "Do not use while showering labels on hair dryers" LOL
Inkydog PCfreak4 years ago
It's just an example, freak. There are lots of high wattage devices that someone could potentially plug into a car. A number of power tools come to mind. People do dumb stuff. A little caution is better than a burned-out mod.
bowmaster4 years ago
Cool, I want to put in three sockets so you could have your 3g wifi hotspot and two laptops to have LAN battles in the car. I would also like to find a system to turn this off when the car was off so it wouldn't drain the battery if you left something pluugged in.
ac1D bowmaster4 years ago
The positive wire, don't plug it to the battery. Plug it to the accessory wire, Either at the start (in most case, it's near the battery. Follow the wire going from it.) or near the keyhole.
dave spencer (author)  ac1D4 years ago
That would totally work but I wanted the option to run stuff while the truck was shut off. I guess I never covered that but the inverter has an alarm and an auto shut off if you drain the battery too far.
You can hook your accesory wire to a twelve volt relay so that when your car is turned on the inverter is also. This will keep you from over drawing your acc. circuit. Then hook up a seperate toggle switch that also turns the relay on. your can use this when your car is turned off and you want the power on. The only problem i see with this design is then you will backfeed current into your acc circuit and power other things like your radio with the toggle but a simple diode in the acc wire will fix the problem
I wish mine would have an alarm. I have an power inverter in my car because I plug an smoke machine in the trunk, with pipe so the smoke go outside the car. Some day I forgot it in. It drained the battery, so much, it was dead. I needed to get a new one, Canadian Tire were unable to recharge it.
bowmaster ac1D4 years ago
Cool, thanks.
F22-Raptor4 years ago
Great instructable and cool video edit. One suggestion: spray some clear coat on the aluminum to protect it from scratches and give it a cool look . If you can mix the clear coat with some black paint that would be even cooler. 2-3 layers of clear coat should be enough.
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