Hello folks, this here is an Instructable on installing a handy USB outlet. I initially installed one on my boat, and I loved it so much that I put one in each of 2 of my cars. I am even going to put another on the boat! With a family of 5 and about 2,700 total devices, the prospect of having the charging adapter AND the cable in the car or boat when we needed them was dismal. This is the solution! The outlet is easily available, and this Instructable will require that you have the ability to dis-assemble your dashboard a little. Don't worry, it's usually not difficult at all.
Step 1: Collect the Parts & Tools
For this project you will need the following:
- A USB outlet. I used a "Poly-Planar USB-PM Panel Mount USB Charge Port - 12V". This little sucker cost $25, and I think it is well worth it!! A nice feature of this model is that it has 2 ports - one for phones and another with more current for tablets. Of course, you can use another one if you so desire.
- A place to install it. You will need a flat surface area of about 1.75" in diameter, with about 2" of free space behind it (if you use the one mentioned in step 1; otherwise, the requirements may vary).
- Some basic tools. I have a set of plastic prying devices that are made specifically for car dashboards, but you can use screwdrivers, just be careful! I also used a 1.5" hole saw chucked into my drill, and a soldering gun with solder.
Step 2: Take Your Dash Apart
Once you have found a suitable place to install the device, it is time to demo, but not before you disconnect the car's battery. Safety third! Naturally, your exact configuration will likely vary from mine, unless you happen to have a Dodge Ram pickup truck. I found that the best way to find out how to remove your dashboard parts is to Google it. By now, every possible vehicle has had every possible thing done to it, and posted to YouTube, no less.
Besides taking the dash apart, the next important thing to do is decide where you will get power from. I lucked out and right behind the place I wanted the outlet was a plug that I presume was for some kind of option that my truck didn't have but for some reason the people at Dodge had the foresight to wire in a plug for it anyway. If you aren't so lucky, the cigarette lighter is always a good choice. The beauty of that is that it supplies power only when the key is turned. This is good because the USB outlet has a small blue LED to indicate when it is energized. In theory, if this was on all the time, the battery would run dead, but with such a small draw from the LED, the car would probably rust away to a heap in that length of time.
Now that you have dis-assembled the dash enough to expose the outlet location, and found a power supply, it is time to mount the thing.
Step 3: Install the Outlet
The place I wanted my outlet to be was a small 'cover' that is made for some other kind of option my truck didn't have. That made it very easy! I unscrewed the cover from the dashboard and took it to the workbench. In my case, I had very little wiggle room on this piece of plastic, so I carefully laid out the hole center on the back (only because the back's configuration made it more conducive to get the layout right). Once I got the hole center, I commenced to drill a 1.5" diameter hole using a hole saw in my drill. Then it was just a matter of pushing the outlet through the hole and screwing on the ring that secured it from behind (see photos). Next up, connect wires and put back together.
Step 4: That's It!
The wiring is very straightforward once you have identified where you will tap into. Use a tester or a light to verity the polarity and voltage, then cut and strip the wires. Twist the wires of the outlet to the correct ones (neg and pos), then solder them. I like to use heat shrink tubing over my soldered connections - the only true way to keep them protected for a long time. Now put your dashboard back together, connect the battery and start charging!