Introduction: USB Charger Install

Picture of USB Charger Install

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!


JonT64 (author)2017-04-22

Looking forward to adding some outlets to my Ezgo gas shuttle... Thanks for the courage!

seamster (author)2015-04-24

This is a great idea!

The scariest part to me though is figuring out where to tap into for power. Does it depend highly on the vehicle, or is there a pretty standard way to get power to something like this?

Cyberchipz (author)seamster2015-05-16

Automotive stores like Advanced Auto, and O'Reilly's often have stand off adapters for fuse box positions, and some cars even have places to plug in those adapters so you can run a wire from your fuse box with the adapter and also have a fuse for it, and some have extra slots not being used just for these cases. That should expand your selection a bit, also there's running a wire from your battery, or the big fuses under the hood, just be sure to add a fuse holder, they sell these too, if you're taking a wire directly from the battery or positive side of the main fuses under the hood. Just run it nicely around the engine compartment, and someplace through the firewall, there are always ways to get that wire through, even if it's where the regular fuse box is inside the vehicle. Hope this helps.

RushFan (author)Cyberchipz2015-05-16

Great suggestions, thanks!

Cyberchipz (author)RushFan2015-05-22

I don't think I explicitly said that if you choose to run a wire from the main battery, or off the positive lead of one of the Main Fuse Bus (if you're lucky there might be an extra slot there!) under the hood that you should also ensure, for safety, that you include an 'insulated' fuse box the moment you exit the fuse box, or battery, where it can be safely stored and won't rattle around! I'm sure this is well understood by most; but, I don't think it hurts to re-emphasise that little point! XD If you're like me, you decide to do it like a man and run a nice 8 gauge wire so you can use it for other things, like your own personal fuse box inside the car, and I can assure you that 8 gauge wire if unfused makes a huge clouds of magic smoke come out from under the hood, just before it tries to permanently weld the hood to the frame! Particularly nasty is when it melts a gas line, something I've never done. Big car go boom? (Does a motorcycle count? hmmm). BTW for that size wire, you'd use (NO LARGER THAN) a 30A fuse immediately after you tap it! And (tongue in cheek) if you do decide you need almost all of that 30A, I must warn you that unless you get a heavy duty 50A Alternator, you'd be replacing the itty bitty 30A alternator a lot! lol ;-) Probably every two years if you got a 50A one that fit. :-( Warning, gas milage may suck! But, at least the big flat screen will work! heh heh. OK, medium size; but, I think you get the point.

Cyberchipz (author)Cyberchipz2015-05-22

oops, ok, I forgot we were only talking usb. :-/

RushFan (author)seamster2015-04-28

It's fairly easy with a volt meter. Like I mentioned, the cigarette lighter is a good one to fall back on.

teacherdan1701 (author)seamster2015-04-26

It's pretty standard on many cars. I have a 2005 Town and Country Van, and I have two 12v plugs, one "always on," and the other keyed. Look forward to doing this to my van because of all the electronics I need to charge on the road and am tired of using the splitters for the 12v outlets.

andysuth (author)seamster2015-04-26

A multimeter and a view of the ciggarette lighter will help you here.

I'm doing a similar upgrade but taking the 13.2V feed direct from a fuse box via a 3A/5V regulator then to the USB Socket.

grastuco made it! (author)2015-05-01

This is on the passenger side, low down with a second 12V outlet and twin USB 5V supplies.

clazman (author)2015-04-27

How did you check polarity with the battery disconnected. Use a small power supply? tee hee.

Really though, my caravan comes equipped with two cigarette lighters one switched and one not.

Still though your install is very clean.

Wasn't there an electrical supply behind that plug to complete the sanitary install with a corresponding connector?

RushFan (author)clazman2015-04-28

Yes, clazman, you are paying attention! As soon as I wrote it that way, I thought "Hmmm, maybe I should have mentioned that I had re-connected the battery", but laziness got the better of me...

RobertC2 (author)2015-04-27

Nicely done!

Looks like it's always been there.

RushFan (author)RobertC22015-04-28

Thank you!

trstark66 (author)2015-04-26

Very handy, indeed, and a nice idea. Just curious why you don't use an adapter for the cigarette lighter, or do you need more outlets than that? Cheers!

RushFan (author)trstark662015-04-28

Thank you. I am not a fan of the adapters because of the poor fit (like RBStorms mentions) and aesthetically they leave something to be desired. Plus I like the dual voltage of the unit I used.

RBStorms (author)trstark662015-04-26

Many (MOST!) of the USB charging adapters out there are a terrible fit in those 12v sockets, coming loose at the most inopportune times. You think your phone is getting charged, and all of the sudden, "Low Battery!" pops up on your screen.

Many car makers are putting these in at the factory, but again, you're mileage may vary. My 2014 Kia charges the device and connects it to the sound system. But my wife's 2013 Kia doesn't charge the device. What's up with that?

Anyway, Nice Instructable! I plan on doing this to my wife's car.

surfrescue (author)RBStorms2015-04-26

it's all down to the current that the adaptor is designed to supply....old phones could charge with phones need 2.6 amps!! these new phone battery's are monsters and require a LOAD of current to charge.

macgyver71 (author)2015-04-26

Great instructable! Been planning on doing this both in my truck (Ram as well) AND my motorcycle ('11 Harley Road Glide...going to mount in glovebox).

RushFan (author)macgyver712015-04-28


ventifact (author)2015-04-26

Nice looking job. You should either put in an inline fuse and/or find the appointed fuse in the truck's fuse panel.

RushFan (author)ventifact2015-04-28

Thanks ventifact - in fact I did that on the boat install and forgot to mention it in the 'ible.

MaterialBall (author)2015-04-26

Doesn't this drain your car's battery when not in use?

RushFan (author)MaterialBall2015-04-28

The thing is only energized when the key is turned.

xaenon (author)MaterialBall2015-04-26

For most USB adapters, the drain is comparatively light when not actually powering or charging a device. That said, it is possible for even a light current draw to drain a battery over the course of a few days. That's why I rewired my accessory socket to be 'live' only when the key is in the ACCESSORY or RUN positions. I'm also prone to forgetting to unplug things when leaving the vehicle, and there have been incidents where cheap car adapters have overheated and caught fire.

tjk1939 (author)2015-04-26

Depending on your brand and model, and the type of electronics operating it. You must be careful where you tap into the circuit. In the wrong place, a voltage drop in milivolts can cause a malfunction. Cars are not the same as they were years ago, when all you had to do was identify + and -. Be aware of that before you go to all that work.

RushFan (author)tjk19392015-04-28

You are correct, thanks for mentioning that.

neopolitan (author)2015-04-25

really well described. *****

RushFan (author)neopolitan2015-04-28

Thanks Neopolitan!

Rehtori (author)2015-04-25

Nice upgrade! For those of you who will do this: pay attention that you won't mess with your airbags when disassembling your dashboard. I think that is the the hardest part - depending which car you have, if course.

RushFan (author)Rehtori2015-04-28

Very good point about the airbags.

olivia11 (author)2015-04-24

great work

RushFan (author)olivia112015-04-28

Thank you!

dstech (author)2015-04-24

great little car upgrade!

RushFan (author)dstech2015-04-28


태영최 (author)2015-04-26

What a great idea!

WilliamJ1 (author)2015-04-26

You could look up a dash repair video/car repair webiste for your make and model and get a 'before' photo.

RedBinary (author)2015-04-26

Thanks for the heads up on that panel-mount PS! I've been planning to remove the otherwise unused lighter sockets in my recently acquired truck and wire the charger direct because the contacts are so spotty.

Just a personal preference: I would have used a stepped drill bit (aka "unibit") rather than a hole saw. A cleaner cut and easier to control especially on a curved surface.

DDW_OR (author)RedBinary2015-04-26

The lighter sockets are still useful. I use mine for: DC to AC converter, 12v Cooler, lug-nut impact driver, air compressor, and USB charger.

I used a similar technique to install a backup light switch. i used the following lights mounted to the top corners of my trucks rear bumper.

i changed the nuts to nylock nuts. and only tightened enough to hold in place. this way i can twist the lights to shine where i need it.

FYI, i try to keep my Standard sockets and wrenches in chrome and my Metric in non-chrome.

DougM2 (author)2015-04-26

The panel mounts are about $10 on eBay.

Elhadni (author)2015-04-24

Très pratique

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