About a year ago my YJ was broken into. The thief frantically tried to steal my radio, but couldn't quite figure it out (this amazes me because removing a dash mounted radio out of a Jeep YJ is about a 5 minute job at most...). The ***hole tore up my gauge bezel (ruined it) and ripped the face plate off of my radio (breaking the radio as well).
Needless to say, I was pretty pissed about the situation and what had been done to my beloved Jeep
. I was determined to make sure this never happened to me again (or at least to my YJ). The Insurance company paid me well over what a new radio and gauge bezel would cost, so naturally I opted to use the extra cash in getting a Tuffy lockable center stereo console. I found a used one on eBay, and got an amazing deal on it. The console fit perfectly and secured my stereo, as well as a load of other stuff. But then I was faced with the question of what to do about that rather large black hole in my dash now that my radio was moved to the console...
I played around with several ideas, but one day it dawned on me- that space could be used to mount a winch toggle switch and dual battery controller. There was plenty of room for both and it would cover up that unsightly hole
I began looking around on the web for a radio delete panel that would look good in my dash. I didn't want a cheap plastic one, but I didn't want to fabricate my own out of some sheet metal. I once again I found what I was looking for with Tuffy
Stereo Dash Cutout Cover for standard DIN mount open cutout
Their radio delete panel was perfect for what I was planning on doing, and the black powder coated steel construction was perfect for the inside of my YJ. I knew it would have no problem holding my switches.
I then found a switch mounting panel that I liked the look of on Offroad Controls' website. The panel had two switch mounting holes along with one small hole at each corner for a fastener. It was exactly what I was looking for. I decided to get two and mount them side by side. One holding in-cab winch controls, and the other housing the dual battery controller.
(The panel on the top of the list.)
To control the winch I went with Offroad Controls' In-Cab Winch Control Wiring Kit with a 15' wiring harness (I could have got away with a 12' harness, but the 15' was great because it allowed me to route the wires right and tuck them out of the way).
I then went with 12 Volt Guy's Dual Battery Kit and In-Dash controller. I opted for the dual color LED (red/green) because I was using a panel that only had two holes, so space was limited. I ordered the kit and simply used the panel I already had from Offroad Controls.
12voltguy.com - Dual Battery Kit-InDash
Once I received all the parts I had to begin the process of drilling holes for all three switches and the dual battery LED. Eight small holes were also drilled in the plate for the hex head machine screws I was planning on using. The Tuffy radio delete panel (or Dash Cutout Cover, as they call it) is basically two plates that sandwich together using two long machine screws at either end. The back plate has a large hole in the middle which gives the rear portion of the mounted switches in the face plate some clearance once the two were sandwiched. Unfortunately, the rear terminal area of my switches were too big, so I had to trim the inside of the panel a bit. This opened up the hole to give the switches plenty of clearance. I then heavily wrapped the upper and lower portions of the back plate with electrical tape, thus ensuring no shorts would be created from the metal touching the switch blade terminals. Below is an illustration of all the drilling and trimming.
I hit both plates with some Rustoleum rattle can black to cover up any bare metal left from all the drilling and trimming. I then wired up both the winch controls for my Warn M8000 and dual battery controller for my Optimas. Carlos over at Offroad Controls emailed me a set of instructions on how to correctly tap into the solenoids on a winch. He sent them to me almost immediately after I called him with some questions about which wires went where. He was great to deal with and very knowledgeable. Here are the instructions- I hope they can be of use to anyone here who is unsure of the connections that need to be made when doing this kind of in-cab setup. It is always easier to get electrical wiring done right the first time, believe me!
The instructions that came with the 12 Volt Guy's kit were very helpful as well. It took some time to make sure everything was right. I even called him to make sure the kit was functioning correctly after my install. He was a great guy and we ended up talking for about 15 minutes or so...
Now that all the wiring was done, I was ready to screw everything together and sandwich the two plates. The installation was pretty straight forward. I ended up going to ACE Hardware to find two stainless steel hex head machine screws that matched my switch panel screws and the threaded nutserts on the back plate. I also found some black flip up switch covers off of eBay for a few bucks and decided to get them because I liked the all black look. Offroad Controls and 12 Volt Guy have decals that can be placed on the switch covers and panels as well. I chose Offroad Controls because I liked the smaller font size (this was just personal preference). The decals add a nice professional touch and are functional as well. Once I got everything the way I wanted it, I tightened the screws down and locked the plates in place. The panel wasn't going anywhere.
Below are some pictures of the final installation. The look is very clean and it matches the interior very well. I'm trying to retain as much of the stock appearance of my YJ as possible, so this was a welcome addition. It's also nice to have my winch controls inside the cab for obvious reasons. And the convenience of placing the dual battery controller right beside the winch controls is great too. Everything is right where I need it and the look was exactly what I was going for!
Straight on shot with the GREEN LED on (Normal Mode, is switched with ignition. Both batteries are connected with the motor on, and both charge)-
Straight on shot with the RED LED on (Emergency Mode, both batteries are in parallel. Useful for self-jump starting or when winching)-
Driver's side view-
Passenger's side view-
Let me know what you guys think. I've been wanting to do this write up for awhile, but have been too busy. This project was done about a month ago and took about 8 hours to accomplish. I had to do a little research along the way and watch paint dry
... This is just one method of covering up the hole left in the dash after moving the radio to the center console. I'm sure there are easier and cheaper ways of doing this (like screwing a piece of sheet metal over the hole), but this was my way of solving the problem. I hope this thread is both a help and inspiration to anyone who is contemplating a way to fill the vacant spot left from a radio relocation.