The ability to power or charge electronic gadgets when behind the wheel, is surprisingly missing in my 2016 Ford Transit, which is equipped with two 12V outlets only.
This is the first in a series of many projects to convert my cargo van into a modern RV or Camper. Each of these projects will include a step-by-step guide with many detailed photos, videos, tools, materials and other resources.
Today, a simple modification anybody can do, if you have 15 minutes to spare.
Most of us are in need of an outlet to charge our phone, tablet or GPS while driving. While I discourage to use a phone while driving (hands free or not), access to a USB charging outlet near the drivers seat, is practical for a GPS or car DVR. Regular charging of other electronic gadgets that you have, is better done on one of the outlets that will be connected to the ‘house’ battery system of my future solar 12V electrical system.
The 2016 Ford Transit cargo van comes with two 12V outlets, built into the front console. Ford’s technical data shows, that they are connected to a 10 Amp fuse and that their power, will be disconnected about 30 minutes after you park your vehicle. This prevents a run down of your car battery.
You only need a USB socket for this installation, preferably a Dual USB outlet that let’s you charge a wider assortment of gadgets. I was able to get one for less than $5.00. I also needed two small extension wires.
The installation is quite simple and should not take much more than 15 minutes to accomplish. You may need some tools to separate the panel from the main console, but I was able to remove the panel that contained the 12V outlet by pulling it upwards and wiggling, until it came loose. The panel is attached through seven sturdy clips and is easy to reinstall. Pull it away slowly and detach the 12V plug from its connector. You can now put the panel out of the way and look inside the center console. Only the plug is visible to everyone, but if you have a trailer brake installed, like me, that’s located on the left front of the console, while others may have the Upfitter switches option at the right front, instead of the ‘coin bank’ that is pictured in my van.
Now you can turn around the disassembled panel and find the 12V socket. It is attached to the panel with two plastic tabs/latches, but stop your enthusiasm here and leave those alone, for the moment. The only way to remove the 12V socket, is to have a closer look at the metal tube that would hold the external plug. It has two similar tabs, that hold it inside the plastic jacket. I found it easier to pull these pins/clips out from the outside, than push them out from the inside. I used the tips of two small box cutters, to pry them open and push the metal housing down and out of the socket. Be careful: box cutters are really sharp and you can loose a finger before you know it! Now you can remove the outer plastic shell. I save this socket for future installation in the living area of the RV. This is the time to focus on the connection. Unfortunately, my new Dual USB socket comes with parallel prongs that don’t fit the T-shaped connector. That’s easily solved with a pair of extension wires. You can view how I made those in this video.
All it takes is to connect the wires to the socket and the connector; the prongs on the socket show ‘+’ and ‘-‘ for positive and negative. Use a multimeter on the connector. Replace the top panel onto the console with a quick push until all the clips are firmly attached. Before the socket was placed in the panel, I cut off the rubber lid and now I remove the other end. If you rather have it permanently attached to the socket, you can skip these steps.
Now you have a fully functioning charging station, without the use external plugs. This was the time to put my tablet in and check it out!
Watch the LIVE broadcast here and see how I did it.
This was my first video broadcast and sound was still a problem. Wait for my FREE step-by-step guide (to be published soon), with a comprised video, quality sound and many more pictures, a full list of materials, tools and resources.
Disclaimer: I’m just a DIY’er with a lot of common sense, but one who makes mistakes. With some of the projects I do and some of the tools I use, you really have to know, what you’re doing. Consult an expert if you are in doubt and always read the manuals.