Monday, March 12, 2018

Dragging The Van Into The Twenty First Century

Inside this overhead cabinet

lurks this.

The coax-switcher and the 12 volt outlet (and the little grey tube in the bottom of the cabinet) used to service the TV that has long-since been removed.

Now I use the coax switcher for absolutely nothing and the 12 volt outlet as a charging station for my phone. That works out OK, as long as I use one of those 12 volt to USB converters, but maybe one day, if I ever pull the trigger and buy one, I’ll also have a Kindle to be charged as well.

So I started to look around for something with a couple USB ports that I could plug directly into.

Most the offerings out there either include a 12 volt outlet and/or a tiny voltage meter.

Since the last thing I need is a volt-meter shining out with that popular but sleep-depriving blue LED glow, especially right there next to the E-meter, I chose a fixture with two USB ports and a 12 volt socket.

I also grabbed a switch from my spares because these 12 V to 5.5 volt units like this use a couple milliamps of juice even when nothing is plugged into the USB ports. That’s not all that much juice but it also constantly lights that little green LED that, without the switch, I’d have to slap some tape over.

I also rounded up one female and one male spade connector, (Not sure why I have the second female connector in the photo. . .)  a little bit of heat-shrink, and my trusty conductive, anti-corrosion grease which will be used inside each crimp and on each male spade.

But first I had to get the panel that lines the back of the cabinets, and where all this stuff is to be mounted, out of there.

As always, the first step was to kill the 12 volt power with the disconnect switch. (The Van is not connected to shore-power so the 120 volt stuff is already ‘disconnected’)

I pulled the coax-switcher out and tossed it into my spares bin. The 12 volt receptacle was connected with spades so that was easy to disconnect and just leave on the panel for now,

but the 120 volt receptacle is hardwired so, to avoid the considerable hassle of completely disconnecting it, I removed the entire receptacle and left it behind.

This photo also shows how tight the space is that I have to work with behind the panel. Turns out that doesn’t give me much room for that switch I want to add. The 120 receptacle fits into that cutout in the plywood and the switch has to fit below that but above the wire-runs, and to the left of the steel pillar there in the center of the photo. Oh, and the new 12V/USB receptacle has to fit in pretty much that same space too.

Back at the bench, and with the old 12 volt receptacle removed, the first step was to turn the round hole for the old receptacle into a rectangular hole for the new receptacle.

Using a fine-tipped marker I traced around the new receptacle then used a blade to cut away the carpet since, from experience, I know it will snag, pull and run if I try to saw through it. Then it was a matter of sawing away the extra wood, then using a rasp to fine-tune the opening.

I had to be careful not to oversize this hole because the lip on the new receptacle is very small so any miss-cuts here will show.

Then, after a lot of measuring and trial-fitting, I marked the center of the hole for the switch and again cut the carpet away before actually drilling.

To get the switch to fit into the space available I actually had to cut a shallow rounded notch in the ear of the receptacle (not really visible in any of these photos) to get that extra 16th of an inch I needed and mount it a little above the centerline of the receptacle so that there was plenty of meat for the receptacle screw to bite into. (the wood used as a backer for the panel is not of the highest quality and I didn’t want to risk splitting it with a screw driven too close to the switch-hole.)

Now I could go ahead and mount the new receptacle and switch into the panel. On the hot side of the receptacle I crimped a female spade that connects to one side of the switch.

Rather than cut them off short and maybe end up in a jam sometime in the future, I also used a bit of electrician’s tape to tame the excess wire coming out of the receptacle.

Because I used up the last of my insulated spades with the new CO detector, I used a short bit of shrink-wrap to insulate the spade that goes to the switch. The male spade on the ground wire will be going into the insulated female spade already on the ground wire in The Van so it doesn’t need any shrink-wrap.

The next step was to finesse the panel back into the cabinet, get the 12 volt wires connected up, hot to switch, ground to ground, and wrestle the 120 volt receptacle back through the hole and get it firmly re-mounted.

Then I had to coax all the wires into the right place while slipping the backs of the two receptacles and one switch into the space left over without pinching or breaking anything. In concept, easy, in practice, well let’s just say it was an adventure!

But I eventually managed and got the panel screwed back into place.

Now I can plug my phone right into one of the USB ports, throw the switch, and I’m charging.

OK, now what can I get my itchy little fingers into??

No comments:

Post a Comment