My new Ford Transit cargo van comes with two 12V Power Outlets in the center console. These outdated power sources must be exchanged for USB outlets that allow you to charge your electronic gadgets.
For me, this project entails a bit more. As the first real mod of this Van Conversion, I’ll be trying out a few new techniques to record it all and make it available at a later time. A couple of months ago, I started testing LIVE chatting with some of my readers and last week I introduced a LIVE video feed (in combination with a chatroom). While this testing has been successful, I’m still busy assembling the right equipment to make it all happen.
This means that I will broadcast this project via Youtube LIVE to you, enabling viewers/readers to follow step-by-step what is involved and to ask questions as the installation progresses. You will see me take extra recordings and photo’s which will be incorporated in the final video, that will will be posted after the project has finished.
Go here to be notified of the broadcast.
The modification itself is quite simple. We have to remove part of the console, take out the 12V outlet and replace it with the USB connector. I’ll show you which tools to use, how to disassemble and how to solve any unexpected difficulties.
The outlet is on a 20Amp fuse and when the engine is OFF, it’s connected to the car battery saver system, which will switch off after 30 minutes. If you would like to be able to charge your gadgets at ANY time, you will have to find a source for 12V that is not switched. A second battery should be installed to prevent emptying your battery and to avoid engine starting issues.
One of the two outlets is placed vertically in the console, the other horizontal. The first seems best suited for conversion, yet I will choose the one at the bottom, because it’s easier to access. The drawbacks are that it is located close to where you put your drink and you have to be careful not to spill any fluids.
Another issue is that the existing 12V outlet is connected through a T-shaped Molex connector, while the new USB outlet has two parallel pins. I’ll prepare a small self-made extension cable to take care of that.
Dual USB Outlet
The USB outlet was priced $4.65 (in 2015) and was ordered directly from a Chinese company. It was also part of my tryout to order small electronic items directly from Asia, saving a few bucks at the same time (you can read more about that in “Why I Order Chinese And Get It Delivered“). With a safe payment through eBay, the process did take a little more time for delivery, yet no shipping/handling and no import forms or duties. I will do that again, when appropriate.
The outlet itself is what you would buy on-line or locally, nothing fancy, but suitable for its purpose. Time will tell how sturdy it is.
Input: DC 6-30V.
Output: DC 5V 2.1A / DC 5V 1A.
- USB Outlet.
- 14/16 AWG wire.
- Electrical tester.
- Heat shrink.
- Wire ties.
- Heat gun.
- Needle nose pliers.
I’m going to argue against converting those 12V ports to USB/5V.
There are some useful 12V high-ish current devices, ranging from beer coolers to tire air pumps. It would be nice to still have the power conveniently available for them. One could always get plug-in 12V->USB adapters.
In our build, we’ll be adding built-in USB ports (both low and high current charging) at a few places in the house section…like in the closet, above kitchen counter, and by the bed.
As with so many things, it probably comes down to personal preference.
You make a good point for a regular 12V outlet. Yet I’ve had one in my previous van for 25 years and never used it.
Now I’ve two located in the console and nothing to plug in my phone or tablet without additional cables. So re-purposing one outlet seemed a good idea and if necessary, I might do the same to the other one. That’s unlikely as I dislike too many electronic gadgets around me while driving.
While these 12V outlets have a useful purpose, their location in the dashboard is not well-thought out (in a van conversion). A location on or close to the exterior or in the kitchen may be much better and with the (Lithium) house batteries as a power source much safer to apply (no risk of a run-down car battery).
As you suggested, “adding built-in USB ports at a few places in the house section” should be part of any conversion nowadays. Too many Apples and Androids lying around! Like you, I will implement those around the vehicle.
What it comes down to with many of these options, is that there is no single, correct solution, only decisions based on your own lifestyle and personal preferences. And that’s one of the big reasons, why so many of us decide to build their own RV. No cookie cutter solutions, but individual fixes and unique interpretations for those little things in life that make us happy!
I’ll second that. Adapter gives you the best; both alternatives.