Mod: 12V Power Outlet To Dual USB

Replacing A 12V Power Outlet With A Dual USB Socket.

My 2016 Ford Transit cargo van comes with two 12V Power Outlets in the center console. I’m replacing one of them with a dedicated USB socket, so I can avoid the need of a separate plug.

This project is geared towards a 2016 Ford Transit, but the techniques and materials can be used in other van conversions, such as MB Sprinters and Ram ProMasters as well.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How to remove one of the console’s panels.
  • How to remove a power outlet.
  • How to make a 16 AWG extension wire.
  • How to install and connect a USB socket.

What You’ll Use:

  • Heat gun.
  • Wirestripper/Crimper.
  • Two utility knives.
  • Optional:
    • Multitester.
    • Scissors.

What You’ll Need:

  • USB Outlet.
  • Spade terminals (two male | two female).
  • 16 AWG wire.
  • Heat shrink.
  • Cable ties.
  • Optional:
    • Electrical tape.


Each Transit model has so many different options, that perhaps in your case an extra USB outlet may not be necessary. Some with the upgraded radio packages, automatically come with an USB socket and others rather like to preserve the more general 12V outlet and use a USB plug-in instead. When you decide to go ahead with the replacement, you can use my experiences as a guide.

Approximate Duration: 30 minutes.


Establish the need for a USB socket – Some electronics prefer a higher amperage than just 1 Amp. In that case a dual USB adapter with both 1 Amp and 2.1 Amp sockets would be preferable. Some gadgets like even more power; don’t worry the USB standard has protection built-in that allows you to charge at lower amperage, charging just takes a little longer.
Purchase – I planned everything well in advance and that allowed me to order the USB socket directly from China/Hong Kong. To keep it safe, I ordered through an eBay supplier and delivery took about 14 days. It is a cheap article, so you can safe a bit, but for a little more, you can purchase one locally as well. I described my experiences in “Why I Order Chinese And Get It Delivered”. I paid $4.65 for a Dual USB port (Input: DC 6-30V. Output: DC 5V 2.1A / DC 5V 1A).

The Project

  • First you have to decide which plug, you want to replace. Keep in mind that these outlets are connected to the engine switch. That means that you can use these outlets while driving and up to 30 minutes after you stop the engine. At which time the power is switched off automatically, to protect the start battery.
  • The power to these plugs has a 10 Amp fuse and the power socket should stay well below that.
  • There are not many tools or materials, that you need for this job, but make sure you have them all at hand, before you start.
  • You’ll need a short transition wire between the plug and the wiring harness. Look at the video below on how the make one correctly in advance.
  • Look at the top panel and how it fits the console. Underneath, 6-7 metal clips keep it tightly connected to the console, but with a little movement and upward pressure, it should come loose at one or the other end. Carefully proceed until the panel disengages completely.
  • At this time, the 12V outlet is still connected to the wiring harness of the car. Disconnect the harness from the outlet.
  • Check the metal clips on the bottom of the panel, so you know how to reinstall the panel, when you’re finished.
  • Now you can also have a quick look at what’s inside the center console. This depends on what options are included, but in my case I could see the trailer brake controller on the left. On the right, the upfitter switches can be installed.
  • Turn the top panel upside down and you can see that the 12V outlet consists of an inside metal tube in an outer plastic sleeve. The latter keep the outlet well connected to the panel.
    To remove it, you first have to take out the inner metal tube, which is held in place by two tiny plastic pins. I decided to simultaneously pull those two plastic pins outward by using the thin and sharp tips of two utility knives. There’s not much room for it and in general, you’re one hand short, but after one or two tries, the inner metal sleeve could be forced out. Then it is a lot easier to press the two larger plastic pins that hold the outer sleeve to the panel and remove the outlet in its entirety.
  • I decided to cut off the cap from the USB socket. I used a pair of scissors for a flush cut.
  • The USB socket is placed in the panel and attached with the included plastic ring.
  • When you look closely, on the bottom of the USB socket, next to each plug, there is an indicator stamped in, that shows which one receives the positive or negative lead. The center plug of the former 12V outlet should be positive (check with a multimeter to be sure).
  • The new USB socket has parallel plugs that are not compatible with the T-shaped Molex connector of the wiring harness. Now we use the 16 AWG transition wires, that we prepared in advance.
  • Connect the wires to the outlet on on side and to the wiring harness, on the other side.
  • You may check it all out now, before you reinstall the top panel. Remember, there is no power to the outlet, if the engine switch has been off for longer than 30 minutes.
  • If everything works well, place the panel on top of the console and press down.
  • My USB socket has a blue indicator light that stays on until the power to the outlet is switched off.

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A simple project that will get a lot of use these times. With a little understanding, most of us can accomplish the installation in a short time, without many surprises.

The transitional set of wires

As the USB socket has a different kind of plug than the one supplied by Ford, we need to make a short, but simple transition cable. This video shows how to put the wires and connectors together.

Wiring Practices

  • Connectors
    Always place female terminals on the harness side of the connection and the male terminals on the component’s side.
  • Power Outlet / Cigar Lighter
    The described 12V power outlet features a 10 Amp fuse, which is more than enough for the maximum load of the new USB socket. At engine OFF, all power outlets are connected to the battery saver system, where the supply 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. Or in van conversions that have their own separate house battery bank, it’s easier to connect to that system for a permanent charge.

Other projects of this Van Conversion:

I’m just a DIY’er with a lot of common sense, but with some of the projects I do use some tools and materials, when you really have to know, what you’re doing. Always read the manual and consult an expert if you’re in doubt.

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