Latest update December 28th, 2016 1:27 AM
Apr 01, 2016 Abel Longoria Equipment Review, Vanagon 18
I wanted a way to easily check my battery voltage while in the driver’s seat and I began looking for different options online. I considered added a 52mm Voltage Gauge to my custom gauge cluster on my center dash but I already have 4 Gauges there. I didn’t want to add a 5th. I remember seeing these steering column covers which are factory made and were meant to house a switch for a factory seat heater control. I’ve seen other owners place voltage meters or a outside temperature display in these slots before so I thought this would be my best option. Now I just got to find one!
Finding one took awhile. I’ve seen some used ones pop up on TheSamba Classifieds from time to time but I’ve always missed them. Then I saw a post from Seth Hatfield of Seth’s Garage mentioning he had a few New Old Stock covers available for $45 Shipped. Score! Ordered!
Once I had my cover in hand I could then take some measurements of the stock opening and try to source a Volt Meter Panel that’ll fit. Nothing fit exactly. So I decided on a DROK 5 Character Voltmeter LED Display which was not back lit so it wouldn’t be blinding me at night when the display was in the ON position. The other key feature I liked is that this LED was a 5 character display as opposed to a 3 character display that I saw quite a bit of. More characters, more specific readout.
Next order of business was to purchase a SPDT Automotive Round Rocker Switch which has 2 ON positions and 1 OFF position. This switch will allow me to display my Starter Battery Voltage level when the switch is in Position 1 and it will display my Auxiliary Battery Voltage level when the switch is in Position 2. The center position is OFF so that it won’t be on all the time. These switches can also be use for your stereo, wire up two power sources, one to your main starting battery and one to your auxiliary battery so that you can operate your stereo in “Camp Mode” running off your auxiliary battery and not draining off your starting battery.
I purchased a Husky Flat/Curve Assortment File Set from Home Depot which included a 1″ wide flat dual purpose coarse rasp file and fine tooth file. The rasp side is what I used by hand in order to enlarge the opening of the slot. The rasp side is pretty coarse so it’ll eat through the plastic pretty easily. Just take your time and recheck often to see if the LED Panel fits. The smaller corner file I used for.. yup you guessed it, the corners. It’s a small triangle shaped file that lets you get into the corners in order to make them nice and square, the rasp file simply can’t get that close to the edges. Once the opening is large enough the LED panel will pop in securely.
The backside of the rocker switch I purchased that will need to be inserted into the column cover measures 20mm in diameter. I ordered a Metric Spiral Flute Step Drill Bit Set which includes a 4mm-20mm step bit. If you’ve never used these step bits before you’ll love them once you do. Makes life so much easier. I used the 4mm-20mm bit to drill a hole into the side of the cover, using the bit with the largest diameter of 20mm insures that you wont accidentally make the hole larger than it needs to be which will mess your whole project up. Be careful and take your time drilling this hole, don’t let the drill get away from you and scuff up your cover. I used my WEN Drill Press for my cover since it gives you much better control of the step drill bit, highly recommended if you have one available.
Once you have all of the correct tools and parts you can get this entire cover completed in about 30-45 minutes. Wiring it up is another thing. I’ll document my install of my cover in detail soon and update this post accordingly.
The finished product hooked up to a 9v battery for test purposes.
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Very slick, only tricky part is getting the wire from the acc battery & starting battery, and that shouldn’t be too difficult.
Shouldn’t be hard at all, Hope to get it installed this week.
Is there a part number for the steering column cover? Would make it easier to find. Checked VW part listings at jimellisvwparts.com, see the cover and the switch, but there is no # related to the cover.
This is brilliant!
Is there a way to set this up so it can be read as a percentage of 100? Instead of 12.63 – 11.91
Not that I’m aware of but I’m sure someone could program that to work, I’m just not that smart. Hehe.
Again Abel, you rock, this is brillant and a clean install as usual. keep up the good work my dedicated vfanagon friend 🙂
Thank you sir!
Any photos installed in the van?
Not yet… Hoping to have my van back from the shop in the next day or so. Once I have it back I’ll be installing this new cover. I’ll post updated photos once I do.
I think there is gonna be a batch of people interested in how you wired this up now 😉 *me included
where else can you find these magical steering column covers?!
I know Buslab in Berkeley CA just sold about 12 new old stock covers last week. They’re suppose to get more in. Search them online and give them a call.
Hi Abel …
do you think this will work as it’s a slightly larger cutout (58mm vs. 45.5mm) than the DROK you used in the write up?
Matt – did you try out the larger display? I was thinking similar so if I beat you to it I’ll let you know how it goes.
Just installed this in mine today. It doesnt fit as well as the one Abel used, but does fit. The functionality of it is great. Thanks for providing the link!
can you post pics to VOG or Vanagon Cafe? Love to see how it looks.
i ve hooked it up the same way.
i wired it this way – and it works.
I have all the componients, but I am still no sure how to wire it correctly. Like you I have two batteries I want to monitor. The Vanagon Engine battery and a 12 Volt Auxilley battery, which charges while I’m driving using the Blue Wave Auxiliary Battery system.
Can you post or send me how you wired your metering system, using the duel Drek Double Switch