Tony G's '18 Firecracker JLUR DD/Crawler Journal

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tonygiotta

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Time to take my electrical system from sketch to reality. First priority was figuring out power distribution. More specifically, my switching hub. I have the OEM Aux switches in my Jeep. They are super cool, and I love how you can program their function via the touchscreen. There are however only 4 of them which I knew was not going to meet my needs. They also would not function safely as in-cab winch controls, one of my favorite wiring upgrades that I did on my XJ. I decided I'd use the factory switches for less important (and less frequent) switching functions, and look to the aftermarket for my primary switching needs.

There are all sorts of cool switch systems out there. Touchscreens, touchpads, bluetooth, solid state electronics, programmable functions, various mounting locations... you name it, it probably exists now. One of my priorities however was the ability to customize it to my particular needs. Especially tricky is addressing the winch IN/OUT function. This really needs to be done with a momentary switch, and better yet, a dual throw momentary switch. I'm not exactly sure what would happen if you used two individual switches and accidentally told your winch to go IN and OUT at the same time, but I really didn't want to find out. The Voswitch systems really caught my eye. All the reviews I could find for their JK stuff were good. They are a blend of old school and new school. Pre-built to look like an OEM part, but with individual components that can be replaced / customized as needed. Voswitch made two different versions (there are three now). I went with the Voswitch panel that uses Carling style switches, which I was already very familiar with having used them on my XJ. I knew OTRATTW Switch Guys had all the parts I'd need to customize to my heart's content.

I ended up choosing the Voswitch JL200. Reasonably priced, and available on Amazon for quick shipping:

9A4C69CA-F6B6-48EB-B738-4D6E5805A073.jpeg



Here's what comes in the kit:

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The power module involves a minimal amount of circuitry, but is mostly made up of Bosch style relays and ATM style mini fuses. Four of the positions are "programmable" for steady, flash, and strobe modes while the other four are just steady. We used to build modules like this out of Radio Shack project boxes back in the day, and could only dream of making them look this clean:

6F34C0FF-BD87-4D60-AA52-3A76AE76E96E.jpeg



The switch panel is very simple, an ON/OFF lighted touch switch for master power to the panel, and eight Carling style SPST switches. They include a bunch of different rockers for them, as well as an extra momentary SPST that you can swap out if needed. There is a RAM ball mount (crappy knock off version) on either side of the panel:

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And the part that made me really happy... very basic wiring on the backside that would be easy to manipulate to meet my needs:

E0318BFC-8B29-4B53-8052-03A93BD31E71.jpeg





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tonygiotta

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So, back to the in-cab winch controls... The premise is easy enough. You just tap an (ON)/OFF/(ON) switch into the wires that control the IN and OUT functions of your winch. In fact, I have a very thorough (maybe too thorough?) write up about exactly how to do it that can be found here:

In-Cab Winch Control Wiring From Basic to Warn Zeon

All the switches on the Voswitch are single throw ON/OFF however, so I need to remove two switches, and replace them with one dual throw switch (and a blank). But, remember I mentioned 4 of the switches are programmable? The way you program them is by turning the switch on, and then quickly cycling it off and back on again. Each time this is done, the switch cycles: steady-flash-strobe. The issue that this would cause is that if I use one of the programmable slots for the winch controls, feathering the winch would cause the switch to change modes! Going to have to do a little re-wiring...

How it starts out:

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Once you unbundle the wires and unplug the output leads, it's easier to see what's going on:

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Next, remove two of the ON/OFF switches, and replace with an (ON)/OFF/(ON) and a blank:

94E5B298-7B66-480A-B963-3F292FE7135C.jpeg



Install the new switch and hook up 12V+ & 12V- for the lower light...

227CD910-B768-4BDB-B3AD-CAB8D38964E0.jpeg



Output lead for "OUT" function...

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Another 12V+ for the switch power input...

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Output lead for the "IN" function...

AF8BBF0C-1DCA-4A50-A7F9-534A700A9CE0.jpeg



And finally another 12V+ & 12V- for the upper light...

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Install the blank, and it should look like this when you're done:

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6D1973D2-CBF5-4A92-91BF-3CC0A81CD295.jpeg



Disclaimer: The Voswitch install instructions specifically say that this system is NOT to be used for winch controls. After reading through this post, you can probably understand why. Now that you can make an informed decision, proceed at your own risk if you want to set yours up like this...
 
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If it's a self-recovery winching situation, I've found that I'm often in a position where I'm pointing up a steep incline and gravity has me pinned back in my seat. I want the winch controls located in an easy to reach spot. In other words, I don't want to have to reach across the dash to get to them. Unfortunately, the programmable slots on the Voswitch are the 4 closest to the driver. Looks like I'm going to have to do a little more re-wiring...

The easiest way to approach this is to just reverse the order of the outputs. Instead of 1 -> 8, hook up all the outputs in reverse order so the switches are effectively running 8 -> 1. The limiting factor is that the power and ground coming off the main power switch are very short. In the following picture, you can see I cut them, and spliced in black and red extension wires so that I could flip all the outputs around. This is what it looks like after sticking the winch controls in the #2 slot (instead of the #7 slot).

57C52650-8C7F-4432-AF17-5A2FEC3F8674.jpeg



Never one to leave well enough alone, I figured that the #8 slot would be a great spot for an additional USB port. This would provide power for whatever accessory I decide to mount on the RAM ball:

FFE7834C-FBC9-4CAE-B499-4775BD99AAD0.jpeg



The main power switch is dimmable, which is OK for switching as only minimal voltage is needed to activate a relay. This is not OK however for supplying a pair of high output USB ports. I had to run dedicated power and ground wires to the panel for the USB. I used a Dremel to cut an extra wire notch in the back of the panel for them:

411A6898-4D41-4631-83A1-9F9C15A5601E.jpeg



I'm only using 7 of the 8 circuits currently, so this left me room for the USB ports and a blank. I still have room for expansion should I come up with the need for another circuit. My lights are now the "programmable" switches, so I can use the flash and strobe functions if I desire. Check out my cool custom rockers from OTRATTW Switch Guys!

B257A9F6-36CF-48CB-8B6C-79548A87BD44.jpeg
 
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The power module mounts here on the driver's side, just behind the washer fluid reservoir...

IMG-0466.jpg



Control wires (and my USB power wires) exit the engine compartment and pass under the foam weather strip...

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Wrap around the A-pillar...

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And then get tucked in between two flaps of the lower windshield seal...

IMG-0194.jpg



You'll notice in the two early pictures, my upper dash is taken apart. I was convinced that running the wires through the windshield seal was "taking the easy way out" and that I could find a better way by disassembling the dash. I couldn't. Plenty of good ways to get the wire inside the dash at either end, but there's not really any good way of getting the end of the wires to poke back out in the middle of your dash. Save yourself some time, frustration, and possibly a missing trim clip (that I'll probably never be able to get back out of my dash). Removing the dash speaker and grill is helpful, but don't completely take apart your dash for this install. :facepalm:

The switch panel is secured with the two factory trim screws that are hidden under the removed dash tray. Here's everything all tidied up (plus a preview of a future install):

IMG-0560.jpg


IMG-0525.jpg



Even made myself a nice little PDC diagram on the underside of the lid to assist with later troubleshooting:

IMG-0520.jpg
 
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I had again caved in to Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals, buying not only the Voswitch, but Baja Designs Squadron Sport lights for the rear, Baja Designs Squadron SAE fog lights for the front, Poison Spyder front bumper with skid, and Poison Spyder rear bumper with tire carrier. Oh yeah, and a Warn Zeon 10-S winch. I really need to practice better self control, but hey, I hadn't really purchased anything for the Jeep for an entire year! Plus, all these parts essentially get installed as a front bumper assembly and a rear bumper assembly. Can't really piecemeal it even if you wanted to. :giggle:

The Voswitch, winch, and lights had arrived quickly, allowing me to get a head start on my wiring. As it turned out, the head start wasn't necessary. I've experienced issues in the past with UPS shipping heavy parts. They had even managed to fold in the plate steel end caps on my XJ rear bumper somehow. This was different though. Our local UPS hub is notorious for delaying heavy packages. There was even an article written about them lately, focussing on the huge pile of oversized packages sitting outside in their parking lot, many with shipping labels so faded you can't even read them anymore. Over the course of the next few weeks (and many shipping delays), parts slowly began to arrive. My front bumper skid showed up in good shape. My front bumper had a big hole in the box, but luckily whatever caused the hole missed the bumper inside. My rear bumper showed up in a smashed box, it's contents floating around loosely inside. My tire carrier never showed up.

Here's how my rear bumper arrived. Somehow, the powder coat wasn't damaged:

5DD5D9E4-612B-4860-A3A2-F642B248840E.jpeg



Since I now had the rear bumper and lights, I figured I'd start prepping it for install while I waited for the tire carrier to show up. In the meantime, Northridge 4x4 had agreed to send me a new tire carrier since it seemed that the original one had fallen off the face of the earth. I figured it would (hopefully) be arriving soon. I meticulously wired up the lights, carefully routing the wiring, and even making my own Deutsch connectors with some new crimping tools I had picked up for this wiring project.

IMG-0271.jpg



The tire carrier finally arrived, my switch panel was installed, and the wiring had been run to the rear of the vehicle for my back-up lights. Time to install this thing! I had read the install directions numerous times, watched some install videos, and had figured out how I was going to put my spin on addressing the rear camera and CHMSL wiring. I removed my stock bumper and the stock tire carrier, carefully disconnecting and removing all the stock wiring harnesses. I mounted the tire carrier pivot to the studs on the backside of the bumper, carefully following the instructions for torquing the nuts. The first three seemed to torque up OK, the fourth one started getting that mushy feeling when suddenly, SNAP. The stud broke off. First I got pissed. :swear: Then I started getting that nauseous feeling when I started thinking about how long it had taken to get these parts, the work that had gone into installing the lights, and how long it would take to get a new bumper, if they didn't try to say it was my fault for breaking the stud in the first place. :puke: Not to mention I no longer had a rear bumper, license plate, spare tire, etc. on my Jeep.

The broken stud, part of a welded in plate that is not removable / accessible:

75C00426-F561-4DF5-9D22-2DE6BF9FD818.jpeg



The instructions stating to torque to "At least 60 Ft-lbs":

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A torque chart will tell you 33 Ft-lbs for a 3/8" Coarse Grade 8 bolt:

AD017FA9-FA5A-4A72-B96A-6B028455CBC5.jpeg



I contacted Poison Spyder directly about this, explained the situation, and sent these pictures to them. They said they'd have to have their engineers review it and get back to me. The very next day, I received a call back. They would be sending out a new bumper for me that afternoon! Kudos to Poison Spyder for handling this so quickly. I hope they've updated their instructions by now...

I zip-tied my license plate to the rear crossmember, bundled up all the loose wiring and hung it inside my tailgate, and then eagerly awaited the arrival of my replacement bumper. At least I had some more time to work on other wiring projects now! :LOL:
 
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While waiting on the bumper, I continued plugging away at the wiring. As I mentioned, I ran ALL of the accessory wiring for my Jeep at one time so it could all be bundled and harnessed together. This was a multi-day (multi-week?) job. Everything was encased in expandable braided loom. All loom ends were finished with adhesive lined heat shrink tubing. All terminals were crimped and adhesive heat shrunk as well. It was a slow process, but turned out nicely.

For the rear wiring, I wanted to run a single, shared power cable to the rear of the vehicle. This would supply a small fuse panel, which would in turn supply my rear accessories. The question was, where to mount the fuse panel? It needed to be hidden away, yet easy to access. Reasonably protected from weather, while not affecting my interior storage options. After evaluating the fit of a few different Blue Sea Systems fuse panels (by printing out full sized CAD drawing as mentioned earlier), I finally decided that inside the driver side taillight housing would be the ideal spot.

IMG-0425.jpg



Wires ran through the driver side firewall opening (available to those of us automatic owners only). They were bundled, loomed, and then encased in a couple of layers of adhesive heat shrink tubing where they would be passing through the firewall. Partly for abrasion resistance, partly to make a nice tight seal inside the grommet that I installed in the opening's cover. I made sure to provide for a drip loop prior to entering the firewall, as this was a spot that caused some interior water leakage on my XJ.

IMG-0464.jpg



I pulled all the trim panels from front to back, and opened up the factory wiring chases so everything could be neatly tucked away. Wires ran along the door sills and then continued up and over the rear wheel well, following the taillight harness, and finally passing through the same grommet as the taillight harness. Also of note is the red object in the front left of the picture. That is a Posi-Tap connector wrapped in heat shrink tubing. It is tapped into the factory reverse light circuit and triggers a relay that activates my back-up lights when I shift into reverse.

IMG-0515.jpg



There's actually a lot going on in those bundles: Main power wire into taillight housing through the grommet, individual power wires back through the grommet to interior mounted switches, a couple of the switched power wires back through the grommet to exterior lights, along with some relay activation wires passing through the grommet as well. That poor grommet was pretty stretched out...

I also needed somewhere to mount a couple of micro relays without interfering with the taillight. I ran the wires around the taillight opening and secured everything out of the way so nothing gets snagged when removing the taillight.

IMG-0516.jpg



The wires dropping down through the bottom of the taillight opening in the above picture feed my bumper mounted back-up lights.
 
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About a week passed while I waited for my replacement bumper, then the dreaded UPS delay messages starting showing up in my tracking history again. I wasn't surprised by the delays, but what did surprise me, was that a couple of days later I found a large package on my front porch! Unfortunately upon further inspection I found it was actually my tire carrier that had been "missing" for the past month. I now had two tire carriers, but nothing to mount them on. lol

The next day however, my luck changed, well... sort of. My replacement rear bumper arrived, but this time the packaging was even more destroyed. Somehow I don't think it was plastic wrapped like this when it left Poison Spyder...

IMG-0251.jpg



Nope, definitely not...

IMG-0253.jpg



This looks all too familiar...

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And sadly, this time the powder coat had taken a beating. Lots of chips, scuffs, etc. covered the bumper. Part of me just wanted to keep the bumper and put a coat of rattle can on it. The more patient side of me decided that I had already waited this long, and had paid full price for a new bumper. I might as well wait again for another replacement.

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Another phone call to Poison Spyder explaining the situation. They apologized and said they would once again ship me out a new bumper. Only this time, they were going to palletize it and ship it to me via truck freight! Now I'll be the first to admit, this isn't completely UPS's fault. While most of Poison Spyder's packaging is pretty solid, the rear bumper packaging could definitely use a re-design. Another week and a half passed, and the 3rd (and final) bumper arrived via truck freight. Proper handling meant that I finally got to see an example of what the packaging was supposed to look like: :LOL:

IMG-0270.jpg
 
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About a week passed while I waited for my replacement bumper, then the dreaded UPS delay messages starting showing up in my tracking history again. I wasn't surprised by the delays, but what did surprise me, was that a couple of days later I found a large package on my front porch! Unfortunately upon further inspection I found it was actually my tire carrier that had been "missing" for the past month. I now had two tire carriers, but nothing to mount them on. lol

The next day however, my luck changed, well... sort of. My replacement rear bumper arrived, but this time the packaging was even more destroyed. Somehow I don't think it was plastic wrapped like this when it left Poison Spyder...

IMG-0251.jpg



Nope, definitely not...

IMG-0253.jpg


This looks all too familiar...

IMG-0255.jpg



And sadly, this time the powder coat had taken a beating. Lots of chips, scuffs, etc. covered the bumper. Part of me just wanted to keep the bumper and put a coat of rattle can on it. The more patient side of me decided that I had already waited this long, and had paid full price for a new bumper. I might as well wait again for another replacement.

IMG-0672.jpg


IMG-0676.jpg


IMG-0679.jpg



Another phone call to Poison Spyder explaining the situation. They apologized and said they would once again ship me out a new bumper. Only this time, they were going to palletize it and ship it to me via truck freight! Now I'll be the first to admit, this isn't completely UPS's fault. While most of Poison Spyder's packaging is pretty solid, the rear bumper packaging could definitely use a re-design. Another week and a half passed, and the 3rd (and final) bumper arrived via truck freight. Proper handling meant that I finally got to see an example of what the packaging was supposed to look like: :LOL:

IMG-0270.jpg
First off, nice thread.

If you’re going to a lot of off-road, why not live with the scratches in the bumper? First real gnarly hole will muck up a bunch of stuff like bumper. Would have been worth everyone’s while for the manufacturer to give you a $100 partial refund and you keep the damaged bumper. Touch it up if you want and spend that extra money on another upgrade. My thoughts.
 
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tonygiotta

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First off, nice thread.

If you’re going to a lot of off-road, why not live with the scratches in the bumper? First real gnarly hole will muck up a bunch of stuff like bumper. Would have been worth everyone’s while for the manufacturer to give you a $100 partial refund and you keep the damaged bumper. Touch it up if you want and spend that extra money on another upgrade. My thoughts.
Yeah, I feel you. My first trip through the Rubicon left me with plenty of battle scars. (Rustoleum Satin Black matches the Poison Spyder powder coat pretty darn well by the way.) It was partly the principal of wanting to get what I paid for, combined with the fact that scratches and other damage just feel different when they are earned. I'd be OK with some minor body damage from running a challenging trail, but you can bet that I'd be pissed about a door ding from a runaway shopping cart in a parking lot! :LOL:
 
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OK, rear bumper install time... For real this time! I mounted up my lights on the new bumper, which went a lot quicker this go around since I had already figured out all the wiring lengths and had made the connectors. Installed the tire carrier pivot (without incident this time) and then mounted the bumper on my Jeep. Slid the tire carrier into the pivot and then bolted the rest of the carrier together. Everything came together nicely. I was a happy camper.

52EDA572-BB31-4664-9573-1C787A68705C.jpeg



Getting the spare tire off the tailgate is a great thing. No more worries about your tailgate cracking, and you also get the added capability of being able to mount other accessories on the tire carrier if you so desire. License plate relocation is nice too as you no longer have to worry about smashing it on the trail. Throw relocation of the CHMSL into the mix so you can run larger tires without obscuring it, and now you're really cooking. Anyone with these added luxuries will however tell you that the wiring can be complicated and that spare tire removal often becomes a challenge. Most aftermarket carriers do a poor job of addressing these issues. Poison Spyder tried, but I knew I could do better.

Poison Spyder provides you with a stainless steel license plate mount that also incorporates a camera mount, license plate light, and a provision for reusing your factory CHMSL:

95E5E559-24A9-4FF1-9D43-CEB4FA865B13.jpeg



They give you a plug-and-play extension cable for the license plate light that connects to the factory connector on the driver side, runs along the rear of the vehicle to the passenger side, and then snakes its way through the tailgate to the provided light. I did a little research in the factory service manual wiring diagrams and found the license plate light is simply part of the "Park Lamps" light circuit. Since I was planning on creating my own wiring solution anyway, I figured I'd just tap into the Park Lamps circuit feeding the passenger side taillight, and cut out all the excess wiring. I snipped off the factory license plate light wires (the little black stub hanging below the Posi-Tap in the first picture of post #51), and then tapped into the wiring harness behind the passenger side trim panel. I knew I'd be adding a Ham radio in the future, so I took advantage of having the panel off and ran the antenna cable at the same time:

8A46C53A-8EDD-4B97-A8C4-C093549D2F17.jpeg



I fed everything through the wiring sleeve that connects the body to the tailgate:

6A4EC023-EB03-4610-99F2-CA3D04AEEB8A.jpeg



Antenna wiring popped through here:

F001F2D8-E730-49B3-9806-997ADE792A14.jpeg



It was tough to fit the NMO antenna base through this grommet, but I made it work:

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And I made a simple connector for the license plate light power wire which got routed here:

A94900BD-60C0-4523-AAEE-B662DA4D0F8D.jpeg



Now here's where I got a little fancy. I always do 5-tire rotations, so my spare gets taken off fairly regularly. I wanted to make it as easy as possible, both for maintenance, and for trail side flat repairs. Poison Spyder has it set up so that the CHMSL, license plate light, and camera can all be disconnected behind the license plate mount. This is great, but the connectors (especially the Fakra connector on the back of the camera) can be pretty difficult to manipulate in such tight quarters:

EFF6473C-AE88-4E2F-A700-298572121634.jpeg



I decided instead to make a small wiring harness that could be disconnected behind the spare tire, where big hands can much more easily fit. I took a deep dive down the rabbit hole of coax cables and Fakra connectors, and eventually found an American made pigtail that I was pretty confident would not degrade the video quality of my HD rear-view camera. I then cut and spliced the wires for the CHMSL and the license plate light, combining them into a 3-pin Deutsch connector (1-light power, 2-CHMSL power, 3-combined ground). Loomed and heat shrunk everything together and ended up with this:

IMG-0298.jpg



Here's an overview of the wiring from the tailgate to the back of the spare, as well as a look at the linkage that connects the tire carrier to the tailgate:

IMG-0307.jpg



Last, but certainly not least, Poison Spyder has you bolt the license plate mount to a bracket that protrudes through the center of the spare. They give you some nice hardware to do this with, but it requires you to carry wrenches with you so you can remove the bracket should you ever need to remove the spare tire. Instead, I opted to replace the hardware with stainless steel carriage bolts and adjustable handles. The square underneath the carriage bolt head locks into the slot, and the arms can be reset to any position you want to allow for a completely tool-less license plate bracket removal! Still not super easy due to the tight quarters behind the bracket, but way easier than trying to manipulate a pair of wrenches back there...

IMG-0297.jpg
 
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Excellent wiring and engineering solutions. A pleasure to read.
 
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Looking like a bumper junkyard in here.

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Haven't forgotten about the front bumper. Working on that at the same time.

6362A754-FDCA-4795-A47B-1D1507A94C08.jpeg



But we'll get back to that later...
 
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Tony
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'18 Firecracker Red JLUR
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  • #59
At this point I had the Voswitch power module and switch panel installed, and I had run all the wiring down the driver side of the Jeep. I hadn’t however hooked up power to the Voswitch module yet. Well, at least not permanently anyway. I had attached the power lead to the battery and the signal wire to an ignition switched circuit in the fuse box, but just to make sure everything was working properly. Nothing was secured and all the extra wire was just coiled up and zip-tied out of the way in the engine compartment while I came up with a plan.

My overall build plan is geared towards what I would consider a camping crawler. Capable of conquering whatever trail I want to throw at it, but also set-up for some camping creature comforts. Primary to this vision is having a 12V fridge in the back. This combined with my planned winch and air compressor installs were leading me toward a dual battery set up. I figured rather than wire everything up, and then have to change it down the road when I got a dual battery, I would just bite the bullet and get the dual battery system installed right off the bat. That way I could wire everything once and be done with it. I ended up going with the Genesis Dual Battery Kit. It was fairly new to the JL platform, but seemed to have lots of favorable reviews from the JK folks. I found a good deal on the tray through River City Offroad, and picked up the Odyssey batteries from two different online retailers. Install was pretty straightforward after watching the Genesis install video. I made a few custom changes in order to clean up the wiring (I wasn't cool with just taping and tucking the unused ground away), and I also added some battery terminal covers.

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The power cable for the Voswitch was a little smaller gauge than I preferred, and it also came with a really cheap fuse holder. Since my accessory battery would be feeding both the Voswitch power module and my rear fuse block, I instead ran a nice heavy gauge wire to this 100A circuit breaker (mounted on a custom bracket that I fabbed up)...

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I went with a panel mount circuit breaker so I could back wire it and keep the power wires out of the way.

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This keeps the connections protected, while also leaving room for wiring up the three micro relays I had incorporated into the bracket.

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From the circuit breaker, the wire continued across the top of the firewall to this Blue Sea Systems Power Post, at which point I split the power feed. The post connection then sends power through the shortened Voswitch wire feeding the power module, and through the heavy gauge wire I had previously run to the rear fuse panel.

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tonygiotta

tonygiotta

Well-Known Member
First Name
Tony
Joined
Aug 21, 2018
Messages
299
Reaction score
409
Location
Turlock, CA
Vehicle(s)
'18 Firecracker Red JLUR
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Link
Occupation
Fire Captain
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  • Thread Starter
  • #60
While I had the PDC (fuse box) out for the dual battery install, I figured it was a good time to get the main power wire for my passenger side accessories run through the firewall. Jeep gives you a perfect spot. It unfortunately is hidden behind the fuse box and can be very challenging to get to while the fuse box is in place. There is a little nipple molded into the rubber grommet that seals the passenger side wiring harness in the firewall. Wiring can be passed through the nipple, and then secured for a completely waterproof install.

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Wiring was run along the side of the engine compartment and tucked in next to the batteries.

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I also sourced a MIDI fuse holder (similar to the one provided by Voswitch, but higher quality) and installed an 80A fuse to handle the power needs of my future air compressor. Close as practicable to the battery, while still being able to tuck it out of the way.

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