With the compressor mounted on the ABS tray in the engine compartment, it was time to work on locating a position for the control switches. A search on the Internet and a question posted on a couple of Jeep forums yielded a variety of ideas. By far, the most common spot seemed to be the TJ's ashtray area. Since I had quit smoking better than 10 years ago, it seemed like a pretty good place for the switches. The ash tray had been collecting gun wrappers and such over the past couple of years and I figured the loss of that ability was fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.
Most of the write-ups I read through, that used the ashtray area, used a factory 3 switch plate that the hard top owners have on the left side of the ash tray. With some plastic dash cutting and various methods involving screws and hot glue, the ashtray area is transformed into another 3 switch panel. A switch panel was running around $20 at the dealer and they weren't open on Sunday, so I decided to make my own.
I found some light weight aluminum sitting on the garage shelf. It was actually the top to a piece of rack mounted electronics equipment and had little ventilation holes in it. I took some cardboard and constructed a template of the plate I would need. I used the measurements of a switch and spaced out the blocks on the template. After I was satisfied with the template, I traced it onto the aluminum and cut it out using a portable scroll saw with a metal cutting blade. After the initial cuts were made, it took about 30 more minutes with a flat file to true up the switch holes and smooth the edges. Here it is in place, before I painted it flat black.
And with a little bit of black paint, the panel looks a bit better. I have not attached the face plates of the two switches in the above picture. Since these were my switches mounted on my plate and in my Jeep, I decided to put the compressor control in the center. The switch to the left (as you look at it) will be the rear locker and the right hand switch will be for the front.
With the switch panel pretty much finished, I started on making some room in the dash for the switch harness. I pulled the molding off of the center portion of the dash. I removed the factory switch panel from the dash (the switches and wires were still attached) and proceeded to notch out a piece of the mounting area with a Dremel tool. Be careful and don't slip and slice some of the wires (if you have wiring on this panel as I do).
I used the Dremel tool to cut a corresponding triangular hole in the center molding so it would line up with the one I had just cut on the factory switch panel.
I removed the dash panel below the steering wheel so I could route the switch harness wires more easily. The harness also needs to tap into two wires under the dash, an ignition hot wire and a dashboard lights wire. Having this part of the dash removed makes it easier to make these necessary connections.
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