Jeeps were made to go off-road.....we all know that. Winches were made to recover the Jeep when the driver either thought the Jeep should go further off-road or simply wasn't paying attention and got stuck. If you drive off-road and you don't have a winch, it is only a matter of time before you get one. Once you do, you'll want an in-cab remote control. Sure, you can get by without one, but having one mounted on your dash is just plain handy. Anyone that uses an in-cab controller will vouch for that. However, having one installed that came from The 12VoltGuy is just plain cool. There isn't another one made that looks as good nor functions as well as the one that Darren puts together.
I exchanged several e-mails with Darren prior to his shipping the winch control and install kit. He answered all my questions (and asked one or two), provided me with some pics to help answer a question, and was always quick in returning a response. I got the distinct impression that he was genuinely interested in my getting exactly what I wanted. In other words, customer service was great!
When the parts arrived by priority mail, I opened the box to find everything carefully packed in bubble wrap and newspaper. The small parts were packaged in two manila envelopes. Unlike some packages I've received from other vendors, this one had no parts rattling around in the bottom....that I like!
NOTE: Please note that the installation kit is sold separately and is not included with the winch control panel.
The quality of the parts appear second to none. These aren't your typical Radio Shack cheap-o components. Yeah, you might be able to build it cheaper, but it won't look this good nor be of better quality. The wire size is more than adequate for the current draw. The connectors are fully insulated.
But enough of me telling you about it....let's get to the install.
The kit includes virtually everything you should need to have a successful installation. A well drawn wiring diagram is included which details the switch panel and the wiring going to the solenoids in the Warn winch. I have a Warn XD 9000i winch and the diagram included was specifically for that model (obviously the results from one of the questions asked before the package shipped). I particularly liked the template that was printed on card stock. Rather than cutting the template out of your install documentation, Darren put it on lightweight stock which was handy. Cable ties, power taps, and mounting hardware rounded out the kit. Another thing I appreciated was the wire loom covering the wires that go through the firewall and connects to the winch. Saved me having to use my own!
A close-up of the control panel. The LED, above the red switch, illuminates when the switch is turned on. After that, it is just a matter of selecting IN or OUT to control the winch direction. If the red winch switch is not "armed", the IN/OUT switch will do nothing. To help reduce the possibility of someone reaching inside your Jeep and playing with the controls when you are not there, you can wire the controller to a switched ignition source (be sure the source is also fused). Unless you leave the keys in the ignition, the winch control will be disabled.
It was decided to mount the panel on the lower dash panel, opposite the location with there headlight switch is located. To remove the dash panel, remove the two Phillips screws so you can slide the dash panel over the head light switch.
If you have not already done so, disconnect the negative lead of the battery and the winch. You don't want things coming on in the middle of doing a wiring project if a wire gets away from you. That would NOT be cool.
With the dash panel removed, it is time to mark and cut the hole. While I don't have the template properly positioned in the above pic, the measurements are correct. The top edge of the template is 9/16" down and the right hand edge is 3/8" in from the edge of the dash panel. I used a fine line marker to trace the shape of the template on the dash panel.
NOTE: This is a good place to note that the dash panels have changed contour a bit over the years. I know that at least the '03 and newer dash panels are different than my old '98. The point is.....take your time and do some test fits before you commit to cutting the dash. Because my dash is contoured, I had to remove some of the substructure behind the dash (more on that later). This project is a measure 5 times, cut once kind of thing. Take your time, check and double check, and it should go OK.
I used my Dremel tool to cut the dash panel. It was a rotary cutter bit. I had to take my time as I found that the plastic kind of melted back together behind the bit. I would cut a 1/2" or so, then go back through it again to clean it up. Worked OK. Keep your hand steady....brace it if you need to ensure a clean and even cut.
The results of the Dremel tool turned out well. It doesn't have to be perfect since the control panel will be mounted over the cutout area. I used a rough cut file to smooth up the sides a bit.
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