Barn Door for JK factory hardtops

jscherb

Expedition Leader
It's a busy weekend but I found a few minutes to do a quick initial test of the new switch panel. In this photo all the parts are laid out on the workbench and an LED pod is lit and controlled from button 1 (note the red LED above button 1 on the panel showing that circuit is on). Wiring everything is very simple. Power is being suplied by a benchtop power supply off camera to the right.



Using Bluetooth, I paired the switch panel to my Android phone, it's the top entry in the pairing list. (BTW the Konwei devices in the list are the Bluetooth OBDII interfaces I have in each Jeep and the Joy is my Cricut cutter that I used for making decals).



Ran out of time so all I was able to do is some screen shots from the app. Left to right:

- Switch backlight color. Set to light green in this screenshot, any color on the wheel can be chosen.
- Switch Mode. Each switch can be set to On/Off toggle (probably the most common use), Momentary (for a horn perhaps) and Pulsed (maybe good for first responders, turns any LED into a strobe).
- Icon. The switch labels available for the panel are also available digitally for use in the app, in this screenshot I've chosen the same icon for switch 1 that I used on the panel. You can also use a photo from your phone. This doesn't affect the switch panel itself, it's only for the phone.
- Group. You can group switches together so switching one on switches the whole group on. I can think of several uses for this.



Probably won't have more time to play with this until after the weekend.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Review: Auxbeam Bluetooth-enabled 8-Circuit Switch Panel

Auxbeam recently released a new Bluetooth-enabled switch panel. It's similar to other Auxbeam switch panels I've reviewed in the past, but this one can be controlled from a smartphone app via Bluetooth and also has configurable color settings for the switch backlights and configurable switch actions. They sent me one to test and review, it arrived the other day:





The contents of the kit:



The control unit is in the center of the photo above, and clockwise from top left there's a selection of mounting brackets for various locations, a 60-amp circuit breaker, the switch panel, various wiring components and hardware, instructions, switch faces and a bunch of zip ties.

The instructions are thorough:



The QR Codes at the top right of the photo above are links to the app for both Android phones and iPhones. I downloaded, installed and tested both the Android and the iPhone versions.

Wiring is straightforward, this is the wiring diagram from the instructions:



The kit comes with 60 removable switch labels; I put a random selection of them on the panel for this test.



A closer look at the control unit.



The control unit is all solid state and all of the electronics are "potted" to protect them from the environment. There are six outputs, and the total load across all six must total 60 amps or less. The instructions say "the maximum output current of 1 & 2 is 30a and the maximum output current of 3-8 is 20a." They don't say why, but my assumption is that the semiconductors passing the power through outputs 1 and 2 are more highly rated than those on outputs 3-8. A table in the instructions shows the maximum amperage recommended for each output so that information should be followed when assigning devices to the outputs.

I connected everything on the workbench. Instead of an automotive battery for this test, I used a benchtop power supply. I connected a small LED pod to output 1 for this test. One feature I really like is an LED that will light when the fuse in that circuit is blown (see the diagram above). Another nice feature - there are spare fuses and a fuse puller inside the cover of the control unit, so if you're in the field and need a fuse, you've got them. In this next photo circuit 1 is switched on, powering the LED pod. The benchtop power supply is out of the picture to the right:



Auxbeam has a video on their web site showing how everything gets connected, including a demonstration of the unit controlling multiple lights:


With the initial test done, I tried to use the app to configure and control the switch panel. Initially I had some trouble getting the switch panel app to talk to the switch control. Every Bluetooth device I've ever connected to with my Android phone required that the device be paired with the phone first in order to use it, so I paired the phone with the switch panel but I couldn't get the app to work. This works differently - if you first pair the device with the phone, the app will not be able to connect to the switch panel. The procedure is:

  1. Turn on Bluetooth on the phone.
  2. DON'T pair the switch panel with the phone.
  3. Open the app and tap the Bluetooth icon (left photo below).
  4. Turn on Bluetooth in the app (center photo)
  5. When the switch panel appears, tap the word "connect" (right photo).



After getting this to work, I tried the same on the iPhone. Based on what I learned with the Android, I didn't try to pair the iPhone with the switch panel, I just followed the procedure above and the app connected just fine. I've suggested to Auxbeam that they update the instructions to say that pairing is not required - many people, who are accustomed to pairing Bluetooth devices before they use them, will probably pair the device first like I did and will not succeed in getting the app to connect to the switch panel.

With the app working, a quick test controlling one of the circuits from the app:


Features of the app include:
  • Turn circuits on or off
  • Change the color and brightness of the switch backlighting
  • Change the labels and names on the switches on the switch panel image on the phone (but not on the switch panel itself). Photos can be used as switch labels.
  • Change the operation mode of each switch:
    • On/off
    • Momentary (useful perhaps for something like a horn)
    • Pulsed (can turn a light into a flasher, perhaps for first responder use)
  • Grouping switches. Multiple switches can be grouped to operate together. Useful if the amperage of the devices to be turned on exceeds the capacity of one circuit in the panel.

I went through all the features of the app and was going to do a video showing them all, but the features are shown very well in this video from Auxbeam so I'll link to that instead of doing my own video:


Installation in a Jeep first involves deciding where to mount the switch panel and the control unit. Brackets are provided for both, and they may or may not be needed depending on where you decide to mount things.

One place the switch panel can mount nicely is to the windshield frame trim panel above the mirror. In the left photo below I'm holding it up there in my JKU. Mounting it in the same place in the TJ looks pretty much the same, so I didn't include a TJ photo.

The right photo shows my phone in the holder it lives in when it's in the Jeep. Since the unit can be controlled directly from the app on the phone, one option would be to not mount the physical switch panel anywhere. It probably should be plugged in for all the circuitry to operate properly, but it could be stowed somewhere (under the seat?) and everything controlled from the app on the phone.



Using the phone as the switch control might also be useful for turning things on or off from outside the Jeep - for example, at a camp site. From your chair next to the campfire you could turn on or off the campsite area lighting you've got attached to your roof rack.

The control unit is probably best mounted under the hood to keep the high power leads short. On the left below, I've set the unit on top of the JK's TIPM. It fits nicely there and clears the hood when closed. On the right, I've set it on top of the air cleaner box. Both of these locations would make for a simple installation, but there may be other places in the Jeep's engine compartment that suit your needs better.



Once the mounting is decided, the wiring is straightforward. A fuse tap is installed in the Jeep's fuse panel to provide switched power, the high power leads are connected from the battery to the control unit through the supplied 60-amp circuit breaker, and the switch panel wires are routed though the dash and connected to the switch panel. Once that's done, devices can be connected to the outputs of the control unit.

I experimented with the different switch modes (on/off, momentary, pulsed) and grouping switches and found the various options to work as advertised. For my use, I probably won't need those options, but I'm sure people will find uses for all of the options.

At about half the price of an SPOD (less than half if you factor in the $135 SPOD Bluetooth option) this switch panel is well worth consideration. And if you don't need the Bluetooth capability, Auxbeam has 6 and 8 switch panels available without Bluetooth that are less expensive (the six switch non-Bluetooth unit is on their web site for about $140 as I write this).

The switch panel can be found at: https://auxbeam.com/products/ar-800-multifunction-rgb-switch-panel-system-qp008526

On last tip: Customizing the switch panel - if the 60 supplied switch labels don't provide what you need to label your switches, you can make your own labels. Earlier this year I reviewed a six-switch panel from Auxbeam, it doesn't have Bluetooth control and is different in a number of other features, but the switch labels are the same and in that review I described how to make custom switch labels in case you need a label that isn't provided in the kit. The same technique can be used to make labels for this panel: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/barn-door-for-jk-factory-hardtops.127687/post-2942757
 

Denney448

New member
Jeff,

Have you heard any updates if Retrofit is planning to release a kit for the Overhead Swing-Down Molle for the JL? Or any update about the slider windows for the JL? I know you mentioned previously that the supply chain had delayed these products from coming to the market.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Jeff,

Have you heard any updates if Retrofit is planning to release a kit for the Overhead Swing-Down Molle for the JL? Or any update about the slider windows for the JL? I know you mentioned previously that the supply chain had delayed these products from coming to the market.
Slider windows for the JK: Just as the pandemic was starting I turned over the design patterns for the JLU slider window kit and the accompanying JLU window retrofit kit to Retrofit Offroad, so as of then they had everything they needed to get them in production. As the pandemic progressed, the RV window company that was to do the production had to cut back on their volume to only their largest RV clients due to staffing issues, so the JL slider windows got sidetracked. That's as of Q1 2020. I don't have any more recent information on that product. Probably best to contact Retrofit Offroad and ask them.

BTW at the same time I also turned over most of the design and engineering details for JK/JKU cargo hatch/gullwing windows, and the window company did produce a preproduction sample, which they delivered to me (video below). I don't know the status of those either, and the same information plus the patterns for the slider windows above are all that's needed to produce cargo hatches/gullwing windows for the JLU.



Overhead/Swing Down Molle Panel for the JLU: This is a MORryde product. Coincidentally, they contacted me today to discuss some details of an upcoming accessory for the Trail Kitchen so while I was talking to them I asked about the JLU Molle Panel. They told me they had an internal meeting a few weeks ago to review their SEMA results (BTW, the only products they showed in their SEMA booth this year were Jeep products, in all other years they also featured RV and truck products). They told me the results of the meeting were that they decided to increase their focus on Jeep products and that the molle panel is one of their highest priorities for release soon (they didn't give me a date). So hopefully it'll be moving along soon. The video below shows the overhead lockbox version; the MOLLE version is the same just without the locking enclosure.



Trail Kitchen Battery Charging System: As long as I'm on the subject of MORryde products, I'll update on this too. I asked them where that was in the priority list and told them that if they weren't going to release it soon then I was going to publish how-to details and a parts list so people can build their own. It's not a very complicated product, and very cost-effectively manages the charge of a dedicated battery for the Trail Kitchen or just a fridge. Stay tuned, as soon as I hear from them I'll either post that they're doing it soon or I'll post DIY details :).
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I've posted about my insulated "Cool Bag" design a few times. I designed and sewed it earlier this year and we've used it many times for picnics and other excursions. My favorite photo of a Cool Bag hanging on the passenger seat of my LJ:



OO picked it up and showed my prototype as a future product at the shows they attended this past year and it was very popular. It's now in production, but that's not what this post is about.

Based on how useful the Cool Bag has been, I've been thinking about other types of insulated bags that might be useful. Here's one I just finished sewing - it's a tubular shape, very similar to the OO Roll Bar bag, but this one is insulated and sized slightly differently so it can hold either 3 12-ounce cans or 2 16-ounce bottles plus an ice sheet.



I sized it inside so that ice cube sheets will be a close fit around the cans/bottles. You can see the edge of the ice blocks in the photos above, in this next photo the ice cube sheet and cans are removed.



The ice cube sheet is from Igloo; I bought it at Target for $3.49 (https://www.target.com/p/igloo-natural-ice-sheet-1lb/-/A-14782302). I cut two rows off the long end of to fit in the bag; with those two rows gone it fills the bag from end to end. There are other brands with similar products, but my local Target had the Igloo sheets so I used those.

I'm also using this bag as a test bed for a bunch of attachment ideas. It's got a Zip & Go Zipper on the back so it can hang on the back of the seat using the OO Zip & Go attachment.



Since the Zip & Go attachment is part of their Gladiator Storage System it can hang there too. At left below is the Gladiator Storage System in a Gladiator (note a cargo bag hanging on the bottom of it); I don't have a Gladiator but I have installed one of the panels behind the seats of my Retro Wrangler pickup, the bag can hang nicely there.



There's also a PALS strip on the back of the bag, that's meant to be used to hang the bag from a PALS/MOLLE panel using short detachable MOLLE straps.



Similarly, the PALS strip on the back can be used with roll bar straps (longer than the MOLLE straps pictured above and with cam buckles instead of snaps) to hang the bag from a roll bar.



On each end of the bag are webbing loops. Those can be used to attach a handle or shoulder strap if needed.



For now I'm calling this the "Cool Roll". Not sure if people would find it useful enough for me to recommend it to OO for production. Some testing needs to be done to determine how useful it might be and how well it keeps drinks cold.

Let me know what you think.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Had a meeting in Manhattan the other day and since we planned to drive there and back in one day it was a good day to test the Cool Roll - about 4 1/2 hours each way to the meeting. Before leaving, I loaded the Cool Roll with a frozen ice cube sheet and three cans of Diet Pepsi and zipped it to the passenger seat back.

On the way home, about 11 hours after putting the drinks into the Cool Roll, my better half wanted a cold drink. Since the Cool Roll was on the back of her seat, it was easy for me to reach over, zip the bag open and grab a can while driving. (Staged photo after we got home):



Handed it to her and she said "It feels like it just came out of the fridge." I took a few swigs - actually not as cold as when it came out of the fridge 11 hours before, but definitely cold enough to be refreshing.

She likes to keep the JKU's automatic heat control at about 80 degrees this time of year, so it was quite warm in the Jeep all day but even so the drink was pretty cold. I'm sure in a hot desert with the sun beating down on the bag the performance wouldn't be quite so good, but for this trip its performance was excellent.

I'll have to try to get more testing done in different environments, but so far I like it a lot and its performance keeping drinks cold for 11 hours is very promising.


Update on another project: Over the past few weeks I've posted progress reports on my plan to bring power connectors to the roof rack so I can install and power various things up on the rack - lighting, solar panel, etc. with the ability to change what's installed up there depending on the needs of the expedition. I finished up the power pods about two weeks ago and I should have time to install them today. Photos to come.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Finally had some time to install the roof rack power pods.

Being up on the roof, only tall people like me will ever see them, and since they look like part of the rack they won't be noticed anyway.









They're wired with 12-gauge copper wire, so they'll handle the current of any accessories I could put up top - high power lights or the solar panel or whatever else I think up.

I brought the wire down inside the b-pillar trim and the plugs are on the floor just inside the front doors. It's a convenient place to run wire to, either from the dash or from the kitchen/solar controller in the back.



Now I've got to find time to finish the second set I molded (the two on the left below) and install them on the LJ roof.

 
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jgaz

Adventurer
Finally had some time to install the roof rack power pods.

Being up on the roof, only tall people like me will ever see them, and since they look like part of the rack they won't be noticed anyway.









They're wired with 12-gauge copper wire, so they'll handle the current of any accessories I could put up top - high power lights or the solar panel or whatever else I think up.

I brought the wire down inside the b-pillar trim and the plugs are on the floor just inside the front doors. It's a convenient place to run wire to, either from the dash or from the kitchen/solar controller in the back.



Now I've got to find time to finish the second set I molded (the two on the left below) and install them on the LJ roof.

Clean! Excellent design and execution!
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Clean! Excellent design and execution!
Thank you. These outlets will make it very easy for me to change the configuration on the rack - I can power driving lights with them, route power from the rack-mounted solar panel inside to the solar charge controller for the kitchen battery, provide power to my Power Shower water pump, etc. Also I test a lot of products for companies like Auxbeam, so the outlets will make it easy to swap things around for testing.

I'll probably set one up with a dash switch to provide 12v to whatever is plugged into that outlet, and I'll probably set up the other one to feed the output of the solar panel to the solar charge controller.

And when I install a set on the LJ I'll set them up the same way; that way whichever Jeep I use the rack on will be compatible with whatever is on the rack.

And when they're not in use, they blend in nicely with the rack so they'll never be noticed.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
A preliminary check of the power pod housings on the LJ. I've ordered the connectors for these, as soon as they arrive I'll finish these up.

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Over the past year or two, Auxbeam has sent me three different multi-gang switch panels to test and review. Left to right, a 6-gang relay unit, an 8-gang solid state unit and an 8-gang Bluetooth solid state unit.





Since I have all 3 kits and don't need all 3 I've been thinking I should give one to someone who has a good use for it. The one I have the lease use for is the middle one above - the 8-gang non-Bluetooth unit. I did a review of that panel in 2019: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/review-auxbeam-8-switch-accessory-power-panel.206225/

It wouldn't be right for me to sell it since it was given to me for a review, so I'm trying to think of a way to give it away to someone who will really use it, rather than someone who will grab it just because it would be free (I'd ask the recipient to pay shipping). Maybe I should ask people to tell me why they want it, and require them to post photos and a description of their installation when they're done? I'm open to suggestions for a fair way to offer it that will result in someone getting who will actually make good use of it.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Over the past year or two, Auxbeam has sent me three different multi-gang switch panels to test and review. Left to right, a 6-gang relay unit, an 8-gang solid state unit and an 8-gang Bluetooth solid state unit.





Since I have all 3 kits and don't need all 3 I've been thinking I should give one to someone who has a good use for it. The one I have the lease use for is the middle one above - the 8-gang non-Bluetooth unit. I did a review of that panel in 2019: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/review-auxbeam-8-switch-accessory-power-panel.206225/

It wouldn't be right for me to sell it since it was given to me for a review, so I'm trying to think of a way to give it away to someone who will really use it, rather than someone who will grab it just because it would be free (I'd ask the recipient to pay shipping). Maybe I should ask people to tell me why they want it, and require them to post photos and a description of their installation when they're done? I'm open to suggestions for a fair way to offer it that will result in someone getting who will actually make good use of it.
Just as I was about to post that people who had a use for the switch panel should PM me, someone did and he has a good reason for wanting it. He sent me the money for postage via Paypal so I'll ship to him tomorrow.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I've got OO's new Roll Bar Buddies in all 3 of my Jeeps and they're turning out to be very handy. I started to wonder if a "Visor Buddy" would be useful, so I sewed one to see (sometimes I make things just to see how an idea might work). It consists of a sleeve that wraps around the visor, and optional pouches and other accessories that zip/velcro in place. A tactical gear panel is installed in this photo, I've got a multitool in one of the pouches and a Swiss Army knife in the other:



The multitool in an open pouch:



The way the JK/JKU visors are mounted, there's room between the visor and the roof for the gear I've put on the visor so the visor can go to the full up position.



I never use the visor mirror myself, but just in case, whatever is installed on the top of the mirror (the tactical panel in this next photo) flips up to allow access to the mirror. Depending on how much weight is on the panel, you might have to hold the mirror up - the mirror lid doesn't support too much weight when open.



There's a tactical gear panel on the top side of the visor as seen above and a flat pouch on the bottom. I've got an N95 Jeep-themed mask in the pouch.



I've only done the pouch and the tactical options so far but they are removable and either one can go on either side of the visor.



Other options are easy to do but I don't plan to take this idea any further because I sewed this just for curiosity - I was wondering how something like this on the visor might work out. Answer: it works pretty well.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
More JKU maintenance...

Four years ago the heat on the driver's side wasn't working - air out of the left side vents was lukewarm at best, while the right side vents were very hot. I reverse-flushed the heater core and that restored the heat. It happened again. It's pretty simple, disconnect the hoses at the firewall, plug off the tubes that go back to the engine so coolant doesn't leak out while the job is in progress, connect garden hose adapters to the heater core, pour some radiator flush into the core and let it sit for a while, then connect the garden hose and turn on the water to flush out the core, water flowing the reverse way coolant would normally flow through the core. Some photos I took 4 years ago...



In the photo above, the hoses pictured below are attached to the hoses leading to the radiator core; the green hose is looped to both aluminum tubes to prevent coolant from flowing out of the radiator.

Hoses like this will do the job, they get connected to the core hoses where they're removed from the aluminum tubes:



I made up the adapters pictured above the first time I did the job and kept them because I thought this procedure would need to be done again in the future.

I planned to do the job again today, but yesterday the JK was due at the dealer for its annual state inspection and an oil change; I told the lead Jeep tech there about the problem (he told me how I could flush it myself 4 years ago) and he asked if I wanted him to do it this time. Since it was 9 degrees outside yesterday morning, I told him to go ahead. Heat is back to normal now.

While it was there he also updated the Jeep's computers, there was an update for the main PCM and for the transmission control module.
 
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