Barn Door for JK factory hardtops

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Auxbeam 6- and 8-gang Switch Panels

Over the past few years I've reviewed several multi-gang switch panels from Auxbeam. They recently released a new model with a larger keypad and asked me if I would write an article for their website blog on how to choose a switch panel from among their range of products, including the new XL keypad. What follows is a slightly edited version of the article I did for them. For the record, I am not an Auxbeam employee and have no financial interest in their products. I test products and write about them for my own enjoyment.

All of the Auxbeam switch panels have a simple to install, one-wire switch panel for either 6 or 8 circuits and a control box you can place anywhere convenient to your vehicle's power source and accessories. Their range includes models with different features and capabilities, so here are some guidelines for choosing which model might be best for your application.

How many devices do you need to control?

Most people these days are choosing to go with one of the 8-gang panels but if you only need to control 6 devices or you have very limited space to mount a switch panel, the 6-gang panel might be for you. Most of the 8-gang units are only slightly larger than the 6-gang units though and the extra circuits will provide for future expansion so maybe the 8-gang unit is a better way to go if you've got space for the slightly larger switch panel. This photo shows the relative sizes of the 6-gang and 8-gang compact and XL switch panels.



The compact 8-gang panel isn’t much larger than the 6-gang. The 6-gang switch panel is about 3½” wide x 2½” tall. The compact 8-gang panel is the same height and about 4½” wide and the XL panel is about 5¼” wide x 3” tall.

There are cases where a larger size might be an advantage and Auxbeam’s new RA80 XL might be best for those situations. Let’s say you’re installing your switch panel in a Jeep that’s going to spend a lot of its time on rough, bouncy trails. The RA80 XL panel with its larger switches could be easier to use when moving in rough environments.

How do these devices need to be controlled?

In addition to simple on/off capabilities, some Auxbeam switch panels offer multiple ways to control your accessories. The AR800 and the RA80 XL offer three ways to control your devices:

  • On/Off. A device is either on or off just as if the device were controlled by an ordinary switch. Great for things like fog lights or driving.
  • Momentary. In this mode, the device will be powered only as long as you hold the switch down, just like pressing the horn button. Adding an accessory horn? This mode is perfect for that.
  • Pulsed. In this mode, the device will be pulsed on and off. Press the switch once and the device will flash on/flash off, continuing until the switch is pressed again. This mode is perfect for emergency lights and is also favorite with first responders.

This video demonstrates the three modes:


The AR800 and RA80 XL switch panels have an indicator LED above each switch which shows which mode that switch is set to, you can see the different indicator colors in the video above. LED colors and their indications:

  • RED-Toggle, On/Off mode
  • BLUE-Momentary, power is on as long as the button is held down
  • GREEN-Pulsed, Flash mode

Controlling devices from your smartphone

The AR800 can be controlled and configured from your smartphone through Bluetooth. Why would you want to control your devices from a smartphone when you’re sitting in the driver’s seat with the switch panel right in front of you? Isn’t that redundant? Not really – there are two ways you might use this capability:

  • Maybe you don’t want to have the switch panel permanently mounted in your vehicle. If your phone is in a phone holder conveniently located to the driver’s seat, you can use the phone hands-free as a switch panel to control your devices.
  • Imagine your vehicle is at a campsite and you’re sitting around the fire. You’ve got lights mounted on the vehicle to illuminate the campsite, but you don’t feel like getting up from your seat by the cozy campfire to turn the lights off once you get settled. No problem, turn the lights off or on using your smartphone right from your seat by the campfire.

The Bluetooth connection also controls the color of the display. With unlimited color control you can match the illumination perfectly to the illumination of your vehicle’s dash. Just use your finger on the color wheel on the phone to pick the perfect color.


A quick note on pairing with an Android phone – many devices require that the device be paired with the phone before use. The AR800 gets paired through the Auxbeam app, so all you have to do is turn on Bluetooth on the phone and do the pairing in the app.

The AR800 functions can be configured either through Bluetooth as described above or from the keypad as shown in this next illustration. The RA80 XL has the same capabilities for color control and switch functions but instead of Bluetooth, these functions are controlled simply from the large keyboard:



Continued in the next post....
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Auxbeam 6- and 8-gang Switch Panels
Continued from the previous post

Installation

Detailed instructions with many helpful illustrations are included to make the installation process as easy and trouble-free as possible.



It’s a good idea to read the instructions through from beginning to end before starting your installation to familiarize yourself with the entire process. I’ll cover some of the decision points below.

The kits are very complete and include pretty much everything you’ll need for a successful installation:



The photo above shows the typical components included with a kit; the details of each kit vary. Pictured is the RA80 XL kit and it includes:
  • Top row: switch labels and an Auxbeam decal
  • Middle row: control box, switch panel, 60 uamp circuit breaker, mounting hardware
  • Bottom row: Zip ties, fuse tap, screwdriver, connection cables and brackets for various mounting situations.

Mounting the Components

The switch panel can be mounted anywhere that’s convenient for use – on the dash, on the center console, perhaps above the windshield as shown in the photo of my LJ below.



The included mounting brackets should enable you to mount the panel in the best location for your vehicle. An angle adjustable mount and a slim line flush mount are included.

]img]https://hosting.photobucket.com/images/cc163/jscherb/SwitchPanelMountingOptions.jpg[/img]

The only real requirement is that the switch panel cable can reach from wherever you mount the switch panel to wherever you mount the control box. Most Auxbeam switch panels come with a 9-foot cable (10-foot for the RA80 XL) so mounting the switch panel in a convenient place in the cab and mounting the control box in a convenient place in the engine compartment should be possible in almost any vehicle.

Finding the right place to mount the control box will depend on your particular vehicle and in some modern crowded engine compartments that could be a challenge, but many people have found that mounting the control box either on top of the air cleaner housing (shown below) or on top of the engine compartment fuse box in a crowded engine compartment is a good way to go. In this photo the control box is on top of the air cleaner housing in my JKU:



Once the control unit is mounted, all you really need to do is run power cables from the control box to the battery, run a wire from the control box to a switched accessory circuit (to power up the box only when the ignition switch is in the “on” position), run the switch panel cable to the control box, and connect your accessories. All of this is clearly described in the included instructions.

Most Auxbeam switch panel kits include a control box in which all of the outputs are on one side of the control box, shown in the left photo below. Having the accessory connections all on the same side of the control box is probably the most convenient style and the easiest to find a proper place in the vehicle to mount the control box, but for special applications (perhaps marine applications where the control box is attached to a bulkhead in an engine room), the BA80 and GA80 units come with a control box with outlets split on two sides as shown in the right photo below.



Once the control box is mounted, accessories can be connected. Wiring is very simple:



Auxbeam has very thoughtfully provided a “bad fuse” LED for each circuit in the 8-gang panels – a bad fuse will immediately be indicated by the LED without having to pull the fuse to inspect it.

Also, they’ve provided spare fuses and a fuse puller on the inside of the control box cover so if a fuse is bad, a light will indicate that and spare fuses and a puller are right there to fix the problem.

In the 8 gang units, the power ratings of the circuits are as follows:



The total power rating of the control unit is 60 amps, so ensure that the total current draw of all of the connected accessories is 60 amps or less if they’re all turned on at once.

Once you’ve decided which accessories to connect to which switches, you can use the provided switch labels to indicate what’s connected to that switch. A wide range of labels for most popular accessories are provided.



So which switch panel is best for you?

This decision tree should help…



Detailed Reviews

I've done detailed reviews of several of these units over the past few years, here are some links:
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
In my LJ thread I was asked for details of the JKU quick install winch mount design, but since that's off topic for that thread I'll respond here. The details of the TJ/LJ quick install winch mount are in that thread: https://expeditionportal.com/forum/...fit-this-custom-lj.46300/page-68#post-3043293

That is dandy, thank you. More on the JK mount would be great! I just put a Warn 10k in a lockable but moveable storage position in the bed of my truck and want to be able to swap it over to the JKU without putting a low hanging front receiver mount on it.
As each generation of Wrangler becomes more like a minivan, accessories get more complicated to design. The TL/LJ quick install winch mounts using the same 4 bolts that the factory tow hooks use. The JK/JKU doesn't have tow hooks with exposed bolts, so a different design was required.

This is the JK/JKU version. If you looked at the TJ/LJ version you'll notice that this one has "legs" sticking out the back. Also in this photo, but not strictly part of the mount, are the brackets to attach the tow bar to the shackle eyes - I had them powder coated at the same time as the mount.



In this next photo, the bumper and frame cover are removed. Visible are "L" brackets bolted to the frame, which the end of the legs on the mount will bolt to. They slip into factory slots in the frame and are bolted through holes in the slots. The L brackets stay on the Jeep when the mount is removed.



To make the top of the L brackets accessible, holes are cut in the plastic frame cover following the outline of existing recesses in the cover:



In these next two photos, the mount is installed. You can see the ends of the legs bolted to the top of the L brackets, and the ends of the mount clamp to the tow hooks.





These videos show installation and removal:



Most of the time the mount lives in the garage, on this wall are the TJ/LJ mount, the JK/JKU mount and the tow bar that works with both.



The main components to make the JK/JKU mount are this used Class III hitch receiver and a Harbor Freight receiver tube for the vertical receiver. A few other bits of steel were required to make the L brackets, the legs and the shackle eyes.

 

Bailys13

New member
I have been reading through all the posts on this thread. Thank you jscherb for making this such a spendy read. My only complaint is that there does not appear to be anyone that picked up on offering the “Barn door” in kit form yet.
I have enjoyed the read and would like to thank jscherb for creating so many innovative ideas for the Jeep Wrangler and the companies that brought your ideas to market.
I still think a Barn door would be a great product.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I think I wrote about this, but several years ago a company approached me at the SEMA Show and asked about licensing the barn door from me. They are a company that does fiberglass Jeep products so they are well qualified to produce the barn door. They said they would be in touch after the show but they never contacted me. Then the next year at the SEMA Show they approached me again, apologized for not following up, and expressed interest again. After the show I decided to be a little proactive so I sent them a very modest proposal and again they didn't follow up.

The barn door would be a fairly easy product to produce, either in ready-to-install form or in finish it yourself kit form. At one point I even entertained the idea of offering a group buy to people for barn door kits but decided against it because I really don't want to be in the business of selling anything myself.

The designs I do and the prototypes I make are really for my own enjoyment and use. I usually post a lot of detail about my designs so that people who want to build whatever the design is themselves would have enough information to do so. I have made a few barn doors for friends but I don't want to be in business myself (I didn't charge these friends for the barn doors, that's how much I don't want to be in business :) ). I almost never "go outbound" and try to sell my designs to companies - almost always companies contact me and express interest in something I've designed.

Having said all that, if some company/someone was interested in picking up the barn door to turn it into a product I'd be happy to explore the idea with them. The molds still exist and haven't been used since I made one for a friend a couple of years ago.
 
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ElDudo

New member
Having said all that, if some company/someone was interested in picking up the barn door to turn it into a product I'd be happy to explore the idea with them.
I still need to finish my modular hardtop conversion, but I would buy a barn door conversion in a heart beat, it would make life so much easier.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
I still need to finish my modular hardtop conversion, but I would buy a barn door conversion in a heart beat, it would make life so much easier.
I don't think I could ever go back to the tailgate/liftgate two-step after having barn doors on my LJ and JKU for so many years. It really does make access to the cargo area so much quicker and more convenient.

Based on the number of people who have asked if I would sell them a barn door, I think a good number could be sold.

As you probably know from reading this thread, I designed and built the barn door to fit factory hardtops first; I didn't have a JKU at the time and when I got the JKU and started working on the Safari Cab hardtop design, I made that hardtop compatible with the factory liftgate opening so the same barn door would work with both the factory top and the Safari Cab.

One friend I made a barn door for has a JKU (I think it's a '14 but I can't recall) and the other person I made one for has an Ursa Minor pop-top camper hardtop, so it's been tested with a range of different tops.



 

pith helmet

Well-known member
Jeff,
We use our Jeep similarly to the way you seem to use yours, as a daily driver with a yearly or so cross country trip and moderate off roading.
It does get off-roaded around home if I have to borrow it from my wife for work. I know you have put the miles on all of yours and I’m assuming you have replaced the shocks on them a by now, so what have you replaced them with?
I am wanting mostly to get a better ride on our potholed and patched county roads we commute on.
Thanks!
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Jeff,
We use our Jeep similarly to the way you seem to use yours, as a daily driver with a yearly or so cross country trip and moderate off roading.
It does get off-roaded around home if I have to borrow it from my wife for work. I know you have put the miles on all of yours and I’m assuming you have replaced the shocks on them a by now, so what have you replaced them with?
I am wanting mostly to get a better ride on our potholed and patched county roads we commute on.
Thanks!
Even though the JKU is approaching a quarter of a million miles, I've only had to replace the rear shocks. I've been very happy with Bilstein 4600-series. I got them from Summit Racing a few years ago, these are the specific ones I've got:



The shocks control excess movement in the back very well, but when I've got the RTT, Trail Kitchen and lots of gear loaded, more support is necessary. I've got AirLift 1000 air bags in the back of all 3 of my Jeeps and they make a huge difference when fully loaded. This is one of the well-used air bags in the rear of the JKU:



I highly recommend installing a pressure gauge to monitor the air bags, here's mine:

 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
One person outfitting...

For daily driving I keep almost no gear installed on my JKU. When I get ready for an expedition, I install what's needed - winch, Trail Kitchen, roof rack basket, etc. The winch mount is a quick install/remove (I recently posted photos and videos of that), and for the kitchen and rack basket I've got a few aids and shortcuts that make installing/removing those easy. I installed the Trail Kitchen yesterday and took a few pictures.

For a while I used the MORryde no-drill installation kit for the Trail Kitchen, but now I've got nutserts in the floor of the cargo area for it. The kitchen is bulky and a bit heavy and can be awkward to position exactly over the nutserts so the bolts can be inserted. To make positioning it easy, I temporarily install studs in the nutserts so that I can slide the kitchen over and drop it onto the studs. The studs are circled in the photo below. I mount the kitchen with a spacer in the back and a bar across the front (those align the kitchen and the side drawer unit) and the studs stick up from those just a bit.



After sliding the kitchen over the studs I remove the studs and insert and tighten bolts in those holes.

For moving the kitchen around and storing it I've got a Harbor Freight rolling cart. The top of the cart is about the same height as the floor of the cargo area so all I've got to do is roll the cart up to the Jeep and slide the kitchen in place - no lifting. I added a piece of plywood to give the cart a flat surface.



The bottom shelf of the cart is used to store kitchen-related gear, such as the stove and the Rotopax for the kitchen sink water supply.

Installed:



I've shown how I handle my rack basket before but I'll show it again for newcomers to the thread. I store it hanging from the garage door tracks, a few inches above the Jeeps. To install it on the LJ or the JKU, I position that Jeep under the rack basket and drop the basket on the roof rack tracks on the Jeep roof. (In this photo the LJ isn't positioned under the rack basket for installation, its all the way forward in its normal parking position)



To remove the rack basket, all I need to do is raise each corner a few inches and secure it to the rails above with u-bolts.



The rack basket is large and very awkward for one person to maneuver and storing it this way makes it very easy to install or remove, it takes less than 10 minutes.

Just some ideas FWIW.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
On long cross-country drives like the Colorado trip I just returned from my mind always wanders to new design ideas or new ways to design current products. I just posted a prototype TJ Door Pocket in my LJ thread, I came up with that idea on the trip and got some time to sew a prototype this morning.

When I bought my JKU it came with Jeep brand roll bar grab handles. I didn't need them in that Jeep but I did put one on the passenger side of the other two Jeeps to assist my shorter passengers in those Jeeps. They're perfectly functional but I never liked the plastic handle, so on the drive I started thinking about ways improve on the design.

The first idea was to replace the plastic handle with leather. I made one, it took maybe 15 minutes. In this photo, the original Jeep brand grab handle and my leather one...



Another thought I had was eliminating the buckles on the straps - what about a design that doesn't use any hardware to attach it to the roll bar so you wouldn't have to mess with threading the straps through buckles and tightening them? And what if it was more useful than just a grab handle, how about adding a pocket to it? So I made one with no hardware and a pocket when I got home too. The center photo is in the JKU and the right photo is in the LJ.



Both designs worked out very well and the leather grab is much nicer than the hard plastic one from Jeep. Haven't decided which design I like better but I'll definitely be replacing the Jeep brand ones in my Jeeps with one of these two designs.

Because the JL/Gladiator roll bars done have padding and are a bit slippery, I did a slightly different design for the JL/Gladiator which attaches using the screws that hold the plastic cover to the roll bar. While getting the LJ's oil changed the other day at the dealer I took some measurements from a JL, went home and made a quick prototype then back to the dealer to test the fit.



I came up with a few other ideas on the trip, more on those ideas as I make prototypes.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
And yesterday a preproduction sample from OO arrived. Last year I made a MOLLE/Pockets wrap for the center roll bar of my JKU. It has a MOLLE strip on one side and two pockets on the other and it's reversible - either the MOLLE or the pockets can go on the front. I hadn't intended to suggest it to OO as a product but in several shows this year in which OO used my JKU people commented on it and asked if they could buy one so OO decided to at least make a few preproduction samples to test. A sample arrived yesterday and I installed it this morning.

I installed it with the MOLLE strip facing forward:



With a small MOLLE pouch:



Since the MOLLE strip is in the front, the pockets are in the back:



It fits fine in my JKU but it needs to be tested in a JKU with a factory hardtop. My Safari Cab has a bit more headroom than the factory top and there isn't much clearance between the factory top and the roll bar, so OO is looking for someone with a JKU with a factory hardtop who would like to test this in their Jeep. It's still a preproduction sample so there's a detail or two that would change for production, but the fit of this sample should be the same as it would be in production.

If someone is interested in testing a sample, send me a PM and I'll forward this sample to you. You wouldn't need to return the sample after testing.
 

jscherb

Expedition Leader
Today I'm in Pigeon Forge, TN, it's setup day for the Smoky Mountain Jeep Invasion. Took this photo during setup, MORryde is in the foreground, Overland Outfitters is next to them. My JKU and trailer are being used by OO for this show.



I put the rack with the solar panel on the JKU for this trip - the fridge will be running all 3 days to provide cold refreshments (plus all day today on setup day) and 4 days is usually too long for one kitchen battery charge. The solar panel on the rack can sometimes keep up with the fridge under inside lighting, but I think the lights in this building are mercury vapor or something else like that because the solar panel is completely unresponsive to them. There's a Trail Kitchen with a fridge in the MORryde JLU as well but I don't think theirs is wired yet. Oh well, probably cold drinks end on Friday :(.
 

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