Overhead Switch Panel Install
Overhead pickup consoles and auxiliary rocker switches are made for each other; it’s a simple installation with the right parts
by Bruce W. Smith
Contractors, utility and public works employees, landscapers and even recreational pickup truck owners like to have auxiliary lights. They can be simple fog lights or an array of emergency lights, flood lights and spotlights.
The challenge with adding auxiliary lighting is finding a place to mount the switches so they are 1) easy to operate, and 2) easy to service.
One of the best locations is in the overhead console if your truck is so equipped.
Typically overhead consoles are designed with handy drop-down compartments to keep sunglasses, cell phones, maps, wallets, and the garage door openers.
But after the newness of the vehicle wears off, which is usually about a week, about the only thing that finds its way into the overhead console is dust.
So when you get around to adding auxiliary lights, driving lights, fog lights, an on-board air system, a winch, a second battery, and maybe even front and rear battery cable quick-connects, look at that overhead storage area.
It’s easy to convert those unused compartments in the overhead console to a switch bank.
Placing switches in the overhead console’s little compartments works great on several fronts: it provides easy operation of the switches; it allows them to be seen at a glance; it places them in a location for fast service; and it keeps the switches out of harm’s way.
Placing switches in the overhead console also makes wiring them easier because you’re not working standing on your head under the dash.
REALLY PAINLESS WIRING
Speaking of wiring, there are basically two ways to go about utilizing the overhead console as the vehicle’s switching center.
One is to go out and track down all the switches, wire, and relays on your own, hoping what you get is right for the job. We’ve done that before and it’s both expensive and time consuming.
The other method is find a source that provides everything pre-wired. No muss. No fuss.
That’s my favorite and one of the best sources is Painless Performance Products (www.painlessperformance.com; 817-244-6212).
For example, when we turned the overhead console in a 2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4×4 in to a full-on control panel we utilized two universal 4-rocker dash panel kits (#50313) and a 6-bank relay kit (#30108) from the folks at Painless to make the job, well, painless.
Note we didn’t say quick: Modifying the plastic console lids to fit the switch panels, mounting the ganged relays, and running the wiring takes a little time to do it right.
But the job isn’t mind-numbing—it’s simply connecting colored-and-labeled wires from their switches to the relays and on to whatever item you need to switch on and off.
It’s one of those jobs that bodes well for a day-long winter project in a warm garage.
The two switch panels were installed in our Tundra’s overhead console with the Painless Performance color-coded and labeled wires running from the switch banks between the headliner (which has to be partially dropped) and roof, down the driver’s side “C”-pillar.
From there the wires are routed behind the left rear door-sill kick panel where they connected to the wires coming from the battery, lights and other accessories.
The transformed overhead console looks factory when completed.
Best of all now you can control anything electrical by simply raising a finger and rocking a switch, which lights up when the power is on. How cool is that!—Bruce W. Smith