I don't think the Jeep CJ was ever designed around a sound system. The
small, rectangular punched hole in the dash with knob holes on either side of it
and the single slotted 5" speaker hole seemed more like an after thought to
the utilitarian style dash. So anyone who wants to add a sound
system to the Jeep CJ is most likely not going to use the radio accommodations
in the dash panel. So the question becomes what to do with the gapping dash
hole? When I was restoring my CJ-7, I contemplated a couple of uses for
the holes in my dash. I thought about covering it over completely by
welding a plate flush with the dash and painting it over but that would just add
empty space to the dash. I thought about installing a stock Jeep radio
just for the cool stock look. But I also thought about using the holes in
the dash for something useful, like gauges, or switches, or a CB radio.
The best idea I came up with was to use the location for much needed switches to
control things like front and rear offroad lights, engaging the converted York
compressor (onboard Air), master power to my sound system, and power to my
overhead area that controls my CB radio and overhead dome lights and power
point. Switches made the most sense. There are a few areas of this
installation that I'd like to cover.
The Toggle Switches - The switches I used were better than your average switch that you might find
at Walmart or your local discount auto supply store. They are what are
called metal bat toggle switches, single pole, single throw (SPST)m two
positions; On or Off.
The switches that I used were sources from a friend that worked as a mechanic in
the airline industry but they are available from auto suppliers like Jegs or
Summit Racing. These switches are heavy duty and made from stainless steel
and had a 15 amp rating. Along with the switches I acquired 6 flip-up
toggle switch covers (You can get these from Summit Racing, G3902C). Jegs
has the combo as part # 72272 and it's called the Edelbrock aircraft style
covered toggle switch. If you buy them separate, just make sure the flip
cover will clear the switch when it's closed. Some switches have a long
handle or bat.
LED Lights to Indicate The Power is On
The only thing this switch combo lacks is some indication that the power is
ON. I like to know when a circuit has power so I wanted to give each
circuit light. I could have gone with a regular 12 volt bulb but I like
compact design of LEDs. Radio shack had a few nice LED mounting designs.
Along with the LED mount, I picked up various colored LEDs that fit the mount,
each color meant to indicate a specific circuit like: Red - auxiliary power
circuits, Yellow - Offroad lights, Blue - Onboard Air, Green - CB Radio and
overhead power. This way at a glance I can tell what circuit is on without
counting which switch it is.
Wiring LED's is not as straight forward as wiring a 12 volt bulb. A LED
light needs a specific voltage, commonly that is 2 volts. So you need to
reduce the voltage from 12 volts down to 2 volts. This is accomplished by
use of a specific ohm resistor. Since there is a lot to say about this
topic, I created a separate article detailing how to wire up LED lights to an
automotive 12 volt system. That article is here:
Using LED lights in your
The mounting plate that covers the radio punchout on the dash does a couple
of things. I used aluminum since it is easy to work with. I wanted 6
switches and I had a limited width to work with. The plate also had to be
held to the dash somehow and it had to cover the three existing holes in the
dash. What I decided to do was use the two end holes that were the radio
knob holes to bolt the plate down to the dash. But not using bolts or
screws, rather I was going to use the switches themselves. So I knew where
the two end switches were going to go, I now only had to space out the other 4
switches equally in the space in between. The plate was cut to completely
cover the dash holes and extend past the ends of the switches and above the LED
mounts. All of the holes were layed out and drilled, then everything test
fitted. The plate was then sanded down, primered and painted separately
from the dash. So once it is mounted, if I remove the end switches, I can
remove the plate.
A few things to say about routing power through your dash. Number one
rule: Keep your amps low. First, high powered circuits can overload a
switch that is not designed to manage watts as high as your accessories demand.
Two, the gauge of wire required to adequately handle higher watts is difficult
to work with due to the thickness and less flexibility. Third, if you do
overload a circuit, you don't want that to happen right under your dash where
there is plenty of other circuit to get damaged. So if you want to power
high watts through your switches, how do you do that? The answer is use
relays. What is a relay? A relay is essentially an electric switch.
Your dash mounted switch doesn't power the accessory, it powers the relay.
The relay then turns on the high amp circuit going to your accessory.
For more information on Using Relays see:
Automotive Wiring Tips - Using Relays
Overall this was not a difficult job. The end result, I think, looks
great. It takes advantage of what would have been wasted space dead center
on my dash. It's very functional and allows me to selectively turn on
circuits easily and I have a clear indication that power to specific circuits is
either on or off. As for the slotted punchout for the stock 5" speaker,
well that's my CB speaker now and my sound system pumps through the speakers
under my rear seat. More on
One last thought...
I just want to add that all of these circuits running
though my switches FIRST route through a fuse. Not the stock fuse block,
but a second, entirely separate fuse block dedicated to accessories. I did
not route any additional power through my stock fuse block.