Stealth (Rear) Power.

I finally got around to installing some auxiliary rear USB power ports to give my back seat passengers a way to charge up their mobile devices. This was one of those “one day I’m going to do this” projects that never really was a priority – mainly due to other projects that had more of my attention. I think part of it was because I saw a lot of examples of how others took on this project and I didn’t really like anything I saw enough to do the same. The most common trait I noticed amongst the numerous versions of this mod was that the USB ports didn’t really blend in well with where they were installed. Most looked like a simple “drill a hole and put a port in” feeling, which I was trying to avoid. With that said, I eliminated all of the common locations (and some that just don’t make any sense lol):

Then it hit me – I’ll do a stealth install, where if the ports aren’t being used, they won’t be seen and the interior will look stock. With that in mind, I decided to install the USB ports into the folding rear cupholder assembly. The first step was to remove the center console trim and rear cupholder assembly from the vehicle so I had more room to figure out a plan:

Looking at how the mechanism works and what possible locations I could install some USB ports, it came down to two spots: the upper flat area behind/between the cup holders, and the slightly rounded area at the front of the cupholder. After some more inspection, it turned out that I could not install in that front area, because that area needed to stay flush or the cupholder wouldn’t have room to retract back into the center console. So the only spot that made sense was up top:

Before continuing I gave this location some thought, and there were many advantages to this mounting location:

  1. The location is easily accessible
  2. Being up on a top surface means passengers will be able to access the ports easily
  3. No risk of kicking any protruding cables on accident (which is possible if the ports were sticking out the front edge)
  4. When they are not being used they fold away and disappear with the cup holders into the center console
  5. The install will be stealth and look closer to an OEM type feature

On the opposite, the only possible issues I thought of were:

  1. Installation will take more than just drilling a hole into the center console
  2. Possible risk of drink spillage into the ports

Regarding issue #1 – that’s what makes this a challenge, as I mentioned earlier I didn’t just want to repeat what others have done already. Regarding issue #2, I rarely allow drinks in my truck anyways, and if I do they are always sealed containers or cups with secure lids. So after deciding this was the plan to go with, I ordered up a dual-port flush-mount USB 3.0 extension cable from Amazon for about $9:

Took some measurements and then I loosely transferred the square cut-out dimensions onto some masking tape that I put on the cupholder center panel; the tape was important, as it was also protecting the top surface for what came next:

Yes, once again – it’s Dremel time. I used my trusty Dremel to grind out most of the mounting hole, and then I took my time (and a lot of patience) fine-tuning the mounting hole to the perfect size using a combination of a metal file and a sharp Xacto knife:

I kept trimming and test fitting until it was just right, and then I mounted the USB ports into the hole. To secure the USB ports I used some epoxy and hot glue on the backside to hold the ports perfectly centered, aligned, and rattle-free. (I did not get a chance to snap a photo of this part since I was working with some time-sensitive epoxy):

After letting the epoxy set permanently overnight, The results were what I was hoping for:

Unfortunately, the next few steps have no photos because I was working in the evening, but there was nothing really to see: after some quick heat gun work to gain some clearance I basically just reassembled everything back into the center console, and ran the USB extension cables to under the cupholder area. At this point I just had to connect the extensions to a power source, and this gave me a chance to revise some of my previous wiring in order to incorporate a single 6-port USB 12vDC multi-charger that I had been eyeballing on Amazon.com for awhile now:

Because this charger supplies a maximum of 96w, it let me get rid of some other power sources I had under the center console. Now I have a more simplified setup where this charger serves as a central power source to provide power to all of my USB-powered accessories:

  • 1 Goes to the front right center dash location, for front passenger charging
  • 2 Goes to the rear center console cupholder (this mod), for rear passenger charging
  • 1 is the 5v power supply for my Super Nintendo Classic
  • 1 is the 5v power supply for the HDMI to Composite video converter used by the SNES Classic
  • 1 is unused.

If you’re wondering about the other two USB ports in the center dash location:

  • The top port is connected to the 2nd USB port on the back of my Kenwood Exelon DNX-995S head unit. This way I can easily plug in a flash drive for media or wallpaper things (the head unit’s 1st USB port is connected to the OEM USB port under the arm rest, for Carplay duty).
  • The bottom port connects to the remote interface port of my JL Audio TWK-88 DSP. That way if I want to connect my laptop to the DSP, I can just plug into the dash instead of reaching under the passenger seat to attach a USB cable.

All together it only took me about $35 and a few hours of labor (spread across a couple of afternoons due to the heatwave we have in my area recently) to complete this project, with about 60% time used in installing the port cable into the panel, 30% rem0ving and securing any old power sources I had in the center console area, and the last 10% installing the new power source and wiring it up. Here’s how the finished mod looks (below), I’m really happy with how it turned out!