In-Dash AC Plug Install

Written by Elias (akaLES)

I was planning on buying a DC to AC Inverter to power my laptop and other devices on the road for quite a while. Then seeing the television commercials for the Pontiac Vibe, which comes with an AC plug in the dash, I decided to hardwire the AC inverter and mount the plug in the dash for a factory look.

Step 1 - Deciding On Power
First you need to decide how much power you're going to need. The inverter I purchased is rated at 150 Watts. Inverters range from 100 Watts to over 1000 Watts. The more watts you want, the more you're going to spend, and the larger the unit will be. I went with the 150 Watt inverter because it was fairly cheap at $40, it was small, which meant it would be easy to find a place to hide it in the car, and it delivered enough power for my needs.

This chart was on the back of my inverters packaging and gives an idea of how much power is needed for different devices.

Items / power needed:

Cellphone & Camcorder Charger
20 Watts

Laptop Computer / Digital Camera
38-45 Watts

CD Player / Mini Stereo / VCR
50 Watts

Portable Refrigerator / 9” TV
60 Watts

Car Buffer / 13” TV
77 Watts

Dremel Moto Tool
99 Watts

12” Electric Fan / 19” TV
100 Watts

Rotary Power Tool / Finishing Sander
126-176 Watts

Craftsman 3/8” Drill
220 Watts

Jigsaw / 6” Bench Grinder
232-250 Watts

Printer / Computer / Fax
300 Watts

Electric 3/8” Drill
350 Watts

450 Watts

Sewing Machine
500 Watts

Portable Vacuum
525 Watts

Coffee Machine
600 Watts

Step 2 - Choosing An Inverter
Once you know how much power you need, next you need to find an inverter that is "install friendly." To keep things simple, try to find an inverter that comes apart fairly easily. The one I got was ideal. two screws held a front plate which when removed allowed a back plate to slide right off, giving full access to the wiring. Also, both the AC plugs and the on/off switch were held onto the metal plate by clips from behind. I used these same clips to mount the parts in the car.

Step 3 - Choosing Locations
My inverter was very small and fit nicely in the center console just to the left of the parking brake handle. If you decide to go with a higher Watt inverter, it will probably be too large to fit in the center console. I would say your best bet would be in the dash behind the stereo. As for the plug, I decided to mount it to the left of the cigarette lighter. Coupe or V6 owners could also take advantage of the unused switch opening where a convertible switch / fog light switch would be. As for the On / Off switch, I decided to conceal mine inside the center console compartment.

Step 4 - Installation
First off, disconnect the battery because you will be dealing with live wires. Your individual application may vary depending on the locations you choose, but the wiring will be the same. This is the How-to for my specific locations.
Open the center console and remove the two rubber stops to reveal two screws. After removing these screws the compartment is still held in by a few clips. Pull up gently and it should pop right out.

Next "dry" fit the inverter in place to be sure there is enough clearance for the compartment to fit back into place.

Now that you're sure everything will fit, it's time to do the wiring. Open the inverter and locate the two wires leading to the plug you will be mounting in the dash. Also locate the two wires which go to the On / Off switch.

Cut the plug wires and extend them as far as you need to reach the mounting location (in my case, next to the cigarette lighter).

Cut the On / Off switch wires and extend those as far as you need to reach the mounting location (in my case, inside the center console compartment).

It would be a good idea to put everything together and test the inverter to be sure your connections are correct. Also, leave the inverter on for a few minutes and feel the wires and feel the inverter for heat. If the wires feel hot then you may need to use thicker wires to extend the plug and switch.

Now its time to get rid of the cigarette lighter plug and hardwire the inverter. Take apart the cigarette lighter plug and figure out which wire goes to the "center part" and which wire goes to the "side part." This is key because getting these wires mixed up will result in a blown fuse later. (I know from experience) 8-)

I chose to splice into the wires leading to the extra power point because it was next to my mounting location, and it is the same wires the inverter is "supposed" to be plugged into if used out of the box.

The wire colors may vary between different car years. This is how it was in my '99. If you get the two wires flipped, you will end up burning a fuse located under the hood near the battery. Check your owners manual for the exact fuse.
Pull off the plug from the back of the power point.

Connect the "center part" wire from the inverter to the purple and brown wire, and connect the "side part" wire from the inverter to the black wire.

Put the inverter back together with all your extended wires sticking out of it. Plug wires (white), On / Off switch wires (green) and Power supply wires (black).

It's time to mount the plug and On / Off switch. You should check that everything is working at this point before you start cutting your dash up.
The dash piece around the shifter is held in place by two clips on either side and one clip in the bottom center. Wrap a flat head screwdriver with a cloth to protect your dash, and pry the piece up until the clips pop out.

Mark where you want the plug to go and cut it out. A roto-zip type tool would be ideal for this. I didn't have one so I ended up slowly cutting away at the piece with a very sharp blade / box cutter. Do the same for the On / Off switch.

Once everything is cut out, mount the plug and On / Off switch and put everything back together.


Note: the button to the right is a second trunk release I installed a few months ago. It has nothing to do with the inverter. - Les

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