Camp Westfalia

Archive for USB

Replace the Vanagon Cigarette Lighter with a USB Port

Update your loose lighter socket (and optional DIN socket) with modern 12-volt power and USB ports

Many early-1980s Vanagon dashboard cigarette lighter sockets are slightly larger than North American plugs, making for a sloppy fit when using modern 12-volt phone chargers, lights, dashboard fans and other accessories.

In addition, some Vanagons are also equipped with a DIN receptacle, a small enigmatic electrical ‘silver socket’ similarly mounted to the dashboard near the glovebox, and commonly used in Europe for 12-volt accessories. Sadly, accessories which can utilize this DIN plug are nearly impossible to find in North America, so the socket typically goes unused here.

Fortunately, both these power sockets can be rather easily updated with better fitting and more useful modern sockets; I opted for one standard cigarette-lighter socket, plus a modern dual-USB port for charging digital devices. Both sockets are close enough to the glovebox that charging cords can easily be routed to your electronic toys even when safely tucked away inside the glovebox.

We’ll start by removing the original sockets, enlarging the mounting holes in the dashboard, adding new connectors to the existing wiring, then finish by mounting the new sockets.



  • flat-bladed screwdriver, very small
  • electrical wire cutter/stripper/crimper

Optional Tools:

Such power sockets can see heavy usage in a Camper, requiring extra durability, so I selected a matched pair of heavy-duty marine outlets designed for use in boats. These outlets included optional heavy-duty mounting plates and snap-in water-resistant rubber covers, both of which I found to be unnecessary.

Step 1: Remove old cigarette lighter socket

As always, when working on a vehicle’s electrical system, disconnect the battery to prevent shorts and shocks. If your Vanagon is equipped with a second (auxiliary) battery, disconnect this, too.

It will be helpful to completely remove the glovebox from the van, so empty it out and unclip the two plastic retaining straps located in the front corners; pivot the glovebox completely downward until it can be disengaged from the hinge bracket and removed.

Reach up beneath the dashboard and wriggle loose the plastic wiring connector from the back of the cigarette-lighter socket.

To remove the original cigarette lighter from the dashboard, insert a very small screwdriver into the socket and carefully pry loose the two metal tabs locking the metal inner portion of the socket to the plastic outer surround. The metal socket must be removed first, allowing the plastic ring to follow.

Step 2: Enlarge mounting hole

Try fitting the new cigarette-lighter socket into the mounting hole; if it fits, you’re good to proceed. Mine was too large so I needed to enlarge the hole in my dash using a small handheld Dremel motor tool and a grinding bit. I recommend covering the seats and floor with plastic sheeting to catch the inevitable metal chips while grinding or drilling.

Step 3: Connect wires to new power socket

Fish the wiring connector out through the mounting hole and carefully cut the connector from the wires.

Depending on the model year of your Vanagon, you may have a variety of wiring configurations; in general, there should be two Brown ground wires, one or two Red Positive wires, and possibly a Blue wire for the optional green illuminated surround.

When rewiring the new cigarette-lighter socket, keep the Brown ground wires together, and utilize the same Red wire(s) for the power supply. If your new socket includes an illumination feature, utilize the Blue wire for this; if not, be sure to securely cap off this wire with a wire nut or electrical tape.

Strip the wire ends, insert them in their respective fully-insulated female spade connectors, and crimp securely.

Step 4: Mount new power socket

Prepare to mount the new socket by reaching within the dash and slipping the locking retaining ring over all the power wires.

Draw the wires back out through the mounting hole and connect all the wires to their respective spade terminals on the back of the new socket: Red to (+) Positive, Brown grounds to (-) Negative, and Blue to optional illumination terminal.

Insert the new socket into the mounting hole, be sure it is oriented straight, then thread the retaining ring onto the back of the socket from behind the dash; tighten securely.

If only replacing the cigarette-lighter socket, reconnect the vehicle batteries and test the new power socket.

Your van may also have an unused European DIN socket, or you may simply wish to install an additional power or USB socket; leave the batteries disconnected and continue below:

Step 5: Replace DIN power socket

The European DIN socket utilizes its own independent power supply, but replacing it is nearly identical to the cigarette-lighter socket above except for a few notable differences:

a. The DIN socket is mounted to the dash using a retaining nut which must be removed using a 22mm deep socket from behind the dash
b. The DIN socket’s mounting hole is only about .75″ (19mm), so you’ll need to enlarge the mounting hole quite a bit to fit a new socket.
c. Originally, the DIN socket is grounded via the metal dash structure, so you will find only a single (+) Positive power supply wire. When replacing it with a new power socket, I suggest improving this by running a dedicated ground wire to one of the crown-shaped grounding points mounted to the vehicle chassis, located behind the dash near the driver’s left knee.

As mentioned above, this space can accept a second conventional cigarette-lighter socket, or a modern USB port; I chose a slick double-USB port for maximum charging capabilities.

I used a step bit designed for neatly drilling large holes in sheet metal, which worked quite well. First, measure the outside diameter of the shank of your new USB socket (in my case, approx. 1.125″ or 29-30mm), then find the corresponding ‘step’ on the drill bit. Wrap a section of tape around the bit to mark the proper depth to avoid drilling too deep/wide. When done drilling, smooth the hole edges using the Dremel grinding bit or emery cloth.

Install the second new socket as outlined above, utilizing the original wiring, then reconnect the vehicle batteries and test the new power sockets.

After a few camping trips with our new power sockets, we couldn’t be happier. Cigarette-lighter-type power plugs now remain firmly connected and no longer rattle loose, and the double USB power socket keeps all our electronic devices powered up while travelling.

This simple, affordable project is an easy way to modernize the ill-fitting or outdated power sockets of your classic Vanagon!

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Product Review: ZeroLemon SolarJuice Dual-USB Portable Charger

A compact, rugged solar USB charger for maintaining portable electronics & digital devices while on the go

Modern road-trippers now travel with more and more digital devices: smartphones, handheld GPS units, tablets and laptop computers, and more.

And all these devices require frequent charging to provide their valuable functions and features. But if your travels often take you off the beaten path, it can be hard to find convenient power sources for charging.

Does the ZeroLemon USB Solar Charger provide an easy, portable, off-the-grid solution to keep all your travel electronics topped up?


  • Content: 20000mAh Battery Pack / Clip
  • MicroUSB charging cable
  • The world’s largest capacity rain resistant & shockproof portable solar charger on the planet
  • Shock-proof design for rough handling and drops.LED flashlight
  • Top Grade A cell, Built-in 20000mAh Lithium Polymer battery which charges via a powerful 1.2W mono-crystalline solar panel
  • Dual 2.1A & 1A output allows for simultaneous charging of your devices at high speed
  • 1000+ recharge cycles over the life of the battery.
  • 36 month Guarantee

ZeroLemon-Solar-Charger-portsWhen you are taking the road less traveled, this is the charger you are going to want on board. It is small, durable, compact, and powerful.

Get the ZeroLemon SolarJuice Charger here

First Impressions

This is a nicely built battery: solid and durable, admittedly a bit heavy, but so compact that it matters little when car- or van-camping.

The case is well made, and doesn’t flex at all. It has two USB ports and one mini USB port for charging, so you can charge two devices at once. The power LEDs light up if you are charging via the USB.  There are four power level LEDs. They are labeled 100%, 75%, 50%, 25% to show how much charge it has left. A nice feature so you know when you are running low on juice.

On The Road or In Camp

ZeroLemon-Solar-Charger-backThe ZeroLemon SolarJuice works great. It charged my husband’s Samsung Note 2 and my LG Optimus in less than 2 hours. It is very rugged, so if you drop it you don’t have to worry about damaging it—I know from experience! You can charge it via solar, but this will take several hours in full sunlight. We have plugged in our phones and other devices and left the unit in the sun to charge for a few hours, and it worked well. (I recommend covering the phones and other devices with a towel, etc. so they are not in direct sunlight.)

We often charge the ZeroLemon SolarJuice via the USB cable powered by our dashboard power ports <link>, but we generally leave the unit laying on the Vanagon dashboard to take advantage of free solar charging. Or utilize the solar-charging feature by leaving it on the dashboard or campsite table in full sunlight while we go for a hike, walk the beach, visit a museum, etc..

In The Long Run

ZeroLemon-Solar-Charger-water-resistantAfter using the ZeroLemon a few times, I have to say we have been impressed with its charging ability. We easily charged our devices using both ports pretty fast. You will need to turn the battery on for it to charge, or else it won’t charge. To turn the battery on, you have to hold the button for three seconds. To turn the battery off, you hold the button for three seconds. It charges from the sun, meaning you can recharge it anywhere. It is easy to use and does the job. For the price, this is great device.

The durable rugged ‘outdoors’ design, and dual-charging capability of the ZeroLemon SolarJuice make it a versatile device for van-campers and other road-trippers!

Large capacity battery
Compact design
Good Construction, built to take it
Continued, simultaneous device charge cycles while on the go

Heavy (but to be expected for a large capacity battery)
Flashlight minimally useful
Long solar charging times

Get the ZeroLemon SolarJuice Charger here

What do you think? Leave a question or comment below, and use the social links to share with friends!