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Jeep Accessory Switch Options - Randy’s Electrical Corner

Posted in How To: Electrical on May 12, 2015
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Photographers: Linda Jones

Switch. It’s a funny word. I mean when I was a little kid at school, I would “switch” the vegetables my mom put in my metal Dukes of Hazzard for the cookies in that plastic Go-Bots lunchbox next to it on the shelf. Man, that guy hated his mom putting vegetables in his lunch every day.

Earl has his list, and we’ve been doing great things for people that we messed with in the past. I started my own little list too, just to keep Karma happy and to make it up to the vegetable guy. But stop distracting me, and let me talk about switches. Not icky vegetable switches but the clicky clicky kind that shuts off or turns on power in a circuit.

Most Jeepers just use switches like these, which work fine—for a while anyway. Trasborg used these in his M-715 for probably the same reason you used them in your Jeep: they were cheap, and they were there at the parts store when you were buying the rest of the parts that day. The problem with them is that they aren’t even a little dust or water resistant. See the crack surrounding the lever? Yeah, that’s a great place for dirt to get into the switch. Over time, dirt and/or water getting in will kill the switch, usually when you need it the most.

Why didn’t they call them on-ers? Or on-off-ers? It’s not like they are changing things, they just complete circuits. I don’t know. The people that make names up for stuff need to go to shrinks. Or that’s what people tell me anyway. I think maybe their heads are just too big or something.

Here’s the thing though, picking a switch for a Jeep (not the cookie kind) is different than picking a switch for a regular vehicle. A switch in a Jeep needs to put up with sun, water, dirt, vibration, gorilla hands smacking the lever while bouncing hard off-road, and more. So it needs to be water resistant, stout, and generally just put up with a lot of abuse. So, without anymore stealing of cookies, here are some of the things I have learned about switches for Jeeps over the years.

A quick and easy (not to mention cheap) way to help those low-buck part-store-style switches is by using this rubber cover. This can be an easy way to protect the switches you have in a Jeep where the switch is exposed to dust and water (such as in the dashboard or in the console). It screws down over the neck of the switch and protects the opening at the lever. If you put it over the mounting nut, it might still be possible for water to seep in behind the panel. While I’ve never had a switch die for that, I have tried to use the rubber-coated nut to retain the switch. It always comes loose. A quick and easy (not to mention cheap) way to help those low-buck part-store-style switches is by using this rubber cover. This can be an easy way to protect the switches you have in a Jeep where the switch is exposed to dust and water (such as in the dashboard or in the console). It screws down over the neck of the switch and protects the opening at the lever. If you put it over the mounting nut, it might still be possible for water to seep in behind the panel. While I’ve never had a switch die for that, I have tried to use the rubber-coated nut to retain the switch. It always comes loose.
That is all well and good, but it really doesn’t do a thing for the back of the switch. In most Jeeps, the switches are in a console or dashboard and the back of the switch is relatively protected, so usually it is OK. But on Jeeps with switches in the overhead console, that go diving, or have switches under the hood, this is another option. Again, I just find them at parts stores, but this coated back end, combined with the rubber cover below, makes for a switch that is dang near waterproof. At least I’ve never had to replace one set up like this, even when the Jeep stayed out from March to November with no top or doors on it. That is all well and good, but it really doesn’t do a thing for the back of the switch. In most Jeeps, the switches are in a console or dashboard and the back of the switch is relatively protected, so usually it is OK. But on Jeeps with switches in the overhead console, that go diving, or have switches under the hood, this is another option. Again, I just find them at parts stores, but this coated back end, combined with the rubber cover below, makes for a switch that is dang near waterproof. At least I’ve never had to replace one set up like this, even when the Jeep stayed out from March to November with no top or doors on it.
This is another popular option. It is a Carling or ARB switch. They are available (obviously) from ARB (arbusa.com), Daystar (daystarweb.com). Digikey (digikey.com), and Carling (carlingtech.com), just to name a few. They are great switches and are sold to be waterproof (however, I have killed a couple while they were submerged). If you already have your switch panel setup for the smaller 1/2-inch-diameter shaft mount switch as shown above, you might have to redo your entire setup to get these put in. More of these switches on down the road though. This is another popular option. It is a Carling or ARB switch. They are available (obviously) from ARB (arbusa.com), Daystar (daystarweb.com). Digikey (digikey.com), and Carling (carlingtech.com), just to name a few. They are great switches and are sold to be waterproof (however, I have killed a couple while they were submerged). If you already have your switch panel setup for the smaller 1/2-inch-diameter shaft mount switch as shown above, you might have to redo your entire setup to get these put in. More of these switches on down the road though.

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