You know what it’s like. You buy a new set of spotlights or light bar or air lockers and the switch that comes with the kit isn’t one that fits your blank switch plate or the wording \symbols are rubbish.
I found the solution though, Lightforce allows you to create custom switches to suit most common vehicles and they’re virtually a plug and play installation. Here is how I did it.
Step One: Ordering the Switches
- Head to the Lightforce website and click on Custom Switches, once the page opens navigate to the Custom Switches section.
- Select the custom switch that suits your vehicle. Switches range from $23 to $38 each.
- Follow the instructions to select the image that you prefer before typing in the text that you want. The switch must be edited before you can purchase it and profanity is not permitted. It is also advisable to check your spelling as you won’t get a refund if you muck it up.
- Once you’re happy with your edits, add the switch to the cart and repeat the process until you’ve completed your order.
- Head to the checkout and complete the purchase.
Step Two: Installing the Switches
The only tools you’ll need are:
- wire cutters
- wire strippers
- soldering iron if you prefer
Each switch comes with a harness and connector as well as instructions on the wiring colours, making things very easy. As I already had switches installed, it was just a matter of crimping connectors onto the blue, yellow, red and black wires and then swapping out the old switches one wire at a time, making sure the correct wires were being connected.
To illuminate the switches when the lights are turned on, I used a test lamp to find the power on the dash light circuit and then connected the switch wires to that. Once everything was installed, it was just a matter of testing each set of lights with the corresponding custom switch.
Now I am very happy as all my switches fit perfectly and do exactly what I chose for them to do.
I also decided to grab one of the Lightforce dual USB switches as the one already in the Prado was a cheap and nasty one and only one socket worked. This was easy to install also as it was plug and play. I decided not to connect to the dash light circuit as a lit switch might become distracting considering its position on the centre console.
After visiting a weighbridge, it was time to join Weight Watchers.
It was 2018 and while heading up the Hume Freeway at the beginning of an adventure, I decided to check out my weight at a roadside weigh station. Now the Prado doesn’t have the highest GVM at 2900kg and was carrying a fair bit as I was going to be on the road for the next four months, but I was surprised at the figures being displayed. The Prado needed to shed some weight.
It’s been a few months since arriving home and having analysed the setup I’ve come up with some ways to slim down. One of the solutions was to replace the steel rooftop tent rack that had a starting weight of 50kg, with an aluminium rack. After coming up with a shortlist of brands, I contacted Quick Pitch in Perth for some advice and they pointed me to Tracklander, a brand they deal with regularly and are impressed with their products.
Tracklander have been in the game since 1975, in the days when steel was the go and roof racks designed for 4wd use were few and far between. Having changed from steel roof racks to aluminium, Tracklander is a market leading brand. The biggest benefit for me is that Tracklander roof racks are lightweight but still strong and durable. With a starting weight of 17kg, I have already lost a massive 33kg.
The Tracklander standard full length flat top roof rack and the leg kit to suit my Prado was decided upon. I went with the flat top roof rack as it had the largest footprint available. Most trips I don’t carry a lot on the roof rack, but on longer trips having space available to carry fuel, firewood etc is important. The roof rack also needed to carry the Alu-Cab Shadow Awn and Quick Pitch Ensuite.
The roof rack has the ability to flex with the Prado with Tracklander’s unique “Flex-Tech” design, while the leg mounts provide extra support, strength and protection for the roof. If I ever update the Prado, all that is required is a new set of legs to suit the vehicle and the roof rack can easily be transferred.
The dimensions of the roof rack are 2100mm L x 1200mm W x 50mm H and has an extremely low profile, something that will hopefully assist in reducing my fuel economy. The bolt on wind deflector will also help.
Having the flat top roof rack also gives me unlimited tie-down points using the mesh base. I’m impressed that the mesh is welded at every contact point along the base, something my previous roof rack lacked.
When it came to mounting kits, Tracklander has everything you can think off. The mounting brackets for the Lightforce Striker spotlights were a challenge to install, but once I figured out how it could be done, the actual install was simple. The mounting kit for my Tred recovery tracks was also something I loved, providing me with a way to carry four Treds with the added option to fit a padlock to prevent theft.
Even though I don’t often carry jerry cans, when I do, I prefer them to be safe and secure. The double jerry can holder from Tracklander is the perfect fit for the Proquip metal jerry cans and I like that they can be padlocked too. When it came to shade clamps for my Quick Pitch Ensuite, I had to make a minor modification to raise the bag as it hung a little low and kept getting caught in the doors. Quick Pitch sent me their brackets to suit the Alu-Cab Shadow Awn.
Before installing the roof rack onto they Prado, I mounted all the brackets, my Roadshower and the Tred and jerry can holders. The reason is that the profile of the roof rack is so low, it would be difficult to access underneath to bolt anything on. I did have to swap out the Tracklander recovery track mounts as my new Tred Pros nestle lower than the originals so didn’t fit. I ended up using the Tred 4×4 mounts and they were very easy to install also. The Tracklander recovery track mounts will be utilised with the original Treds on the camper trailer.
With the Tracklander roof rack now sitting nicely on the Prado, I’m very impressed with the look and the feel. Everything is held in place securely and it was easy to install the awning and ensuite. The powder coating is robust and survived the pre-install fun, with no scratches to be seen. It took four of us to get the rack onto the roof, due to the awkwardness and height of the Prado but with the mounting legs lined up and tightened the final bolt on was simple.
So, with the Tracklander Roof Rack and all the Tracklander accessories installed, the total weight of my new set up is 38.5 kg with the breakdown as follows:
- Roof Rack – 17kg
- Leg Kit – 7kg
- Shade Clamps – 1.5kg
- Double Jerry Can Holder – 9kg
- Front Mount Spotlight Brackets – 4kg
I’m looking forward to heading off on the next adventure, the roof rack will certainly receive a great introduction to remote travel with rough corrugations and eroded sand dunes. Keep an eye out for updates and images on my social media pages and a long-term review will be published later in the year.
Tracklander is a sponsor, but in no way have they influenced this article. You can check out all their gear right here and there are dealers throughout Australia.
Sure, I understand the importance of fuses when installing 12-volt products in my 4WD, I have always done whatever the installation notes tell me. However, in a moment of haste, I missed one crucial sentence when installing a new brand of voltage sensitive relay (VSR) in my engine bay. I’m just thankful that what eventuated happened in the driveway and not in one of the remote locations I’d just returned home from.
It was one week to go….
Until I left on a four-month adventure. My existing VSR wasn’t working, it was not engaging when the main battery reached 13.4 volts. I reached out to Projecta, one of my sponsors. Thankfully, a VSR200 arrived in my letterbox within a couple of days and I quickly replaced the VSR ‘plug and play’ style.
Over the next 25,000km, I had no issues with my auxiliary battery receiving a charge. Having returned home, the Prado sat quietly in the carport for the next few weeks as I busily got on with writing and submitting travel articles to editors.
One morning I went to start my 4WD, but nothing happened. No ticking from the starter motor, no lights flashing on my dash, just absolute silence. My main battery was flat, thanks to a damaged cell most likely caused by the vibrations from all the corrugations I had driven.
Not to worry, my camper trailer had the same batteries and configurations that were in the Prado. I swapped out the damaged battery but unfortunately, this battery didn’t have the charge left to crank the engine. My 10amp 240volt battery charger was hooked up to the main battery and left to charge overnight. I expected to be able to start the engine without a problem – I was wrong.
Next morning, the battery was still cactus. I contacted the RACV and when the tech arrived, he confirmed that the battery was sick. He was able to jump start me and advised that I should run the vehicle for 45 minutes to let the alternator inject some charge. I ran it for an hour, switched off the engine and held my breath. I turned the key in the ignition. Nothing.
Frustrated, the battery charger was reconnected to the main battery and I went inside to find a replacement battery online. What happened next still haunts me.
I walked out of my office towards my kitchen when I noticed the smell of burning plastic. I glanced out the back door to see black and grey smoke spewing from under my bonnet. I raced out the back door and switched off the charger at the power point. Next, I gingerly raised the bonnet, knowing there was a risk of a backdraft increasing the intensity of the fire. I ripped the alligator clips from the battery and ran to the passenger door of the Prado, tearing the fire extinguisher from the cargo barrier.
A quick shake, pull the pin, then point at the flame and pull the trigger. White foam spewed from the little red extinguisher all over the VSR as it spat sparks and flame. With the flame quickly extinguished and the little red bottle empty, my next task was to stop the fire burning behind the sound deadener under my bonnet. Thankfully my dog’s water bowl was within easy reach and I splashed water over the smouldering area, halting the burning.
What a mess! Foam everywhere, the smell of burnt rubber and plastic, but the danger was still there. The VSR was still sparking as charge flowed from my batteries. I wasted no time in disconnecting the positive and earth cables from both batteries, just to be safe.
It was then the shock set in. What if I hadn’t walked out of my office at that exact moment? What if the bonnet was fully closed? What if the Prado doors were locked? I would have lost my carport and garage; most likely my neighbours’ garage would have been hit hard too. Most of all, what caused the fire?
The Wash Up
It was obvious, with the damage it suffered, that the VSR was the origin of the fire but why? I contacted Projecta and within minutes I was talking to a technician on the phone. After explaining the back story, we concluded that the main battery was most likely the problem.
With at least one dead cell, it was spitting current at the VSR via 4 B&S cables, especially when connected to the battery charger. The VSR is designed to handle 200amps continuous with a peak of 400 amps but it is also designed to have a fuse connected between the main battery and the VSR. This is the one step I had missed in the rush to swap out my old VSR. A big mistake it turns out, but hindsight is an amazing thing. I turned it into a valuable lesson and learnt a lot from it.
I decided to re-evaluate the wiring I had installed throughout the Prado. Now I must say, I have always used the correct size of cables for all my wiring. Old wiring was replaced with new, a new fuse box was installed, old circuit breakers were removed and replaced with 50amp ANS fuses and most important of all, the VSR was replaced with a Projecta IDC25.
Being an automatic 25-amp 3 stage DC/Solar battery charger, I know that my auxiliary battery is now receiving a safe and comprehensive charge. The IDC25 also allows me to have a different type of battery (AGM, WET or Calcium) to the main battery, something I couldn’t do when using a VSR or isolator. I have also installed 50 amp ANS fuses between the main battery and the IDC25 and between the IDC25 and the auxiliary battery.
I was very lucky and had I read Projecta’s installation document correctly, the fire would not have occurred. So, what is all the fuss about fuses? Without them, you are leaving yourself open to disaster.
Don’t waste your hard-earned money travelling on a trip to the Mediterranean – Sun Country on the Murray has it all and more.
The Moira Shire, also known as Sun Country on the Murray, has a Mediterranean climate and 101 sandy beaches to match. Want more? Well, read on and discover for yourself how the region from Echuca to Yarrawonga is the perfect place to enjoy the sun, food, wine and outdoor activities, all within striking distance of Australia’s best river.
The kicker is the Farm Gate Trail put together by a collection of primary producers offering their product directly to you from the farm. Each Farm Gate offers a unique experience and with food crops, grape growers, dairy and even hemp, this region has it all. Regular markets are also a drawcard with the long weekends pulling loads of stalls and people looking for a bargain.
As with any region, I always recommend the first stop to be at one of the four Visitor Information Centres. Here you can discover those special places, new activities and of course find out all about the Farm Gate Trail from the experienced people in the know. I dropped into the Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre in Nathalia and was fascinated by the displays, art and of course visitor information.
You can read my full article in RV Daily Magazine