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Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms

 

GPS Installation

 

Many newer Jeeps, SUVs, and cars have built-in road navigation GPS units. I guess that's fine for most people; the only drawback I see from a technical standpoint is that you can't easily do map updates on a built-in GPS, and since you can't remove it from the vehicle, the technology is a magnet for thieves who will destroy your dashboard to pry it out.

For Jeeps and SUVs that are often taken off-road, a standard "street GPS" is of little use, as it usually shows only paved roads on its built-in maps. However, most of you (like me) who venture into the back-woods trails and sometimes in places where there are no trails or roads, have a hand-held GPS that you can customize with topographical maps of the area you are exploring. When you go off-trail, it is useful to be able to see where you are, and to be able to "backtrack"; something that a standard (road) GPS unit does not have a provision for.

Most handheld GPS units have vehicle, bike, and motorcycle handlebar mounts available as accessories, but some of them are quite expensive (the $21 Garmin dashboard mount is shown below). If you have a $5 standard suction cup camera mount, you can DIY (fabricate your own) GPS receiver bracket for about $5 worth of brass hardware. Shown below is a simple bracket that will work with a Garmin eTrex 10, eTrex 20, eTrex 30, eTrex Summit, eTrex Venture, eTrex Legend, and eTrex Vista GPS receivers.

 
 
   
 
Custom DIY Bracket for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

The front of the bracket (facing the driver). Red arrows show brass screws soldered in place and ground flush with the bracket prongs. The blue arrow shows the brass 1/4-20 nut soldered to the bracket frame. Construction of the bracket is identical to how the Radio Quick-Disconnect Bracket is done.

Soldering with 60/40 or Radio-Grade solder in addition to being screw-fastened together (red arrows) is more than sufficiently strong to hold the receiver.

You must use ONLY solid brass hardware (screws and nut). For the brass nut, choose one that is at least 3/8" thick.

Custom DIY Bracket for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

The back of the bracket (facing away from the driver) illustrates solder joints (green arrow), and the heads of brass Phillips-head screws soldered into countersunk holes and ground flush with the bracket frame (red arrows).

The standard camera thread (1/4-20) used on standard camera suction cup mounts screws from the back of the bracket into the 1/4-20 nut soldered to the front. In this case, the solder just holds the nut in place; it does not bear any of the (negligible) weight of the receiver.

Custom DIY Bracket for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

The bracket fastened to the back of the GPS receiver (Garmin eTrex 20 shown here).

 

The prongs are bent approximately 30 towards the back of the bracket, providing clearance for the 1/4-20 brass nut, and helping to position the receiver's screen for the optimum viewing angle when the assembly (with the suction-cup mount) is fastened to the vehicle's windshield.

 

The receiver just "drops into" the prongs, and is held securely in place.

 

The brass prongs are fabricated from 3/32" x 1/2" brass bar, and the wider piece is 3/32" x 3/4" brass stock purchased at a model / hobby store.

 

NOTE: Use of thicker material for the prongs will not work because the prongs have to fit under the lip of the GPS clip assembly.

Standard windshield suction cup mount

This photo shows a typical suction-cup camera mount that can be bought almost anywhere for a few bucks. Note the 1/4-20 standard camera mount screw and knurled adjustment nut.

With a bit of ingenuity, a few tools, and materials that can be purchased at most hardware and hobby stores, you can make your own brackets and mounts for your GPS, cameras, phones, tablets, and almost anything else you can think of.

Custom DIY Bracket on standard suction cup mount for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

The custom bracket shown screwed to the suction-cup camera mount (shown above).

Custom DIY Bracket on standard suction cup mount for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

This photo is a side view of the Garmin eTrex GPS in the custom DIY mount.

Finished DIY mount for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers

The photo here shows the bracket and mount assembly with GPS receiver attached to a standard camera suction cup windshield mount and attached to a mirror.

 

When fixed to the inside of a windshield whose top slopes toward the driver, the GPS receiver will be positioned at the perfect viewing angle for the driver.

Finished DIY mount for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers mounted in Jeep Wrangler

Mounted to the windshield of my Jeep Wrangler, the GPS is easily viewed from the driver's seat. External power connection in this installation is made with the included 16" USB cable to the "remote head" of my AnyTone 588UV dual-band HAM Radio.

When mounting anything to a vehicle's windshield, a bit of light cooking oil on the suction cup ensures a good grip.

Position the unit so that it does not block your vision of the road, or interfere with pulling down the sun visors.

The coiled cord in the photo (left) is from a battery charger, and is NOT part of the GPS installation.

Finished DIY mount for Garmin eTrex series GPS receivers mounted in Jeep Wrangler

This photo is a close-up side-view of the eTrex 20 on the custom bracket, mounted in my Jeep Wrangler.

I used some PC-7 Epoxy to fill-in mold between the body of the GPS receiver and the mount's "prongs" (red arrow). This is not necessary; I did it for aesthetic purposes. To do this, completely cover the back of the receiver with 4" wide clear packing tape, pressing the tape evenly and firmly onto the contour of the unit. Make sure that there are no rips or wrinkles in the tape, and it is applied as smoothly as possible. Coat the packing tape with Vaseline or heavy grease (this will prevent the epoxy from sticking to the tape). Put the GPS unit into the mount. Heat a blob of PC-7 Epoxy sufficient to the task in a microwave oven for 15 to 20 seconds (this will make it more pliable and cause it to cure faster). Apply the epoxy and press it to fill the gap between the prongs and the receiver, wait an hour, then mold it into shape with a finger dipped in Aloe Vera or cooking oil.

Wait at least 24 hours for the epoxy to cure, then remove the GPS receiver from the mount. Use an X-Acto knife and / or a Dremel Tool to shape the epoxy. Use 200-grit sandpaper to finish, and paint it if you wish.

 

Popular Garmin GPS Receivers and accessories for hiking, Geocaching, and off-road navigation.

Note that these units DO NOT come with an external power adapter for a vehicle, because they are designed primarily as "sports GPS" units. They can be externally powered with the included 16" long USB cord, or with a standard USB power cord plugged into a suitable adapter. These units can operate up to 20 hours on a set of two Hi-capacity rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries, so if you're hiking into the deep wilderness, have a few fully-charged sets on hand.

 

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