Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page © Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms
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.
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.
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
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
Soldering with 60/40 or Radio-Grade solder in addition to being screw-fastened
arrows) is more
than sufficiently strong to hold the receiver.
must use ONLY solid brass hardware
(screws and nut). For the brass nut, choose
one that is at least 3/8" thick.
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).
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.
The bracket fastened to
the back of the GPS receiver (Garmin eTrex 20
The prongs are bent
approximately 30º 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
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.
Use of thicker material for the prongs will not work
because the prongs have to fit under the lip of the GPS clip assembly.
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 bracket shown screwed to the suction-cup camera mount (shown above).
This photo is a side
view of the Garmin eTrex GPS in the custom
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.
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.
This photo is a
close-up side-view of the eTrex 20 on the custom bracket, mounted in my Jeep
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
to shape the epoxy. Use 200-grit sandpaper to finish, and paint it if
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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