Steering Column Volt Meter

Written on 02/24/2021
Abel Longoria

I wanted a way to easily check my battery voltage while in the driver's seat and I began looking for different options online. I considered added a 52mm Voltage Gauge to my custom gauge cluster on my center dash but I already have 4 Gauges there. I didn't want to add a 5th. I remember seeing these steering column covers which are factory made and were meant to house a switch for a factory seat heater control. I've seen other owners place voltage meters or a outside temperature display in these slots before so I thought this would be my best option. Now I just got to find one!

Finding one took awhile. I've seen some used ones pop up on TheSamba Classifieds from time to time but I've always missed them. Then I saw a post from Seth Hatfield of Seth's Garage mentioning he had a few New Old Stock covers available for $45 Shipped. Score! Ordered!

What I Used

  1. Vanagon Steering Column Cover with Seat Heater Switch Opening
  2. DROK 5 Character Voltmeter LED Display
  3. SPDT Automotive Round Rocker Switch
  4. Highrock 20m 22awg Wire
  5. Metric Spiral Flute Step Drill Bit Set
  6. Husky Flat/Curve Assortment File Set
  7. WEN 4208 8-Inch 5 Speed Drill Press Not neccessary. This is what I used to drill the hole into the cover.

Once I had my cover in hand I could then take some measurements of the stock opening and try to source a Volt Meter Panel that'll fit. Nothing fit exactly. So I decided on a DROK 5 Character Voltmeter LED Display which was not back lit so it wouldn't be blinding me at night when the display was in the ON position. The other key feature I liked is that this LED was a 5 character display as opposed to a 3 character display that I saw quite a bit of. More characters, more specific readout.

Next order of business was to purchase a SPDT Automotive Round Rocker Switch which has 2 ON positions and 1 OFF position. This switch will allow me to display my Starter Battery Voltage level when the switch is in Position 1 and it will display my Auxiliary Battery Voltage level when the switch is in Position 2. The center position is OFF so that it won't be on all the time. These switches can also be use for your stereo, wire up two power sources, one to your main starting battery and one to your auxiliary battery so that you can operate your stereo in "Camp Mode" running off your auxiliary battery and not draining off your starting battery.

I purchased a Husky Flat/Curve Assortment File Set from Home Depot which included a 1" wide flat dual purpose coarse rasp file and fine tooth file. The rasp side is what I used by hand in order to enlarge the opening of the slot. The rasp side is pretty coarse so it'll eat through the plastic pretty easily. Just take your time and recheck often to see if the LED Panel fits. The smaller corner file I used for.. yup you guessed it, the corners. It's a small triangle shaped file that lets you get into the corners in order to make them nice and square, the rasp file simply can't get that close to the edges. Once the opening is large enough the LED panel will pop in securely.

The backside of the rocker switch I purchased that will need to be inserted into the column cover measures 20mm in diameter. I ordered a Metric Spiral Flute Step Drill Bit Set which includes a 4mm-20mm step bit. If you've never used these step bits before you'll love them once you do. Makes life so much easier. I used the 4mm-20mm bit to drill a hole into the side of the cover, using the bit with the largest diameter of 20mm insures that you wont accidentally make the hole larger than it needs to be which will mess your whole project up. Be careful and take your time drilling this hole, don't let the drill get away from you and scuff up your cover. I used my WEN Drill Press for my cover since it gives you much better control of the step drill bit, highly recommended if you have one available.

Once you have all of the correct tools and parts you can get this entire cover completed in about 30-45 minutes. Wiring it up is another thing. I'll document my install of my cover in detail soon and update this post accordingly.

The finished product hooked up to a 9v battery for test purposes.