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The camping mod - disabling the courtesy lights

March 20 - April 28, 2016

Courtesy lights are those little lights around the car that turn on when you open your doors. They generally include the dome light, some door lights, that kind of thing.

Now, I know what you're thinking - "How in the world does disabling the courtesy lights take five and a half weeks?"

Electricity. And negative switching.

For years, I've wanted a way to disable the courtesy lights - mostly so that when camping, the doors can stay open without having to worry that the battery will run down. But of course, finding the right wire to cut - especially on a negatively switched (where the light always has +12V and the ground is switched) - proved to be very elusive. So elusive that I never found it. So elusive that Dad never found it. So elusive that the Internet said, "try something else."

Not one to give up, I gave up and tried something else - instead of a single switch to control all of the courtesy lights, I decided to go with a switch for each door. See, the doors are the things that control the lights (there's a switch that gets tripped when the door opens) and there's just a single wire that runs to that switch. I knew that if I put another switch in series, that I could turn the lights off.

I ordered some toggle switches direct from China and waited 2 weeks for them to be delivered. They arrived, and it was time to get started.

Step one was to cut the wire. Done (3 minutes).

Step two was to solder in some more wire to get to the switch. Done (3 minutes).

Step three was to wire up the switch and install it. And this is where things got messy. I still don't know why (and it turns out that neither does the internet), but I couldn't get the switches to work "correctly." That is, I couldn't get the little LEDs on them to light up when the door was open and the courtesy lights were on, but be off when the door was closed or the switch was off. I could only get them to be on all the time or to only be on when the courtesy lights were off - clearly, both of those options completely defeat the purpose - I want lights off so I don't run down my battery.

So I ordered some different push-button switches from China and waited 2 more weeks. Same problem. At this point, I engaged the internet (TacomaWorld). Several suggestions were given on how to wire the switches, and @fergyz even purchased a few himself to see if he could get them to work. We even tried adding a diode to direct current flow. Nothing.

Beaten, but not out, I decided I'd just install the switches without illumination. Not quite as cool, but it would work just fine. So it was back to step three - wire up the switch and install it.

The switches I used were these 16mm pushbutton ones, since they come with a harness - which means you can disconnect the switch from the wiring when you take off the dash.

Being cylindrical meant that once I knew where to put the switch (making sure there was clearance in the back) it was relatively easy to make the hole for it using a forstner bit. From there, I could insert the switch, plug in the wiring harness that I'd soldered up, and voila - an innocuous little switch on each door to control the lights. Only five and a half weeks in the making.

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