Fixing your Lexus on a budget.

So you’re the proud owner of a 1994 Lexus ES300. As of 6 months ago, I was a proud owner as well. But then things took a turn. Around September I moved to the Baltimore region. Being from the middle of nowhere, I relied heavily on my Garmin GPS to find local stores and vendors. Then, something horrible happened, my lighter outlet broke, which meant no more GPS.

Following my fathers advice, I decide that the lighter outlet itself has gone bad. I went to Autozone and got a $2 replacement outlet under the assumption that the old one would be easy to replace. This turned out to not be the case of course, as you will see. Out with the old...Following instructions from the internet, I managed to take the whole console apart and get the ashtray/cupholder assembly out. With the assembly in my hands, I realized that this thing was never meant to be taken out or apart. (Note to my readers, this is the theme for the entire car. Its only meant to be put together, never taken apart or worked on.)

So my temporary solution was to just leave the assembly out, and leave my new Autozone outlet just hanging in my car hole. See below:

My car hole.Fast forward to January. I am back in Baltimore, fresh from a relaxing *cough* break. I have my new Sirius radio in hand, but am sick of having no place to put it, and having to constantly fish my outlet out of the aforementioned car hole. Not to mention that I have ruined a few fuses by having the ground flopping all over the place in there. So my genius brain comes up with an idea. I can hack up my Sirius holster suction mount and build a new mount using plywood and some varnish/stain.

So over the course of a week, I was able to accomplish just this very task.
My first step was to gather the tools and supplies I would need to bring it all together. I made a list of everything I thought I might need.

  • A small sheet of 1/4″ plywood.
  • A dremel tool.
  • 2-in-1 stain/varnish.
  • Disposable stain brush.
  • High grit sandpaper(150 to 300 grit.)
  • Cutting and sanding attachments for dremel tool.
  • Gorilla Glue…just in case.

Next I designed a template the same size as the previous cupholder/ashtray assembly using paper and a ruler. Given my great artistic skills, this was easy to accomplish.

Always start with a template.With the template on there, I then carefully traced the outline of my new apparatus onto the plywood using a sharpie marker.

Get ready to dremel.Once the pattern was on the wood correctly, it was time to dremel the basic shape out. Its important to note that this doesn’t have to be perfect. I was only able to find a tip for my dremel tool that was fairly small, so I had to cut through the plywood at a slight angle. I planned for this though, so I was able to correct it later in the sanding phase.

Freshly cut lumber.Now that the apparatus is cut, I proceeded to sand it down, and test fit it in my car hole. This required a bit more work than I initially thought, as I had made the template a bit larger than I wanted, but it worked out well in the end.

Having sanded it down, I now proceeded to stencil in the lighter outlet hole, and the Sirius holster mount. You can see here that I’ve already drilled the holes:

Stencils and holes.After finishing drilling/dremelling the holes, I test mount the Sirius holster to the board. Everything seems to be fitting fairly well, so I proceeded to smooth everything down and go over it with high grit sandpaper. This, of course, is to prepare for the stain/varnish phase.

Test mounted the Sirius holster.Now that everything fits, I hastily and greedily lay down the first layer of the 2-in-1 stain/varnish. My color choice is antique hazel nut. I of course, only guessed that this would match my imitation plastic wood gear shift cover as I really have no experience in this area.

After the first coat.As an important note, always do your stain/varnish work in well ventilted areas…like outside. The first coat was done on my deck, but coats two and three were done in my sunroom, with the windows open and a fan on because it got extremely cold that week. I hope that the fumes didn’t do any serious damage as I slept.

Anyways, after coat number two, I decided to do a side by side comparison just to see how we’re matching up.

Comparison after coat two.The results aren’t perfect, but considering I have to wait a full day for each coat, I hope that coat three will do the trick. This turns out to be mostly true as you can see here:

Final comparison, after coat three.Now that I’m satisfied with the color, I come up with a way to mount it. That entire giant, heavy cupholder/ashtray assembly that used to be in the car hole was only held in place by a thin alluminum bracket. I unscrew the bracket from the old mount and then screw it into my new wooden mount. I immeadiately realize this isn’t going to be enough to permanently hold the new mount in place, so I add my favorite ingredient, Gorilla Glue. This stuff is seriously strong, and all it needs to activate is water, and pressure. So I slop some on, and clamp it in place overnight:

Gorilla glue does the trick!After 24 more hours of waiting, the glue is finally dry, and the whole assembly is ready to be put into my hot crap Lexus. As you can see from our final picture here, there is a small gap at the bottom of the mount due to an angle calculation that I hadn’t taken into account…apparently they angle the ashtray/cupholder to slightly face the driver. Oh well, this setup actually looks very convincing in the dark. I’m very happy with the way it came out, and it cost me far less than any of the available parts I could have gotten from eBay or similar sites.

The grand unveiling.So to anyone who thinks their car is broken beyond repair, or is just fed up with a car hole, I highly recommend this project. Other than the little jagged mark next to the lighter outlet that I accidentally made with my dremel tool, and the small gap at the bottom, it looks downright presentable. It was actually pretty fun, and really appeals to my DIY nature. Also, it provided my car with a nice smell…reminds me of shop class.

I would like to thank the kind folks over at Make Magazine for the inspiration. They have links to hundreds of DIY projects and have always inspired me to find a better way to do things.


2 Responses to Fixing your Lexus on a budget.

  1. Pingback: Ben’s Drivel » The new skin.

  2. Pingback: Ben’s Drivel » Strange brew.

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