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Installing the Tuffy Overhead Security Console created real estate for the installation of radios - real estate that didn't exist before. It allowed us to install two of the four radio units that we needed to install. We still had two to go - A CB radio and a scanner. Tuffy came through with a solution that easily facilitated one of the these, and gave us options for installing the other: The Tuffy TJ Stereo Center Security Console - model number 041.
Once you unpack the Tuffy console, you will not that there are two main pieces:
Front half - holes ready for shifter and airbag cutoff or a tray for models w/o airbag cutoff option
Rear half - radio cover closed
Rear half - radio cover open
That radio mounting location and the solid locking cover is the real star of this unit. It is intended to moun DIN-sized radio gear with a sleeve, but with some magic it can be used to mount almost any radio gear. You give up the most convenient place for your cupholders, but it is worth it when you look at what this product gives you in return.
You will also find several small supporting items and a bag of hardware. A metal tray is included for use in TJ models that don't have an airbag cutoff switch.
They are available in many colors, but I really prefer the black. It looks like it belongs in a stealth fighter.
The construction is just like every other Tuffy product I have seen - excellent. The welds are clean, the finish shows real pride in the work performed, and the thing is built like a tank. Let's compare the locking mechanism on the Tuffy console with the factory console. I think the pictures will do all the talking here:
Factory Console Lock
Tuffy Locking Mechanism. That is essentially a car door or trunk latch mechanism.
Here is what it latches to on the console:
Let's also look at the factory arm rest "pad" versus the real pad on the Tuffy Center Console...
The Factory "Pad" - just a slightly softer plastic.
The Tuffy Pad - thick and cushioned!
Honestly, if the Jeep execs were really smart, they would contract with Tuffy and install these in every Jeep. It beats the heck out of the factory console in every way.
When it came to the installation of the Tuffy TJ Stereo Security Console, it was is easy. Because our application was a little different (installing a scanner with a bail mount rather than a DIN mount stereo and trying to decide where to put the CB), we decided to work backwards. The instructions tell you to install the rear first, then put the front in. We worked backwards and it worked fine.
We started by removing the old center console. It has two screws in the storage compartment, one in the forward drink holder, and one under the shift boot. Once those were out, we pulled the airbag disable switch up and then fed it back down through the hole it was mounted in by turing it on its side and going diagonally through the hole.
Putting the transmission in Neutral and putting the 4WD lever in the neutral position between 4 high and 4 low really facilitates both the removal of the factory console and the installation of the new Tuffy console.
After we disconnected the switch and LED for the alarm system, the factory console came right out. To be honest, Im not going to miss it. It was not in the best shape when we got the Jeep, but that was also the worst thing in the Jeep.
We then started with the installation of the forward half of the Tuffy console. This was very easy to install. We set out the wires that would be going back to the scanner and CB, and then secured everything. In our case, we included a long RS-232 cable that would be routed through the dash and would come out in the glove compartment. This is for programming and computer controlling the scanner.
We then set the forward half in place. Just make sure to be careful and it goes in very easily. You need to maneuver the airbag disable switch through the hole it will snap into (turned sideways and diagonally) and do the same with the shift boot. In the case of the automatic transmission, neutral position is your friend.
Once it is in place, you can snap the airbag disable switch in, and start the mounting screw below the shift boot - it goes right into the factory hole in the bottom of the Jeep. Dont tighten that all the way yet.
You need to take two of the bolts and washers included with the Tuffy console and put them into the holes below the 4wd shift lever. Leave them sticking out about 1/8 or a little less. The rear half slides in over the top of these two bolts and they secure the two halfes together so they need to stick out a little. If you will be pre-installing a radio, opt to make this as tight as possible now. Trust me.
You then need to enlarge the two original holes in the bottom of the Jeep that the screws from the storage compartment went into. Tuffy doesnt re-use those they use some real, heavy duty bolts. That was nice to see. Tuffy doesnt do anything half way. They need to be enlarged to 3/8". They come through the bottom of the Jeep on the drivers side of the emergency brake.
The holes to be enlarged - the emergency brake is on the passengers side of the holes.
The holes visible on the bottom of the Jeep. They recommend using some silicone sealant on these when the install is finished.
Once we had that done, we were ready to physically install the scanner in the radio slot in the rear half of the console. This was the hardest part of the whole operation.
Just like the Overhead Security Console, the Tuffy Center Stereo Security Console is designed for the mounting of equipment with DIN sleeves. The Uniden BC-796D scanner that we are recommending to our readers does not come with a DIN sleeve and is slightly larger than DIN-size. It can still go in there, but you have to work some magic on it. If we were doing a DIN-mount radio, the whole installation would have taken about 1 hour. Ours took about 2.
We started by attaching the mounting bracket for the scanner and trying a variety of positions so that the face of the scanner filled the hole, and the bracket was flat against the inside of the Tuffy console. The bracket will need to go on the side of the scanner which will be towards the emergency brake. This took about 15 minutes to find the ideal position.
Once we found that position, we needed to drill two holes in the Tuffy console so that we could bolt that mounting bracket on. The problem was that we could not drill the holes from the outside, since we couldn't see where they needed to be from the outside. Again - think creatively.
We Took some white or wood glue and put it around the location for the mounting holes in the bracket. We then inserted the scanner into the tuffy console keeping the bracket away from the side. We put the scanner in position, and as a last step we pressed the bracket into position against the side of the console. We then took the bracket squarely away from the inside of the console and wiped the glue off of the bracket.
If you look inside of the console, you will see the outline of the bracket in glue, with the area for the holes clearly outlined.
Using a Dremel, get the holes started. Just make a good notch so that you can get an angled drill in there.
Once you have a small hole made from the inside, you can then make the hole larger in small steps until it is the right size from the outside.
Put the screws in, and use lock washers and nuts to secure the scanner/radio/CB bracket. Thats all there is to the physical mounting of the scanner.
You can see that the bolts we installed to mount it don't come anywhere near interfering with the emergency brake handle.
We then took the rear section of the console out to the Jeep and connected all of the cables.
Cables to the scanner from L-R: RS-232 (9-pin), power (to glove box), external speaker cable (dashboard), and the antenna.
Once those were in, it was a matter of setting the rear section of the console in place starting at the rear. Pivot it down so that the notches on the front line up with the bolts you previously put into the forward section. These should just go right on. The less excess you leave in, the better. If you have pre-installed a radio, you will find that you cant get to them to tighten them from the inside.
Top view of the rear half meeting the front half. Slots on the rear half slide over the bolts you pre-installed on the front half.
Side view of rear half meeting front half.
Once thats done, follow the instructions to bolt the console down. You put the two rear bolts in (at least one from the bottom for extra security), put a bolt in under the radio compartment (if you can reach it - you should be able to if installing a DIN-mount radio, we couldn't. Hence the recommendation to make those two bolts that connect the halves as tight as you can up front), and the bolt under the shift boot.
There are also three bolts on the passenger side - two on the side of the storage box and one below the radio.
The last step is to install the cup holder. It goes on the rear of the console at the base. It has rubber flaps to hold cups securely.
Our cup holder got a little scratch on the passenger side when the Hi-Lift fell and hit it - but it didn't hurt it. And yes, you can still use it with the CB mounted where it is.
Thats about it. Connect the other end of any radio wires you installed, and you are good to go.
Here are some photos of the completed installation.
Looking forward, radio cover open, buttons for alarm re-installed in the Tuffy console, and the speaker for the Uniden BC-796D scanner mounted to lower portion of the dashboard. You can see the Stealth Fighter look here.
Drivers view of the BC-796D scanner in the TUffy TJ Stereo Security Console
Close-up of the radio cover in the closed and locked position. The cover for the storage box keeps it in place.
Another view of the scanner.
Installing the CB was the last challenge. I have always kept high-end SSB-capable CB radios in my vehicles along with all of the HAM and other radio gear. They give you options, and I like options. The 79 WX ST that we tried as a compromise just didnt cut it. We needed something better. We opted for the Midland 79-290. It is a high-quality SSB CB, and it is physically smaller than the Cobra 148 NWST (now discontinued, my former favorite) so it fit within the width of the Tuffy console.
It is also a current production model.
The main criteria for mounting the CB were that it had to be accessible to both the driver and the passenger, and it had to facilitate the antenna connection. The CB antenna is mounted on the back of the Jeep on the side towards oncoming traffic. Even if we wanted to install a much longer antenna cable, there was not really any available real estate on the dash which would facilitate access by both the driver and the passenger.
The best place for mounting it turned out to be on the rear of the Tuffy Center Stereo Security Console. As long as the hard top is on, it is well shielded from prying eyes, but remains accessible to both driver and passenger. It is not my idea of an absolutely ideal mounting location, but it is as good as it gets. In addition, the faceplate is removable. You can take it off - as well as the faceplate for the Kenwood TM-D700A which mounted on the dashboard - and lock them up ion the storage box. A really good setup if you ask me.
The installation was easy. We marked the position for two mounting screws, drilled pilot holes, and bolted it up.
It is mounted so that the driver - when safe to do so (meaning stopped) - can look over his shoulder and manipulate the controls. The passenger can also do so.
Once you are on channel there are not too many other adjustments you need to make, and you usually stay on one frequency during a safari or when on a SAR operation (if you are even using the CB in that event).
Yes Virginia, you can still use the cupholders - even with the CB mounted here.
Connecting the power and antenna wires finished the CB installation. We protected them with some split tubing. We also found that we need to install an external speaker for the CB. We are installing another RadioShack speaker next to the speaker for the scanner on the lower portion of the dashboard.
Another benefit of the Midland 79-290 CB is that it will pick up all of the NOAA weather radio frequencies. You do NOT need an extra antenna - or even a "special" antenna for that. We use a FireStik on the back of the Jeep (mounted on the side towards oncoming traffic) and it works great!
The Tuffy products we installed gave us space to mount and secure three radios under lock and key. Some people have questioned why I didnt install the CB in one of those protected locations. Let me explain it financially:
Icom IC-706MKII-G: $1000 - Locked up!
Kenwood TM-D700A: $500 - Locked up!
Uniden BC-796D: $500 - Locked up!
SSB CB: $200 - not locked up, but has a removable faceplate that can be locked up.
Looking at it from a financial point of view, Id rather have the expensive gear protected. The CB is the least expensive item to replace if it is ever stolen. We also have the hard top, the Clifford alarm system with microwave sensors front and rear (which would offer protection with the hard top off), and good insurance. It's as safe as it can be outside of a Tuffy console.
Just like with the Tuffy Overhead Security Console, this radio installation would not have been possible without the Tuffy #041 TJ Center Stereo Security Console. It is yet another innovative product that solves a real problem. I said it before, I can't recommend Tuffy highly enough.
-- James Bell Jr.