Last updated on June 15th, 2018
Many new models of motorcycles from Kawasaki now (finally!) come prewired for a “bolt-on” motorcycle USB charger! While installing a USB Charger (or 12v port) isn’t all that complicated of an install on any motorcycle, it can be hard to locate a suitable location, as well as finding a switched 12v wire with sufficient current capability. Thankfully, Kawasaki now takes care of the electrical and location part of the equation for us! The only thing left is to install the charger, so let’s do it!
Difficulty: 2 out of 5
Tool Requirements: 2 out of 5
Time: 2 Hours
Fitment – Which bikes does this DIY apply to
Today we’re doing this installation a 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS. However, we can presume that the process is either identical or extremely similar for Kawasaki’s new models accepting the same part. This includes, but is not limited to, the following models:
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 ABS
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS
- 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS KRT Edition
It will also fit the following bikes. However for these models you’ll also need Kawasaki’s Relay Kit:
- 2015-2017 Versys 650
- 2015-2017 Versys 650 ABS
- 2015-2017 Versys 1000 ABS
- 2015-2017 Versys 1000 LT
- 2015-2017 Versys 650 LT
- 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400
- 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS
- 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 ABS KRT
We can also take for granted that future models of many of these bikes (and/or other models from Kawasaki) are also compatible.
Note on the Kawasaki Ninja 400
For the most part, this DIY perfectly applies to installing a motorcycle USB charger on the Ninja 400. The main difference is that it requires a relay. And, if you’re nimble, you can probably install the kit without removing fairings.
Another cool thing about the Kawasaki Ninja 400 is that there is an extra set of power connectors under the rear seat. Under the rubber boot covering the fender light connections, you’ll find another set of bullet connectors. Once the relay is installed, you can also use them as to connect an auxiliary outlet.
And while at first it might seem a PITA to have to buy a separate relay, don’t complain too much. There’s a good chance that thanks to it, those models have a higher current-carrying capability.
What you’ll need
The Main Component – Weatherproof 12v USB Port Charger
The hole in the motorcycle’s fairing will fit most (if not all) standard 1-1/8″ (2.85cm, roughly) dash panel mount devices. That’s the diameter of your average “cigarette lighter” port. That will give you plenty of options regarding what to install there. Including, but not limited to, 12v direct ports/Cigarette lighter, USB Chargers, Battery Monitors, Switches, etc. Nonetheless, for the purpose of this DIY I think the two best options are:
These days, I wouldn’t go with anything less than a Dual Port USB charger, with at least 2A per port, and an integrated voltmeter. The voltmeter can prove invaluable to let you know why the bike won’t start. Or if the voltage is so low that you should charge the bike right away. Similarly, it also helps out with alternator diagnosis, too. There just isn’t really any benefit to not having one. If you want to see if Ebay has it cheaper, or other options, click here. Anyway, in my opinion this is the best motorcycle USB charger, and the one I’m installing in this DIY.
If you simply want a standard 12v cigarette port so you can plug-in whatever device you like best, this is a decent option. One benefit is being able to use higher quality chargers, swap broken chargers, or being able to plug other devices in. However, since this wire is switched, you won’t be able to charge your bike’s battery through this port (which reduces the usefulness). And with the tiny 5A or under fuse, you won’t be able to power devices like a tire air pump. Another key point, you lose the waterproofness with the charger installed. I’d personally just pick the unit with the integrated USB ports. Which is what you’ll use most these days anyway.
- *Extra – Phone Mount Charger for Motorcycles – In this case I wired a second USB Charger plus phone mount for redundancy. Eventually all chargers end up failing, so this way I at least have a backup for those long rides. Also, these are just as good as Ram Mounts phone holders in my experience.
- *For Versys and Ninja 400 – Relay Kit – If you’re installing the power outlet on a Versys or a Kawasaki Ninja 400, you’ll also need the Kawasaki Relay kit, too.
Tools and Supplies
Most of this you’ll already have, hopefully. Here are the tools and supplies I used. You might want to use this list to find everything you’ll need before starting the project. Mostly for those people who’s garages act as de facto black holes.
- 16 Gauge Speaker Wire – You can get away with less, but 16 Gauge is a nice thickness for a project like this. Thicker is probably inconvenient to work with. Speaker wire is good for this use since it’s color coded and binded together. You probably already have some, somewhere. But if not, a roll is great to have around.
- Hobby Knife – We’ll use this to strip thin wires.
- (Soldering Iron) – I really like this unit because of the long cable (great for working on vehicles), adjustable temperature, and On-Off switch.
- (Rosin Core Solder) – A must for soldering grimey wires.
- (Adhesive Heat Shrink Assortment)
- Bullet Terminals – Since I wasn’t quite sure of the bullet connector size, I bought a connector set for this project. It ended up being your more or less standard, 4mm diameter bullet connector. You’ll need both male and female to install the motorcycle USB charger.
- (Liquid Electrical Tape) – To protect the wiring from corrosion.
- (Ratcheting Terminal Crimper) – This is a must-have for automotive electrical work. It’s the only right way to crimp terminals. If you get one, make sure it includes multiple jaws. The one I use (albeit a little expensive – but worth it) is this crimper.
- (Dielectric Grease) – To protect the wiring connectors from water intrusion.
- Spade Connectors – Just about any DIYer with a garage has an assortment of these lying around. You’ll need two female connectors of these for the charger side.
Kawasaki Original Part – DC Power Outlet – 99994-0485
While we should definitely be grateful for Kawasaki to finally include a OEM location for the power outlet, their OEM part is ridiculously overpriced and should hardly be considered. Their component has an MSRP of 84.95$. And it’s no better than any outlet you can find in the discount bin of your local AutoZone. The only benefit is that it comes with the wiring harness pre-made. But that’s a sub-1$ part, made with standard components that most of us will already have. Nonetheless, if you would like to see the part:
If you would like to see the OEM installation instructions for the part, click here.
Kawasaki Motorcycle USB Charger – Step-by-Step
Step 1 – Remove the fairings
It’s kinda hard to install this with all the fairings in place. I tried and gave up – I was more likely to just damage something before giving up.
You’ve got a few option. As a reader pointed it (thanks Valtteri!) , at the bare minimum it’s possible to access this area by just removing the windshield and plastic behind it.
In my case, I already had the side fairings removed for other work on the bike. I just went ahead and removed the headlight too, since it wasn’t much more extra effort. That way I could take better pictures for you guys. Plus I wanted to install an upgraded headlight bulb.
Step 2 – Remove the panel blank and test fit the charger
You’ll need a Phillips screwdriver to remove the single screw holding the dash panel blank in place. Remove it and push the blank out the front.
This is also a great time to confirm that the charger you have is the right size. Test fit it and make sure you’re satisfied.
Step 3 – Find the wiring
Confirm that your bike has the wiring to power the socket. It’s already fused upstream, so you shouldn’t have to worry about adding a fuse here. Though it wouldn’t hurt, either. The connectors are standard 4mm diameter bullet connectors.
The female bullet connector (pictured with the green sleeve) is the positive (+12v), whereas the male bullet connector is Ground (0v, or “connection to chassis). Do not connect them together! That would be a short-circuit and a blown fuse.
Step 4 – Make the wiring harness
You’ll need a short stretch of wiring to connect the cables from the bike side (bullet connectors) to the spade connectors on your motorcycle USB charger. The wire only needs to be around 3-6 inches long, to your preference.
Personally, I tinned the wire tips before attaching the crimp connectors since it helps make a more mechanically secure connection. I imagine it might also help keep the wire from wicking up water, albeit to a small degree. However, If you do this, strain relief is crucial. Soldering on motorcycle wiring is debatable – and very controversial, oddly enough. So it’s by no means obligatory. If you aren’t familiar with the topic, I’d really recommend you check out this article on whether crimping or soldering is better on a vehicle.
Optional – Add a spare backup charger
In my case, I decided to install a X-mount phone holder + charger as a backup. It’s simply wired in parallel with the main motorcycle USB charge. I don’t intend to use them simultaneously – I doubt the bike’s wiring is designed to take it. I was just fed up of all the motorcycle USB Chargers that have failed me in the past. Normally it’s just water that gets into the port, bent connectors, or random spontaneous death. Though what’s clear is that redundancy is a good thing.
Furthermore, to my surprise, the X-Grip Phone holder is just as good (if not better) than Ram Mount’s version. The ball connector’s arm is metal (Ram Mount’s is plastic). The size of the X-Grip is better suited for my smartphone (it doesn’t touch the power/volume buttons). The fact that it doesn’t wobble is just the cherry on top. When gripping something, Ram Mount’s design typically wobbles due to poor design (something that still surprises me).
After finishing the project, I’m glad I decided to do this. If you don’t want to (which is fine), just don’t add the white male connector.
If you do, you’ll have to add a male and female bullet connector to the wire to connect to the bike. On the cable you’re making, the male connector will connect to the +12v female bullet connector on the bike side. The female connector on the wire side will connect to the male 0v bullet connector on the bike side.
Once you’re sure everything is right, crimp the connections with a decent crimping tool.
Step 5 – Test to make sure it works
Wire it up, without yet installing everything in place, and make sure it works. Don’t worry, I’ve got my fingers crossed for you, buddy.
Step 6 – Install the motorcycle USB charger permanently
Once tested, install everything in place, organizing the wiring and tightening things up. I’d recommend putting a dab of dielectric grease on all the electrical connections to help with waterproofing.
Extra – Current test. So you don’t have to.
When using a smartphone on a motorcycle as a GPS (brightness maxed out for sun glare) and music player (for the Sena bluetooth Intercom), your phone’s current draw is going to be as high as possible. With most budget phone chargers, you’ll be lucky if you can maintain battery charge. Not all chargers will actually be able to charge your phone while you’re using it this way. And the same applies to charging cables. That’s why I test my chargers and cables before putting them in use. Mainly to make verify I have a properly working pair.
Here I’m using a DROK LCD Pocket Digital Multimeter USB and a DROK Micro Load Tester Board along with a high quality Anker PowerLine+ Micro USB Cable. With this I made sure that both chargers lived up to their claims of 2 Amp charging current.
And how’d the current testing go?
The X-Grip charger passed flawlessly. Though I wouldn’t recommend even a bit over 2 Amps, as it was getting toasty. Considering that it’s both a motorcycle USB charger and a phone mount makes it a pretty interesting option.
On the other hand the MicTuning went into over-current protection mode and would not power up the test board. It may have been due to some USB protocol issue, since it didn’t want to turn on even when the test board was set to lower current draw.
The conclusion is that the X-Grip charger is probably a more brutish charger with less self-protection.But it will put out the 2 Amps. I guess the MicTuning might be able to put out 2 Amps on a single port, if your lucky. Though I think it’s designed to go into protection mode at around that amperage.
Whether or not that matters in the real world is up to debate. The most my Samsung Galaxy S5 wanted to take in was 1.20 Amps, which is a decent charging current. I would have liked to see more, but it’s hard to know if that’s due to the charger not being able to output more, or my phone simply not wanting or needing to charge faster. In any case, in the real world an output above 1 Amp is pretty acceptable for a motorcycle USB charger.
TL;DR? Both chargers are probably fine for the task.
Note – Cables matter
While the quality of a charger (read output) is more important than the quality of a cable, it’s also easier to pick out the good chargers than it is to pick out good charging cables. Not all USB cables can put out 2 amperes.
In my experience, half the time my phone isn’t charging quick enough, it’s because of a free, no name charging cable. I definitely recommend testing any cables before putting them in to use for high current draw applications like this.You’d be surprised how many cables are out there that won’t go above .7 amps even when the motorcycle USB charger can perfectly output it.
Well that’s it!
I hope it was helpful, and that the setup will last you plenty of miles to come. If you pulled off the project, please indulge me and post a picture below. At least so I know my time writing this up wasn’t a waste. Or, if you really appreciated it, you could always make a contribution to the vice fund. Anyway, thanks for reading!
If you found this motorcycle USB charger project interesting, check out the homepage to see what other projects I’ve been up to — here are some you might like: