Explorer Message Center

My most recent project (which I actually started back in March or so, and left fallow until this past week) has been the installation of a message center in my Ford Explorer.  This is an available factory option, but it wasn’t in the vehicle I ended up purchasing back in 1998, even though I really wanted one!  It’s a display unit that tells you about your fuel efficiency, remaining fuel, engine oil quality, and other such, and it sits in the center console in the “corner” beneath the HVAC controls and in front of the cup holders.


Apparently, I am not the only other one in the universe who wants to do this, because there are pages on the web that give overviews of the installation process.  It seemed a little involved, but not enough to deter me, so I made a trip to a local junkyard back in March and bought a message center from a wrecked Explorer for $30.  Wedding stuff took precedence, so I put it down when I got back and didn’t really get a chance to look at it again until this past week, when I made the first connections.

Back in August, I hooked up an XM radio in the Explorer, and I had to do some wiring then because my DC outlets are always on, even when the keys are out.  So, I pulled the radio out, and with the help of another page on the web, I located a power wire that is activated only when the car is running, or the key is in “accessory” mode.  I used a very nifty device called a wire tap (with an even cooler name) to splice another wire off and connected it to a spare DC power outlet, which I could hide beneath the center console.  I tapped the ground wire for the power outlet similarly.  Then, I connected the plug for the XM radio into the new outlet, tucked it beneath the center console, replaced everything, and now it works like a champ.

Any-hoo, I started with the message center by tapping an always-on as well as an accessory wire, as I did for the XM radio, as well as connecting a few of the ground wires.  I also connected an “illumination” wire for the message center to a similar wire for the radio.  Now, the message center has power and the lights dim appropriately when I use the control on the driver’s side.  Cool!  However, it doesn’t really do anything yet, so I’m going to have to start hooking it up to sensors (mostly by tapping more wires) behind the dashboard.  I’ve ordered an Explorer service manual on CD from eBay, which should help me identify the wires that I need to use.  Until that arrives, I’m in a holding pattern, but I can still admire my message center constantly telling me I have “low washer fluid” until I can do more.  🙂