Best Switch Systems for Electrical Accessories on the Toyota 4Runner: Everything from Wired to Wireless and even Bluetooth Controlled Switch Panel Systems
Eventually, we all get to a certain point in our builds where we accumulate too many accessories that require power. What started as a single light bar or a pair of ditch lights with one wire harness has turned your engine bay into a rat’s nest of in-line fuses, black and red wires, relays, and bolted-up fender walls. This is where switch panels come into play.
To some, they can seem a little daunting to install and set up at first (myself included). However, most of the mainstream options are actually pretty intuitive and come with clear instructions. Once you’ve taken the plunge, you’ll wonder how you’ve managed without one for so long.
There is a wide gamut of switch panels in terms of price points and features. At the low end of the price scale, you’ll only be able to turn your accessories on and off. At the high end, you’ll not only be able to do that but also monitor TPMS, onboard air PSI settings, and much more.
Regardless of where your choice may fall in this range, switch panels all serve a common purpose; that is to give you easy controls for all of your vehicle-mounted accessories.
Why You Should Consider A Switch Panel
Switch panels allow you to connect all of your accessories’ power cables to a central location. The largest benefit of a switch panel is having proper circuit protection. It also avoids the need to run several wire harnesses through your firewall. If you’ve ever attempted this, you know that running multiple wires through the firewall can be a royal pain. So, being able to run a single wire is an amazing benefit.
Once you have a switch panel set up on your rig, you’re left with a clean, single point of control. Depending on the model that you choose, that can be for up to 12 of your accessories.
Running individual wire harnesses and switches in the blank spots on your front console retains that clean factory look. However, accumulating accessories and wire harnesses from various sources runs the risk of quality control in terms of circuit protection. Not all wire harnesses are created equal, and you may not find that out until it’s too late.
With a switch panel, you’re assured that as long as it is a quality unit, all of your connected 12v accessories will have equal protection. Any reputable switch panel will have common features like basic circuit protection and a control box that has a waterproof or at the minimum a water-resistant IP rating.
Even if you don’t pick one of the switch panels that we have listed here, make sure that yours has these two crucial features.
Multi-Function Vs. On/Off Switch Panels
As the name implies, simple on/off switch panels perform just the basic task of powering your accessories. This is a great option for accessories like an air compressor or single-mode offroad lighting. Following the theme of value and function, these switches may also lack extra like RGB or multi-color backlighting. They will, however, still provide essential circuit protection for your accessories. You should be able to find these basic switch panels for under $200 all over Amazon.
Multi-function switch panels perform the same functions as their less expensive counterparts, and usually much more. These types of switch panels are popular for running accessory lighting in different modes such as pulse, strobe, and even memory features. You may also gain additional features like wireless control, customizable backlight colors, and more depending on the model. This category is quite broad as it basically encompasses all switch panels ranging from $300 and up.
External Vs. Solid State Relays
If the overall size of a power module box in your engine bay is a concern, you may want to consider one that has solid-state relays. This typically allows for a smaller overall footprint due to the relays being directly soldered onto the PCB board. The downside to solid-state relays is that they are near impossible to service or repair in the field.
If serviceability is your priority, you’ll want to consider a switch panel that has external relays. These power module boxes will have a slightly larger overall footprint. In exchange, they use relays and fuses that you can buy at any automotive parts store to swap out if needed.
For anyone who truly ventures off-grid, I would probably suggest the latter type of power module boxes. Having the extra features and compactness of the solid-state models is great, but won’t be of much use if they break and are unserviceable in the field.
Couldn’t I Just Make My Own Switch Panel?
You can definitely make your own switch panel! If you have the skills needed, we have a great article on how to make your own DIY switch panel.
I don’t personally have the time or technical knowledge for the DIY route, but if you do, more power to you. I don’t fully trust in my own abilities, but the process seems fairly straightforward. The core components of a switch panel are fairly easy to be found and at a total parts cost of around $200, this is an excellent option for those on a tight budget. If you already have parts like wires, heat shrink, and the required tools on hand, the total project cost only goes down from there.
If you decide to make your own, please show us!
There are a plethora of companies that make engine accessory bay mounting plates. Popular brands include SD Offroad Mount Tray, SDHQ, PowerTrays, C4, and many more. These are essentially metal trays that the power control module component of your switch panel securely bolts to. If your switch panel system doesn’t include integrated ground terminals, you can also mount a universal ground terminal bus bar to the accessory tray as well.
Some people opt to just drill into the factory fuse box cover and mount the control module to that. This is obviously the no-cost option, but you risk making the fuse box no longer sealed from water intrusion.
Switch Button & Faceplate Mounting
As for mounting the actual switch panel inside your cabin, that’s entirely up to you. Some people will drill holes into their dash, others (like myself) use industrial-strength double-sided tape for a less permanent installation. This will also vary depending on what mounting hardware is included with your particular switch panel.
One of the most popular switch panel mounting locations in the 4Runner is just left of the steering wheel, below the driver-side air vent.
Why These 6 Switch Systems?
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding on the top switch panels currently on the market. This list is subjective because what might the best for one person, may not hold true for another. However, we decided to pick 6 switches to help get your decision process started.
These switches range from a starting price of $140, all the way past $1,000; and everything in between. There should be an option for nearly everyone’s budget and general needs. They are listed in no particular order, but you will get an idea of what makes each one stand out from the crowd.
1. Switch-Pros 9100 and RCR Force 12
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Switch-Pros is probably one of the biggest names in the industry when it comes to switch panels and switch systems. As their name suggests, they exclusively design and manufacture top-tier vehicle switch panels in America.
Switch-Pros offers two models, the SP9100 and the RCR Force 12. What makes Switch-Pros units unique is that they don’t utilize a traditional bulky relay and fuse box. Instead, they use solid-state relays with integrated fuses along with a wire harness that connects to a switch/button keypad. They are likely the only switch manufacturer that has figured out how to build a solid state switching unit.
There are no wire terminals, screws, or any added bulk with the power module, making it the smallest on this list. Don’t let the small size fool you, however, as there are no comprises with regard to connectivity, power, or features.
Both the SP9100 and RCR Force 12 have built-in Bluetooth for wireless control via the free Switch-Pros app where you can program a plethora of settings and monitor battery voltage readout.
Both switches are also programmable for multiple lighting modes and have RGB backlighting to match the exact color of your interior dash lighting.
The control modules both have external triggers that support Hi or Lo modes (such as headlights) and can be used to daisy-chain up to 3 switch panels to allow control from multiple locations on your vehicle. They also feature LED input status indicators for easy troubleshooting with respect to wiring.
The SP9100 switch panel has been around for a while and is extremely popular. It allows you to connect up to 8 accessories and is a traditional-looking 8-gang user-programmable panel like others that you will see on this list. The power module supports four 35 amp circuits and four 20 amp circuits with a maximum current capacity of 125 amps.
RCR Force 12
The RCR Force 12 switch panel allows you to connect up to 12 accessories while the power module allows for up to 17 outputs with a total current capacity of 150 amps:
- 4 rated at 35 amps
- 1 rated at 30 amps
- 11 rated at 15 amps (but can be combined for larger loads)
- 1 Low Side driver switch rated at 2 amps
Switch-Pros really gave the RCR Force 12 nearly every feature that you can think of in a multi-function switch. It has a memory function to turn multiple outputs on or off, and even with specific brightness settings. The circuitry in the RCR Force 12 is even robust enough to start your vehicle. They really threw the kitchen sink at this switch, and it comes with a price tag to match.
Whichever switch panel model you choose, the star of the show is really the Switch-Pros’ proprietary power module.
Considering the two very different price points of the SP9100 and the RCR Force 12, they’re a great option for their target demographics.
At $599, the SP9100 is a full-featured switch panel that should satisfy the needs of most with respect to basic accessory lighting a perhaps an onboard air compressor. However, if you are running accessories that demand more power or just need more than 8 switches, the RCR Force 12 is your answer. Whether that warrants an extra $280, is up to you.
2. sPod BantamX
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- sPOD BantamX ($915): Check Price
sPOD designs and manufactures its products in America and is another heavy hitter in the switch panel market. They offer a wide range of switch styles and vehicle compatibilities, making them a one-stop shop. Whether you prefer the more modern aesthetic of a touch screen control module or the classic rocker switch, sPOD has an option for you. Regardless of which switch style you choose, they’re all controlled by the BantamX control module.
The BantamX is a fully digital and programmable switch system. It features 8 circuits rated at 30 amps each, with integrated ground terminals for easy wire organization. The standout feature of the BantamX is its small size and fully digital design.
This switch’s electrical system is almost completely controlled by a microprocessor, eliminating the need for fuses and relays. While this means that there is very limited serviceability, sPOD thought ahead and incorporated numerous protections like integrated low voltage cutoff, a 50 amp auto-resetting circuit breaker, and even failsafe self-healing fault protection. What this all translates to is protection against overheating, over-current, electrical shorts, and reverse polarity.
You can also daisy-chain up to 4 BantamX control modules and still control them all from one touchscreen, which is an insane amount of expandability!
The BantamX features Bluetooth connectivity for wireless control via sPOD’s app. Their free version enables basic functions like power and lighting modes. They also have a paid (Pro) version that enables tons of extra features like deep sleep, increased startup amperage for high-power accessories, and much more. The BantamX is even compatible with third-party switches and micro-computers like an Arduino or Raspberry Pi for nearly limitless configurations.
The sPOD BantamX may have a steep starting price, but it is also the most compact unit on this list. Its fully digital design and circuitry are unique and designed to be as proactive in circuit protection as possible. With the compatibility of controlling it through a microcomputer, it should really appeal to the technical tinkerer that wants to elevate their switch panel beyond what comes out of the box.
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- 6 Gang Switch ($140+): Check Price
- 8 Gang Switch ($150+): Check Price
- 8 Gang RGB AR-800 ($275): Check Price
Auxbeam is a company that offers some of the most budget-friendly switch panels on the market. If you’re looking to simply switch your accessories on or off, this is a great brand that won’t break the bank. They forego a lot of the extra bells and whistles of the more expensive switch panels in favor of bringing you a more affordable option. If you’re running an inexpensive light bar that costs less than $100, it doesn’t make much sense to spend 4x that amount on a switch panel.
Auxbeam’s basic switch panels are offered in either 6 or 8 gang variants. These will only power your accessories on or off, which suits the needs of many, hence their popularity in the value department. There is also the AR-800 switch, which is an 8-gang unit that costs a little more. This model adds RGB backlighting and multiple light functions and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless control via their app. It also features a built-in solid-state relay, unlike its siblings.
For the more basic models, you can get them with either a blue or green LED backlight with the latter being slightly cheaper. All models have a maximum current of 60 amps and an IP65 waterproof rating. A nice addition is the integrated ground protection terminals that are adjacent to each positive terminal. This makes wire organization a breeze.
One specification to note is that the ground terminals do not all support the same output current. Ground terminals 1 & 2 are rated at 30 amps while the subsequent terminals are only 20 amps.
With a starting price of $140, the Auxbeam switch panels allow users to save some money and get just the functionality that they need, and nothing else. Not everyone is poised to spend hundreds of dollars on a switch panel to control accessories for occasional use. This is a great budget option and serves as a great starting point when deciding what you’re really looking for out of a switch panel.
4. ARB LINX
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- LINX Vehicle Accessory Interface ($575): Check Price
- Pressure Control Kit ($262): Check Price
- Air Suspension Kit ($176): Check Price
- TMPS Comms Box ($158): Check Price
ARB is a staple in the offroad and overlanding world. While their renowned equipment revolves around the analog world in the form of camping and recovery gear, their entry into the digital era is pretty impressive. If you want to feel like you have a command center at your fingertips, the ARB LINX is worth taking a look at. From a single device, you’ll be able to both monitor and control key components of your rig and even a trailer. This switch panel system is truly next level.
The ARB LINX is probably the most comprehensive offroad accessory control and monitoring system on the market. Not only does this system control the power to your accessories, but it can literally control them with the proper add-on modules. All of the LINX’s optional control modules connect to a central power module in the engine bay and are controlled from a touch-screen display.
In addition to full control and customization of up to 6 accessories like other switch panels, the ARB LINX has tons of expandability.
TPMS Monitoring & Control
With the TPMS module, you’re able to monitor the tire pressure of both your main vehicle and a trailer. If you pair this with the available air compressor controller, you can even set a target PSI for airing up or down with automatic shut-off. ARB also built in a customizable max pressure setting for safety.
Air Locker Control
The LINX has an available air locker control module that can automatically engage them based on driver input. It’s even smart enough to only engage the front locker if the rear locker has been engaged first, for added safety.
Air Suspension Control
If your vehicle is equipped with air suspension, there is an available module to monitor and even control it from the LINX as well. This is a great feature for modified rigs as their built-in sensors may not be calibrated for the extra weight and ride height that you may have.
The battery module can monitor up to 3 batteries simultaneously for each of their real-time voltage outputs as well as a historical graph. You can set low voltage alerts to ensure that you’re never left without power in either your main battery or the trailer’s battery. This is a common concern when you run accessories solely off of battery power while camping.
The ARB LINX may start at $575, but the total price can quickly add up with the optional accessories. For serious users, however, this comprehensive system is the perfect solution when you have tons of equipment that needs to be monitored. The ability to actually control equipment beyond simply powering it on and off is definitely a game-changer.
5. Garmin PowerSwitch
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- Garmin PowerSwitch ($500): Check Price
Garmin is relatively new to the offroad accessories industry and comes out swinging with the Powerswitch. This easy-to-use switch is great for those who appreciate a more digital approach to controlling their accessories. If you’re already invested in the Garmin ecosystem, it’s even easier to adopt the PowerSwtich as it can be controlled wirelessly via a compatible navigation device or through their mobile app.
The Powerswitch’s standout feature is its wireless connectivity. This means that you won’t need to run the switch panel wire through your firewall. It also means that you won’t need to deal with an extra cable in the cabin. All of your accessories connect to Garmin’s power module in the engine bay, and that’s where the wires stop. This is a killer option if custom wiring isn’t your thing.
From there, you’ll be able to control up to 6 devices per power module from your mobile device via the Garmin PowerSwitch app or from a compatible Garmin navigation device. Since the controls or from your mobile device, you’re also able to control up to 4 separate power modules. That’s a great option if you have multiple vehicles because you can control each of their accessories from a central location.
The PowerSwitch module is IPX7 waterproof rated and features 6 outputs at 30 amps each with a maximum amperage of 100 amps. It also features full customizability with the grouping of devices and multiple lighting modes.
If you already have a compatible Garmin navigation device like the Tread Series, you can further reduce dashboard clutter by being able to control the PowerSwtich from that. With a single device, you can now have a switch panel, both on-road and offroad navigation, and emergency communications. This really is one of the most seamless experiences you can get right now.
The Garmin PowerSwitch is priced fairly at $500 given its wireless control and ease of use. With a big name like Garmin, customers expect a polished final product that just works. As stated above, I think this option is best suited for those who are already invested in the Garmin ecosystem. If you don’t already have a compatible device to control the PowerSwitch, you’ll be limited to only using your phone.
6. RLB Pro8
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- RLB Pro8 ($380): Check Price
RLB is the original when it comes to this style switch panel. They held the original patent and later released it to the market for reproduction. There are a few of these currently on the market and are easily recognizable by being nearly identical in design.
One of the RLB Pro8’s standout features is a memory function. This allows you to set up to all 8 switches to automatically turn on or off with the main power switch. You also have the option to power the switch directly to the battery or have it ignition activated via a provided fuse tap. Being a multi-function switch, it also has flash, strobe, momentary, and blinker modes to control your accessory lighting if supported.
It features eight relays and 30 amp circuits and is completely serviceable with universal relays and fuses and a maximum current rating of 100 amps. On that note, RLB proudly states that its unit is 100% serviceable, and does not use solid-state components.
Personally, I like the ability to carry a pack of spare fuses to easily swap out in the event that one blows. The relay box carries an IP66 waterproof and dustproof rating and you’ll get standard low voltage cut-off and overvoltage protection for your connected accessories.
You can pick from white, blue, green, and red for switch backlight colors and it comes with the full gamut of switch sticker labels for all of your accessories.
There are 4 mounting options that include flush, panel, RAM tube, and RAM surface mounts. All of the hardware and templates for these mounting options are also included, which is awesome!
At $380, the RLB Pro8 is competitively priced considering its feature set. The memory function is excellent for accessories that you frequently use and the various included mounting hardware makes this switch ready to go out of the box. This makes the RLB switch panel the perfect middle-ground for most users. It offers solid circuit protection with just the right amount of customizability in the way of user-programmable features.
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of switch panels on the market. They range widely in both price and feature sets. To some, the more expensive options may seem like total overkill. To others, that could be exactly what they need. Each person has different needs with their setups, so it’s good to see that there’s something for everyone out there.
Personally, I don’t run any intricate auxiliary battery setups or air lockers. I currently only need to control some accessory lighting on or off. So for now, perhaps the offerings from Auxbeam or RLB suit my needs. That’s the beauty of modding your own rig though, the possibilities for expansion are nearly endless. If I ever graduate to needing more control over my accessories, there are options. The sky (or more realistically, my wallet) is the limit!
I’m really impressed with what has come out recently from companies like ARB and Garmin. These are both companies that don’t have a long track record with switch panels specifically. However, still managed to stake their claim in the switch panel market. The ability to control onboard air or even control power wirelessly are things that were only available to uber-expensive rigs in the past. Now, our 4Runners can have that same technology, and that’s amazing.
What are your thoughts on switch panels? I’d love to hear what some of your favorite brands are, or even if you prefer the more factory look with individual wire harnesses and OEM-style switches. If you feel that we missed any key players in this list, definitely drop a comment below; the more information we have, the better!