I've had this written up for quite awhile but for some reason have been unable to post it till now. Hopefully I linked the pics correctly so you can see them as you read each step.
Well, thanks to Partsbill, I got the guts to do this mod. I am really happy with how it turned out and would really recommend it to anyone who might be on the fence about doing it or not.
I asked so many questions about this mod as I was trying to do it to bill that I figured I'd try to put something together for anyone else to show how I did it so they wouldnt pester him as much as I did.
You need a homelink unit. I got mine off of ebay. Partsbill said his was from a Lincoln Towncar. I ended up finding one from the same type of car that is the right color for my interior. I have talked to others who seem to believe as I do that it really doesnt matter what car it comes out of, it should work, but that is conjecture, not known for sure. Also, anyone doing this needs to determine what type of garage door opener they have (rolling codes or non rolling codes) and then make sure to get the compatable type of homelink from where ever. Here's what it looks like.
1. Pull center light console off from brackets. Grab on the sides. It is hard as hell to get loose (at least mine was) and I was sure it would break, but it finally came out without any problems. This is what it looks like:
2. Unhook the plug so you can remove it completely from the car:
3. When I got it in the house, it became evident that I would need to remove the plastic "square" in the middle. It serves no purpose that I could determine. The console is more than thick enough not to need this for any sort of stregnthing, so I didnt think twice about getting rid of it.
4. Get out your dremel and grind down whats left of the plastic till it is basically smooth. I used the sanding drum that bill recommended using and it worked fine. Note: be carefull of all the wires, you dont want to accidently cut one. Also, as your worrying about the wires, watch out for the turned up edges of the console too while grinding....as you can see in my pic, I got into mine a little bit, but fortunatly when installed it doesnt show. Here is the result:
5. To help me "locate" where I needed to grind out the hole for the buttons to punch through, I got the faceplate and traced very carefully to get the exact size and shape on to a piece of notecard. I then took a big piece of masking tape and taped it inside of the console. I cut the shape I had created on the notecard cut out and then traced it again inside the console onto the tape. Once I got that done, I got an exacto knife and then carefully cut out the shape again and peeled it out leaving the rest of the tape:
The reason for doing this was that even though I could have done some of this from the side of the console that we see when it is in place, I was worried about putting it too far toward the edge. If you are too far forward, the faceplate might overhang the console (which would look bad) or maybe be a problem by getting into the part that makes up the back "wall". I knew if I did it all from the inside there would be no way of either of these issues occuring.
6. Ok, this is the "point of no return". Up to now, there isnt anything done yet that shows if you decided not to go any further. But that changes here. Be very careful at this point....the console, if you mess up bigtime and need to replace it costs in excess of $480, so again...be very careful and go slow. You need to create enough space of a hole so you can get your dremel in and do the hole "fine tuning", so first, drill out two or three holes to create that space. I used a 1/2 drill bit. To help myself have a sort of guide, I pulled the rubber part of the facepiece out and roughly sketched its shape on the plastic to help me with the placements of the holes I cut.
7. Get your dremel out and now doing a little at a time, widen the hole until it is big enough that the facepiece (with the rubber buttons back in it) "arms" and buttons will fit in the hole you created like this:
8. Now its pretty much downhill from here. Remove the masking tape at this point if you want. If your homelink was like most I've seen, the only thing between your black motherboard piece and the faceplate was at most, the material that made up the sunvisor. In other words, just a very thin piece of material. The problem now is that you are sandwiching a pretty thick piece of plastic between the two pieces that make up the homelink (the mb and the faceplate). If you were to put the mb piece on the inside now and try to squeeze it back together, you will be able to see it will never get close to locking back together. Since this is the case, it becomes obvious that the buttons are now going to be too short as well and we must do something about this to make up for the added space. You need something that adds legnth to the buttons, but wont accidently short out the mb somehow.
Get some new pencils with erasers on the ends of them. Yes, pencils with erasers. Get your exacto and cut them off. Now, start to trim them down so that they will fit inside the shaft of the mb where the buttons normally would be. Make sure they are tall enough that they will not be able to slide out of the cylinder of the mb piece and around loose inside, but not also too "tall" where your buttons will stick out abnormally far. I wanna say mine were around 2mm or so tall when I got them the way I wanted (you need to do three obviously). I did multiple test fits where I held the faceplate on the front of the console and pressed the mb piece with the erasers down from the inside of the console to make sure the buttons worked the way they should and looked good. Once your good there, you also need to find something that is "clear" that you can put down inside the "loght" hole so you can legnthen it too. My daughters have these little plastic "beads" they play with called "melt beads". I took a clear one and pushed it down onto the light on the mb to see if it would conduct the light through it and onto the clear plastic part of the faceplate. It did, so thats what I used. It is the thing you see in the pic in the top hole that is shaped like a cylinder with a hole in the middle. The second one shows the eraser pieces cut and shaped the way I need them so they can make up for the distance I added by the console thickness. Also, I have the plastic "melt bead" I stole from my daughters in place slipped over the small light bulb on the mb. I only have it all in place right now to show you how it should sit when the unit is closed and ready to be installed.
9. Find something that you can glue in the faceplate with that is strong and wont react with the plastic of the console. I used a type of JB Weld a buddy had at his shop that worked (the exact name escapes me, but anything that you can confirm wont react with the plastic should be fine) without reacting and was also self leveling. I put my faceplate on the console from the outside, and then using a toothpick, put on the JB Weld. I held it in place for about 5 minutes and when it was dry it held perfectly.
10. The homelink comes with two wires. Black and a green/orange one. The black is the ground, the green one is the power. You now need to trim them to the appropriate legnth with the back mb piece in the console so you can wire it in. Also, I noticed at this point that my mb piece was just a little bit long when I had the buttons matching up. The back clear power plug actually was up against the edge of the console enough that it wouldnt go in flat anymore. I trimmed the wires to the right legnth and then trimmed the plug down a little bit and then everything fit inside the console again and the buttons still would engage normally. I then wired the black wire from the homelink to the black wire going to the power switch, and the green wire to the green wires going to the switches. Once I got done with this and made sure the erasers and plastic piece were all in place I had intended to glue in the mb piece to the console just like I had done with the faceplate so everything was held in place that way. The problem with this and why you dont want to glue the back piece is that if you ever have the homelink go out and quit working, if its glued in place, you have to start all over starting with the $480 console piece if you cant get the mb piece out. If you just tape it in place and it goes bad, you remove the tape, pop out the mb piece and replace it with the new one, wire it in and your good to go again. It may not look that great, but it serves its purpose well and since it doesnt show in the slightest I dont care least bit.
11. When I looked at the hole that the console fit back into in the car, I noticed that there was quite a bit of space. I figured to avoid having the tape give out at some point in the distant future, I would cut and shape some styrefoam to hold the mb piece inplace and wedge up against the metal that holds the windshield in. Since I really wanted to get this in and worry about the styrefoam later, I got an old rag and shaped it to basically what I needed to hold everything in place on the inside for now.
12. Plug the console light plug back in and test your handiwork to make sure it has power to it and that when you push any of the three buttons, the red light lights up showing it is trying to work. When you get this, you can now completely snap the light console back into place. NOTE: Mine works fine with either light turned on, but when the door or doors are open (activating both lights at the same time), the homelink will not work at all. I have decided that while the wire job I did was fine, the power going to the console is not true 12volt. Therefore when the lights are both on, the power drain is too much to support the lights and the homelink as well. Not really a big deal since I am rarely trying to open or close the garage door with my car door open.
13. All you have to do now is program the unit to your door opener(s). There are three buttons, so you can do each individually or just one or two and leave the rest "blank". To program the unit you will need to go to the homelink site and read the directions. It is very easy to do http://www.homelink.com/training/video.tml
Thats it. Doing this should only take a few hours. It took me alot longer (a week or two) only because I really wanted to figure out a way to install it the way I wanted to and look stock like I would expect if it was included as an original option for the car.
Hope this helps anyone wanting to do the same mod. Again, being able to pick partsbill's brain was a huge help and confidence builder, so my thanks to him and mellowyellow for all the suggestions and clairification how they did theirs. Feel free to send me a PM if you have any questions. Its alot easier than it looks, but I wanted to try to cover it completely.
I'll post the two installed pics in the next reply. Evidently I exceeded the max per post.
If anyone has any questions about how to do this if I wasnt clear enough, just drop me a PM and I'll do my best to answer.