Loc: Florida, USA
iCar By, TCPMeta
I have always wanted to install a computer into my car for DVD, MP3 and GPS functions. I tried the laptop route but you still have to use a keyboard and some sort of a mouse. A friend of mine that use to be a service rep for HomeDepot and traveled all over FL and GA installed a PC into his Rodeo SUV. I was very impressed and thought I would copy him. Well here is my little guide. NOTE this is a draft and a lot has changed since I started this project.
Car info: Find out everything about your car's wireing. Last thing you need is a bunch of blown fuses and what not. Most cars from 1997 and up and 90% electronic in some shape or fourm.
Things too look out for: Check the grounding of the engine, electonics. Make sure your battery is a deep cycle battery and your altenator can pump plenty of amps. 105 amps is borderlining depending on your system you want to use.
Tools: Socket set (Most cars theses days are metric) #2 Philips head screw driver
Misc parts: Red 14 to 16 gauge Primay wire Black 14 to 16 gauge primay wire White 14 to 16 gauge primary wire 14 to 16 gauge butt splices electrical tape 1 or 2 USB extintion cables (Depending where you want to have the computer) 1 or 2 VGA extintion cables After market audio wire harness (Make sure it is made for your ca make/model)
Toys of choice: LCD: You have a few choces of LCDs to pick. All depends on how you feel really. Theres standard TFT LCDs and theres Touch screen LCDs. Also depending if you want to keep your car looking stock or keeping it's resale vaule up when you want to get rid of the car but want to keep the computer. Some cars only have one slot and it's taken up by the radio. Some have extra places like a shelf or something. In my case I removed the radio since I only had two spots and that had the radio and CD changer.
Some people like to cut up their dask to make a home for the LCD. A saw and a little bondo will take care up it. But if you want to keep your dash away from the knife you're in luck. There are folding LCDs that take up as much space as a car radio and a push of the button the LCD slides out and folds up or down. I myself went with this one.
Heres two pics.
Some amet people wee able to make the LCD completly hidden but from a push of a button they would flip out from the top of the dash.
GPS: There are a few GPSes out there that just plug into the computer via USB and software controled.
Theres only a few progams out for mac that will work. Route Buddy Roadnav
Route Buddy is comericalware and calls for ungodly amounts of computer resources. RoadNav is OpenSource and uses pre maped areas from the goverment.
I myself went with RoadNav since I was ove budget and my mac isn't all that great.
Sound: If you're lucky enough to have a LCD and radio then you can easily do this whole project with in 2 to 3 hours. If you don;t then get ready for a crash corse in car audio.
In my setup I didn't have a option to have the radio and LCD in the dash. Since my computer setup is basicly a MP3 player and I don't listen to the radio I went ahead and chunked my radio and CD changer.
To turn you computer into a oversized MP3 playe in your car you need a AMP. The amp will go from the output of the computer's sound and into the speakers. For this you need just not any old amp but a multi channel AMP. 2 to 4 channels really. If you plan to use the same speaker setup in your car you can get away with a 2 channel amp.
Beware, make sure you car isn't already packing a amp fom the stock radio. If it does then prepair for a whole rewiring. I found this out the hard way, my car model came with 3 diffent audio setups. The OEM spekaers, Infinity and Infinity plus. The Infinity plus had a 100watt amp inside the dash. I didn't know I had one until I pluged up my amp and tested it with my iPod. I had no output and kept playing with it. Finaly my neighbor that worked at Dodge told me I had a AMP under the dash on the right side. Since the radio was gone it didn't power the AMP. I had to run new wire from the speaker to the amp. To do this I went to HomeDepot and got zip ties that were made to hold heavy gauge wireing or A/C vent. the zip ties were 4 feet long. The reason why I used the zip ties because they were flexable and the cable had to run though the little rubber tube located between the door and the body of the car. I used about 10 feet of speaker wire before I was even able to reach it due to the wines and curves of the A/C vents blocking the other side.
Grounding the car: Most cars use 14 to 16 gauge to gound the engine, ECU, Radio, AMP etc etc etc. Well the moe gound the better and less chances of your car eatng too much gas when you un all of the electonics. I rewires my car just about but this is more then a option. I used 4 gauge audio primary wire and 4 gauge ring teminals. I replaced the ground wires on the engine and also grounded a few other places on the engine like the altenator, A/C, ECU and throttle body.
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