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.
Loc: Florida, USA
Audio wiring: To power your amp you will need a AMP install kit or two 6 to 4 gauges wires and a 14 to 16 gauge wire. The two beefy wires will power and ground the AMP while the small wire will turn on and off the amp. The main power goes to the + side of the battery and the ground can go to any metal surface that is connected to the chasie of the car. The Remote wire (The small wire) connects to the accessory power from the ignion (IE when you turn on the car the AMP will turn on.)
For the connection from the AMP to the computer is very simple. You need a wire that has RCA jacks on one end and a standard computer speaker connector on the other.
The only problem with this setup is you won't have a Fade function for the front and rear unless you play with the AMP's volume. Now you just have Left and Right stereo.
Speakers: If you want to upgrade your speaker cable or you have to rewire your speakers like I had too then just follow a few easy steps. If you installed your AMP into the trunk you will have to take out the backseat to beable to run the cables from the front. Or if you have plenty of space you can run them on the step board near/under the doors.
Cables: When running your Power cables, USB, VGA, etc etc.. You can hide them easily. Depending on where you install the computer say the trunk you can hide the cables under the step board next/under the car doors. Most of theses just pop out and you run the cable then put the steap board back on. If you plan to use more then one extintion cable then I would recommend usubg electrical tape to hold the connections. The vibrations of the car could jiggle the cables enough to disconnect over time. Also if you plan to install your computer in the trunk with the AMP then just splic into the power from the AMP.
Computer power supply: Theres two ways to power your computer. 1 Power inverter 2 DC to DC power supply.
The power inverter is easy as it follows. Plug it in and you're good to go. A DC to DC power supply is a littlke more work but is way better in the long run. A lot of DC to DC power supplys have a shutdown controller so when you turn off the car it will send a shutdown command to the computer. How this works is it tricks the computer that it is a laptop and when it sees a low battery (IE the car is off) it will shutdown. There are many PC DC to DC power supplys out there and a few for the mac mini. In my detup I used a sawtooth as a test system and got a ATX DC to DC power supply and did the standard ATX power supply mod and it worked fine execpt the shutdown controllor didn't work with the logicboard. The system turns on when you start the car but you have to manuly shut it down by issueing a shutdown with in Mac OS X.
Heres a picture of a DC to DC car power supply.
This is the same one I used and it can power 160watts and I tested it on my sawtooth and a P4 PC with no problems.
LCD wiring: Theres two ways to wire up your LCD.
With radio method: Splice into the 12volt constant power connection, 12volt igntion connection and the ground. You can do this by locating the pinout of your car's wire harness on the net. Some stock car radios will have a pinout printed on the radio itself. All you need is butt splices or vampire taps to make the connections.
With out radio method: With a After maket wire hanress for a radio you will just simply use the power connections from the harness. You can use the audio connections as well for your speakers so you don't have to rewire your whole car but it will end up as a mess inside the dash. The wire harness is very simple, the kit comes with a pinout telling you what wire does what and you just use buttsplices to make the connects from the harness to the LCD then just plug in the harness to the radio plugin with out messing up your car's wiring so if you ever want to get rid of the car you can pop your old radio back in with in a few minutes.
Software: Depending on your system you are using there are plenty of programs out there to make your system easy to use with the touch screen.
What is a front end? If your on a mac then just run FrontRow to get a idea. It's the same setup but more options and fectures. All it is a program that lets you easily control the system. Sadly FrontRow doesn't let you use touch screens and only does music, videos and pictures. Grat for the home but not goos enough for a car.
PC Frontends: DigitalDash CenteralControl
MacOS X frontends: AMP
Theres a lot more to choose from but I listed the ones that work the best and have way more options. To make theses work just make them go into the startup when the computer is booted up. If you ever want to use the desktop just close or minimize the front end and you're good to go.
Since this is macmod I'll talk about AMP a little more.
AMP is a OpenSource front end that works like FrontFow but with out the Remote and has way more toys.
Internet surfing Wardriving DVD MP3 Pictures System control (IE restart, shutdown) Plugins (IE Add more programs to AMP) GPS Incar disnostics
ODB-II: This is totaly optional. OBD-II means On-Board Diagnostics. They are in allsorts of cars and the OBD-II has been around since 95 but used in cars from 1996 and present. The OBD II test can determine whether there is a malfunction in the components that control exhaust/emissions through utilizing the vehicle's computer system. Overtime since cars are more computer like they can tell you pretty much anything that is wrong with the car. If you get a check engine light you run the OBD-II scanner and it will give you a code and then you look up the code and it will tell you what that code means. This way if you're not a hands on kinda guy/girl with cars you can use this to find out what is wrong and take it to the shop. A lot of people see the check engine light and take it to the shop and the grese monkeys will charge you a fee that is not cheap to find the reason why the check engine light is on. ODB-II scanners can be hand held and only give you a code and you have to hunt down what that code means. You're in luck though, there are software controlled ODB-II scanners out there fro PC and Mac that connect via USB or Serial and you just run the program with in the front end and it will tell you the code for the check engine light and also tell you what is wrong.
CLOSEING:::: In all its easy for the end computer geek to do this. If you're the type that only knows how to turn on the computer and surf the web then you better let a pro do this.
This is my setup.
Dash: LCD Trunk: AMP and computer
Dash wireing: LCD is connncted to the radio wire harness
AMP wiring: 16foot 4gauge primary wire with a 40amp bus fuse going from the + side of the battery then under the car to the trunk. Ground is connected to the trunk's wall and the remote is connected from the AMP to the LCD's 12volt igntion line.
Computer: Power source is spliced with the AMP's power using 14 gauge wires. Two USB extintion cables running under the stepboard on the right side of the car to the LCD. Two VGA extintion cables running from the computer to the LCD hidding with the USB cables.
Speakers: FRONT speakers, cable running from each speaker in each door to the dash then running under the center of the car under the carpet and the backseat to the trunk. BACK speakers cables are running from the speakers and droped down into the trunk to the AMP. Then with the special cable from the AMP to the computer.
GPS: since it has a magnic it is sittin out side on top of the trunk and the wire is just sitting though the water seal into the trunk and connected to the computer.
OBD-II: connected to the OSB port under the steering wheel and ran to a USB 2.0 hub inside the dash sharing with the LCD.
USB hub: 4 port USB 2.0 hub inside the dash for furture addons and for the LCD and OBD-II scanner to share off of one USB.
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