Car PC Install. August 19, 2010 at 12:25 AM

Well the story of my Car PC starts off a few months or even years ago when I still had my Ford Fiesta. Being me I wanted to upgrade my standard head unit to something a little more functional(running around with a stack of CD’s that have ~20 tracks each is fun for a while, but when you have a music collection in excess off 100Gb you want a bit more capacity 😛 ). Now I could have installed an MP3 capable front loader or hacked an AUX in connection for my iPod, but no; If I’m going to do it, then I’m going to OVER do it 😀 cause’ that’s just how I roll… xD

Thus I decided my car had to have a full PC with a touchscreen in the dash to control it 😀 :D. For starters I decided it wasn’t worth ripping my 2005 Fiesta’s proprietary dash apart to fit a such a fancy piece of equipment, and I wasn’t planning on keeping that car for too long anyway so I decided to wait for my next car that would last me a little longer first :). Eventually though, on an equally happy/sad day the Fiesta’s time was over,I had a lot of fun in that little car, especially because it was my first car, but times change. I now drive a Subaru Impreza 2.0R (MY06) the ‘hawk eye’ shape, I really need to dedicate a post to how amazing this car is.. words cannot describe.. so I’m just going to leave you with this for now:

The Subaru!

Teh Scooby!

YES, I know, She’s beautiful 😛

Right enough of that, onto the sound-system! For starters the Scooby has a standard Double-Din dash with a front loader that plays standard audio CD’s and a tray. Nothing exciting. It also come equipt with 4 speakers two big ones in the front doors and 2 lil’ins in the back doors, they certainly aren’t amazing thou with little to speak of in terms of top or bottom end, obviously Subaru spend alot more money on the engine and chassis then the speakers! just what I need, perfect excuse to mod.

Now the plan is quite simple, get double din touchscreen and stick in the dash, hook it up to a PC under the passenger seat and connect that to an Amplifier under the drivers seat which is connected back to the speakers to drive them, and then lastly a sub-woofer in the boot with another amp to drive that. However as per usual this is easier said than done…

Lets start with the Touchscreen, I purchased on eBay a Lilliput EBY701-NP/C/T 7″ Touch Screen all-ready modified into a double din frame from eBay seller theonlykid1. Great seller and I would highly recommend to anyone.. This modified screen was quite alot more expensive than just a standard screen, but I thought it would be worth it to save myself some time and hassle of building my own frame, and the risk of modifying my brand new screen and voiding the warranty(the eBay seller offers a warranty with their modded screen.) and I had the piece of mind that the screen would fit in a double din fitting, however…


Lilliput in the dash

It fitted but I had to mount if behind the silver bezel of the dash, apparently this is the slightly non standard part of the Scooby. If I were to do it again (which I may some day) I would save myself some cash, order the standard screen and have a frame lazer cut to fit from brushed aluminum. That way I could get it to fit flush and look all-most stock, It would be very sexy I’m sure 😀 but as it is it looks decent and works well so moving on…

Next we have to think about the PC. I decided to go with a mini-atx desktop motherboard since they are cheap and reasonably powerful and because I had one lying around 😛 I teamed it up with a 2.6Ghz wolfdale C2D processor, 2 gigs of DDR2-800 RAM, and a 320Gb Seagate barracuda drive, basically just stuff I had spare in my parts room. Plenty power and nice and upgradeable too 🙂 the only other thing to worry about is the PSU. Of coarse a standard PC PSU runs on 110-240V AC and putting an inverter in my car didn’t sound like the best solution… after much reading on the mp3car.com forums(which I highly recommend as the place for most car PC beginners to start their research) I decided that the M4-ATX was the right solution for me. It has a wide input voltage range from 6-30VDC (perfect for car PC application with varying supply voltage) and enough juice to run my PC spec, not to mention other awesome features such as starting or shutting-down(or in my case hibernating) the PC automatically when the ignition is turned On/Off and waiting a user selectable amount of time for the PC to turn off before cutting the power, allowing for clean shutdowns and battery protection in the case of the PC freezing. It also survives engine cranks and monitors the battery voltage and turns the PC off before it gets too low to start the engine if your using it when the car isn’t running (I haven’t tested this feature yet thou! :P) all in all a very good package and again I would highly recommend it! 😀 So it was off to eBay again to purchase that…

I decided the PC was to be housed in a custom Perspex case that I built. This started with some cardboard mockups:

After some time I came to the conclusion that this would just about fit under the seat and still leave enough room for the passengers in the back’s feet 🙂 next I took some measurements and jumped onto Google Sketchup and created a nice little enclosure out of perspex for the PC to fit into 😀

With the measurements now in hand I headed off to the perspex shop and had the pieces cut to size (set me back around R200 for the perspex). I also stopped at the hardware store and got some angle aluminum and to the Action Bolt to get some really nice (BUT expensive!) stainless steel hex machine screws. Fabrication time!

It seems so easy now when it takes just a few moments to just upload some pics and throw them one here… however this build took about 3 or 4 FULL days. there was LOTS of measuring/checking/drilling/checking/cutting/checking/taping/checking. etc. etc. I think you get the idea 😛 To mount the motherboard I drilled and taped some holes in the bottom piece and put some little brass risers in that the motherboard screws to. I’m not going to go into much detail here, I think the pics are pretty self explanatory… 🙂 On to TESTING! :

Testing went very well! I installed Windows 7 Ultimate along with the Centrafuse front end. I just used a standard PC PSU and did the ‘dodgey jippo the green wire to black wire trick’ to start it up and then used the high current 12V line to feed the M4-ATX. I found that with the screen and PC connected I was drawing about 3-5 Amps, obviously this will increase to about 10-20 with the sound connected so I will run my supply cable in the car with capacity to supply 20A and fuse it at about 25 or 30.

Seeing it all running after so much planning and research and not to mention the money I have poured in was thrilling and not just a little bit re-leaving either! 😀

I also hooked one of my amps up with 2 speakers I had lying around! I sat for 2o min and just played with my little touchscreen! super exciting! couldn’t wait to put it in the car!!! 😀

The next day I awoke anxious to install my new system! 😛 The first step was deciding what to do with power. I had access to some really nice 10 Gauge copper cable in red insulation which would meet my power requirements! After much searching on teh interwebz I found out there should be a grommet just above the drivers foot-well, I had a look and she was there! 😀 definitely made life easier, I was worried I would possibly have to drill through the firewall!… I decided to run two cables, one to the positive terminal of the battery and one to the negative for ground(I only had red cable so the ground cable has black insulation tape around it at regular intervals. I routed the cable through the engine bay and through the grommet into the back of the dash:

Nice and neat and hidden 🙂 I later sealed the grommet with silicon.

Removed the dash on the Scooby; super easy to do, unscrew gear knob, unclip the bottom, take 4 screws out, dash comes apart 😛 routed the power through the dash and then down the side of the center console all hidden away out of sight 😀 distribution block sits under the armrest box between the driver and passenger seats and power runs to the underneath of each seat for the PC and the Amp.

I love Scoobys! nothing overly complicated, everything just clips and screws together easily and logically! taking her apart is a piece of cake.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any pics of the PC install (I’ll take some when I pull it out next) but it was pretty straight forward, just connecting the cabling. I also ran the signal/USB cable for the screen down the middle of the center console while it was off and I taped into the IGN wire of the head-unit wiring harness to turn the screen on when the car is on, I also split this wire off and ran it down the center console to the M4-ATX to provide a start-up signal since the main power is always connected to the battery, and it also runs across to underneath the other seat to enable the Amp for the speakers with the car is started. The tricky bit was running four sets of speaker wire from the amplifier back up the center console to the dash. I found a Subaru head-unit wiring diagram on http://forums.nasioc.com/ which I used to connect all the speakers to the amp (I was too lazy to run new cables to each speaker, the stock ones will do just fine for the moment :P) as you can see below:

Each speaker has its own dedicated cable so I can go to a 4ch amp if I decide to(read: get enough money to) xD

Next up was the amp install. Nothing fancy just and old 300W Targa amp that I had lying around, more than enough to run the stock speakers! On the amplifier and PC I stuck strips of Velcro underneath so they stick to the carpet and don’t slide around under ah.. high G forces. 😛 😀 but are still easily removable. I also decided no to put the cables under the carpet since they are hidden enough where they are and still make a clean enough looking install.

Notice the cables going to the right: Power, IGN, and audio to be routed to the sub in the boot 😀

For the sub install I’m running another Targa 300W amp and a 12″ sub in a sealed enclosure (again, I’ll get pics next time I’m in there) I happened to run low on the power cable so I just ran a 12V to the boot and got a ground off of one of the frame bolts under the back seat:

Remember to scrape the paint off around the Lug to make a good contact.

And that’s about it for this relatively simple Car PC install 😀 😀 It was certainly a happy happy moment when I turned the car on and everything sprang to life and no Magic Blue Smoke was released even though I was standing ready to collect it all up! xD It took a bit of tweaking with the amplifiers gain controls and Centrafuse’s graphics equalizer to get the sound right but its sounding pretty decent to me ATM! 😀 and with stock speakers too! The main amp is only turned up around 50% so I defiantly have capacity to put more powerful speakers in too! Time for a little vid:

Well I hope you enjoyed this build! It took me about a full week 8-5 to get this thing built and installed + countless hours researching and ordering, but I certainly had alot of fun and learnt alot in the process! 🙂 I defiantly have some mod’s and improvements that I’m planning on doing such as a redesigned PC case and USB ports in the center console but that can wait for another post… In the mean time I’m going to enjoying my entertainment system while driving my entertainment device 😀 😉 If you have any questions or whatever, well, that’s what the comments are for below! 😀 😉

Journey safe!

~Rob.

8 Responses to “Car PC Install.”

  1. Nice work there man! Very impressive. How about setting up some kind of voice recognition?

  2. Do you have any plans to use the pc as an engine management and tracking system? You could really get some neat stuff going 🙂

  3. Voice Recognition is standard in Centrfuse! 😀

    Centrafuse also supports OBDII connections to view engine parameters 😀 I’m just waiting on the correct OBDII to USB cable to connect them up 😀 tracking is a bit more complicated but my next goal is to get a rear view camera hooked up for night time reversing 😛
    ~Rob.

  4. That sounds pretty wicked! Your rear view camera just HAS to be infrared. I believe you can get some nice cheap one’s that use LED.
    And I expect that by next year, your car will be driving itself and making you coffee at the same time. Just don’t let your PC take over and kill off the human race, OK? 😛

  5. HAHAHA indeed, I have two camera options atm, both infrared! one cctv camera, and a usb webcam I modded with IR LED’s and removed the IR filter.. actually works quite well.. Going to have one hooked to display when I put the car in reverse (using the reverse light as a ‘switch’) and the other will go on the front bumper, since Centrafuse can record from webcams I’ll be able to make driving movies! 😀 😛

    The making me coffee idea sounds AWESOME! dont know about the driving for me thou, I enjoy driving faarrrr too much 😛 cruise control is as far as i go 😀

    and if anything is going to be taking over the world its meee 😛

  6. Nice install! Is very similar to the one i have on my car http://picasaweb.google.com/stevemcgregor/201003WorklogCarPC# . I think you are still missing the GPS, Bluetooth, OBD-II and the radio receiver.

    Could you share your experience with Windows 7? I tried to use it but have very weird problems with the audio. Sometimes the “Speakers” wasn’t the default output device. Also after coming from hibernate state the screen briefly shows a white background before showing Centrafuse. I tried it the last weekend and finally ended going back to WinXP.

  7. Nice! Blue-tooth I have implemented already, I have a garmin GPS unit so i dont see the point buying a gps dongle.. I’m not a fan of any of our local radio stations so that is not necessary for me atm, BUT I am defiantly going to look into the OBD-II cable soon and also a slim DVD drive and mini keyboard will be handy additions 🙂

    Windows 7 has been amazing for me so far hey! much better than XP. installation was a breeze, audio is 100%, start up and hibernate work perfectly and go more than 100 power cycles without needing a fresh reboot!

    Nice build you have there, you did kinda cheat using a pre-built case thou 😛 😉
    ~Rob.

  8. Nice build boet.

    Look into tactrix 2.0 OBDII cable. The device is connected to a standard USB port, and works wonderfully.

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