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2008 Subaru Impreza WRX Car PC Install w/ custom faceplate & controls

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  • 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX Car PC Install w/ custom faceplate & controls

    First, the beauty:



    I love this car. I'd all but given up on finding a practical, reliable sports car when I finally came across the 2008 WRX hatchback (no longer a wagon as of this year). Safe, reliable, roomy (I'm 6'3"), tons of cargo space, all wheel drive, and friggin' fast! Not that I'm a terror on the road, but the car is really fun to drive.

    Since this is a new car and because I don't want to get burglarized, my goals were to modify as few expensive parts as possible, and to make everything as invisible as possible. No carbon fiber hood and chrome wheels for me... I want it to look totally stock. That was my mantra for the whole project.

    As far as I can tell from the dimensions, the "2008 Double Din Bolt in kit Without Touchscreen" sold in the MP3Car store does NOT fit the 2008 Impreza and only fits older model years. If someone proves me wrong I'll change this post, but that was the conclusion I reached when I looked into it.

    The oversized double-DIN slot is plenty spacious for a 7" touchscreen, such as the EBY-701 I purchased. My first thought was to Bondo one in place like everyone seems to do, but when I found out that a replacement bezel is $180 (and being a new model, there aren't any in junkyards) I tried to think of another option. In the end I was very happy with how this turned out. I gutted the monitor and made my own completely custom case and faceplate from parts I designed in SolidWorks and machined myself. I'm actually really proud of how it came out:


    Here was my original CAD design in SolidWorks:


    I created a sort of custom head unit with the touchscreen, my stereo (with the faceplate relocated to the glovebox), a custom PIC microcontroller circuit I made to handle all the inputs and outputs, some components of the Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth Phone kit I installed, and various front panel buttons, LED's, and rotary encoders.

    In the end it looked like this (sorry for the crummy cell phone pic's when my camera was broken):


    That's the stereo on top. Here's the underside of the assembly, minus the PIC microcontroller circuit that mounts on the back:


    Some of you might recognize the circuit boards from a Lilliput EBY701 monitor. I mounted just the LCD screen on the front, and for space reasons, mounted the main circuit board horizontally. I had to solder little extension wires for the 4-wire touch screen, but all the other cables reached just fine.

    I mounted the little I/O panel circuit board internally so you can't access the switches from the front, but I did two things: I de-soldered the remote IR receiver and mounted it on the upper right corner of the front panel, so the remote control still works, and I hooked my PIC circuit into the power and input buttons, so my microcontroller can turn the monitor on and off and can switch inputs. (The plan is to automatically switch to a camera input when in reverse, but I haven't installed one yet.)

    The PIC microcontroller circuit warrants a full writeup on its own. It senses all of the front panel switches and the steering wheel audio controls, plus it monitors if the headlights are on and if the car is in reverse. It outputs to the Lilliput controls, to my stereo's wired remote input, to my Parrot Bluetooth kit, and I plan to hook it directly to the computer either through a serial port or by hardwiring it to trigger a keyboard, so it can control the PC itself. Then I can assign any buttons to do anything, and I can reprogram them later if I like. I could even program multiple modes, so normally the volume controls adjust my stereo but if I'm in a phone call they adjust my Bluetooth car kit. If you have any computer programming and electronics background, I HIGHLY recommend learning how to use PIC's. If I ever write up more about it, I'll post a link here.

    You can't see it very well in the picture, but my Infinity Basslink subwoofer comes with a wired remote gain knob which is handy to use. I installed the tiny little circuit board inside this head unit as well and made a small knob for it on the lower left. So that is actually connected directly to the subwoofer and not to the PIC.

    Also, the LED and two buttons on the upper left are directly connected to the PC as the power light, and power and reset buttons. These have come in handy a bunch already. I just hard-wired them to the power supply in the back, so if all goes badly I can always reboot or shut down.

    Currently I have the left knob control stereo volume and the right knob and two lower buttons control the Parrot bluetooth system, but as I mentioned they can be remapped in software to do whatever makes sense in the future, which is kinda cool.

    This is the main face plate being born:


    And here are all of the machined parts laid out:


    One thing you can't see is that I mounted two rare earth magnets toward the top of each side, inserted from the back. The plan is to glue all the buttons onto the stock stereo faceplate and stick it over the monitor as a facade whenever I park in a bad area at night. I'll put pictures here when that's finished.

    I bought the base WRX model without any option packages because I knew I'd install my own stereo and other gadgets anyway. The base model comes without tweeters or steering wheel audio controls, but I did install them myself using OEM parts. The full writeup is here
    http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/car-...preza-wrx.html
    but here are pictures of what I'm referring to.




    The tweeter trim was about $25 for both sides and the steering wheel buttons were about $120. All the wiring for both is already installed even in the base model. More details in the writeup mentioned above.

    I stuck with my old Pioneer Premier DEH-P860MP stereo rather than an amp because I like the audio processing it does (auto-EQ and time alignment, BBE, multi-band EQ, separate front and rear high pass filters, etc.) and because I already had it so it was free! Sometimes I'll need to change a setting, but basically all I need easy access to is volume, so the steering wheel controls and front knob are set up to control the stereo via its wired remote input. So I just tossed the faceplate in the glovebox. Here's a picture of it after being gutted and having an extension soldered on:


    And here it is in the car. I used the original detachable faceplate case as a sort of permanent housing for it:


    It'd be cool to mount it somewhere on the dash (especially since I went through all the trouble of converting it from blue LED's to red!!! grrrrr...), but there really isn't anywhere to hide it, and as I said I want everything to look as stock and inconspicuous as possible.

    One other interesting thing about the stereo. As I described here
    http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/hard...wn-cd-rom.html
    the stereo still works without the CD drive installed. I don't need it anymore, so it just uses extra space, burns extra power, and creates extra heat. Instead, I mounted the Y-cable for my Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth handsfree kit inside the stereo case. Here it is zip-tied to the "lid" of the stereo enclosure:


    And here's a really bad picture of it put together:


    Nice way to save a little space in the install.

    So, I've mentioned the Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth kit. Let me just say, this thing is AWESOME! I had it in my last non-carPC car, and my wife (who originally thought I was a nerd for installing it) fell in love with it and begged me to install one in her car too. It looks like most PC options for handsfree phone use are still sketchy at best, and I initially liked the idea of phone calls being handled separately from the computer. In retrospect, I think I just created a ton of work for myself, but now that it's in it's awesome. I gutted it as well. Normally it has a self-contained screen and control panel with a rotary selector knob and "answer" and "hang up" buttons.

    I mounted the little screen up next to the clock where it's pretty discreet:


    I hacked up the little trim piece and scooted the clock to the left. The black bezel around the Parrot screen is another custom-machined part I made that it mounts in. Then, as I mentioned, I connected my PIC microcontroller to its inputs so that I can control it using the knob and buttons on the front of my monitor panel, or with the steering wheel audio controls. It would have been easier just to relocate and hard-wire the buttons to the front panel I made, but this way offers me more flexibility. (In retrospect, probably just a lot of extra work without too much payout.)

    For now the computer is so ghetto-rigged I'm almost proud of it. I don't have a case yet, and eventually I am going to TRY to make a custom case that will fit inside the spare tire. We'll see if that happens. (Otherwise, it'll just mount to the back of the back seats.) But for now everything is zip-tied to a piece of pegboard, sitting on a towel in the trunk area. Fortunately there's a cargo cover to hide it all!




    Some details on the computer system: I definitely went overkill on processing power because I plan to have this car for awhile and wanted to future-proof it as much as possible. It's a sweet 40 Watt AMD system: The processor is a $50 AMD LE1640 2.6GHz single-core, and the motherboard is a $75 Biostar TF7050-M2 with onboard nVIDIA DX9 support. (First time I've ever spent more on a motherboard than the CPU!) I also got 1Gig of RAM (dual channel 2x512MB). The power supply is an M2-ATX from MP3Car.com.

    The hard disk and CD-ROM are taken from our old broken Compaq laptop, using IDE adapters also from MP3Car.com. The CD-ROM is set up as a master, and I couldn't figure out how to change it, so I'm a little non-standard with the CD-ROM as master and the hard drive as the slave, but it all works perfectly otherwise.

    So, the whole system is working, but the trunk is a mess so it's not really "done" yet. I also want to add OBD-II, a backup camera, and GPS. So far I'm running Road Runner, but I'm still figuring it out.

    The 2008 WRX is still a fairly new model, so I think I might be the first one with a CarPC. (??) It took some guts to rip apart a beautiful brand new car (my friends thought I was nuts) but I've done this enough before that I didn't break TOO many little plastic trim tabs... Just two so far. I'm a little uneasy about warranties I might regret voiding, but I think I'm in the clear other than the stereo and clock, which isn't a big deal.

    I'm curious what people think of the custom-machined front panel. It was a really cool way to go, but I don't think I've seen many people do it.

    Leave some feedback or subscribe, and I'll add more as I get more done.
    2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

    Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

  • #2
    Good stuff. I like the custom-machined panel; might be interesting to put the drawings out for people to use as a basis for their own mods.

    What sort of equipment did you use to mill the faceplate? Is it CNC? What's the material?
    .
    If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

    2006 Scion xB with in-dash Atom & Lilliput 889GL -- Worklog at http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/work...res-links.html
    .

    Comment


    • #3
      Vss

      Nice screen and install btw!

      I have a 2008 Impreza 2.5i and was looking at adding my own tweeters as well and installing the Pioneer AVIC-D3. However, I don't know what wire is the VSS and was wondering if you could help me out.

      Comment


      • #4
        nice job.
        Never let the truth get in the way of a good story

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by mbfierro View Post
          I have a 2008 Impreza 2.5i and was looking at adding my own tweeters as well and installing the Pioneer AVIC-D3. However, I don't know what wire is the VSS and was wondering if you could help me out.
          Cool, hopefully this helps with the tweeters.

          Which wire is VSS? You just mean the +12V supply for the stereo? (I'd think there would be a dozen other wires you'd need to identify too...) On the car's stereo connector there are two wires that are thicker than the rest, at the ends of the connector. Black & Blue is ground, Blue & Red is power (VSS).

          EDIT: Sorry, VSS (steady state) usually means ground, not positive supply as I stated... but then I've never heard it called VSS in a car application, so I'm not quite sure what you need.
          2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

          Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Sorry, should of been a little more descriptive, the VSS wire is the vehicle speed sensor wire for the GPS. I wasn't sure if you had a wiring diagram, so thought I should ask.

            Thanks

            Comment


            • #7
              mbfierro,
              Thanks for the awesome write up and detail you posted about this project. I have the same car, same color, and bought it for the same reasons. So much so its almost scarey! LoL

              I myself am taking a slightly different route with a laptop install. Took it out of my Scion tC when i traded it in and am going to put it in the Subie. Your worklog answered a lot of questions I had

              Subaru Carputer FTMFW!
              Current Rig
              ----------
              Inspiron 5100 Laptop
              *2.2 Ghz CPU
              *368 MB Ram
              *32meg OnBoard Vid
              Carnetix 1900 PSU
              BU-353 GPS Antenna
              iGuidence Nav Software / Mappoint for POI's
              Linksys USB WiFi
              D-Link USB Bluetooth 2.0
              Xenarc 700IDT
              Eclipse CD4000 HU

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by mbfierro View Post
                Sorry, should of been a little more descriptive, the VSS wire is the vehicle speed sensor wire for the GPS.
                Ohhh duh... Sorry, my brain immediately went to "Voltage Steady State". Right, for models with navigation the ABS or VDC (if equipped) sends the vehicle speed signal through a Pink/Green wire, the back-up signal is connected through a Brown/Yellow wire, and the parking brake signal is connected through a Gray wire. But sadly, these do not appear to be present in a non-navigation car. If you find them buried somewhere I'd be curious to know where, but I couldn't find them in mine.
                2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

                Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rdholtz View Post
                  What sort of equipment did you use to mill the faceplate? Is it CNC? What's the material?
                  I'm lucky to be able to use the machine shop at work, where we have a CNC mill that I'd programmed for these parts. Most of it could have been machined on a manual mill too, though.

                  For the average hobbyist, www.sherline.com and www.flashcutcnc.com make some pretty cool mini CNC mills and lathes for relatively not much money. (Actually FlashCut just sells Sherline's mills, but with their own CNC controllers which are far better.) I'd actually love to get one of their mills for my garage someday.

                  The plastic parts are black Delrin (acetal) plastic. It's kind of the de-facto engineering plastic for machined parts and seems to have worked well.
                  2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

                  Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    FordNoMore, I'd be interested in the PIC microcontroller circuit. My one greatest grip really about any carputer install has always been the loss of steering wheel button controls when you go to a pure carpc setup, and thus the need for a aftermarket headunit. We obviously don't drive cards with tons of real estate on the dash anymore

                    I really don't see any alternative for my own setup outside of wiring up like I did previously, through the headunit to control the sound.

                    would the PIC microcontroller circuit you designed allow me to bypass the need of a headunit completely? I confess I'm not too advanced in the whole engineering aspect of car PC's.
                    Current Rig
                    ----------
                    Inspiron 5100 Laptop
                    *2.2 Ghz CPU
                    *368 MB Ram
                    *32meg OnBoard Vid
                    Carnetix 1900 PSU
                    BU-353 GPS Antenna
                    iGuidence Nav Software / Mappoint for POI's
                    Linksys USB WiFi
                    D-Link USB Bluetooth 2.0
                    Xenarc 700IDT
                    Eclipse CD4000 HU

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      PIC's are kinda complicated to use unless you're already fairly solid on computer programming and electronics. (If you are then they're dead simple! But those are pretty high prerequisites for some.)

                      I'm going to get around to making a whole writeup on the PIC circuit someday... In a nutshell, it can read an analog voltage on some of its input pins. A simple input circuit generates a particular voltage based on which button is pressed, which the PIC can interpret... So now it knows which button is pressed. Then the output pins can do whatever you want.

                      I have mine set up to mimic a wired remote to my stereo head unit for volume. But you could also hard-wire it to a little USB keyboard to generate "key presses" to the computer -- for instance the + and - keys, or even the VOL+ and VOL- keys on an extended keyboard with multi-media buttons -- and then that could control the computer's volume.

                      I'm thinking you could also do all of this with a Fusion Brain, or even an off-the-shelf steering wheel control adapter like the PAC SWI-X Steering Wheel Audio Interface. That one just works by sending IR remote commands, so you'd have to get an IR input for your computer, but those are fairly cheap.

                      Sorry to not answer your question about the PIC circuit. I really do think it's a cool way to go, but it'll have to be a really long involved writeup in order to be very helpful.
                      2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

                      Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Bump man, been a while, how are things looking?
                        Current Rig
                        ----------
                        Inspiron 5100 Laptop
                        *2.2 Ghz CPU
                        *368 MB Ram
                        *32meg OnBoard Vid
                        Carnetix 1900 PSU
                        BU-353 GPS Antenna
                        iGuidence Nav Software / Mappoint for POI's
                        Linksys USB WiFi
                        D-Link USB Bluetooth 2.0
                        Xenarc 700IDT
                        Eclipse CD4000 HU

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wow, it has been awhile. Thanks for asking. Truth be told, I've been spending more time on my music than my car PC. (The music's going great though, by the way.)

                          So... Designing this was way fun. Building it was way fun. Showing it off is way fun. But uh, looking at the long list of system bugs to fix and fabrication things to finish... well... I'm starting to have wishful thoughts about an off-the-shelf navigation deck that just *works* and doesn't clutter my trunk. Thinking this might turn into a nice media PC for the living room.

                          So sadly, looks like another one bites the dust. Haven't ripped anything out yet, but I just don't think I'll find the time to finish and maintain it. All is not lost though. Still have a great PC to use elsewhere, and still have a car wired with good speakers and good power distribution. Just 'cuz it won't have a PC doesn't mean I'm not gonna do it up nice.

                          I'll post more pictures when it takes shape.
                          2008 Subaru WRX Worklog

                          Music I've created: JackPryorMusic.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Sorry to hear the issues are holding you back from keeping the CarPC.

                            I was looking forward to seeing what you were doing.

                            I tend to be the same way about getting taken off in other directions. Add to that a full time job, wife, kids, Full time School and it's hard to find time for everything. This is why I'm trying to keep my system as simple as possible, while still being usable, and functional.

                            I'll leave the stock head unit in, and just plug a stereo cable into the aux input for it to access my music. The under the seat mount seems to be the easiest. I may even just use an inverter to power it.
                            08' WRX - lightly prepared for D-stock autocross
                            1994 BMW M3/25is - Heavily prepared for SM class autocross
                            OBD1 :( no carputer fo the Bimmer

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