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The beginning, and probably the end.

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  • The beginning, and probably the end.

    Hi all,

    Bit of a short anecdote. As a complete noob, I thought I would have a bash at making myself a very simple CarPC installation. Some of the projects on these forums look really impressive, and I didn't hope to make mine look quite as swish and perform quite as many functions. My abilities with power tools are lacking, to say the least, and I am not confident enough to start chopping up my dashboard and boot and start trailing cables here there and everywhere.

    I started this weekend by attempting to see whether my existing unit had an input for an mp3 player or cd changer that I might possibly be able to trail a cable from to plug into my laptop. I have the ability to remote control a number of media players on my laptop via Bluetooth on my Pocket PC, so I figured the laptop on the passenger seat, with my Pocket PC in it's cradle on the windscreen would be a sufficient starting point.

    On Friday, I managed to figure out how to remove the dashboard of my Ford Fiesta Mk6 with some help from google. Off came all the covers, and that's where my problems started. Despite having read warnings about it, and despite me being as careful and gentle as possible, I managed to disconnect the cables that control the air temperature and distribution on the a/c system, rendering the controls completely useless. The temperature is set as low as it will go, coming out all the vents. Had the cables only come off of the dials at the dashboard end, I could have attached them back on and got on with looking at the headunit.

    That wasn't to be, however, and the cables are now actually physically seperate from the car at both ends. Not a good start...

    On Saturday, I attempted to plug the cables back in, groping around the inners of the dash with not a clue as to what i'm looking for, or indeed where the cables came from. The temperature control cable is now attached back onto the car, but I cannot attach it to the dashboard without the dashboard being screwed into the car, and if the dashboard is screwed in, I can't get my hands in to plug the cable back in. To top it all off, I cannot even find the socket where the distribution control cable goes back into the car, but I can attach that cable to the dashboard without a problem.

    So, as things stand on Saturday evening, I have no functioning heating in the car.

    By this time I'd given up on the possibility of my headunit supporting an aux-in connection (and googling on Saturday night made me more certain). So I decided I'd take a look at getting a new headunit fitted to the car. If you don't know, the standard Ford headunit is a monsterous size (over 2 DIN I believe) and, in a display of complete and utter stupidity and attempted good design, Ford decided that one hole in the dashboard was not enough - so there are 3. (see for an example)

    I decided that Halfords would be a good place to visit, as they offer a fitting service. Surely, I decided, they could help me.

    So Monday evening after work, I toddled down to Halfords, had a browse around the headunits (having looked at a number of different models on a number of sites). My requirements were a front mounted aux-in connection (or rear mounted without an adapter kit), and something with a graphic LCD display (rather than the segment LCDs - LED dot-matrix displays fall into the right category for me). I decided on a Ripspeed CMR-2000. Not the most well heard of headunit, but it looked ok, had a front mounted aux-in, SD card slot and USB port, and came with free fitting (instead of the usual £39.99 fee). So, after waiting half an hour for someone at the Halfords audio desk, I arranged for a fitting for today, at 5pm. I'm asked what model car I have, what year it was made, what radio did I have in the car already, and I'm told I need a cable version kit and fascia adapter (which I was fine with, and anticipated).

    I turned up for the fitting at around 4:50pm, and went into the store. Surprise surprise, there was nobody at the audio desk again, and all the other staff (all 2 of them) are helping other customers. 5:00 comes, still no-one around. 5:05, still by myself feeling like a right lemon. 5:10, getting a tad angry now. Finally at 5:15 (half way through my slot) a guy comes to the desk and asks if he can help. I explain that i'm there to have a headunit fitted. He promptly makes a PA announcement for someone else to come and help me, and then walks off. At 5:20, another guy comes to the desk. He asks me the EXACT same questions as I was asked when I made the appointment. He asked me which kind of factory radio I had in the car, and was it the 1 or 3 strip version? I told him it was the 3 strip version, and then he made me very angry - he said that they cannot fit any headunits into my car because of the unusual dashboard.

    Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn't have minded - if they'd have explained on Monday, I wouldn't have minded. But i've hurried from work, driven to the shop, stood around for half an hour only for them to say they cannot help. How difficult would it be for them to cut the 3 strips out and put the fascia converter in? How difficult would it have been to have asked the killer question on Monday and sunsequently tell me they couldn't fit the radio on Monday, when I first visited? How difficult would it have been for them to record the answers I gave on Monday, to save asking the exact same questions again today?

    All in all, my first foray into CarPC land has been bitterly disappointing. I now have no functioning heating controls, have spent well over 3 hours in different branches of Halfords looking at headunits, and got excited about the prospect of finally fitting a decent headunit to the car and been let down.

    I now have to try and get the heating in the car fixed (a friend has volunteered to do it for me, which is great, but I'd rather not have broken it in the first place - my fault entirely). Plan B, which I am switching to now, involves a £10 FM transmitter from Maplin! I'll let you know how I get on.

    Any comments or suggestions on things to try would be appreciated, and congratulations to you all for some stunning installs. Mine looks far from stunning at the moment!


  • #2
    ah.... that's just the beginning... most who go down this route will suffer initially, by both inexpirience & mistakes... but there is no way to learn without making mistakes, so by that point, mistakes are a good thing, because you learn valuable lessons from them.....

    this all goes with the total "cost" of a carpc.. many will tell you it's cheaper than a new fangled multimedia headunit, but when you factor in ALL the costs, a carpc costs so much more.... but also gives you so much more, IF you pay the price & have patience & endurance....

    if someone is the type to quit at the first problem or 2 or 6... they may not be the type to eventually pull of an install that can be considered good... it takes a bit of learning & making mistakes....

    the best way to realize your goal of a carpc is to not give up....
    MY NEWEST INSTALL:modded infiniti fx with big screen

    first windows carpc liquid cooled LVDS screen :D


    • #3
      Everybody does something stupid at first. Before my CarPC, the only thing I ever did to my car, was a remote start. I mean first. So I googled, and read, and bought stuff. Wired it all up like it said. And it tried cranking, but only worked if I was in the car too! So after much confusion as to why my presence in the car changed it, I realized that my keys are in my hand. So I leave the key in the car, and it starts. Damn radio frequency keys! So I messed with it some more, and I guess when I installed my immobilizer bypass, my honda didn't like that too much, and a robot voice came through the speakers saying that their was a theft deterance system activated, and now the car wouldn't even crank. No normal starting either. I broke my car... So AAA towed it to Honda, and they "reset" it, but damn that sucked. Didn't deter me though, just tought me to google more before and expect problems.

      Keep at it.
      Fusion Brain Version 6 Released!
      1.9in x 2.9in -- 47mm x 73mm
      30 Digital Outputs -- Directly drive a relay
      15 Analogue Inputs -- Read sensors like temperature, light, distance, acceleration, and more
      Buy now in the Store


      • #4
        expect problems..... that pretty much sums it up....

        even veterans can & do run into screwups or misjudged results... goes with the teritory I guess...
        MY NEWEST INSTALL:modded infiniti fx with big screen

        first windows carpc liquid cooled LVDS screen :D