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Thread: A few pointers for those new to the hobby

  1. #1
    Constant Bitrate Zoltan's Avatar
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    A few pointers for those new to the hobby

    I was recently asked for advice installing a carputer in an Escape. While my response was somewhat verbose and reminiscent, the main points I think are fairly universal, and I'd recommend them to anyone who's considering taking a dremel tool to their dash.

    Here goes:

    Zoltan
    I to have a 03 escape that im starting to install a carputter in. Im very new to this but have been wanting to do this for a while and I love the escape my wife and have owned for 7yrs now and I can imagine owning a different car but anyway. unfortunately what your asking is out of my price range and I have most of my hardwear allready. What im hoping you can help me with is knowledge having installed in an escape allready I was hoping you could help me with some questions? one question what did you use and how well did your OBDII stuff work and would you be able to email me all or any pics of your install that you have? thanks so much
    No problem. Welcome to the exciting world of carputers. I had my Escape for almost 7 years and put over 100,000 miles on it. My wife also has a 2005 Escape that we've had about 5.5 years.

    I have been through a number of generations, and I've learned a lot. If I decide to do it again, there are a few major leaps I would make right away.

    1. Second battery. Lots of jump starts early on. I suppose mobile PSU technology has advanced with the years, but... even though my original one was supposed to shut down the computer, the PC would often lock up (especially when overheating, discussed later), and not shut down properly thereby draining my battery. I killed the stock battery from deep cycling it to the point where it wouldn't hold a charge in less than a year. I then installed an Optima Yellow Top. That one lasted me about 4 years before refusing to charge. Also helpful is a good battery charger (with a desulfate mode). After installing a second battery, I never needed a jump start again, until the Optima died. (did I mention I also went through an alternator?)

    2. Run air conditioning directly into PC case. I first had mounted the PC behind the lcd (center dash panel) where the 6 dish changer used to be. Early on, I was always digging behind the LCD to mess with what I perceived to be loose cables or to reset the computer, or for whatever reason. Well, as you can see in the pictures my final design has the center dash panel cut in to two pieces, but that wasn't always the case. The pneumatic tubes that go to the HVAC controls don't have a lot of play, so everytime I reached behind the LCD to mess with the computer, the limiting factor was the HVAC. Result: the dash just below the center piece got very scratched up from the metal clasps that hold the center piece in place. Supposedly, I could have the vinyl repaired, but I never did.

    Anyway, after scratching my dash all up from trying to access the computer, I moved the pc to underneath the passenger seat. That was fine except when I had passengers in the back seat, at which point all the cables would get kicked, etc. Then I moved it to underneath the center console storage compartment. I cut out the bottom of the center console, and made an access cover, and cut out much of the plastic support framework that suppports the center console. It never seemed to affect rigidity of the center console though. This location ended up being where I kept the second battery. Overheating was always a problem and underneath the center console was the worst location of them all for that.

    So, I cut the center dash panel in half and moved the PC back to it's original location behind the LCD. I tied it in to the duct work to get air conditioning. This worked fine in the summer, but in the winter or between seasons, I would have to turn the air conditioning on to keep the computer running even if I was freezing my balls off. Eventually, I learned that the Escape makes cold air and hot air all the time whether it's heating or cooling (I think even when off, but without any airflow). The compressor is on the accessory belt, so it's always spinning making the cold side cold and the hot side hot. The cold sump can actually be tapped into underneath the dash, just to the left of the glovebox. I drilled a 2" hole or so connected a piece of vacuum cleaner hose routing that straight to the PC. Cooling was never an issue again as long as the HVAC wasn't "off".

    3. Daylight-readable/transflective display. Yes they're expensive. Not as bad now as they were 7 years ago. My first LCD was a lilliput 7 inch, but I quickly returned it, because at the time, they didn't auto-power on or have very good touchscreens. Then I had a Xenarc 7" which I had installed for a few years, but it was very difficult to read in the daytime. Eventually I bit the bullet and bought an 8.4" 4X3 transflective monitor. Again, another trip to the junkyard. This time for a new dash panel, cut it in half, installed the LCD figured out how to get into the advanced settings menu, and life was much better. Even still, it seems like monitors will never be bright enough in the day or dark enough at night.

    4. Solid State Drive. The PC can cold boot or resume from hibernate in about half the time when running a SSD instead of a HD, and nowadays, you can get 40-60GB one for about $100. Well worth it, and I had fewer errors I think where relating to temperature from the traditional HD.

    That's probably enough to chew on for now. Good luck.
    '03 Escape 4WD:
    -iTox mini-itx mobo, Core 2 Duo Mobile 1.66Ghz; 2GB, 80GB 2.5" HD, DS-ATX
    -Transflective 8.4"
    -XM, iG4, OBD-II (BR-3)
    -Rearview camera with auto-switching (modified cheesbox)
    -Slim Slot DVD+RW
    -RR, DFX 4

  2. #2
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    counterpoints:

    1. a second battery is not needed anymore unless it is for other accessories(high power audio system)

    2. running a/c air directly onto the carpc components is asking for trouble. the cold air is fine, but when you get out, condensation can build up on the cold components, causing corrosion. and corrosion on pc parts is bad.

    otherwise, i agree on the T/R screen.

    for the ssd, while it can make boot times faster, careful bios settings can also speed up boot times.

  3. #3
    Newbie
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    thanks for the responce Zaltan and for the OBDII stuff what was it you used hardwear and softwear and how well did it work??

  4. #4
    Constant Bitrate Zoltan's Avatar
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    Bottom line, I'm not sure that (for me) the benefit was worth the effort/cost.

    The caveat is that I had a BR-3 based model not the more common and now much more developed ELM based chipset. At the time I purchased in 04, neither had good software, but over time the awesome group of developers here have written some drivers, utilities, libraries, or helper programs, that have been able to bring integration to the main front ends. With that they can now make use of real-time and average mile per gallon calculators as well as engine data.

    With the BR-3 based model that I have, the standalone application is little more than a cool "look what I can do" widget. One could probably embed the program in a front end, but there's not a whole lot of draw.
    '03 Escape 4WD:
    -iTox mini-itx mobo, Core 2 Duo Mobile 1.66Ghz; 2GB, 80GB 2.5" HD, DS-ATX
    -Transflective 8.4"
    -XM, iG4, OBD-II (BR-3)
    -Rearview camera with auto-switching (modified cheesbox)
    -Slim Slot DVD+RW
    -RR, DFX 4

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