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Thread: Choosing In-Car PC Project Under $500

  1. #1
    Newbie YuZi's Avatar
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    Choosing In-Car PC Project Under $500

    I drive a 1994 Ford Econoline Conversion by Mark III. Recently, the VCP stopped working. Since then, I wanted to upgrade a few things like adding a computer and connecting it to a monitor that will replace the TV.

    Picture of the TV/VCP area

    What type of setups are possible? I also want this computer to power another monitor at the dash board, is this possible? What would the wiring diagram look like?

    I'm attaching 2 blueprint pictures for reference.


  2. #2
    Newbie erosa7's Avatar
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    a good place to start is here.
    http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/advfaq.php
    im about 80% done with my install , which i used a old desktop that i had around and so far so good the only thing i had to spend mony for was the monitor and misc. wires
    you have alot of room to have fun with lol , good luck n have fun

    p.s.: i like dis diagram , where did you get this from ? or what software u used ?

  3. #3
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    a $500 budget is going to be very tough unless you already have most of the hardware-- most 7" indash screens are at about $300, motherboard/processor combos are about $100, power supplies are another $50, and hard drives, another $50... estimated at $400 and that is without a second monitor for the passenger area(a typical 19" vga monitor is around $200), case(this can be skipped, or built yourself from scrap metal), or wiring($3.00 usb cables add up really quickly), or software (centrafuse and windows both cost around $100 each) that you might need.

    not trying to tell you that it can't be done, it is just very hard to do with that budget--i would say that the average car pc, brand new, is about $1000, (+/-1,000) all said and done. the best place to look would probably be in classifieds for people looking to get rid of stuff for cheap.

  4. #4
    Newbie YuZi's Avatar
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    I plan on using one laptop I have laying around. One is an intel P3 Compaq, 16" screen, Dvd Rom. The other is a intel Centrino Dell Inspiron 19" screen. This would cut all costs for computer related parts and the operating system. I just need recommendations (with prices) for HD Tv reciever, navigation, and HD radio reciever.

    As for blueprints, I got them from the-blueprints.com and edited them via Paint.NET for my needs.

    Also, when should I start worrying about upgrading my alternator/battery to something heavy duty?

  5. #5
    Raw Wave
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    Quote Originally Posted by YuZi
    I...when should I start worrying about upgrading my alternator/battery to something heavy duty?
    Upgrade your alternator if it is unable to charge your battery sufficiently (ie - is running under nominal 13.8-14.4V for too long). But I recommend doing the "Big 3" first (beefing up battery-engine-body grounds, and hot feeds (+12V) from the alternator to battery and your loads - that may overcome voltage issues, and is required before upgrading anyhow. See also the12volt.com for Big 3 info.)

    Upgrade your battery if the load is flattening the battery when not charging.
    Though probably a second battery for the load is better - with a battery isolator (a $5 relay powered from the alternator's charge lamp circuit). Hence it (is connected to the main battery and) charges automatically when the car is charging, but is otherwise disconnected so that if your load flattens your 2nd battery, you still have the normal main battery for cranking etc.
    A low voltage cutout for the load adds about $20 to protect the battery (whichever is powering the load, eg, 2nd battery if fitted, else the single main battery).


    FYI:
    The second battery has to be a sealed type if housed internally - typically an AGM type (= VRLA = Valve Recombination) - usually a Deep Cycle type.
    You also need 2 fuses or circuit breakers between the batteries - one at each end as close to the battery as possible as per normal fusing (from power sources to protect distribution/cabling and prevent fires/explosions).
    I recommend auto-resetting circuit breakers as there can be large surges that exceed ratings. (I use 50A CBs (under $10 each) for my spare main 2nd battery.)
    Hence main battery with nearby protection #1 (fuse/CB) -> relay (isolator) -> protection #2 near 2nd/aux battery. (Fuse from aux battery to your loads as normal.)

    Size the 2nd battery to suit your needs. It does not have to be matched to the main battery (other than be Lead-Acid; not LiPO, NiCad etc). 7AH 12V batteries are cheap because they are common. Same for golf-buggy & Disabled electric mobility hoon devices. Otherwise maybe a battery that can substitute for your main battery may be handy.)

  6. #6
    Newbie YuZi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldSpark View Post
    Upgrade your alternator if it is unable to charge your battery sufficiently (ie - is running under nominal 13.8-14.4V for too long). But I recommend doing the "Big 3" first (beefing up battery-engine-body grounds, and hot feeds (+12V) from the alternator to battery and your loads - that may overcome voltage issues, and is required before upgrading anyhow. See also the12volt.com for Big 3 info.)

    Upgrade your battery if the load is flattening the battery when not charging.
    Though probably a second battery for the load is better - with a battery isolator (a $5 relay powered from the alternator's charge lamp circuit). Hence it (is connected to the main battery and) charges automatically when the car is charging, but is otherwise disconnected so that if your load flattens your 2nd battery, you still have the normal main battery for cranking etc.
    A low voltage cutout for the load adds about $20 to protect the battery (whichever is powering the load, eg, 2nd battery if fitted, else the single main battery).


    FYI:
    The second battery has to be a sealed type if housed internally - typically an AGM type (= VRLA = Valve Recombination) - usually a Deep Cycle type.
    You also need 2 fuses or circuit breakers between the batteries - one at each end as close to the battery as possible as per normal fusing (from power sources to protect distribution/cabling and prevent fires/explosions).
    I recommend auto-resetting circuit breakers as there can be large surges that exceed ratings. (I use 50A CBs (under $10 each) for my spare main 2nd battery.)
    Hence main battery with nearby protection #1 (fuse/CB) -> relay (isolator) -> protection #2 near 2nd/aux battery. (Fuse from aux battery to your loads as normal.)

    Size the 2nd battery to suit your needs. It does not have to be matched to the main battery (other than be Lead-Acid; not LiPO, NiCad etc). 7AH 12V batteries are cheap because they are common. Same for golf-buggy & Disabled electric mobility hoon devices. Otherwise maybe a battery that can substitute for your main battery may be handy.)
    Thanks for the handy information, looking into the big 3 now...

  7. #7
    Newbie YuZi's Avatar
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    I've decided that I will be starting at the rear of the van, since the entertainment system stopped working.

    Now, since my van has been previously running a full size 13" TV, 12v VCR, and one gaming console (PS2, GameCube, and N64) at the same time, do you see it necessary to upgrade the big 3?



    Also, I've come up with a simple diagram of how everything will connect. I have a few questions about antennas and power.

    1. Does anyone have a recommendation on the wifi card I should use? If my laptop has built-in wifi reception, can I upgrade it to use an external antenna?

    2. Can I use a CB antenna to function with anything (wifi, TV, or radio)? I'm asking about RadioShack's 102" whip antenna.

    3. As for power, anyone care to share how they are powering everything?

    Code:
    Price list:
    
    Computer: Owned, Compaq P3
    Monitor: $150
    Ext. HD: $50
    HD TV Tuner: $60
    AM/FM Radio Tuner:$50
    Addt'l Battery: $40 
    
    Total: $350 so far.
    Thanks!

  8. #8
    Raw Wave
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    I doubt that a whip will suit TV reception.
    And antennas are usually tuned - especially for transmission (didn't you SWR your whip?).


    As to powering, see if there is something useful in my or other replies to How to hook up extra battery?.

    You'll only need the big 3 if you suffer excessive voltage drops across those paths. It's merely following the usual "reducing voltage drop" methods.

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