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Thread: Carputer for Prius

  1. #1
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    Carputer for Prius

    Hi all,

    We have just bought a Prius 2008 base model.

    I'm hoping to be able to build and install a carputer, which will integrate with the existing Prius monitor (which is a touch-screen).

    As far as I can tell, I need to buy one of these to be able to open up the monitor to more inputs:
    http://coastaletech.com/lockpick3.htm

    Problem with that little box (I think it's a little box), is that it's $299 (!!). Just to let us connect a video input to the inbuilt screen. Benefits of it is that I wouldn't have to buy another screen, or have to rip out the Prius stereo to put a 2-din unit in, or lose the steering wheel control function. There may be ways to get the steering control function back though, but I'd have to buy another bit of kit for about $100.

    Oh, and the Prius screen is NTSC, which is a bit of a pain as we are in a PAL region.

    What I need from the carputer is to play video's (and audio if I have to replace the stereo). MAME games would be a bonus, but not essential. GPS would be a bonus, but not essential. DVB-T (Digital tv for Australia) would be a bonus, but not essential.

    I was thinking of a small SSD based system, unless you think 2.5" HDD's (I have a spare from the PS3 when I replaced it's HDD) are reliable enough with the bumps of the road.

    Looking for the best price/performance really. I`m comfortable with putting together pc's, but have no idea atm about wiring stuff in cars.

    cheers for any advice

  2. #2
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    You have a couple options and the lockpick is the easiest. Other options include tapping into the reverse camera input, and then making the MFD think it is in reverse. You get composite resolution but with the safety message overlayed on the screen.

    It would not be wise to replace the MFD. There are too many functions tied into it, and even hidden diagnostic functionality.

    There are inputs for the Prius that make it a VGA input which is really what you want. VGA is NTSC/PAL encoding agnostic.

    SSD's are fine, so are harddrives. 3.5", 2.5" it doesn't matter. They all work just fine even with the road vibrations over time.

    Also, you will need to do a battery upgrade. The stock 12v aux battery in the Prius has a very light load. All it does is prime the backup hydraulic brake pump and switch 3 relays in sequence to get the High Voltage (HV) battery online. Once the HV battery is online, it uses MG2 to spin up the ICE in lieu of a starter. So the battery has no "cranking" needs. Therefore it is very very tiny. All CarPC's draw power while sleeping or off, and will drain a "regular" car battery fast. It will destroy the Prius' aux battery. Get the elearnaid.com's Optima Yellowtop conversion kit as a necessity.

    I suggest for now using the AUX input located in the centre console for audio input to the stock HU for amplication and through the speakers. That would be easiest.

    Also I am sure you are already aware, but the false floor in the hatchback is a perfect place for a CarPC (and amp if wanted). Also it is right next to the battery. If you put the PC elsewhere, you MUST run a new wire to the battery because none of the 12v system wiring is up to snuff for a PC. Like I said, it has almost no current draw. You can literally "jump start" the prius with some AA batteries if you disconnect the dead SLA (otherwise it will try to charge the SLA from the AA's and won't work).
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    Wow, you obviously know so much more than me about the Prius... we've only had it a week

    I forgot to mention that we need to also have either a flip-down roof monitor, or a couple of 9" headrest monitors, for the 3 kids. That probably complicates things

    In our Delica we have (had, we are selling it), a www.chinavasion.com Street King 2din touch-screen dvd/gps/dvb-t unit, and a 19" Pyle flip-down monitor in the back.

    So, first we need to buy a more powerful battery and replace the stock Prius battery.

    I have an older ATX (full-size tower) computer here, and also a spare 17" lcd monitor. Also a Toshiba laptop (17", Core2 duo) I could use if needed. I wonder if I could rig something up with those. ie have the pc in the boot where you said (with upgraded battery), an inverter, and then output to the ripped-apart 17" monitor I somehow stick in the roof. Hmmmm.

    I've been reading the forums, and also googling for solutions, and a laptop mount might be a short-term solution, as we have a power outlet (cigarette socket style) in the Prius centre (between the front seats). Came across this as a cheap/effective mount:
    http://www.mdpub.com/laptoptray/index.html

    Just throwing idea's out there. I love building pc's, but am new to the whole carputer thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    It would not be wise to replace the MFD. There are too many functions tied into it, and even hidden diagnostic functionality.
    No I would never think of taking out the MFD. I would take out the stereo though, and put a 2-din unit in there. Or utilise the MFD (but not for $300 for a lockpick) and then use the tray underneath the stereo.

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    There are inputs for the Prius that make it a VGA input which is really what you want. VGA is NTSC/PAL encoding agnostic.
    Interesting. Please tell me more. Where are these inputs?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    Also, you will need to do a battery upgrade. Get the elearnaid.com's Optima Yellowtop conversion kit as a necessity.
    Cheers, found the fitting kit:
    http://www.elearnaid.com/12vo1topraub.html

    And can get the Optima locally: http://www.batteriesdirect.com.au/sh...FeNMpgodbm4mPQ

    I have a spare 4wd battery (12v 15 plate) from the Delica actually. Would there be a way I could hook that battery up while still including the original Prius 12v battery? I know in many Delica's they have two (or even 3) batteries for camping etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
    I suggest for now using the AUX input located in the centre console for audio input to the stock HU for amplication and through the speakers. That would be easiest.
    I didn't even know that there was an AUX on the centre console. I can't remember seeing it.

    EDIT: Definitely no AUX input on the stock stereo (if that's what you meant).
    Last edited by Stormz; 08-27-2011 at 08:00 AM. Reason: info update

  5. #5
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    Could someone please tell me:

    - Is a better 12v battery essential for a Prius to have a carputer?

    - Can you have the original 12v battery in the Prius, and somehow put another (better) battery nearby, and have them both charged up via the car? eg the Delica often has two batteries side by side.

    - If I bought a typical 2din dvd/mp3/gps unit from wherever, does that also need to have a better (or extra) battery installed?

    - If I had the 2din, and also either 2 headrest monitors or a flip-down roof monitor, does this setup also require a better (or extra) 12v battery?

    I just want to be clear, and sort out the power requirements of the Prius, before I can decide which direction to go in.

  6. #6
    Fusion Brain Creator 2k1Toaster's Avatar
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    Somehow I only just got the subscription update, sorry about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    Wow, you obviously know so much more than me about the Prius... we've only had it a week
    I have had mine for a while and have spent close to a year sitting in the car with my oscilloscope and a CAN sniffer I made to decode all the CAN bus traffic. PHEV conversion is next, fully custom design. There are a few of us that can tell you almost as much about the car as the original engineers themselves.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    I forgot to mention that we need to also have either a flip-down roof monitor, or a couple of 9" headrest monitors, for the 3 kids. That probably complicates things

    In our Delica we have (had, we are selling it), a www.chinavasion.com Street King 2din touch-screen dvd/gps/dvb-t unit, and a 19" Pyle flip-down monitor in the back.
    I would recommend one of those screen-in-mirror dealies for the Prius. That way you dont have a giant flip down up front. Then rearview monitors for the kids.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    So, first we need to buy a more powerful battery and replace the stock Prius battery.
    That would be HIGHLY recommended. The optima conversion is perfect for this.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    I have an older ATX (full-size tower) computer here, and also a spare 17" lcd monitor. Also a Toshiba laptop (17", Core2 duo) I could use if needed. I wonder if I could rig something up with those. ie have the pc in the boot where you said (with upgraded battery), an inverter, and then output to the ripped-apart 17" monitor I somehow stick in the roof. Hmmmm.
    Possible yes. Remember that in general the older PC's use more power which is just a waste. I think an ATX (ACPI compliance not form factor) computer is more suitable for the car just because it lends itself for customization and control.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    I've been reading the forums, and also googling for solutions, and a laptop mount might be a short-term solution, as we have a power outlet (cigarette socket style) in the Prius centre (between the front seats). Came across this as a cheap/effective mount:
    http://www.mdpub.com/laptoptray/index.html
    A laptop mount might be temporary but it is ugly and unsafe. That and when there is a temporary solution, a permanent solution is easier to let slip away. Quote Mike Holmes, "if you're going to do something, do it right the first time".


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    Just throwing idea's out there. I love building pc's, but am new to the whole carputer thing.
    You will find lots of info on both cases you mention on this forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    No I would never think of taking out the MFD. I would take out the stereo though, and put a 2-din unit in there. Or utilise the MFD (but not for $300 for a lockpick) and then use the tray underneath the stereo.
    You can put a single DIN unit in the flip down CD holder thing. And if you get a backlit display model, you will be able to see the characters through the plastic when on, and it will be hidden when off. Pretty slick.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    Interesting. Please tell me more. Where are these inputs?
    I meant there are input methods to get VGA onto the MFD. If a $300 lockpick outpriced you, then forget I even mentioned it. CarPC is NOT a cheap hobby. You will blow your budget.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    Cheers, found the fitting kit:
    http://www.elearnaid.com/12vo1topraub.html

    And can get the Optima locally: http://www.batteriesdirect.com.au/sh...FeNMpgodbm4mPQ

    I have a spare 4wd battery (12v 15 plate) from the Delica actually. Would there be a way I could hook that battery up while still including the original Prius 12v battery? I know in many Delica's they have two (or even 3) batteries for camping etc.
    Make absolutely sure the battery is the same. Normal optimas sold in local stores are sized for the North American market. The Prius uses a normal JDM battery, i.e. tiny. There is no way you can fit a NADM battery in the JDM hole. No way. You could put another battery in the other triangle wedge (left hand side of the trunk).


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    I didn't even know that there was an AUX on the centre console. I can't remember seeing it.

    EDIT: Definitely no AUX input on the stock stereo (if that's what you meant).
    If you have a late 2005 build or newer (mid-2006 model year) then you have an AUX input. Look in your center console (the part that flips up) and on the face closest to the radio there is a 3.5mm jack input. Also when you cycle through "MODE" for audio, AUX should be one of the options that appears on the MFD.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    Could someone please tell me:

    - Is a better 12v battery essential for a Prius to have a carputer?
    No, but considering the OEM battery is $180 minimum and not rated for the kind of parasitic draw a CarPC pulls it would be foolish not to. Also note that the 12v when weak will drop your mpg's by up to 6mpg. And if the battery is on the way out, lots of other codes will be thrown and the ECU's have a hard time communicating which can lead to numerous failures and breakdowns. Because the battery has no/little usage, there are hardly any warning signs. In a normal car you can tell by the cranking. When it takes a long time, the battery needs to be replaced. The Prius never sees a cranking amp draw, there is no warning.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    - Can you have the original 12v battery in the Prius, and somehow put another (better) battery nearby, and have them both charged up via the car? eg the Delica often has two batteries side by side.
    Yes but that would be silly. You gain nothing but added complexity. Replace with the optima and be happy.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    - If I bought a typical 2din dvd/mp3/gps unit from wherever, does that also need to have a better (or extra) battery installed?
    I doubt a generic headunit draws anything near a CarPC and when off it is only powering the RTC circuit. A PC in standby mode is constantly sweeping the RAM at GHz speeds to keep it from discharging and loosing data. That don't come cheap.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    - If I had the 2din, and also either 2 headrest monitors or a flip-down roof monitor, does this setup also require a better (or extra) 12v battery?
    No, and why are you fixated on the 12v battery... Require is only for high parasitic draws. The optima conversion is recommended to everyone who needs a battery replacement.


    Quote Originally Posted by Stormz View Post
    I just want to be clear, and sort out the power requirements of the Prius, before I can decide which direction to go in.
    The Prius will take care of itself when READY. When not in READY (i.e. when you go away, and the PC goes into standby) it has a very weak 12v. A PC is a beefy drain. Battery is the anti-beefy. When the forces collide, you get stranded. The good news is that if your brake pump is primed, you can jump start it with some AA batteries...
    Last edited by 2k1Toaster; 09-01-2011 at 03:46 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Thanks. That clears it up then. An Optima yellow-top battery is a bonus (and better than OEM), but only necessary for a carputer setup.

    Now, I need to cost the carputer setup vs the typical setup.

    Tell me if I`m wrong:
    - Optima yellow-top battery and adapter : around $320
    - 8" screen : about $150 inc postage: http://www.chinavasion.com/product_i...-hdmi-car-kit/
    - carputer : between $250 - $500 plus postage : http://store.mp3car.com/Car_Computer_Systems_s/25.htm
    = at least $720 (the battery replacement is the killer)

    vs this for about $460 inc postage : http://www.chinavasion.com/2-din-car-dvd/cvfyc96/

    plus $250 for a couple of headrest monitors for either setup.

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    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    don't compare a carpc setup to a all-in-one unit. that is like comparing city mileage of a dodge viper against your prius-- they are completely different, but also fill different needs..

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    Yeah I understand that. I need to look at my needs/outcomes, which are:
    - play all sorts of video files
    - play mp3 files
    - dvb-t (digital tv) as a bonus
    - gps (bonus)
    - wi-fi (bonus, but probably never used)
    - games (bonus)

    Weighing it up, with the needs and cost analysis, it looks like a typical unit would do all of that, except the games (which the headrests could do anyway). The only advantage I can see with a carputer (aside from my pose value and techno-junkie addiction being sated a little), is with obd-II data, which again, would just be a bonus.

    Based on all that, it looks like I`m going to have to leave a carputer setup until some other time in the future. Thanks for all your help/info/advice though, I really appreciate it.

  10. #10
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    glad you figured it out before hand-- there are many people that only reach that conclusion after spending all the money on the carpc.

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