Lil' tutorial for newbies out there :)
DISCLAIMER: Poin't of this thread is so called "Spoon feeding". If you can't seem to find your way to start car PC project with information from FAQ or other sections, then it might be better you to read this. Basically same stuff can be founded at FAQ section, but i tryed to write little bit about this and little bit about that to one thread. Hopefully some noob's will enjoy "spoon feeded". Cheers :)
I've been reading so many threads where newbies say something like: "I'm new at this car PC "hobby" and i'D like to get some advices for my project". Well the next step usually is: "how do i get started?, how can i power my PC?" and stuff like that. Mostly answer to that kind of questions is something like this: "use google noob", "use the freakin' search!" and so on...
It's pretty hard for total noob to start searching if he/she doesn't really know what to look for don't you think? So, i thought that maybe i could write some kind of guide to car PC basics including all the normal stuff like powering your PC and all the extra electronics that you're going to install, safety issues and so on... But i think that's enough for introduction so let's get started shall we?
First things first:
You absolutely got to have some kind of idea that what you want to install in to your car. At this point you might think that this project will be finished just in few days and it should not be so difficult but beware, you might get some nasty surprises that can ruin your day totally. Just remember to stay positive and know this, no one is perfect (except me, NOT) :D
First of all, you have to start with some kind of documentation that what are you going to install/modify. Trust me, this will help you massively. You can simply just start with basic list like this:
- Basic *PC* that will run dvd's, mp3's, audio cd's, navigation (GPS) and some games possibly
- 7" screen with VGA and av-in RCA video inputs
- Normal cd-player with audio-input
- Some subwooffers and amp(s)
- Extra battery paraller to primary because the sound system and other electronics would suck the life out from primary battery when parked (all devices will be running sometimes when the car is parked and turned off)
NOTICE: Here's one nice notice from NeckPayne (thanks): "Adding an extra battery (tanking) isn't mandatory". So think twice before starting to add those extra batterys :). USUALLY IT'S NOT NESSESARY TO ADD THOSE EXTRA BATTERYS.
* Personally i prefer Laptop installs but it's your choise. Laptops don't require "large" amount's of power like normal desktops do, but mostly laptops performance isn't that good comparing to desktop PC. Here's some pros and cons about Laptop VS Desktop PC.
After this you should have some kind of vision that what you really are going to install. Now you can start wondering that how in the h*ll are you going to manage trough of this project. Well just keep reading and i'll give you something to start with.
Always remember, that inproper installations can cause some major damage to you/your friends (Yes, they will be playing that ps2 at your backseat often)/car. So always before installations ask yourself: "Is this really safe?". If you can answer yourself: "Yes, this should be safe" then you can continue installing your 2000W amp, your car PC and all the other stuff to trunk without fuse, NOT!!!
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO USE PROPER FUSE'S. IF INSTRUCTIONS SAYS SOMETHING LIKE: "FUSE OPTIONAL", PUT IT THERE NO MATTER WHAT!
I think you don't like to blow up your PC's powersupply or anything else because that simply cost's money (and time). No one likes to spend more money and time because of stupid mistakes right? So what is Fuse used for? Here's a short explanation from wikipedia:
"In electronics and electrical engineering a fuse, short for 'fusible link', is a type of overcurrent protection device. It has as its critical component a metal wire or strip that will melt when heated by a prescribed (design) current, opening the circuit of which it is a part, thereby protecting the circuit from an overcurrent condition"
So fuse basically just protects your system if anything bad happens at your car's electrics. It should be placed as near as possible to battery. Fuse is easy to replace, but what about PC's powersupply or your 7" screen in the dash? Fuse's costs almost nothing at all, but that 250$ screen would be nice to blow up because of malfunction at the electrics don't you think ;)
Other thing you should think is mountings. It wouldn't be so nice if some of multiple screens mounted to roof or someplace else hit's you/friends straight to the face and smashes your/their teeth complitely. So always remember to mount things properly.
Im going to add some more safety issues as those comes to my mind.
Installing your system (trunk/any place else):
Finally we can get to the installing. You can propably start with any component's you like. I suppose best thing to start with would be electrics. First of all you should buy some fuses, proper cable and some connectors. After you got all these, head to engine room. I'll supose you know what battery looks like or otherwise you shouldn't be reading this at all :mad: .
Hook up the cable to battery's positive (+) with connector and find a way to pull that cable's other end to the car's trunk. Pretty easy dont you think? It might take some time to find suitable route for the cable, but i think you can handle it. Look at the attached pic #1 for simplyfied diagram (notice my massive paint skillz) and click here for more advanced diagrams!
After this you can mount any electronics you need at the trunk. Basic system would require:
- Power supply for PC or inverter (something like 100W-> will be just fine for basic system)
- Of course some kind of PC (how suprising)
- IMPORTANT->Make sure there's proper airconditioning/cooling for the PC. If you don't do any changes to the PC's cooling system there propably will be overheating problems (system crashes and the whole PC might break up) and here's more useful info about cooling your system. <-IMPORTANT
For sound system you prolly should install some amp's and woofers also. NOTICE: REMEMBER TO CHOOSE VALUE OF THE FUSE CORRECTLY!
Installing your system (cabinet or what ever you like to call it :tard: ):
Well, i'll be pretty brief with this one. There's no one right way to install accessories to cabin. Find your own way to mount those screens to dash or anyplace else. There's lot's of different types of mountings showed in this forum and for some nice ideas you should propably spec out that show off your project section. Playstations and other stuff like that is pretty nice to install under the seats with proper mounting (my own opinion of course). Of course if your PC is at the trunk, you prolly need some input devices to dash. Some kind of mini keyboard (here's one example) and trackball mouse would be pretty nice if you don't like to buy touchscreen.
GPS and Front Ends
This is pretty large topic, but i'll try to be brief. GPS comes from "Global positioning system" and basically it tells to third party software your position (how surprising) and tracks your movement. GPS modules/dongles can be connected to laptop/normal PC/handheld by bluetooth, usb or rs232(serial).
Many of my friends have asked me when they hit in to my ride: "what the hell is that thing in your laptop?". Answer to this question is Front End (i got media engine running there with Volvo skin). Well i'll suppose they are used to see just a basic windows desktop with winamp and maybe some plugins running in laptop/normal PC. Front End is program which combines mp3-player, dvd-player, radio, possibly tv and normally there's possibility of running basic applications too. List of Front Ends is availbale here (also some other useful applications).
And finally: Connecting all the stuff together
This depends lot's of your hardware and accessories, but here's brief list for basic solution (i'll be adding somekind of diagram pretty soon i think):
- PC would be connected to screen with VGA
- Playstation or some other console would be connected to screen with av-in RCA
Notice: of course you can't use these 2 at the same time in same screen. Get another screen if you wan't to play and use PC at the same time :)
- PC's audio out would be connected to cd-player's audio input (for mp3 play from PC)
- cd-player would be connected to speakers and amplifier(s)
- Those massive subwooffers are of course connected to amp(s)
Uh, i think that's about it. I'll sure hope this helps someone even a lil' bit :).
I'll be adding some info time to time and also that one diagram for those connections (this might take some time). Check out for any updates weekly.
PS: I'm sorry for my lousy english, but i'll hope you guys understand it because im from Finland. Let me know if there's some mistakes (no matter if they are huge/little) and i'll fix those. :buddy:
- Added GPS and Front Ends section
- Added some links