Installing car PC in 1996 Honda Civic
Hi, I've got a 1996 Honda Civic and I'm interested in installing a car PC. I'm completely new to this... The pictures below show the interior of the vehicle. It's not my car pictured, but the dashboard, console, etc. is exactly the same. I'll get to my questions, but first some background info on the car...
Center A/C vents, head unit, climate control
Good view of front interior
Differences between the pictures and my car are: (1) I still have the factory head unit/speakers. The tape deck was recently hacked so I can input auxiliary input and I'm quite happy with that so far, so I'm not interested in replacing my head unit. Plus, factory keyless entry relies on factory radio. It seems to me that keeping the factory head unit would be easiest, since (a) no need to set up AM/FM tuner on PC, (b) no need to replace security system(c) i'm not looking to upgrade the audio system (d) the system is there and works fine. (2) I have automatic transmission (but the position of automatic is same as pictured manual transmission). Other than that, the picture could have been taken from my car.
Some parts diagrams of the front area are below:
The area behind the front of the manual shifter on the "Front interior" picture currently holds a tape deck and cup holder. The tape deck is what I hacked and it currently has the aux input port drilled into the front of it. The "Console" parts diagram shows that area better. I'm not afraid to cut up some parts of the car, as long as they could be replaced with original ones relatively inexpensively (see the parts diagrams above to see what is cheap and what is not) in case the car was to be resold. Drilling holes in places not visible doesn't bother me other, as long as it makes sense and is not done sloppily.
Now here's what I want:
1. Good power system that is ready for current and future projects.
- I want to mount a 300 W or better inverter somewhere inside the car - probably would go inside the console or any place it can be stashed, completely hidden from view. Since it's 300 W or better it will have to be permanently connected to the battery I assume since the cigarette lighter only has a 10 A fuse and the wiring back there probably isn't suitable for much more. But since you're connecting to the battery, I assume you need heavy-gauge wire and a fuse(s) someplace so you don't start a fire.
- Can you draw too much power from your car battery? I.e. if I run my PC, defoggers, headlights, wipers, stereo, etc. at once will I drain the battery because the alternator can't keep up? How would I know if this happens? If the alternator (and nothing else) is the constraint here, how can I figure out how much growing room I have before the alternator would have to be upgraded? Could the vehicle's OBD-II system reliably indicate the draw on the battery/alternator? I'm concerned that if I drive through bad conditions and use a lot of stuff at once, I'll park someplace in the middle of nowhere and end up with a car I can't start.
- Since the inverter is hidden, I would like to mount electrical plugs throughout the car coming from the inverter, but do it safely (i.e. according to whatever codes apply to mobile AC electrical systems). One place I want to put two electrical plugs is on both sides of the cigarette lighter (that's a $20 item so I'm not afraid to cut it up). The next place would be two plugs behind the console so that rear passengers can get AC too. Again, this needs to be perfectly safe. And it needs to look 100% professional - I want the plugs to look like the car came wired with AC. I mentioned this to my dad and he said to be very careful about following code, as it takes care of stuff you don't think of (e.g. mechanic drilling someplace and hits a live AC wire - solution being use drill-resistant conduit). In addition, you don't want things getting wet/shorting/etc. But I'm not really familiar how to do this safely. I assume you have to put fuses and stuff places. I am, however, in no way an electrician. I will also need some things going from the inverter to power various fixed AC items (e.g. computer in the trunk if I go the AC route).
- The inverter is only half the project - the other half is providing reliable DC power to fixed DC devices. Eventually, I plan on installing (1) Linksys WiFi router, (2) powered USB hub (possibly) (3) LCD panel(s) (4) Valentine One radar detector (5) computer using DC-DC converter (6) who knows what else - leave room to grow and easily hook up new stuff. All these things are DC devices and it seems silly to run them thru an inverter. So in addition to hooking up an inverter to the car electrical, we have to do this stuff too. I don't know how to do this safely, or at all to begin with. I assume you need a fuse at your battery, and a fuse for each of the listed items at some kind of distribution apparatus.
- Cigarette lighter is off-limits. Powering fixed devices thru this looks unprofessional. Even splicing the wire behind it is not something I want to do, since that would further limit the output of the lighter.
- Very important: I need certain devices to turn off with the car. I assume this would be done using relays, but again I don't know how to effectively/safely set these up. For example, I want the following to happen: (a) The regular A/C plugs will lose power when car is turned off, (b) A/C plug to computer does not lose power for a few minutes, to allow time to turn off computer - in addition it would be good to have the computer know when the car has been turned off so it can automatically hibernate, (c) some of the DC connections need to keep power constantly (surveillance system, WiFi router), or for a set time period (computer example again), or immediately lose power when car is turned off (radar detector).
2. Next question: given the pictures/parts diagrams, where would be the best place to put the car computer I/O? I need: (a) front USB ports (b) touchscreen LCD easily visible by driver while driving (c) front flash media ports (compactflash, secure digital, etc.) (d) possibly an additional aux in port (e) laptop DVD-ROM drive, connected to computer via USB (I assume I have to find a suitable slimline drive enclosure someplace...). I want things to be safe too - in an accident I don't want somebody getting hurt by any of these modifications. Also, this needs to look professional. The area to the right looks like a good place to snap in an I/O panel for the USB/flash. I'm not sure where to put the LCD and slimline DVD-ROM.
3. In addition, I want a microphone suitable for voice recognition - I want to command the computer to do things. And it needs to do it when I'm listening to music, for example.
4. Could video feeds recorded while I'm driving be easily used as evidence if I got a traffic ticket (e.g. if I wasn't speeding could I use the time & distance argument coupled with video)? What if these feeds were combined with incoming OBD-II data into a video feed? What about if somebody vandalized the car while it was off?
5. Summarizing: must be (1) completely safe, for example in the event of an accident or short, (2) look completely/mostly professional (3) inexpensive (I'm in college) (4) meet the needs mentioned above.
Thanks for all your input on this matter. I want to get this job done right and have fun in the process. Once I have the power/car PC framework set up, I'll be looking into setting up GPS, WiFi, OBD-II, video cameras, bluetooth, and more.