2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Worklog
So instead of doing all the other things that I *should* be doing, I'm working on building a computer for the Rubicon. I'm tired and its late, so I'll cut straight to the chase...
Reasons I'm doing it:
- I can't find a stereo head unit that will A) Play a relative path playlist; or B) Continue playing from HD (not flash) where it left off.
- All the other reasons one would use a car computer (GPS, Video, Internet connectivity, etc. etc.)
- Would not be financially responsible, acceptable, nor achievable to go out and buy a 2007 Wrangler Rubicon JUST to get the LCD to fit in the dash (though split fold seats, power locks and window additions make it quite tempting!)
Reasons I'm posting here:
- Its a desperate plea mainly for assistance in fabricating a complex dash bezel and to obtain other suggestions and outside opinions.
- I have not found any other Wrangler posts where the LCD is made to fit inside the dash to give it an OEM look, which is what I am going to attempt to achieve.
So here is the patient, my 2004 silver Jeep Wrangler Rubicon...
Growing weary of this project...
... but my current install certainly isn't making me happier as the days go on, so I must continue with this.
The work has been pretty steady, but largely full of unsuccessful ideas and general trial and error. Finally made some progress today, but as you will see below, I'll need to backtrack tomorrow. I was hoping to have the dash finished by Thursday night, but no way thats gonna happen now. Project pushed back by a week, but probably be done by July 4.
Pics and details....
I attempted to use the bumper repair product and method to create some curves out of aluminum foil molds. I was disappointed with the results (and loss of $28 ) as the product was too flexible. It eventually got pretty rigid, but took a few days and the aluminum foil was difficult to peel off, so it wasn't going to work for my application.
So then I went ahead and took the Dremel to hack out the dash bezel and press forward without a plan on how to fill the gaps (oem replacement dash bezel was already in place in the jeep, so I was cutting the old one). Those pics got deleted inadvertantly, oh well.
I decided to find some Lexan (plexiglass) and use that as my space filler. This is probably not a great idea for anyone else to follow, but its the path I have chosen so I must continue with it.
Lexan was cut roughly to fit the new opening of the dash bezel. The dash bezel had some bulges and curves, so I made sure to set the Lexan flush to the highest spot, then used bondo to attach it.
I cut the Lexan using a carbon fiber cutting wheel, which worked fairly well, I guess. The Lexan gets hot and flies everywhere, burning arms, and even managing to make their way up past my protective goggles, so be careful!
I then used "real" epoxy and fiberglass cloth to give it true structural integrety. I don't expect this to fall apart, ever, its probably overkill.
After curing overnight, I then cut a hole in the Lexan face and began to shape some of the front with the cutting wheel and 80 grit paper - paying too much detail to things too early, but it did allow me to try to figure out my next step. I got pretty frustrated and called it a night. No idea how to align the tilt and angled walls for the recessed-ness.
So tonight I had set out to find a way to mount the Lexan sidewalls that I had cut for the left and right side of the LCD housing. This is the trickiest part of the whole thing because of all the angles and depths to be aware of. I had to make sure that the sides were angled (straight wouldn't quite look right aesthetically when viewing it), and the LCD tilted back at the top, but not too far because of limited depth. The sidewalls would need to be flared at the top to accommodate that top tilt. Height was also a factor given the way the "hood" sloped and could cut off the view of the top.
I decided to "tack" in the housing with Crayola Model Magic I had purchased for an earlier failed idea. This air cured molding clay is pliable, but not much to hold the thing in place, so I used it for very temporary spacing and to use Bondo at the top and bottom of the housing. I had etched a line in the bezel when it was in place on the Jeep so I knew how much tilt I could have.
I mixed up some Bondo and slathered it on, not remembering just how strong it is and how fast it cures. I was worried that it wouldn't hold and I put entirely too much on, especially since I only expected it to hold the housing enough for me to put the sidewalls on with epoxy and fiberglass cloth.
My eye was close, but in my haste and because of the fast cure, my LCD housing was centered properly but the left side was ever so slightly higher or more towards the front than the right. I will have to go back and cut the Bondo to separate the housing from the bezel and then do my originally intended "spot weld" with the Bondo to avoid my error a second time and alight the housing properly. I should be able to do all of this and then mount the sidewalls tomorrow.
Hoping that I'll be able to do some final Lexan cutting and shaping (pretty sick of that!) by Thursday and work on Bondo shaping and "artistic" work when I get back to the project on Sunday.
Visible progress... finally
Tonight yielded visible progress, but I'm still a long way off.
I had to cut my Bondo "tack welds" several times yesterday in order to align the LCD front bezel as perfectly as possible. Once this was accomplished, I cut some fiberglass cloth to the approximate shape, as well as shaped some aluminum foil for support for the sidewalls. I was originally going to do them with Lexan, but realized it wasn't necessary.
I let it cure overnight and after work I trimmed up the cured epoxy and cloth a bit and then did a fit test with the LCD (but not with mainboard) before I moved on. Its a very very tight fit, but it does fit. I may need to grind away at the top of the backside of the A/C control panel by a few millimeters later to accomodate the mainboard later, but we'll see.
So I spent the rest of the evening building up layers of Bondo on the sidewalls and the upper "hood" section. Bondo layer, sand, grind some areas, sand, sand, Bondo layer, sand, sand, etc. etc. If you attempt a complex fabrication like this I suggest 2 things: A) learn from my mistakes, and don't do all the excesses and errors I did; and B) Get comfortable and embrace Bondo and sanding, sanding, Bondo, sanding, sanding, sanding, grinding, Bondo, sanding... you get the picture??
I left it tonight with another layer of Bondo curing and thus, no ending pic for the night, but I am happy that although the end isn't really in sight, I do finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I expect to continue the layering and sanding on Sunday and should update the pics then as well.
Close, but Rubicon is running silent :(
Last week's schedule got a little flip flopped, I ended up working until 2am Friday night and again Saturday morning in hopes of finishing up the modified dash bezel in time for a long drive I had to take late Saturday afternoon. Details....
Here are some more pics from that Thursday night...
http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...17676e1a6a.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...17676a9ef4.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...1767670938.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...1767637f25.jpg
More detailing with the Dremel, Bondo, spot putty and priming on Friday night. The spot putty only works when smoothed on VERY thin with the finger, so it took some time to build up over any flaws.
http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...1767725d46.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176bf3bc73.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176bf0132c.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176be4980b.jpg
So things had finally shaped up nicely. Saturday I was doing very slight spot putty, primer, and wet sanding the whole piece and re-priming, expecting some very minor flaws would be filled. My goal was to have it painted by 11:30am and head to my buddy's speed shop to have him help me with the audio portion of things at noon and be out the door and on my trip by 4pm. I was only looking to use my existing amp to power the 2 overhead speakers and Windows Media Player until I get the rest of the system in place.
I was not able to find the dark charcoal color to match the dash after checking at several auto parts stores, so I had to settle with a color that matched well, but unfortunately had metallic sheen in it. As you can see from the photos, it clearly exposes even the most minuscule flaws, including where the Lexan was flushed in on the left and right sides, and the imperfection of shape on the bottom frame. I am pretty content with the way the sidewalls shaped out though, they appear pretty even and symmetric, even to my eye that is looking for it. A bit more than a week later, a section on the bottom of the LCD bezel is cracked where it was attached with Bondo. I'll probably go back and do a final clean up of all of these imperfections and re-paint when the rest of the system works... see below....
http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176bebb006.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176c0021ee.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176bfb361b.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176c03ac81.jpg http://www.mp3car.com/vbulletin/imag...176bf7b3e1.jpg
So the PC itself had been running for weeks on my desk, no problems whatsoever. I finished up moving my amp to the passenger side, running power to it (lots of help from the guys at the shop!) and went to snap in my modified bezel. I powered up the PC and had no video... I unsnapped the bezel and wiggled the flimsy cable to the monitor, it appears the locking latches were not fully latched, so color and video flickered a bit and I did see the login screen briefly, then.... nothing. Reboot, wiggle, nothing. I feared my LCD was busted for some reason, did the printed circuit board get smashed when I installed it?
5pm, over an hour late for leaving to get to my destination, I had to give up. The following Monday revealed that the LCD is just fine, but the integrated AGP video on the computer's motherboard may be shot. I'm not certain exactly at this point, but both WinXP and Ubuntu Live CD will bomb at some point, most likely something with the video as flaky stuff like this usually indicates (it kept blowing out my bios settings), but could also be an integrated USB issue.
Bottom Line at this point: No joy, silent Rubicon for over a week now, though I did have the guys at the shop get me hooked into the amp so my PocketPC phone saves the day with *some* tunes. Gonna be busy looking for warranty info for the motherboard this week. You can imagine the frustration after all that dash work! I'll post again when I get this resolved.