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Thread: 2004 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Worklog

  1. #1
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    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...
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  2. #2
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    Current install...

    Current install is:
    - A recently purchased Alpine iDA-X001 head unit. My intention was to use a laptop hard drive in a USB2 external enclosure, however something in how the HU stores info doesn't store resume info on the drive I was using. Resume works fine on a 512K USB2 flash drive though. Although the HU is probably the best available for iPod integration, its still a bit clunky to navigate with either iPod or hard drive/flash drive.
    - An older Kenwood 250W amp that drives the factory sub located in the center console.
    - Factory front dash speakers, and an off-brand of speakers that I'm unhappy with that replaced the factory ones overhead.
    - Windshield mounted holster for my XV6700 PPC phone.
    - Cheapo radar/laser detector from 6 years ago ($36!)

    Some current pics...






  3. #3
    Maximum Bitrate sporty_drew's Avatar
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    Welcome. That is one clean looking Jeep.. It looks like you have plenty of room for a nice screen in your dash, if you want to move the ac controls or get rid of the vents. I moved my ac controls (in a camaro tho) but if you have a place to put them that is what i would recommend. What size screen are you looking at putting in? Are you worried about theft? What are the other components you plan on using and where are they going to be mounted? I'm asking because with a little more info you'll get alot of help.
    1998 Camaro Worklog Starting over, New setup for 2010

  4. #4
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    Planned Install

    Hi Drew, thanks for the welcome. I'm usually making my posts when I'm too tired to hold my head up, so they have not been as thorough or inclusive as I would like them to be. I believe I'll be answering most of your questions in this post, so here goes...

    Components already purchased / obtained:
    - Via EPIA-EX1500G
    - 1GB RAM
    - 80GB Seagate Momentus 5400RPM HD
    - M2-ATX 160W power supply
    - VoomPC-2 Mini-ITX case
    - 7" Lilliput 629GL-70NP LCD Touchscreen
    - 2nd center dash bezel (was unable to obtain any used/junked within a reasonable time)

    The PC part is pretty much built and finished, and able to be mounted at its intended location beneath the driver's seat when the rest of the stuff is ready. I plan to use Centrafuse for the front end.

    To do/buy:
    - Smart Cat ProŽ 4 Button + 4 programmable hotlinks Glidepoint Touchpad to be mounted on vertical surface of center console. I'm hoping this will give me one button and gesturing capabilities to *quickly* control volume, media, and launch applications, complimenting the touch screen.


    - 4 Channel Amp. Space is extraordinarily limited, so I'm looking at the new Alpine PDX-4.100 digital amp to power the sub and the speakers. Very open to suggestions for other size-applicable amps, I just haven't been able to find any smaller.


    - USB external port connectors which will I'll probably mold into the blank panel next to the rear wiper panel.

    - Speakers - Probably Polk Audio marine grade speakers. 2 to replace the overhead roll bar speakers and 2 to place in Jeep specific "Mod Pod" below and forward of doors.


    - USB GPS receiver

    The Plan, reasoning, and excuses:

    Display
    I toiled with this decision for quite a while for a number of reasons. I had considered moving the vents and/or the a/c controls, but decided that since I would have to actually cut the structure of the dash, that it would be beyond what I could reasonably accomplish, and I would like to be able to put everything back to showroom configuration if I ever get a new Rubicon. Looking back at the picture now, its very tempting, but the LCD is in hand and disassembled, so no going back now!
    Oh, I also considered a 1DIN pop-out touchscreen, but they would cover the vents, and simply were not aesthetically appealing to me. I want a sleek and clean look.



    Big question:
    I should have some spare room to recess the display by possibly an inch or so. Should I? Making it recessed will certainly make fabrication more difficult. Will the "hood" it creates really help to reduce glare or benefit otherwise?
    When I eyeballed the LCD the other night, I began thinking that I might benefit from a slight upward angle for a more direct view of the screen possibly increasing visibility, but this could also backfire given the increased glare. Any thoughts?

    Envisioning flush



    Envisioning a slight angle



    So the center bezel was ordered yesterday and should be here soon. I think that I'll be using the bumper repair / ABS type of material for fabrication. It appears messier, but makes sense to me to use similar materials.

    With regards to theft, I'm not overly concerned. Most people won't be able to see whats under the seat very easily, and if their mind is set to take it, they would probably have to "case the joint" so to speak to have time to unmount all these fixed objects. My biggest concern is splashing and moisture on the rare and inevitable occasion that I get caught in the rain with the doors off and top down.

    Unresolved so far:

    - IR receiver for LCD - Where how to place it. There is not enough room in terms of height clearance for that lower section of the display (buttons and IR receiver), so the board has been disconnected for now, and the display housing will be subject to the Dremel very soon. Looks like I may have to de-solder the IR sensor and find out the max distance I can run the wires for relocation and gauge of wire I should use.

    - Once the decision for the angle of the display has been made, I'll need a good plan and technique for fabricating the center bezel so that I cut only where necessary and so that it will be shaped symmetrically. If its recessed or top is angled, it whats the best slope and curve to use?

    - How best to attach the LCD controller board to the LCD - Double stick foam tape?

    More to follow... My goal is to have the dash complete, with all hardware installed by June 29, 2007.

  5. #5
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    Desktop power

    I've gotten pretty sick of seeing the jumble of wires from the open PC case and ATX power supply on my desk, so I made an attempt at the homebrew power supply for when the PC is outside of the car (per the FAQ on this site) tonight without success due to lack of parts. Its not worth the risk of getting myself zapped simply because of my compulsion to clear my desk. I'll gather the proper connectors and switches instead of trying to keep track of which wire is touching what.

    Spare center dash bezel arrived today, so I hope to decide on how to mount and shape the LCD section by the middle of next week.

  6. #6
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    Update...

    Power from desktop / Case progress:
    Found some parts I needed to use my spare ATX power supply to test startup/shutdown sequences and use for power outside of the car. I followed the FAQ here and it works perfectly. Windows XP Hibernate mode seems to work well and re-starts very quickly (under 15 seconds or so), at least so far.
    This enabled me to finally close up the case and gets some clutter off of my desk.
    A few things I will need to deal with eventually:

    - One of the two case fans that came with the case was completely broken at the shaft when it arrived, no big deal because....

    - The case fans that came with the case are obnoxiously loud. Like really LOUD. I'm certain I would be able to hear them clearly over the engine. I found some promising, uber-quiet replacements that I'll order soon. I don't believe I will have a problem with heat so long as I can keep air moving through, even if its slow.

    - The case, while certainly more convenient than making one myself, leaves a number of things to be desired from both an engineering and practicality standpoint. I won't spend time detailing here, but its enough for me to ask WTF? to the designers, especially given the price.


    LCD Touchscreen and bezel Fabrication update:

    - I took to the dremel to cut away the button portion of the LCD housing since it wont fit. I also had to cut away some of the back part of the housing as well. I re-assembled the unit without connecting cables to test the depth and overall fit available to me with the new size. Looks like I'll have about 20mm of depth from the surface at the top of the LCD. Maybe someone with geometry skillz can figure out the actual angle (110mm of height, 0mm from surface at bottom, 20mm from surface at the top). I drew it out on paper and it looks like it might be a 12 or 15 degree angle. (the only math skillz I have are knowing I have exactly zero math skillz!)

    I'll post the pics for all of this tonight or tomorrow night.

  7. #7
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    Pics








    That should do for now. I expect first cut of the dash bezel sometime tomorrow...

  8. #8
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    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.

  9. #9
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    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.

  10. #10
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    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...



    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.



    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....





    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.

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