The Xterra Carputer Project
Last updated 5/8/2004 10:19:27 PM -Stage TWO Project coming in a few months
Navigation: Welcome and Pics of my systen in operation | Parts List | Installing the LCD | The Computer | The Shutdown Controller | Wiring Everything | Todos
Welcome, on this page, I simply outline the steps I myself took in order to install a fully integrated carputer system into my 2003 silver Xterra. This page is done as simply as possible, and although image heavy, should load with the utmost speediness since it's mostly just plain text. I want to first thank mp3car.com, you should go there after you read through this one for even more comprehensive ideas. For general xterra information, I visit Xterrafirma.com. Find a website for your particular automobile in order to find info on routing wires through firewall, etc.
Who is this webpage for?
Good question! This page is for the complete newbie to any kind of car system that's looking to install a carputer system. So if you are one of those people that have some basic knowledge of electronics (+ is positive, and - is negative), and have knowledge of making your own computer (just like me), this page is for you. Before I started this project, the biggest thing I've done with a car electronically was to jump start it. Throughout a period of a few weeks of research, I learned a way to install a complete car computer system.
Why would you do such a stupid thing?
Why does anyone do anything? Because they can! Also, I wanted GPS capability, the ability to play mp3's, divx, music videos, play SNES and other emulated games. Because I want a pleasant computer voice telling me to bust a u-turn in 200 feet if I miss a turn.
How "good" is your system?
My system at the moment definately isn't going to win any awards, but it gets the job done well. Sound-quality wise, it needs some work, because I definately took the low-end way. But I'm a guy who is satisfied with FM radio, so.... In any case, you can use some of the knowledge gleaned from here in order to create your own system, plug it into your own high end system-- I'm sure if you took that route you'd know all about wiring stuff anyway.
This is a wire connector. You put two wires in there that has a little bit of the plastic removed. You stick them both into the plastic thing and either screw it on or crimp it to force the wires to stay together. I got the screw in kind that's more cylindrical so I could reuse em.
This is by far the easiest portion. I bought the LCD first for my car so I don't lose focus on the project and end up never doing it. Having the LCD screen (which also happens to be the largest monetary worth item) should get you excited enough to do the rest of everything. Don't go cheap on the screen. It makes or breaks everything. I think thouchscreen is vital, but some people choose to use touch pads and stuff like that. I recommend the touch screen.
I used a gooseneck metal holder and mounted it to the seat. Then I put the LCD on that. After that I neatly wired the wires. I decided on this spot as opposed to the spot immediately below the radio because my shift knob would hit the screen (bad).
Pictures of how i wired the back as neatly as possible. I used black ties and black electrical tape. For the mount, I used simple metal screws with a hexagonal nut in the front AND back, holding it in place on the metal piece with a slot that is on the LCD (the hexagons slide into the slot and then clamp on).
You should already be familiar with building your computer. First, make sure it's cooled properly with the right amount of fans, and make sure everything is solid. One thing that IS different is that instead of mounting your computer case switch to the motherboard, instead you will build your own cable out of spare wires (with the plastic portion that hooks into the metal jumper things) you won't be using (probably the audio cables, take 4 cables and then splice em together by hooking the metal wires together and then twisting them, then covering the whole thing with electrical tape.
You should probably install all the important things onto the computer like the operating system and install all of the updates from windows updates. Some peopel use Linux so it's even speedier. I like windows because the software is readily available for it. Nice looking ones.
Everything else is pretty much your option. I recommend some kind of way to copy stuff from your carputer to your home, like a portable harddrive.
Jeff's site has detailed instructions on wiring. There are other shutdown controllers available, some of which eliminate the need for an inverter. Here are some pics. The whole thing is encased with a plastic enclosure box I found at radio shack that's originally for routing cable, but which I found great for my purpose.
Basically, the shutdown controller is responsible for turning on your computer when you flip the switch in the car, and then turning off your computer when you turn off your engine. All the timing is settable so that if you want a 10 minute delay so your computer is still on when you gas-up or something, it's possible. It's also wirable for immediate shutdown and turn on just in case.
The 3 wires on the left is the positive and ground wires from the battery, then joined by the IGN (the wire that turns on when the engine is on) wire from the fusebox.
The 3 wires going to the right is the small wire leading into the jumper on the motherboard with simulates the push of the button, and the two other wires go directly into the inverter (be sure to get an inverter that accepts cable, not just the cig lighter).
Pictures of the shutdown controller
This is your best friend. It's a simple twist on connection for two wires. Easy to use because you'll find you'll need to extend wires often.
This is how I tapped into the IGN fuse. I used the right side because that one goes AFTER the fuse just in case there is a short. They sell add on circuits, but it wasn't compatible with my fuse box. I just stripped the plastic, twisted the wire, and shoved it in. On the right there is another wire to my electrochromatic mirror wire from the ACC (accessories line) that's already been tapped into by the dealer (in a very similar fashion)
The battery was the scariest part. Be sure to do this part LAST after you wire everything else. Double check all connections. Remove the negative terminal. You don't necessarily need gloves or anything and you can get by using standard pliars to unscrew the nut. You also reconnect the negative terminal LAST. So the procedure is to disconnect the negative terminal, then disconnect the positive, stick in the positive line to your shutdown controller (with the fuse), tighten that, then connect your ground line to the negative. Each of the wires are 10 gauge which is thick enough to not burn up and still supply enough power to the shut down controller. Some of you with amps will already have a 4 gauge (even bigger) wires connected. These wires will typically use circle type connectors, but in my case, the nuts are made not to fall out (the screw has an extrusion at the very end), so I had to use spade type connectors.
This is where the wire comes in from the firewall, this is to the left and above my brake petals.
You can see how I organized the engine compartment wires. I used zipties. After this picture was taken I made it even neater with wire conduits. To the right of the picture you can get a glimpse of a small circular rubber hole. In my case it was located on the driver hand side.
Here is a clearer picture. You simply attach a wire with electrical tape onto a clotheshanger wire and then push it through slowly. In my case, it was paint on insulation so it was a sticky gooey mess as it entered the driver side interior, but very easy to push in. You need a flash light.
Okay these pictures look scary but in actualiy it's very simple. For the xterra, you just need to remove one plastic piece with a phillips head screw driver and pop off the plastic piece holding the carpet. The rest of the carpet uses cheap plastic clips to hold in in place. You route the wires underneath. You can pop off pretty much any, but be sure you don't lose screws.
All done! Looks pretty big but in actuality it takes very little cargo space. I'll probably mount it vertically later. The thing on to slides over the entire cargo area, hiding everything from view.
Of course my project isn't complete! It's still always being worked on. My list of things to do include:
For info on carputers and to ask questions, please visit Mp3car.com
For my personal page, please go to k06.net