Friday, February 10, 2012

Amplifier case for carputer

I've read some forums where people have been using amplifier cases for their computers as cheap cases. I decided to give it a try and see if I can do the same.

The sacraficed amp!

Zotac NM10 ITX A-E

Soo many screws :)

A few shots of the amp disassembly.

And it fits... sort of. The board is about 1cm wider than the original amp board so I am not able to mount it directly to the metal plate on the bottom like i wanted to, but I think it will still work. I put the board in upside down and tested the clearances and everything should be good. I'm going to do some more work on it this weekend to see if I can get it completed and ready to be bolted in under the drivers seat.

I have a small fan that I will try to mount to get some sort of circulation and will watch the temperatures when I first fire it up to make sure it's not going to overheat. Might even throw it in the oven at 100 degrees to test for those nice warm sunny days. Of course I would never drive my car without AC on those days, but when you first get in after a long day of baking in sunlight things can get pretty warm for a while.

Let the dremeling commence!

I've been all over the forums and have read many users threads that mention using a dremel to cut into their dash components and using body filler to smooth everything out and the end result usually always comes out looking virtually stock.
Since I've never attempted anything similar myself I've been putting it off.
Well, yesterday I came across a user on named Tom_rosenback whom inspired me to start cutting into my radio bezel.
In his thread you can see where he had cut out the shape of his monitor into the bezel and was able to fill everything, sand, and paint. In my eyes, the end result is pretty amazing and I love the complete stock look of it.
With that in mind, as soon as I got off of work last night, I pulled out my old monitor set up out and started tracing. Originally I wanted to know a guestimate of what the bevel on the monitor case would look like and how much room it would take up. The following is a picture of the tracings.

In order to trace everything I had to put them face down, so this image is flipped horizontally. You can see the open space for the ashtray on the left hand side. Also the screen is smaller than the opening of the stock bezel which is the middle square drawn it. Therefore I will need to use the monitor case to keep the stock beveled look.

The following should give you an idea as to how the screen fits in with the case and stereo bezel.

Stock stereo bezel

And a picture with the monitor case

This is my first time using a dremel so I started out slow and only took a little bit off at a time. After about an hour of work i was able to get the front piece of the monitor case to fit around the stock screw holes for the bezel. My goal is to keep all stock mounting and bolting points working so when it came time to install, there was no special fabrication I would need to do.

Also, I was ble to keep all the original screw points in the screen cover so when I put the screen and circuit board back in, everything would bolt up normally.

A picture from the front.

I found that while everything fit pretty well, I was left with a pretty decent drop off from the front of the bezel to the front of the screen cover. After viewing Tom_rosenback's thread again I realized that if I wanted a stock appearance, I would need to cut more out and make everything fit at the same depth.

I started by cutting off the top piece. The cover was at the perfect height to match up with the top of the bezel.

With more cutting on the sides and some sanding on the bottom I was finally able to get the screen to fit in smoothly and match up with everything.
One regret is at the top of the screen cover, I had cut in two slits to clear the top of the bezel. Now they won't be needed anymore and I'll have to add some filler in there.

I added the back cover to the screen case and tested the fitment of everything.

I figured it looked good on the bench but I needed to see it in the car to see how everything lined up.

Passed my initial inspection. :)

It was time to add the mounting hardware that secures the radio bezel into the dash.

I had to fire up the dremel again and remove some sections from the back cover but all in all, it was a great fit. The following two pictures shows the brackets fitting perfectly with the stock screw holes.

After test fitting everything I decided to throw the monitor in and make sure everything still fits. It was perfect. The only concern I noticed is that the power cables for the light that illuminates the lcd screen are exposed to the side. I will probably tape them in or cover them in hot glue to keep them protected and prevent any rubbing against the metal bracket.

Now that everything is fitted together and looks like it will work, i'll start on applying the filler and sanding and painting the unit. I should be able to complete that by the end of the weekend. :) I'll get another post up as soon as I can.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Carputer troubles never end.

So... Finally got a nice temporary/hidden install set up for my carputer.

I put the power supply under my seat and the computer is right behind my seat. I am still able to position my seat how I like and for the most part, all the cables have been hidden.

Unfortunately I worked great for about two days and then fell into the an issue of just continuously rebooting. The screen turns on, the audio turns on, but after about five seconds the computer turns back off. Just to start the whole thing over again in 1 second.

I have set up an account with Zotac and will be attempting to get them to resolve the issue. The other idea I have is to pull a gig of memory out of my desktop and see if that changes anything.

According to one of the forums they found faulty memory causing the issue. I've tried removing the memory and firing up the system myself but that didn't resolve anything.

Oh well, I'll keep working on it and one day will have a fully functional, constantly working set up. :)

Side note. I tested and the computer will fit perfectly in a amp's enclosure I have. I'm currently using it to power the sub woofer in the living room or else I would have moved the board over. Once I get everything sorted out with Zotac, I plan to look into replacing the car sub I have hooked up to the living room stereo and then sacrificing the amp.

I'll post pics as soon as I have any progress.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back to basics


The other day, a friend and I where driving around, enjoying the wonderful 90 degree weather here in Sacramento with the windows rolled up and the AC on. We had just finished eating lunch and I started the car back up to head back to work when a loud screech emitted from under my hood.
I immediately turned off the AC and it went away. Turned it back on and it came back. It was obviously a belt issue.
Of course with the nice warm weather, rolling down the windows wasn't really a problem, and once we where moving, it was more than comfortable enough, but the belt issue drove me nuts.

A little back story:

I've had an issue with the compressor loosing bolts randomly. The last time this happened, the compressor was only be held on by one bolt.

The resolution:

So, I went strait to Kragen once I got off of work and asked about the bolts I needed. Of course they had no way of looking them up so I continued home and looked at it myself.

There was still three bolts holding the compressor to the mounting bracket, but a closer inspection showed that I had only one bolt holding the bracket to the motor. By now, the belt was making a constant whining noise and I was starting to become embarrassed to drive my car.

I had, in the past sometime, found a loose bolt and realized its from the bracket. I took that bolt back and purchased four similar as well as a belt.

I attempted to install the additional bolts back into the compressor bracket but was unable to get more than one, with "locktite" on it this time.

I figure that will work well enough until I can get a chance to install the rest. Should be soon.

All in all, it was refreshing to perform normal maintenance/repair on the car. Been a long time since I worked on something that wasn't a part of the stock car :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Just got everything working...

And the Asus AT5NM10-i died.

I'm not sure what happened exactly. One moment it was powered on, I unplugged a usb device, and the next everything shut off.

Through extensive testing :), I found the problem to be in the motherboard. There is a capacitor that is reaching temperatures hot enough to almost burn my finger, and this is within a few seconds of the board receiving power.

At first I thought it was the mount I was using, as there is a rivit near where the capacitor is located, but I bolted everything back up and checked clearance, there is over two milimeters of clearance.

So, in light of recent malfunctions, I decided to go with a different motherboard.

I will still be returning this one to get it replaced, as I'm certian I will not be able to get a refund, "purchased last December", and will find another use for it.

And now on to better news.

Behold, The replacement!!

I'll get a write up soon for how this board performs and how the over all system works.

On a side note,

The bluetooth module came it today. I will have pics and info up soon.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carputer Installed


After waiting for what felt like eternity,

My Carputer is installed!.
I purchased the M4-ATX from Amazon on Friday, over-nighted it so I could get it Saturday, and then started the install Sunday morning.

At first I didn't think it was going to be that hard. I mean, honestly, how hard could it be to place a computer into a car? I expected the mounting of the monitor was going to be the most challenging thing but to my surprise, that was by far the easiest part.

I started by hacking apart an old mini ATX case and using the metal from that as mount points for the motherboard, power supply, and monitor.

Originally, i expected to put the computer in the trunk somewhere, and maybe one day it will find it's way there, but as of now, i didn't have the extension cables I needed to run the monitor, so it is now located in the Dash.

I prefer the Dash location, but I have a feeling that as soon as I get my radio cover, I'm going to find that I have a lot less room.

Either way, we'll see when the time comes.

So for now, the car computer is installed, and it plays internet radio "Pandora", and mp3's :-)
I have a couple more orders from amazon that I'm waiting on and will update once they arrive.

Also, I will write a full write-up once I get some time.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beer + Arduino = Remote Entry

Well, all it took was three beers, a little bit of reading, and some testing to get my Nike+iPod set up as an iFob device for remote entry on my car.

I followed the tutorial over at Sparkfun and purchased an Arduino Duemilanove, a Nike+iPod device, a Serial to USB adapter, and a soldering Iron. The first step was to solder jumpers to the four ports on the Nike. Then i fired up the included *.PDE from the Sparkfun tutorial, set the unique id for my footpad, and powered everything on.

At first it appeared that nothing was working. The status lights that lit up on the Serial to USB connected where no longer firing, and the LED pins where not doing anything special. I of course called my programming friend over at this time and we took a look at it. After a lot of beer and many hours, neither of us could figure out why the two devices weren't talking.

Well, the other day I came across another tutorial on interfacing a serial device to the Arduino and noticed that they mentioned an interesting fact. The TX of the device was supposed to be connected to the TX on the Arduino.

Well, now that I have reset everything that we worked on while debugging the device. Re-uploaded the original PDE, and connected LED's to the pins that are supposed to lock/unlock the doors. I gave it a try. And success. It was just a matter of connecting the device up correctly. Another thing to note is that the status lights on the Serial to USB device will not light up for communications on the Serial port, just on the USB port. So, don't do like I did and use those as a troubleshooting tool.

From arduino

A short Video of it working.
From arduino

Next step, install into car.

Intel Atom + 2Gb Ram + Touchscreen = Carputer

I finally did some work on the the Carputer setup this weekend. While I am not too happy about having to use Windows for my operating system, I am impressed with Centrafuse, the "front End" software that will be my interface in the car. At $80, the front end is reasonably priced, especially for all the features it includes. In addation to the stock features, you can download the SDK and start developing your own plugins and skins, customizing the look, feel, and overall function of the suite.

Current Hardware setup:

Intel ATOM D510
2x 1Gb RAM PC2-6300
32Gb SATA SSD - Adata
Space Navigator
7" Touch Screen

Future Hardware:
USB Hubs

Software setup:

Windows 7 Ultimate
Google Chrome
PDANet for internet via Droid.


Centrafuse comes with built in support for many car/hands free operations. When it first launches, after a complete reboot, it takes a minute for it to load the plugins and of course there is that nice little warning prompt you have to get through. Once that is complete, about 5 seconds, your ready to start enjoying all the benefits it has to offer, Including...

GPS navigation
Audio playback with visualations,
Video playback
Web browsing.
Picture Browsing,
Graphic Equalizer
Pandora - (User generated plugin)

There are many more features, but I haven't had a chance to test all of them. Once I get the rest of the Hardware required, i'll post more information.

All in all, the system runs great, from pressing of power button to full boot, it takes 23 seconds. Standby takes 10 seconds to show screen and be usable but the music resumes playing after 1 second. Centrafuse was extremely responsive, with minor glitches on the visual effects here and there, not bad considering the graphics are embedded in the processor. The interface was more than touch friendly and looked great at 800/600. I toyed with the idea of running a higher resolution but realized at this point there is no need.

I hope to have everything in my car within a month. Of course this is also about the same time I expect to be pulling out the engine but that project should only take a few months. (keeps fingers crossed). Once I have some miles on the system i'll try to remember to post a complete write-up on the performance and usability of the system while driving. Next step will be to install a guardrail avoidance system. :-)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Learning Permit acquired!

I have been devouring information from the forums every day, (Mainly and reading about anything I could find for setting up a turbo. I have learned many interesting aspects that need to be measured and calculated for the setup I am attempting to build. Below is my current shopping list for the engine and some other aspects of the car I plan to work on. Please leave comments or suggestions. I am always open to ideas and learning.

[XXXXXXXX--]80% - Planning
[----------]0% - Fabrication

I plan to start posting as much information as I can find from the sites I've read. Mainly to securely store it all in one location as well as provide a source for others whom are interested in following the same route. I've noticed that there are a lot of people whom jump on the forums and start posting questions, I myself felt tempted to do the same. That is until I noticed that there was a bit of animosity towards noobs posting simple questions. It wasn't that the question was easy or hard to answer, the frustration from most of the veteran'd users was that the information was already posted somewhere, nested in a thread, and if the new user had done a little bit of searching, they would have been able to answer their own question. I have sat down and read thread after thread on the same subject, spending hours to answer simple basic questions. Thankfully i was able to dedicate the time and enjoy spending time in front of the computer. But for those who would rather grab an answer and head on their way, I hope this blog can assist with that. Also I find a lot of sites that reference photos in their "How to's" but when the page loads, the photos are missing. I hope to be able to repost those photos so we don't loose them to an old, abandoned post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yay... working windows.

I have gone five years now without working windows. In 2007 I wired up some toggle switches to the motors themselves and had them sot of working, but it was a terrible setup and one day I finally grew frustrated and ripped them out. Now that I have focused my finances on my car, I decided the first thing I needed to fix was the windows. I knew that the power amp assembly had gone out and it was just a matter of replacing it.

I picked one up from Courtasy Nissan, for $90 shipped. Installed it and turned the key to the ignition spot and clicked the window button. Nothing happened. Of course i felt that moment of fear that maybe this was more than just the power amp assembly. Upon further investigation, i found that the fusable link that is up in the engine bay was burned out. Replaced that and it works! I had to stick a spring under the "auto-down" button as what ever kicks it back up was broken. On the passenger side if you pull up on the switch, the window rolls down, but you can't roll it up. At this point though, I don't really care.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Clean seats... what a difference

I pulled my seats out and shampooed both the seats and the floor carpet. It took about 12hr's but the outcome was worth it. Below is a serious of before/after photos. Its been about two weeks and my car still smells amazing when I get into it. I plan to re-shampoo in a couple of weeks, to get rid of the layer that has now been pulled to the top.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Body work... one day at a time.

The Body:

Currently, I have body panel damage down the entire passenger side. In the picture above you can see that the front fender was crunched, the door got swiped and there is a large dent on the rear fender. Actually there are a few large dents on the rear fender.

I recently purchased a door from a user on the NICO forum. It arrived with a few minor dings and some paint missing from the bottom of it. I am leaving it off the car as of now until I get the rest of the body damage repaired.

It was a great deal and I couldn't pass it up at the time. I am also looking for a front fender, hopefully in great shape. The rear fender will also have to be replaced but I plan to send it to a body shop as the welding and cutting involved will be far beyond my current skill set.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Interior

Current List of current missing/broken parts on the interior:

Missing center console cover. - I currently have the new one - need to mold it to fit to my screen. Should start working on it soon.
Stereo wire showing everywhere. - Still haven't resolved this
Shift boot tattered
Shift knob from Kragen - needs to be replaced
Holes in shifter area cover. - attempted to install switches, didn't work out.
Holes in door pieces. -
installed tweeters in wrong location. - Tweeters are now in their correct location, need to deal with old install holes.
Seats in terrible shape - Cleaned, they look great now
rear deck cover vibrates - fixed, the Rear top seat needed to be connected to the bottom seat.
steering wheel falling apart
Speedometer doesn't work - since 2003 - Indiglow gauges (terrible idea)

I plan to slowly replace or repair all the issues that I am currently having with the interior. Eventually I will start a couple of projects that should improve the overall appearance and functionality of my interior. I will post more information about them soon.


This is the stock KA24DE on my 95 240sx. Since i acquired the car in 2003 I have had to replace the timing chain, water pump, radiator, and valve cover gasket. As of today, it runs great on the cooler days, bogs down quite a bit on warm summer days, and eats through oil. I haven't done a compression test in a few years but the last time i tested it, #4 was sitting around 135psi, 20psi less than the other three cylinders.

My speedometer broke shortly after purchasing the car, leaving the mileage in 2003 around 135,000. With all the driving I tend to do, i'm assuming I'm over 200,000 at this point.

Current modifications = None, with the exception of a cut air-box, although i'm pretty sure this is limiting my power, not improving it.

Plans = Turbo setup. I plan to pull the engine, rebuild with forged parts, have the head worked on, and set everything up for a T3/T04E 50trim, .63 A/R. I would like to push somewhere between 300 - 400hp, but still maintain daily driving ability. I will be looking into doing the "White Bunny" setup to hold the power and keep my leg from breaking. My average daily miles are 25, leaving me yearly, to and from work, at 6,500 miles. I do like to take it on trips occasionally so I expect my average for a year will be around 8 - 10,000 miles. I hope that the setup I'm working on will be strong enough to not cause many problems driving this much.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Master Plan

As of now, current planning includes keeping the stock motor and rebuilding it. I know that since I have owned it, I have kept the Oil up, replaced a few parts, and have maintained it as well as I could while running it hard.

Ultimate Goal:

Rebuild the engine for a turbo and push anywhere from 300 - 400whp. Simple but solid suspension. Clean interior, and improve the overall appearance of the car.

Current status of car:

As of now, I have been hit three times, once rear-ended, once side-swiped in a parking lot, and then backed into in a parking lot. The rear bumper shows no real sign of damage but the entire passenger side has suffered decent body damage. Nothing happened at high speeds so I am not too concerned with the frame. Need to just have the body panels replaced.

The engine is probably sitting around 200,000 miles as the spedo broke at 130,000 in 2003. The compression in chamber 4 is 20lbs lower than the rest of the chambers and there is plenty of oil being burned.

I have been through three cheep clutches from Auto zone and have no intention of sticking with that idea. The Synchros in the transmission are obviously warn and there is a whine when ever I am moving or the clutch is disengaged. I expect that to be a bearing. I hear a clicking from the rear passenger tire when I first start to accelerate.

The interior has received minor smoker damage, but I quit smoking in my car about a year ago. The drivers side window doesn't seal correctly. I plan to have that looked at. The seals on the rear window are missing the cover piece.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where it started

I accidentally purchased my 95 Nissan 240sx in 2003.

I had gone to a few different dealerships and had finally settled on a 2000 Dodge Neon. When I returned to work, I explained to a few of my coworkers that I was working getting a loan to buy the Neon and thankfully one of them explained to me how terrible of a decision that would be. He further convinced me to actually hand him the $5,000 I had in the bank at the time and that he would go out of town for the weekend and return with an impressive car. Gullible me, I handed him the money and waited for a phone call from him.

I did get a little worried when Sunday came around and it was 7:00pm and I still hadn't heard from him. If he didn't work with me then I probably would have started to make some phone calls. But he did finally call, around 9:00pm and asked me to meet him at the front gate. At the time I was in the military and he wasn't able to drive the car on base until it was registered in my name. He picked me up and we went out to his house that was located off base. When we pulled up, I fell in love. Sitting in the dark was a sexy looking rear end with a much too large muffler. I jumped out of his car quickly and ran up, running my hands down the long curves of the body. He sat down in the drivers seat and I jumped as the motor roared to life. I was hooked, grinning from ear to ear, listening to that thing purr. We took it out for a quick spin, at which point he showed me how easy it was to break the back tires loose and how solid the acceleration was, which at the time was more than enough to throw my head into the head-rest.

The rest was non-stop fun and entertainment as I took that car all over Texas and New Mexico. It ran great, beat everything out on the street, including the newer V-6 Eclipse's. I was in heaven... that is until i started to notice a few things going down hill.

Since those original first couple of years, my 240 has been on a steady decline. As of now it gets me to and from work, with occasional fun on rainy days.