My Rampant Consumerism

My car, while I’m happy with it, came with a rather sad stereo system that can’t play anything more advanced than a cassette tape. I mean, give me a break. In my previous car I installed an in-dash GPS/mp3 player/radio that I was pretty happy with. But it wouldn’t fit in the Jag’s dashboard. I’m pretty happy with the solution I came up with though and maybe this could help out some of you guys driving around in older cars with outdated entertainment systems.

My solution was to get a used, first gen Nexus 7 tablet off of ebay for $100. This way I can load up all my music and podcasts on it and play it through my stereo. The problem was, my stereo didn’t have an auxiliary input. So I couldn’t just run a plug from the headphone jack into the stereo like a normal person. So how to connect the two?

I wound up finding a device that will convert a bluetooth signal into an FM radio signal that can then be listened to through the FM tuner in the car’s stereo. The device is wired directly into the 12 volt power from the car and the antennae input in the back of the stereo and hides back there, in the dashboard, completely out of sight. While I had the stereo out to install that I also wired in a USB charging cord to the 12 volt cigarette lighter and popped a short USB cable out of the top of the dashboard to power the tablet for long drives.

I also threw another device onto the ODB2 data port (the port you plug into when a check engine light comes on to see what the matter is) that feeds live data over bluetooth to the tablet so I can get real time information about what the engine is doing. This was more for the cool factor than for anything really practical. A sleek dash mount that makes it super easy to place and remove the tablet rounded off the project.

The Nexus 7 also has a GPS antenna built into it so now I always have a GPS, my entire music collection, and automatically downloaded podcasts available to listen to, plus real time engine feedback and immediate readings of any engine issues. The whole project ran me about $180. Cheaper than any in-dash unit that could do all that. Plus, unlike a factory supplied in-dash unit that will look dated in just a few years, it’s modular and upgradable, and I have a tablet I can take with me when I’m not in the car.

The Nexus has a feature so it can set reminders that will pop up on the screen when I have reached a particular GPS coordinate. Which makes it so I can do things like tell it to remind me to do something next time I’m at work, or in a particular city, or driving by a particular store. So when I’m in that area, a message will pop up reminding me of what it was. And with the tablet mounted up on the dash, it’s impossible to miss a reminder.

I don’t pay for a data cell phone plan. I’m still walking around with a dumb phone. So the tablet has no data connection while in the car. But that really isn’t a hindrance to anything I want to do with it. The only benefit I’d really get from a data connection would be lives traffic updates. But that’s not a big issue in the areas and times that I’m normally driving. And if I do want to look something up I can always pull into the parking lot of a place with free wifi.

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7 Comments

  1. Posted December 2, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Man, I need to do something similar. My car has a flipping 6 CD player, but no aux input. So when I want to listen to podcasts on a road trip, I’m rocking headphones. :(

    Did you find it easy to connect the input into your existing stereo/speakers?

    • mikeBOS
      Posted December 4, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

      It was just a matter of splicing two wires for power, and plugging another wire into the antenna input on the back of the stereo. A youtube video showed me exactly where all the screws were in my car for pulling out the stereo. Then I crossed my fingers when I went to try it out for the first time and I lucked out with it all working just as I’d expected. Mine creates a bluetooth wireless connection, they also have a model that creates an aux input that you can then mount somewhere on your dash.

  2. Random Internet Guy
    Posted December 14, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    I’d be curious to hear which software you chose to display the OBD2 information.

    Did you pick something with a full dashboard replacement or just something to access the codes?

    • mikeBOS
      Posted December 21, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      I use Torque. It accesses codes but also displays realtime data from the engine. I haven’t dove into it too deeply but it includes things like engine vacuum pressure, coolant temps, RPMs, speed, fastest 0-60 you’ve ever done, fastest 1/4 mile you’ve ever done. Stuff like that.

  3. Patrick
    Posted December 19, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    My folks just picked up a Nexus 10. What software did you pick for your GPS? Doesn’t Google Maps require an internet connection? Just trying to steer them in the right direction.

    • mikeBOS
      Posted December 21, 2013 at 4:16 am | Permalink

      Co-Pilot has an off-line option. It was a few bucks to enable voice navigation after a short trial period. Or it’s free if you don’t bother with the voice navigation. You can download maps by large regions. I have all of the north east US downloaded to mine and it takes up about 350MB. If you’re ever planning a road trip beyond your local region you can just download whatever additional regions you need when you need it, without charge.

  4. anomie
    Posted January 20, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Hey there —

    most awesome application of a Nexus 7 ever! some really subtle wiring and dashwork there! wow.
    Totally awesome.

    Do you have voice activation on the GPS? restated: How do you maneuver the GPS map thingie while driving?

    best wishes.