This is a project that I have been working on bit-by-bit for a couple of months now. I can't say that I really recommend taking on this project, but as an IT nerd, I looked at it as a challenge
I was pretty dissatisfied with the built in stereo / DVD combo and was looking to replace it with something better. When I started shopping around, I had no idea just how expensive these RV units were! Pretty crazy considering that you could get better quality car audio gear for the same price or less.
My goal was to outfit my trailer for less than $200. I started collecting pieces off eBay and spare parts from stuff I had lying around the house. As I started tinkering, the scope of the project got bigger and bigger. I decided that I wanted to go beyond just an A/V replacement and add a digital media hub and some network capability.
I wanted the wireless gear so that I can connect to any freely available wireless access points, my home network, or even my hot spot on my cell phone, and repeat that signal to a private wireless network inside my trailer. DD-WRT
is an open source firmware replacement for certain stock routers and access points that can make this happen. It works pretty well and since DD-WRT
allows you to increase the output of the radios, I can take a weak signal and amplify for all my other devices.
If you haven't heard of Raspberry Pi
, its an incredibly inexpensive and powerful computer mother board about the side of a pack of playing cards. Geeks have been using it to run all sorts of projects by installing Linux on it. One particularly popular project it to install XBMC
on it and build an inexpensive home media center that can stream content from your home machine or a local hard drive. I figured this would be handy for putting a bunch of movies on for the kids (and adults) for rainy days so I wouldn't have to carry DVDs. (Of course I kept a DVD player just in case or for getting a Red Box movie if needed).
Here is what I ended up picking up or scavenging from my parts bin:
- JVC KD-X80BT Stereo (AM/FM/USB/Aux/Bluetooth/Pandora) - $138
- Clarion VS715 DVD (New-Old stock) - $49
- Raspberry Pi
Board running XBMC
- 10 Port USB hub - $9
- Dual female panel mount USB adapter - $7
- 8GB class 10 SD card - $0 (had in my parts bin)
- 10' HDMI cord - $0
- 32GB USB flash drive - $0
- Cigarette lighter USB charger and mini USB cord - $0
- Linksys WRT54G (installed with DD-WRT
) - $0
- Linksys WAP54G (installed with DD-WRT
) - $0
- Various cords, cables, wire and connectors - $10
- Black 1/8" Plexiglas from the local hardware - $4
TOTAL $252 (Scope creep killed the budget. Good thing I had a bunch of the stuff in my parts bin or this would have cost me around $340-$350).
Here is the original radio / DVD combo. There are two trim rails on the side that can be removed. Mine had 4 pocket screws per trim rail - 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom.
The wiring behind there was a mess. I had to splice in some extensions to allow for more room. No wonder why some trailers have electrical problems with all the cheap quick connects they use! You can see the holes where the pocket screws were removed to make the opening wider.
Dry fit of my new MDF trim panel. I used just a plain 3/4 piece to do all the fitting and finish until I can get with my dad in his workshop to route the door out like I did for the TV.
In order to gain access to all the new gear I was installing, I wanted to make a drawer system to slide everything out. I built this unit with two sets of 14" drawer slides I got from Lowes. This allows me to pull the unit out about 25" in total.
Here is a side view of the whole drawer filled with my new gear. I have my Bluetooth Stereo, DVD Player, Raspberry Pi XBMC unit (under the DVD), Wireless Bridge and Wireless Router tightly installed. Everything that plugs in (power, speaker wire, etc.) uses trailer wiring plugs so I can can easily disconnect and remove the whole unit if necessary.
Here is a top view of the whole thing.
All installed! I don't have the labels on the panel here, but the first switch is power for the whole A/V stack (radio, DVD, and Pi). The second switch is the power for the wireless bridge. The third switch is for the wireless router. Next is the panel mount USB adapter. The top USB goes to the radio so you can play MP3s and such of a USB memory stick if you want, and the bottom USB is for the Pi unit to load movies from. Finally, I added a panel mount 1/8" jack for the radio in case you want to play music from an iPod or a phone that is not Bluetooth connected.
Up and running with XBMC.
Of course, I have some things left to do like replace the door panel with one routed to look like the others. But I think I may run an external antenna for my witless bridge so that I get it farther away from my router and make is easier to pick up signals. I think I will run it up and out to the TV antenna and mount it to the side of the crank-up mast. But that is a project for another day. I will run it as is for now and see how it works out.