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Old 05-11-2010, 12:45 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Electric Mayhem

I have exhausted my knowledge to this point. I am attempting to install a car stereo complete with amp, subwoofers and several 6x9 speakers as well as a 12 volt power source for charging phones etc while driving. I have no clue where to begin. any help would be great. Thanks!
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Old 05-11-2010, 01:28 PM   #2
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Re: Electric Mayhem

My time to shine...

Before I decided to return to school and change careers completely I used to manage the installation shop of a major Canadian electronics chain here in our city. I had achieved an advanced certification in mobile security as well as basic installer certification. If there is anything I know well it is 12V electronics. Especially competition level mobile audio, security, and remote starter applications. My brother and I have competed at the National (Canadian) level and in 1999 or so, won 5th place for sound quality using a very unique system intended for SPL (go figure). [/bragging] I have since moved on but the electrical theory remains the same.

If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask, I am sure we can all benefit from them. Hopefully this isn't too basic, if so, just skim through it:

PART 1 - MOUNTING A HEAD UNIT

First off, you need a source unit. I am not sure if your bus has a stereo or not, but you need to start with a 'deck' or source of your sound signal. This is most commonly a standard DIN size head unit that contains radio tuner, CD or DVD player, possibly a USB port for external memory, GPS, etc. This is the control center of the entire system. Mounting these in a bus can sometimes be a pain in the ass, but there are mounting brackets available to surface mount these if clearance is an issue. The typical DIN size head unit comes with a 'can', which is a square metal bracket that the actual deck slides into and locks, usually with a tab on either side. This 'can' is supposed to be an industry standard size, and most are, and can be used as a template to mark where you are going to cut into the dash or other area where you are planning to mount the head unit. Trace around the 'can' from the small end, not the one with the lip, you need that lip to keep it from falling through. Now before drilling or cutting anything, CHECK TO ENSURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH DEPTH for the head unit as well as any wires that extend out the back of the unit. It is not uncommon for people to forget this and end up with a head unit that cannot be pushed in all the way. Again, CHECK TO ENSURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH DEPTH. If by chance you didn't check and your head unit won't quite go in all the way, there are trim panels available that will go between the dash panel and the 'can' to allow your head unit to sit out from the dash. I have found that these are not the most aesthetically pleasing devices and effort should be made to avoid using them. Once you are ready to cut the opening, tape off the dash, or cabinet, or wherever you are mounting it and trace the back of the can. Drill holes in the four corners of your marking and use a jiqsaw, airsaw, or other reciprocating saw to connect the dots. Be careful while cutting to avoid wires, hoses, and other things behind the dash area. Once the hole is cut, make sure the 'can' fits in. It should fit snug, but not too tight. You also don't want it too loose or it will move around or fall through. IF you happen to cut the hole a little too big, there are panels available that are thin and are used to 'trim' around the can. They can be used to hide uneven cuts and gaps, but try not to rely on them. Once the can fits right, remove it and spray paint the front of it with black paint, or use a black marker to color it. This one simple step really sets apart a professional installation from an amateur one. Painting the front of the can black hides it and gives it a really clean look. A sliver of silver color really stands against a black trim ring on a head unit. After the can is dry, slide it into the hole and bend the appropriate tabs on the inside to lock it into the hole and secure it. Use as many of the mounting tabs as you can and try to get this really tight. Now comes the part MOST people ignore.... The head unit comes with a metal strap. It is inteded to support the back of the head unit and keep it from bouncing up and down with the vibration of the vehicle. USE IT. Attach one end to the bolt that goes in the rear center of the head unit. With this strap attached, you can bend it into position by hand, twist it if needed, and just make it fit. If you have access to the rear of the head unit after it is seated in the mounting 'can' you should secure this strap to a solid place behind the dash with a self drilling screw or bolt. If you cannot access behind the head unit after it is in place, just bend the strap to press against something solid when sliding the head unit into the can. Either way the strap will give support to the head unit and keep it from vibrating loose, knocking the laser out of alignment, and other various causes of premature head unit failure. One thing I have left out is wiring up the head unit....I will address this in the next post.
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Old 05-11-2010, 08:16 PM   #3
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Hey! Thanks for the info so far, it's been a big help already. I'm ready for the next step whenever you are!
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Old 05-11-2010, 08:46 PM   #4
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Re: Electric Mayhem

This is a great thread! I am listening closely as well. My bus has never had any stereo equipment whatsoever and I want to at least install a head unit and some speakers in the meantime. Can you touch on how to wire a head unit from scratch with no existing audio components?

Thanks so much!!
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Old 05-12-2010, 10:30 PM   #5
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Re: Electric Mayhem

I will be adding to this thread. It just takes some time to type these out. Give me a day or so. Coming up next....PART 2 - HOW TO WIRE A HEAD UNIT

I will describe how to wire them in from scratch.
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Old 06-14-2010, 01:57 PM   #6
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Oh crap...I forgot all about this thread. Sorry guys, I will get the write-up done as soon as I can. How embarrassing!
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Old 06-14-2010, 02:41 PM   #7
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Part 2 – Wiring a Head Unit from scratch
One you get your head unit mounted in a good solid location the next thing you need to do is provide it with power and get the signal to the speaker locations.

There are three wires that need to be connected to your head unit to provide it with power.

The Ground Wire - The first is the ground wire; this is usually a BLACK wire. This MUST be connected to a solid ground source otherwise you may end up with noise entering the system through what is called a ‘ground loop’, especially if you add additional amplifiers or components to the system. Ground loops are caused by differentials in voltage between ground connections. The best way to ground your system is to choose a ground location that is clean, solid, secure, and ground ALL of your stereo components to this location. Keep this in mind if you plan to add amplifiers or extra components in the future.

The Main Power Wire – The second wire that needs to be connected is the main (constant) power wire. This is usually a YELLOW wire and is connected to a CONSTANT +12V power source, one that has power regardless of the position of the key. This is important to ensure that once you set your clock and presets you don’t lose them when you turn off the vehicle. In a skoolie environment this wire should be run directly to either the battery (with a fuse installed inline within 18” of the battery) or to the +12V buss bar in the main panel area (again, fused at the source). If you want to use the stereo only while driving, connect to the chassis battery or main panel, but if you want to use the stereo while parked and not running, connect it to your house batteries. This is the wire that provides most of the current used to run the stereo as well as maintaining your presets and clock.

The Switched Power Wire – The third of the power wires is the one that is used to sense when the key is turned on. This is usually a RED wire. In a typical automotive installation, this wire is connected to a wire from the ignition switch that provides +12V when the key is in the RUN and ACC position but not in the START position. This is usually referred to the ACC wire and is used by the vehicle manufacturer to turn on heaters, radios, and other accessories. If you plan to use the stereo only while driving and you have connected your main power wire to your chassis battery, then connect this wire to the ACC wire of the ignition switch. If you want to use the stereo while parked and not running and you have connected the main power wire to your house battery bank, then you should connect this wire to the same place you connected your main power wire, but put a switch inline so that you can turn off the system and reduce parasitic loads from draining your battery bank. Again, it is important that if you connect directly to your batteries, you should add a fuse inline within 18” of the battery.

Once you have the three power supply wires connected you then need to connect speakers to the unit. If you are installing your speakers directly to the head unit, this will explain how. If you are running power amplifier(s), I will address this in a future post. Speakers should be run in pairs, one for left and one for right. Most head units are set up to power a total of four speakers, left and right in the front and left and right in the rear. Automotive speakers are usually rated at 4 ohms (resistance) each and as such, most head units are designed to power this load. Changing the load on the head unit by adding more speakers than it is designed for will overwork the head unit and possibly burn out the unit. Speakers each have two wires. While it may appear to work by connecting the two speaker wires to their respective wires from the head unit, there actually is a benefit by connecting them in proper polarity. This means that a speaker has a positive and a negative wire. The positive connection of a speaker is usually marked with a dot or red mark on the terminal. Speaker wires are usually a pair of wires bonded together with either a stripe in the insulation of one of the wires, or one silver and one copper colored wires. In the case of the wire with the stripe, the striped conductor is usually used as the negative wire and in the case of the silver/copper wires, the silver colored wire is usually used as the negative. Once you have your speakers installed and the wires run to the head unit, you will have either two or four sets of speaker wires to connect to the head unit. There is usually four sets of colored wires coming from the head unit to connect to the speakers, these are usually white, grey, green, and blue. There will be a pair of each color and one of them will have a stripe or marking on them. The striped wires are all negative and the solid colored ones are positive. I cannot remember off the top of my head which color is left/right and front/rear, but it should be in your owners manual if you have one, I will look up the color codes and update this post when I get the information.

Now that you have connected power wires and speaker wires, you can make some noise! At least from a CD. If you have a radio antenna, this should be mounted to the bus such that it extends above the roofline for optimal signal, although I have seen them mounted on a fender or cowl and work just fine. The wire for the antenna is simple, it only can plug into the head unit in one place and you will see this clearly on the rear of the head unit. If your head unit has connections for an iPod, MP3 player, or other source, you should run the wires for these according to your owners manual. There are many variations available.

Congratulations…your head unit is wired up and you should be enjoying the tunes. Just don’t forget to fuse your wires if you connect directly to your batteries or other non-fused source!
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Old 06-15-2010, 01:24 PM   #8
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkindt
I will be adding to this thread. It just takes some time to type these out. Give me a day or so. Coming up next....PART 2 - HOW TO WIRE A HEAD UNIT

I will describe how to wire them in from scratch.
I always say wet both fingers for good contact.....

Seriously, that is an excellent tutorial on how to go from scratch. I saved it to a Word document just in case....
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Old 06-15-2010, 01:28 PM   #9
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkindt
Once you have the three power wires connected
3? you mean constant, switched and dimmer?

And I see I should re-wire my stereo. Its setup for a normal vehicle operation which means it wont play when the key is off.

Also I know first hand (no pun) to FUSE EVERYTHING ASAP!!! I got my finger burnt in less then 18" from the source!
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Old 06-15-2010, 02:38 PM   #10
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Re: Electric Mayhem

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stuff
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkindt
Once you have the three power wires connected
3? you mean constant, switched and dimmer?
3 wires as in +12V constant, +12V switched, and Ground. I did not mention the dimmer wire since not all head units use one and the typical skoolie install will be wired to the house batteries and you wouldn't want the unit to be dimmed. But, now that you brought it up, you connect the dimmer wire to a +12V switched source that has power when you turn on your dash lights. This dims the lights on the head unit so that it doesn't blind you when you drive at night. Leaving it disconnected will mean that your head unit will display at full brightness. Again, not all head units will have this wire.

If anyone has any questions regarding their install, ask it here and I will try to fill in anything I may have missed.


Also, to clarify why I bring up the importance of adding a fuse within 18" of the battery, this is to protect the wiring between the power source and the head unit, not the head unit itself. If for some reason the wiring gets pinched, screwed through, or otherwise grounded out, without a fuse it will turn into a nice long heating element. Trust me, these things turn bright red and melt through their insulation and your hand or whatever else it touches within seconds. A storage battery can supply 100's of amps and that much current can light up even the thickest of wires. I don't want anyone to burn their bus down when it can be avoided so easily. In fact, with my house batteries, I ran #2 wire from the battery bank to a fused distribution block 3 feet away. The wire was run fully enclosed in PVC conduit from the battery box to within 6 inches of the fuse block. I still couldn't sleep at night knowing that there was 3 feet of unfused wire coming off of my battery bank so I added a 200 amp circuit breaker inside the battery box just in case something happens to that cable between the batteries and the fused distribution block. Check eBay, the 12V circuit breakers are not that pricy, about $10 or so, good insurance plus I can flip the switch on it to disconnect the system if I need to work on it. For the fuses, use a 15 amp unless the head unit has larger ones in it, then match what the head unit uses. Remember, this is just to protect the wiring, not the head unit. Most head units have either a fuse on the back or inline near the deck to protect it's internal circuits.
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