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Ask Slashdot: How To Add New Tech To Old Van? 212 212

First time accepted submitter Dslice_allstar writes "I have a '77 GMC Van that I would like to take into the 21st century with some good tech. I have several large LCD monitors, and I want to hook at least one up for watching movies and doing some mild PC gaming. I am concerned about power, i.e. using an inverter and not frying the computer every time the van starts/stops, and I'm worried about whether the alternator will support a computer/monitor setup as well as LEDs and the like. Would a UPC backup be a good idea? I would also like to be able to play music over the sound system, preferably off the computer. Should I be thinking mini ITX HTPC, or would a netbook better serve my purposes? How would you all pimp out an old conversion van?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Add New Tech To Old Van?

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  • Free Candy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lexsird (1208192) on Friday June 29, 2012 @06:05AM (#40491729)

    You could put "Free Candy" on the side with LEDs. Also, you could put a good wifi antenna on it so when you are down by the river, you still have internet to stalk with.

    All joking aside, go with a deep cycle marine battery array with it's own alternator. I worked in a surveillance van for a P.I. company back in the early 90s. That was back when video cameras were huge like boom boxes and recorded onto magnetic cassette tapes. It provided enough power to run the cameras and a little fan to blow on me while I cooked in the oven-like heat. Consider that marine tech, because I'm sure it's advanced, people far out in the water don't like to fuck around. Think about it.

    Do the world a favor and keep all the distracting gizmos away from the driver seat area. We have enough retards on the road already without someone in a monster derelict van, like a douche-nozzle watching TV while driving. Both hands at 10 and 2, with eyes roving the road and mirrors please.

  • by Snjit (18259) on Friday June 29, 2012 @07:00AM (#40491937) Homepage

    Check out your local high end car stereo shop. There are off the shelf products that will resolve all your issues; battery isolators, second alternator, inverters, regulators, etc. They'll be able to give you good advice on wiring paths and proper mounting of your equipment as well so its solid.

  • Re:Do it HAM style (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Friday June 29, 2012 @08:11AM (#40492269) Homepage Journal

    In modern cars there just isn't enough space in the engine compartment to install that much crap.

    Good thing the OP has an old van, then, eh?

  • by DoctorTuba (688153) on Friday June 29, 2012 @10:59AM (#40494119)
    Surging can be handled, but even a high output (180 amp or greater) engine alternator won't be able to deal with the load. That's why auto manufacturers are looking at moving to 24 or 28 volt systems in the near future. I won't get into the inverter issue but I'll make a suggestion on the 12 volt supply side for your toys.

    1. Power your kit from a small bank of sealed automotive batteries (gel or AGM) which can be mounted in any orientation and safer than traditional wet batteries. If you plan on pulling power from them for extended periods without recharging (eg gaming all night) consider deep cycle batteries. Build secure mounts for them in the back of your van so they don't move around and have some protection in case of an accident..

    2. Charge these batteries with a high output alternator driven from the driveshaft (do a web search on "driveshaft driven alternator"). This will only charge your batteries while the van is moving, but I do assume you're planning on driving it some of the time.

    3. If you don't know how to hook up the batteries in parallel, or attach them to the alternator, or how to correctly size, crimp, and route the wiring find someone who does and do it right. Screwing up here could make things a little more intense than you'd like.

    Doing it this way has a number of advantages. The two big ones are:
    1. The system is completely isolated from vehicle electrics so, for example, completely draining the rear batteries won't keep you from starting the van.

    2. Having the batteries and alternator both at the rear of the van makes the wiring easier.

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