Category Archives: How To Guides

Need to know how to do something? These How To Guides will help!

Doggy Air Conditioning

Alaskan Malamutes don’t like the heat – they were born to be in cold environments.

Especially Eska:

Eska

With this in mind, it was time to modify the existing air conditioning to make it more doggy friendly!

This modification is done in two parts. The first part revolves around diverting the air flow from the rear footwell and the second part is around making the pipework to get the cold air in to the back of the car.

Part One – Diverting the air flow

The rear section of the centre console contains two vented outlets for the heater / air conditioning to warm or chill the feet of the rear seat passengers. You can see the vents just under the cup holders in this picture.

Photo-2014-06-29-15-57-29_2232

I can count on one hand the number of passengers I’ve carried in the rear of the car in the last year so not being able to heat / chill their feet was not something I needed to worry about.

It was time to get inventive and work out a way of diverting that cold air conditioning flow to the boot / trunk area of the car where Eska travels.

Removing the rear cover (some US versions of the Nitro have a power outlet here, the Euro spec Nitros don’t have this option) revealed a nice big hole in which I could install a new pipework outlet.

Photo-2014-06-29-15-57-35_2233

The next step was to disconnect the battery.

Hidden underneath the centre console is the control module for the air bags. You do not want these going off accidentally. Disconnect the battery and leave it 30 minutes before doing anything else.

With the battery removed and airbag capacitors discharged it was time to remove the centre console and see what sort of pipework was in place for the rear vents already.

There is one pipe that runs down the right hand side of the centre console, then splits in two to feed the left and right footwell (note the airbag module with the yellow warning sticker in the middle).

Photo-2014-06-29-16-05-57_2234The top end of the vent pipe connects to the heater / air con outlet under the dash.

Photo-2014-06-29-16-05-59_2235

The pipe simply unclips to remove it completely.

Photo-2014-06-29-16-07-00_2236

You can see how it sits under the console in this picture.

Photo-2014-06-29-16-17-23_2237

It’s the full width when placed underneath.

Photo-2014-06-29-16-17-35_2238

The hard part now was working out where best to cut this pipe along its length in order to attach my new pipework. The pipe is all manner of diameters and it changes shape in both height and width along its length so some careful measuring was required.

My plan was to cut the OEM pipework and attach 40mm plastic pipe in order to keep a high air flow going.

I took the plunge and after much (much) careful measuring, I made the cut at the point where the original pipe was as close to 40mm in diameter as possible, and on a straight, not one of the many bends and kinks in the pipe.

Photo-2014-06-30-20-57-46_2246The reason for making the cut as close to a 40mm diameter is apparent in this picture.

Photo-2014-06-30-20-57-50_2247

You’ll notice the OEM pipe is square, my new pipe was round. A little heat applied to the OEM pipe soon fixed that and allowed a near-perfect fit.

Photo-2014-06-30-20-59-47_2248

The tiny gaps on the edge were sealed with silicone sealant.

Putting the new pipe in place and refitting the centre console allows you to see what length to cut the new pipe too.

Photo-2014-06-30-21-04-15_2249

Make sure you cut the pipe back far enough to allow room for a 90 degree bend in order to kick the pipe upwards.

The finished pipe will look something like this. You’ll notice I’ve used push-fit connectors. This is to allow the ducting to simply “plug in” to the rear of the console and will allow easy fitting and easy removal. More on that later.

Photo-2014-06-30-21-26-55_2253

Part of the centre console will need cutting out (don’t worry, this gets hidden later on) to allow for the new pipe work to sit quite high up inside the console.

Photo-2014-06-30-21-40-18_2254

Then a neat hole needs to be cut in the cover for the new pipe to exit.

Photo-2014-06-30-21-16-52_2250

Which when tidied up, re-assembled and finished should look almost like the factory put it there!

Photo-2014-07-01-21-08-03_2274

And that concludes the hard part! The next bit is easy in comparison 🙂

Part Two – Ducting for the rear

Now we need to get the air from the back of the centre console, up and over the rear seats, while imposing as little as possible on any potential rear seat passengers as possible.

First things first, we have just one air outlet on the centre console, this needs splitting in to two in order to supply a nice even flow of air to the rear.

Because no one makes a 40mm Y-piece I had to make an offset arrangement which looks a little odd on its own, but is required in order to give us centralised air distribution.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-20-52_2275

To the left side of this pipe (in the above picture) then we attach a single straight piece. This straight piece literally then “plugs in” to the centre console. The two new outlets will sit at the back of the rear seat base.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-25-25_2277

And from another angle.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-25-30_2278

All that remains now is to fit two upright pieces of pipework and attach some 90 degree bends with very short straights attached to them to get the air over the back seat. You’ll notice the two rear seats are still completely usable.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-37-26_2279

The end result then is lots of nice, cold, air-conditioned air being pumped directly (and evenly) in to the rear section of the car for Eska.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-39-43_2282

Which makes things so much more comfortable for her in the (occasional) warm weather we have here in the UK.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-39-37_2281

You’ll have seen from the pictures that you essentially lose the centre rear seat but I doubt many people use that anyway so it should be no real sacrifice.

However, even if you do need the centre rear seat, the end result of this mod also allows you to install or remove the pipework in less than thirty seconds as it just plugs in to the console with no tools required.

Photo-2014-07-01-21-40-45_2283

Cool.

Literally 😎

Parrot MKi9200 kit

I’ve been looking for a way to get decent audio quality from my iPhone through the car radio for a while now.

Dodge make a “Uconnect kit” but after a couple of attempts at purchasing the required items to install the Uconnect kit (the UK spec models are very different from the USA ones), coupled with some bad luck on eBay, I had to abandon the Uconnect idea.

I was keen to keep the existing radio as no thief would wish to steal it so my car won’t get broken in to. I was also keen to not have to use the iPhone itself, it can be fiddly to use while driving, not to mention it’s very unsafe, even when mounted on the dash correctly.

Looking around at my now limited options I came across one possibility, the “Harman Kardon Drive + Play” kit. You’ll have to Google that one as it’s since been discontinued. It looked ideal, but it was first produced in 2009 so the technology behind it is a few years old now and knowing HK, they won’t have updated the firmware to keep up with current iOS versions.

It was then that I came across the Parrot MKi9200 kit.

There are just waaaayyy too many features on this kit to list here (so I recommend you check out the MKi9200 site), but here’s how it looks.

parrot-mki9200What you have is a small screen mounted on the dash, then a (dual noise cancelling) microphone and a wireless controller.

This combination of wireless control and external screen is what sold me on the idea, that plus the excellent iPhone integration.

Inside the box is all manner of goodies.

Dscn2179You get a detachable screen plus mount, the remote control buttons, microphone, multi-input cable (iPhone connect, 3.5mm connector, usb connector), a soft case for the screen, a Parrot Blue Box (the brains of the outfit) and a huge harness for connecting to your car radio.

Usually with Parrot kits you would unplug your existing radio, plug the Parrot harness in to the radio, then plug your car harness in to the Parrot so that the Parrot audio is in-line.

I didn’t want to do that for a number of reasons, the main one being that I still wanted volume level control via the steering wheel at the very least.

Separating out the harness will give you a clearer idea of what’s happening here.

Dscn2181The cables on the right hand side are basically audio in and audio out, as Parrot intended your existing car audio to pass through their Blue Box so they can mute the radio etc when a call comes in.

As I intended using the iPhone as the only music source in the car, it automatically mutes itself when a call comes in, so this cabling wasn’t required. All I was interested in were the few wires on the left hand side of the picture as they are line-out wires. The wires in the middle are power, etc.

My intention was to run the Line Out cables from the Parrot Blue Box to the AUX in on the radio, therefore giving me the best possible audio quality and allowing me to keep steering wheel volume controls.

There was a slight catch though. For reasons known only to themselves, Parrot do not have RCA plugs on their line-out cables. They are just bare wires. I’m pretty sure this is of no use to anyone so I’ve no idea why they do it.

With this in mind, I bought a good quality RCA-to-3.5mm cable and cut the RCA plugs off the end.

Dscn2172

I then soldered the 3.5mm plug wires on to the Parrot line out cables.

Dscn2175

What I was then left with was an over-engineered solution, but a great solution none the less 🙂

Quite simply, my iPhone docks in to the Brodit holder which in turn is plugged in to the 30-pin Apple connector on the Parrot kit. The Parrot kit then plugs in to the AUX port on the front of the existing radio.

What I then have is a nice little external screen which shows details of the current track being played, (along with the album cover art!), plus all the Parrot phone menus are also on the screen. The music is controlled using the Parrot remote control buttons. I can browse all the iPhone music via Album or Artist or even Playlist, it’s fantastic, it really is. The remote control allows me to pause / play  and skip tracks in both directions.

Dscn2199

(the screen is detachable too)

This means I can have TomTom sat nav running on the iPhone yet still control the iPhone music in the background using the Parrot screen and controls.

Dscn2183

The volume of all the audio is then controlled via the steering wheel.

I therefore don’t have to look down at the radio or even touch the radio at any point, or touch my phone at any point either.

Perfect.

The Parrot kit comes with a dual noise cancelling microphone which I’ve mounted at the top of the A-pillar.

Dscn2191

While all this wonderful music-control stuff is going on, the iPhone also connects via Bluetooth (at the same time) to the Parrot MKi9200 kit.

When a call comes in, the iPhone mutes the audio and the Parrot kit takes over, announcing the name of the caller and asking me to accept or decline the call. Voice recognition means I can either say the words “accept” or “decline”, or I can use the green or red buttons on the remote control to answer the call if I choose.

Using voice activation or the remote control, I can also initiate a call and dial anyone in my iPhone contacts list as my entire address book synchronises via Bluetooth with the Parrot kit each time I get in the car.

Dscn2200

You can also add custom wallpaper to the screen of the MKi9200, so I opted for the Dodge logo 😎

Dodge wallpaper for Parrot MKi9200

The wallpaper must be a 320×240 JPG, you can download the above logo for your MKi9200 from here.

With this solution I can’t stress the ease of use enough. I get in the car, drop the phone in the holder and that’s it. The Bluetooth connects automatically and starts sync’ing the address book. The iPhone starts charging right away and the Music is launched just by pressing the Play button on the Parrot remote. I don’t have to fumble with wires, chargers, settings, buttons, headphone cables, nothing, it just works.

All in all, this has to be the most functional mod I have done to date 😎

You can read more about the Brodit clip and iPhone holder at http://www.dodge-nitro.co.uk/brodit-clip-and-iphone-holder/

UPDATE: iPad Mini integration now complete!

Brodit clip and iPhone 4 holder

Brodit make fantastic mounting kits and holders for mobile phones.

They offer a two-part solution and the brilliance is in the simplicity of it all (usually).

You buy a bracket for your car, doesn’t matter what make or model, they’ll probably have at least one if not two or three different mounting options depending on where you want your phone. Most Brodit brackets have been cleverly designed to clip in to / on to existing areas of your dashboard or centre console meaning you don’t need to drill any holes or make any permanent changes.

With the bracket purchased, you then buy a holder for your phone which in turn attaches to the bracket. Again, unless you’ve got a Nokia from 1989, Brodit will have a holder for your model of phone.

The holder then very simply screws to the bracket.

So we’ll start off with some photos the bracket. There are two available, I chose the one which mounts up high on the dash as I’ll be using this for TomTom on my iPhone.

Dscn1981Inside the packet is the bracket itself and a gap insertion tool.

Dscn1985

From the side view, you can see two lots of double sided tape to help keep things in place.

Dscn1986

The holder for the phone comes with a swivel back plate, allowing you to rotate the phone in any direction you like.

Dscn1984

The back plate of the holder simply screws to the front plate of the bracket.

Dscn1988

Then the holder screws on to the now-mounted back plate, allowing it to swivel 360 degrees.

Dscn1990

Once assembled it’s then time to fit the completed assembly in the car.

As mentioned, I wanted the iPhone up high so I can see the TomTom screen without having to take my eyes off the road, so the Brodit assembly was attached to the top of the cubby box.

Dscn2015

Dscn2014

Which still leaves plenty of room in the cubby box for other things.

Dscn2083

And here’s the whole unit, with the iPhone in place.

Dscn2016

I should mention, the iPhone holder has a thru-port on the bottom, so your phone actually “docks” in to the holder. I’ll be hooking up a Parrot MKi9200 kit using the iPhone 30-pin connector which will allow the audio from the phone to route through the car radio and speakers (music, sat nav, voice calls, etc) and will also charge the phone at the same time.

You can read more about the Parrot kit installation at http://www.Dodge-Nitro.co.uk/parrot-mki9200-installation/

All in all an excellent piece of kit.

UPDATE: iPad Mini integration now complete!