Doggy Air Conditioning

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

Especially Eska:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The pipe simply unclips to remove it completely.

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

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It’s the full width when placed underneath.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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And from another angle.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Cool.

Literally 😎

RECON ‘Line Of Fire’ LED Tailgate Light Bar

RECON in America make some fantastic after market lighting products.

One in particular which caught my eye was the “Line of Fire” LED tailgate light bar. It was designed originally for pickup trucks but would look equally as good on a Nitro.

RECON product aren’t cheap, but you get what you pay for with this kind of thing. The RECON tailgate light bars use 3mm diode LEDs (rather than the small SMD LEDs used on eBay imports).

What didn’t help with the cost was the shipping fee to the UK, plus then the Customs & Excise VAT charges which had to be paid when it arrived here. In all, this wasn’t a cheap mod.

When it did finally arrive I was a bit worried – it wasn’t packaged in the slightest!!

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Considering it had travelled 4,256 miles, I was even more worried. Thankfully the box looked undamaged on the outside and sure enough, it powered up just fine. Phew!

Worth noting, it comes supplied with a four pin connector. This was intended to plug in to the trailer wiring plug – but on American vehicles.

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We don’t have connectors like this in the UK so you’ll need to cut this plug off and hard wire it (which you’d probably do anyway).

Testing the light bar before fitting is always a good idea, especially when it wasn’t packaged and has just travelled half way round the globe to get here.

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There are a few functions you can use depending on which wires you apply +12v to. The first mode is just “on”, as per the above photo. But you can also light just half of the bar. In America (I think) the indicator lens can be red. We can’t do that in the UK though so this function is redundant really, but here’s how it would look if wired to an indicator:

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Also, the indicator mode is 6x brighter than the standard mode. Here’s the left hand side lit up in indicator mode and the right hand side is just standard tail light mode.

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Supplying +12v to both indicator feeds then makes the light bar function as a brake light. So in my installation, I have it wired to the standard tail light and also to the brake light so it comes on with the normal lights and then goes 6x brighter when I brake.

The light bar comes supplied with 3M tape attached to some screwed on pads (bit of a daft arrangement really). The idea being that you stick the pads on the car then screw the bar to the pads. The main problem here is that the bar is straight, the rear of the Nitro under the lip of the boot isn’t, it’s arced.

So with the sticky pads ditched, it was time to get the drill out and put four decent self tappers in.

Dscn2382Make sure the screws bind in well, the curve on the rear end is quite surprising.

Dscn2383You can see on this photo the wires tuck neatly under a small gap in the existing tail light.

Dscn2385The tail gate bar is surprisingly bright in daylight too.

Dscn2386And of course, even brighter at night time.

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Dscn2392 In this photo you can also see the LED number plate light bulb mod:

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Cool mod 😎

Reversing Camera and ‘EskaCam’

Ferrying an Alaskan Malamute called Eska around in the back of a Dodge Nitro is great.

Apart from two little problems…

The first problem is that as soon as you stop the car, Eska usually stands up to see why we’ve stopped. She’s not a little dog and when she’s standing up she is literally the width of the car which means she blocks the entire rear window. Not great when you’re trying to reverse. So a reversing camera was needed.

The second problem is that when on a motorway Eska tends to lie down in the back. She has some toys in the back, and a Stagbar too, but every now and then you hear a noise and you’re not quite sure if she’s chewing the Stagbar or chewing the back of the car to pieces. You can’t always stop (especially on a motorway!) to go and have a look so this is where the idea of EskaCam came in.

I was a bit reluctant to fit a reversing camera screen in the car as when parked up in an undesirable location, a thieving chav wouldn’t know the difference between a reversing camera screen and a satnav so would probably smash my window trying to steal what he thought was a satnav device, leaving him with a worthless screen and me with a huge bill for the damage.

Enter the “rear view mirror screen”.

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As the name I’ve given it suggests, it’s a rear view mirror with a TFT screen built in. Genius!

Other parts needed were two cameras (one for reversing, one for EskaCam), two wireless transmitters (one for each camera), one wireless receiver (as I can only view one camera at a time naturally) and a switch to switch between Off/Reversing/EskaCam. The mirror screen has two AV inputs so I could have wired one camera to each input but I wanted just one (multifunction) switch to control everything.

Here’s all the kit.

2014-02-11 19.14.40I wasn’t over keen with the original ‘big’ camera that I bought for reversing so I replaced that with an identical smaller one (the same as the one in the middle of the picture).

With all the parts in my possession it was then time to work out how to wire it all up. I wanted a single three-position switch to operate as “ReversingCam – Off – EskaCam”. The off position was essential as I wanted to use it as a normal mirror and flick between the two cameras when required.

The single multifunction switch needed to perform a few actions at the same time, hence the correct type of switch was required (double pole, double throw (DPDT) mini toggle).

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It needed to turn on the power to the screen and the power to the wireless receiver plus it also needed to turn on the power to the relative camera and relative wireless transmitter – as I can only have one transmitter on at a time (as they’re both on the same frequency).

I test-wired everything first, before fitting it to the car, to make sure I could wire it as desired.

2014-02-15 16.40.53But after a while I had to call in the experts to make sure it was all wired correctly.

Enter one supervisor:

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Once Eska had approved all the wiring it was time to take it all apart again and fit the whole kit to the car.

Most of the front dash trim had to be removed in order to route the hidden wires.

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I fitted the switch in to the centre console, below the button for the airhorns. I never like drilling the OEM dash but sometimes these things can’t be avoided.

2014-02-16 13.16.51With the switch in place I could then run the power wires up the A-pillar to the mirror screen. Naturally being quite careful near the airbags!

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Power cables were then run from the switch to each of the cameras at the back of the car. Not an easy task, the Nitro has the most convoluted interior trim clip arrangement I’ve ever seen. Only power cables were needed, no AV cable as the cameras are hooked up to wireless transmitters.

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With all the wiring in place the end result is exactly as planned.

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The three position switch is “off” when in the middle position, meaning the mirror functions just like a normal mirror.

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Flick the switch to the left and the screen powers up, as does the wireless receiver, one of the two cameras and one of the two wireless transmitters – “EskaCam” is engaged, enabling the camera in the boot area.

2014-02-17 15.31.30Flick the switch to the middle position again and the screen, wireless receiver, camera and wireless transmitter are all powered off again.

Flicking the switch to the right powers up the screen again, the wireless receiver and the reversing camera and relative wireless transmitter and on screen in an instant is the view from the reversing camera.

2014-02-17 15.32.00I’ll now be able to see what’s directly behind me when Eska is blocking the entire rear window, plus I’ll be able to see exactly what mischief she’s getting up to while out of sight 🙂

UPDATE: Not the greatest of photos, but you’ll get the idea:

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