One of the forums I frequent was recently talking about mods that could be done to the interior of the WJ.  This got me thinking that although most of the interior modifications I’ve done are here in the build thread, I’ve never spent much time talking about the electronics I’ve got in my Jeep, and why I have them.  So in this post, I’m going to spend a little time talking about the electronics I’ve got in my Jeep, and why I have them.

Being that I’m into off-roading, and that I graduated from the James May school of automotive navigation, I like to have some way of being told exactly where I am and exactly where I should be going.  With that in mind, I set about to create an electronics setup which would offer me reliable navigation regardless of internet access, tons of music, and ease of use; a taller order than you would imagine.

Kenwood DNX6190HD In-Dash receiver:

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This device is a bit of a dinosaur at this point, technologically speaking.  It doesn’t even have WiFi…  But a device of this type has served my needs for the better part of a decade.  The idea behind this in-dash receiver, one that I try to adhere to as often as possible, was to have a single device which served as many functions as possible. It was also important that I was able to use the device without distracting me from driving too much, hence the old-school volume knob combined with touch screen.

Back in the day, this kind of head unit was top of the line, offering navigation, DVD, iPod, hands free phone, and Satellite radio, all in one. This particular model can even talk to the Pandora app on your phone via bluetooth, though it’s never been terribly reliable. I’ve been using a setup like this since around 2007, and it’s probably time to look into some newer options, especially now that Apple and Google are designing apps for use in the car, which leads us to the rest of the electro-kit in the Jeep…

Nexus 7 Tablet:

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I’ve been through a couple iterations of tablet in the Jeep so far, without finding something that did all things perfectly. If anything, I would say I’m still experimenting with having a tablet in the Jeep at all, but we all know that people are using them successfully all over the world. I started with an original iPad 1, but it was too big, too bulky, too slow, and needed too many external accessories to work properly, not to mention the lack of decent nav software at the time.  Because of all of this, I put the idea on the shelf for a while.

Somewhere around a year ago though, I made the unrelated life-choice to switch from the Apple ecosystem to Android. The switch to Android really opened my eyes to the possibilities of using a tablet in the Jeep, and so the search began anew. Being one of the cheaper (but still usable) tablets, I picked up a Google/Asus Nexus 7 and, once familiar with it, started testing it in the Jeep. So far, I like the size of a 7″ tablet for use in a vehicle, and the Nexus has been a great device so far (except for the Android 5.0 debacle, but that’s a topic for another type of blog altogether).

Software:

I’m still trying to narrow things down here to what works best for me, but this is what I’m using pretty consistently right now, all Android based, of course:

  • Torque – Graphical engine information and datalogger.  As if mounting a tablet in the Jeep wasn’t nerdy enough, this app interfaces with the ECU in the Jeep to give me tons of extra info about what’s going on in the Jeep.

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  • Car Home Ultra – I use this for putting the tablet in “car mode”.  It replaces the default home screen with a simplified one, offering only things I would use while driving around.  This is the newest concept I’ve been toying with, and I’m not totally sold, but I do see the benefits.  This app offers day/night modes, media control buttons, and options to automate many things.

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  • Backcountry Navigator – Neither the Garmin nav that’s built into the Kenwood, nor Google Maps necessarily have maps of many of the off-road routes I take.  This app allows me to download topographical maps of whatever area I chose, and then I can import GPS tracks to lay directly on top of them, all from the tablet, even while in the Jeep.Screenshot_2015-02-18-10-56-36
  • Pandora – I know a lot of people have moved on from Pandora by now, but I really like the fact that I can create unique stations and then mix and match them on the fly.  Plus I have nearly a decade of thumb ups and downs stored in Pandora.  It knows what music I want to hear even before I do.
  • Maps – Google has spent stupid amounts of money mapping the US, and they have an amazing product to show for it.  As long as I have a data connection, I prefer to make use of their R&D instead of having to use my own.  I also like that since it’s Google, it’s native to Android, so I can have cool options like voice activated navigation and such.
  • Google nav – Like with Maps, Google has pumped a LOT of R&D into creating a premium navigation feature in the Android environment.  Why not take advantage of it?

Most of these apps are free or have free versions.  If I decide I like them, I’ll definitely pay for the full version.  It’s worth paying $5 for something we use every day, right?  If I don’t like them though, I can just go to the Google Play store and find an alternative.  win-win-win.

Ram mount:

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Awesome company.  Awesome mount.  Buy it for your rig.  I should be getting paid for this…  Really tho, there are a ton of different mounting options for countless applications.  These are the same mounts that LEO and the military use for their tech.  They’re properly legit.

HTC One M8 – Wireless hotspot:

RIght now, I use the hotspot feature on my phone to give WiFi access to the Nexus tablet. So far, this has worked very well, saving me the expense of both purchasing an LTE enabled tablet, and the cost of an additional data plan just for the tablet. Also, having LTE on my phone makes the internet experience on the tablet just about as fast as it would be at home. The internet connection is used primarily for Google Maps and Pandora connectivity, but it can be used for whatever, obv. Until this setup becomes an issue, I’ll probably continue to do this.

OBD2 to BT adapter:

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I am always amazed at the world we live in, whether it’s by the oblivity with which most of us conduct our day to day lives, or that we have access to any information we can imagine any time of day or night, right at our fingertips, or by the fact that we can buy an adapter that will talk to the computer in our car, translate it from car-speak to bluetooth, send that data wirelessly to my phone, and then translate that info to useable information while I’m driving… And an adapter like this can cost as little as $15!

hssfu

WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.

This device is what Torque uses to get vehicle diagnostics and data from the Jeep’s computer. Then witchcraft happens, then I have real working gauges on the Nexus.

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There are many different versions of this device (I don’t think the linked device is even the one I bought) so do your research and make sure that you get the right one for the components that you’ve got.  I believe there are even OBDII to WiFi versions too, so iPhones might even be able to get in on some action. (Did I just use all three versions of the word “to” in one sentence? awesome.)

So, that pretty much wraps up the tech that I carry in my WJ.  In the future though, I’m looking into replacing the in-dash head unit with a tablet altogether, and of course I’ll post a full report once that goes down.

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