My current MP3 Car is much more than simply a MP3 car. With so many considerations regarding the typical MP3 Cars that I had seen at mp3car.com, I decided to integrate a simple yet effective solution to my mobile audio and entertainment needs. The first consideration I made was regarding security. I did not really feel comfortable leaving my CPU in the car; for fear that it would be stolen. The second consideration is the fragility of the equipment of a desktop CPU in a mobile application. Next was the high cost and unproven success of the future add-on components such as the LCD screen and video card. Some other minor considerations were the amount of wiring involved and the temperature constraints of the CPU in the car.

The simplest way to solve all of these problems was a notebook computer. With the Inspiron 2500 that I got from the Dell refurbished store at www.dell.com, I got a removable unit, which solved the security and temperature problems. Also, being a mobile unit, it is more resistant to shock in the vehicle. With the optional auto power adaptor, I required only two wires to hook up, including the tape adaptor to export the sound output to the car stereo system. Since the notebook came with a 15-inch screen, that addition was already taken care of. And as a bonus it came with a DVD player, expanding my entertainment options. Also, with the wireless ethernet card, I won't even have to get out of the car to access my local area network at the house. Of course for now, where I live, I will be bringing the unit in with me to prevent theft.


I have been looking at MP3 Car sites at mp3car.com for several weeks now, trying to absorb as much information as possible. This is so that I can create a high quality computer system for my new '97 Tahoe as safely, quickly, and as cheap as possible.

I have seen several systems that use a text display to read the song that is playing, but I want to expand my system to include more components. I am interested in getting a 6" Sharp LCD display from eio.com, but am hesitant after reading the message postings at the mp3car.com Hardware Message board regarding their service.

I would then have to get a video card with TV out. I could use the All-in-Wonder card from ATI, or I heard of someone getting a Trident Provida 9685 for $30 on ebay.

I am still pretty much in the research stage, partly due to lack of cash to spend on an experimental project.

I am currently using my Gateway CPU with Windows 98 and winamp. I have really made no modifications to anything, because this is the same computer that I use in the house. The only thing that I have done so far is create shortcuts to three different play lists and disable pretty much everything on startup. Once the computer has booted in the car, I hit CTRL+ALT+1 for play list one and so on. Then I just use the default winamp commands to control Winamp from there.

Here are the components that I used for my first experimental set up. The only thing that I have bought so far is a Tripp Lite 300W power inverter bought from onvia.com. They had the cheapest price at $51.77 with shipping included. I received my package three days after ordering it online. (Shipped from WA to IN) I found them at shopper.com. Also, when using the CPU with no visuals, it helps to activate your startup and shutdown sounds so that you know what it is doing.

Tape adaptor - Tripp Lite 300W Power Inverter
Gateway Wireless Keyboard - Gateway (133MhZ/16 Megs-Ram/6.2Gig-HD) CPU

This CPU is the same one that I use here in the house. So, to test the system in the car I have to carry it back and forth. The primary reason for building the system is because I will be driving from IN to WV to FL then back to IN in the next month, so I will be spending a lot of time in the car.

The problem I have run into so far is the fact that I have no visual display to tell me what the OS is doing. My Power inverter is just short of being able to run the CPU and a regular desktop monitor. So, for now I am using an extension cord to plug in the monitor from the back of the car into the house. I might buy another power inverter just to be able to use the monitor while I drive until I can get a good LCD screen set up.

I am also concerned with the vibration caused by bumps in the road. My Computer engineer friends have told me that there are several moving parts in the hard-drive and that one serious jolt could cause me to loose all of my data. So, I am hesitant to put this CPU back into my car until I have everything backed up on our network server. In order to keep my CPU from crashing, I was considering building a spring board which would consist of two equal peices of plywood connected by four, two inch compression springs mounted at each corner.

Temperature limits are another thing that I have to contend with. Since I live on campus still, I have no garage to keep my car warm. It sits outside in weather, which in the past has been as low as -20 deg. F. That could seriously damage components in the CPU. so, I am considering an old hairdryer connected with thermal switches to keep the temperature in a reasonable range. I could get one of those alarms with auto start, but feel that is unnecessary to heat the entire truck when the only thing that I am concerned with is the CPU. For temperature control in the summer, I have been reading that most people just run a bigger cooling fan or add a cooling fan to the one that is already there.

My goals are to run a fully functional Windows 98 machine with full capabilities in the car with the following hardware components.

Sharp 6" LCD
Video card with TV out
Temperature Control