Introduction: Car Stereo PC Power Supply Mod With Pizzazz

Picture of Car Stereo PC Power Supply Mod With Pizzazz

Now many have used computer power supplies to run various devices in the past, car stereo equipment included.  I wanted to do one that had a little style to it, yet didn’t break the bank.  It had to be able to fit in with a variety of décor, as I wanted it to be portable.  One could easily take my design further and equip it with ability to also run off a battery back, maybe finish the panels in brushed aluminum or even do away with my humble folding antenna and take advantage of the stereos built in relay to power on/off a motorized antenna, adding some nice visual movement to the unit.

  • I started with an MP3 CD player unit that also had USB and standard input jacks to play music off every thing from a thumb drive to your average Ipod.  The beauty of this unit is that it has a remote, something I used to mock, but now appreciate. It used to be housed in my poor 80’s Tercel, before it bit the dust with a blown head gasket this fall.  30 bucks new with free shipping, love that ebay!
  • The case came from a book shelving unit, made of MDF and finished in a red satin finish that my loving wife was willing to let me use, even though it broke up a set of 4.  The front and rear panels were completed in pine, with a neutral satin varnish.  Normally I am not a fan of mixed finishes, but I think it works in this case. 
  • Speakers came from various sources, The center 20watt sub-woofer and resonating port came from a el-cheapo computer sound system.  The two 10watt side speakers came from Sony battery powered auxiliary speakers.  I didn’t bother with an amp, as the radio is all ready pushing out 50 watts per channel, and my low rated speakers don’t need it.  Surprisingly the sound coming out of the unit is amazing, clear tight highs, resonating mid-tones and some decent base.
  • Grill for the front was found in a box of odds and ends, the two chrome side grills are actually trim rings off ceiling mounted fire extinguishing sprinkler heads.  With the backs cuts down a little the look awesome.
  • The handle came off an old defunct sewing machine box.
  • The antenna was a cheap after market product purchased to go on the Tercel and then promptly misplaced.  Its recent re-discovery initiated this instructable.  Oddly enough it lends a nice military look to the unit regardless of the colour scheme.

Note – “This is one of those creations conceived and constructed during a single night of insomnia.  Not thinking, I did not take any photos initially so this instructable will be a little reverse engineered.  Any gaps have been made up with drawings of the construction and careful labeling of detailed photos.  I recently added an antenna, and this was fully documented.”

The video below kinda sucks, waiting for my daughter to open her Christmas present, so I can borrow it!  For now this will have to do, by the way its State radio playing - So Bohemian  Grove.  Saw them last year at the Commodore in Vancouver, awesome!



Step 1: Supplies & Tools

Picture of Supplies & Tools
This list will of course vary, the point of this is to build it into something that no one has seen before, similar to PC case modding.  But, here is what I used for supplies
  • 1 mod style book case, open on both sides.  approx 18" high, 10" wide and 8" deep
  • 2 3/4" thick sections of wood panel that will fit the interior dimensions of the book case to form the front and back
  • 4 wood battens, 3/4" square by about 12 inches
  • 2 3" mid range speakers
  • 1 5" sub-woofer speaker
  • 1 3" tube port - optional
  • 1 functional computer power supply
  • 1 car antennae - stubby works best
  • 1 car stereo - best to find one that accepts a multitude of inputs and playable media
  • 5 minute epoxy, or suitable strong, thick adhesive - I used alot, I found them at the dollar store super cheap, 2 for a dollar.  Normally they are 6 bucks a pack - score!
  • Hot glue sticks, about a dozen
  • screws of various sorts, lengths will be determined by your case choice.
  • varnish or wood finish of your choosing - or perhaps au natural!

Tools used:
  • Jigsaw
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill and drilling bits
  • Circular saw
  • Glue gun
  • Dremel, angle grinder or tin snips - to manipulate any metal bits that need manipulating!
  • Paint brush

Step 2: Think a Little

Picture of Think a Little

First things first, lay out your supplies.  Start with your case, lay it down, and try to fit in all of your components.  Move them around to your liking.  Try to think of where the wires need to run, is there anything that shouldn't be touching each other.  The last thing you want is to bits of what have you to vibrate in an irritating manner when you have the tunes cranked!

Step 3: Measure Twice Cut Once, or at Least on the Large Side

Picture of Measure Twice Cut Once, or at Least on the Large Side
  • lay your case onto your chosen board, and with a pencil, trace out your cut.  Then do it again!  Keep in mind the thickness of your saw blade and much will disappear with the cut.  You can always cut it ever so slighlty larger then required, and then trim or sand to fit!
  • At this point, position your power supply on the back board to measure.  Trace it, double check and cut it out
  • On the front board you do the same but with the face of the stereo, any speaker openings and if you want you can add a port tube as well.  I mostly did it for the look, as technically this is not an airtight enclosure anyway.  In theory it would be awesome to just build the stereo and power supply into an existing stereo speaker!  That how ever would be too easy, not my style!

Step 4: Prep Your Power Supply

Picture of Prep Your Power Supply
I am not going to go into this step too much as there are so many awesome instructables all ready on converting these.  There is also a risk of getting severely zapped when taking one of these bad boys apart as the capacitors used can hold a charge for a long - long time.  Be careful.  Check out my other instructable on LED table building for pointers here.

or this one of many here on instructables

Here is a basic run down though:
The wires we are concerned about keeping are the yellow ones - +12V and the black ones - ground,  The single green wire will be grounded to one of the black ground wires.  This signals the power supply to turn on.  This could be wired to a switch to turn the unit off and on, I simply chose that when you plug it in, its on.  Were not talking like this is a power tool and all.  The stereo unit itself has its own on-off switch anyway.
  1. First off all the yellow wires are grouped together, this will simulate the cars 12 volt positive.
  2. All black wires except one were grouped together, this will simulate the cars 12 volt ground. 
  3. The single green wire was joined and taped off to the remaining black ground wire.
  4. All other wires were trimmed and sealed with electrical tape.
  5. There is no need to open this power supply as it will all be hidden inside the case, keep it simple, its safer and easier!

Step 5: Get a Handle on It

Picture of Get a Handle on It
The handle goes on next as other wise it would be to hard with the stereo in the way.
  1. Lay out your hand where you want it.
  2. mark the holes for drilling
  3. drill
  4. and bolt it on!

Step 6: Side Speakers

Picture of Side Speakers

I found nice little powerful 3" speaker to use.  Small but deadly!  The grills were non-existent So I found trim rings from a  roof mounted fire sprinkler heads.  I trimmed off the backs and they looked awesome.
  1. Drill or cut out a 2 3/4" hole, and mount the speakers from behind.  I screwed these right into the mdf case.
  2. The trim rings fit just inside the holes and were glued in place with epoxy.
  3. done for now

Step 7: Prep the Stereo Face and Case

Picture of Prep the Stereo Face and Case

If you haven't cut out the holes for the speakers, stereo, power supply and optional port, do it now.  The battens then get glued and screwed on to the inside of the front panel.  Be careful to make sure that they don't interfere with any of your components. 

The other battens get glued into the case itself.  I aligned the 2 battens for the back board so they not only acted as a support for the rear panel but also act as supports for the stereo.

Once all the battens are attached, take your front board and coat the sides and sides of the battens with epoxy and insert it so it is flush with the case. 

Inside the case glue in your rear battens, allotting space for the 3/4" rear panel.  Keep in mind that the top of the battens should be aligned so that the rear of the stereo rests on the tops of the battens.

Wait for the epoxy to cure an hour.

Now is a good time to finish the front and back panel, if you haven't all ready given it a nice sanding, do so now.  Blow off any dust and run a tack cloth over it.  Finish up with one of the many krylon clear finishes, mine was a nice satin clear.  Its stood up to being used in a restaurant kitchen for weeks now, just a quick wipe and its good as new!

Step 8: Fit & Attatch the Deck

Picture of Fit & Attatch the Deck

Step 9: Glue Down the Power!

Picture of Glue Down the Power!

How to attach the power supply.... With tons of epoxy, slather it on, and glue it down in place.  Make sure its lined up to fit the back board!!!

Step 10: Wire It Up

Picture of Wire It Up
Now every stereo is going to be a little different for the speakers, but the rest of the wires for power will be the same.

Red wire connects to the yellow computer power supply wires.
Orange wire also connected to the yellow wires, this is constant memory for the deck
Black wire to the black wire

Blue wire would be used to signal and Amp to turn on, or super sexy a power antenna!
All other wires are either front or back, left and right speaker wires.
  Here is an example:
  • Left Front Speaker Wire (+): green
  • Left Front Speaker Wire (-): Black/green
  • Right Front Speaker Wire (+): grey
  • Right Front Speaker Wire (-): Black/grey
  • Left Rear Speaker Wire (+): Red
  • Left Rear Speaker Wire (-): Black/Red
  • Right Rear Speaker Wire (+): Blue
  • Right Rear Speaker Wire (-): Black/Blue
I wired the front speakers to my side speakers
I wired one rear speaker to the sub-woofer, for  base this is all that is really needed.

Step 11: Secure the Back Board

Picture of Secure the Back Board
  1. Push the back board into position and drill a pilot hole through the panel into the batten.
  2. Screw in a screw, tricky
  3. 4 holes, on in each corner should suffice.

Step 12: Antenna?

Picture of Antenna?

The antenna was simple, just follow the instructions on the package.  The best one to get, they didn't have in-stock of course, it attaches by 2 simple bolts, rather then the hole I had to drill in the pictures below.  These are meant to be secured in sheet metal after all, not through 3/4" of wood!

Step 13: Conclusion

Picture of Conclusion

Awesome sound and looks, it gets used every day!


snyluc13 (author)2010-12-22

awesome work!!! saw this mentioned on engadget which is awesome!!

iminthebathroom (author)snyluc132010-12-22

Thank you very much for posting this, I would not have know otherwise that it is being featured on other sites now. Makes me wonder if any of my other instructables have made it onto other sites, hmm, wonder how one could check this easily. Anyway, thanks for the positive feed back.

bethmwl (author)2017-03-11

Very good work on this. I've wanted to put car audio in a box for years. Never had the time to think it through. Still don't know if I'll get one made, so many other projects. Favorited this though, in case I find the time.

terezkaterka (author)2015-12-11

Veľmi pekný, dôvtipný výrobok. Vďaka.

Arghus (author)2015-05-18

nice project but it look a bit too messy, at least inside..

Ziaius (author)2015-03-04

Nice job! :) Especially the box! ech my setup doesn't have one yet. At the moment I have PSU connected to car stereo. And there is an issue already. Through the speakers there is loud noise - audio volume doesn't affect it. Noise is there when I play music from my laptop using 3.5 audio cable And laptop is connected to the mains for charging.
I think that's what's called ground loop noise. And people suggest buying ground loop isolators for audio cables (typically RCA). Or one can build it with two 600 Ohms transformers with 1:1 ratio.
But! People also say that it reduces audio quality. Which I would like to avoid if I can.

SO. I wonder could I break my ground loop where I connect PSU to Car Stereo (12v and ground)?

Any suggestions?

russ_hensel (author)2015-01-09

Just a note to let you know I have added this instructable to the collection:
Encyclopedia of ATX to Bench Power Supply Conversion
Take a look at about 70 different approaches to the power supply part of the project.

didone made it! (author)2014-02-10

Nice instructable! I gave a second life to my first car stereo and last pc power supply :-)

iminthebathroom (author)didone2014-02-12

NICE! Your interior is so much cleaner then mine. I tend to run out of time and I end up reaching for my glue gun which leaves a lot to desire...

didone (author)iminthebathroom2014-02-12

Thank You!

sfletcher6 (author)2014-01-04

Have a memory problem fix.

Came across this instructable last night. Then today searched forever to find it again. Found a solution to fixing memory issues. Could be possible to figure out battery back up but then always charging or replacing batts. This is not a free diy solution but could be if you have one laying around. Most all jenson marine/boat radio decks have built in non volitile memory chips or whatever you call it. Get one of those instead of regular car deck and problem solved. Going to be using one myself for large portable radio build.

Smart and simple. Rather then starting with the problematic unit, go straight for the marine type. Plus the marine type might be better from the start as they usually have more robust circuitry for a slight marine environment. Bonus = The usual white faceplate will add a nice touch.

Also found jenson makes same type of decks but black color if you really want it black. Geared for truckers,tractors and harsher environments.
trying to make or build simple cap circuit to adapt to any radio though like jenson uses.

jarrod_93 (author)2013-11-05

Hi, I hooked up 2 car speakers and a sub to a car amp using a PSU. There's a constant interference emitting from the speakers when the laptop (which I'm using as a source for music) is plugged in and charging as well as the PSU. This stops when I unplug the laptop.
Any suggestions about what can be done?

Thanks very much!

oh, not sure. Off the top of my head I'd say wrong ohms. I would copy/paste a link to this page into the Instructable question section. People compete just to get you an answer, those guys are spot on! Helped me numerous times!

jules15 (author)2013-03-26

i have the same radio!!! lol this was an awesome project. looks like something you would buy in a music store for $500.

iminthebathroom (author)jules152013-03-28

Yes, very cool how a low budget radio can be dressed up to sound and look good

el_duderino (author)2012-05-02

Any updates to using a battery to keep the memory intact? I thought I read somewhere that the memory function only requires 7v in which case a 9v battery should suffice. However, i'm not sure how to wire it.

That is a tricky one, though I'm sure others on this site would know. the problem being that your ground on the head unit is shared, in that its going to the power supply. You need to utilize the ground off of the battery in addition to the positive lead. Now in everything from computers to alarm clocks this is resolved as most are plug in and battery. i would ask this question on the instructables question section with a link to this instructable. It would save a lot of explaining to someone else. By the way, the stereo is what i'm listening to the radio on right now, still going strong and its on almost 24/7 since it was built

Thanks for the reply. Maybe the easier answer is to just leave my power supply (pyramid 13.8v, 14amp dc to ac converter) on 24/7 to keep the memory intact. Mine is a marine head unit, slated to live outside in my pool cabana.

DIY Dave (author)2011-12-22

How would you wire both front speaker outputs into one speaker?

iminthebathroom (author)DIY Dave2011-12-23

oh, thats an easy one, you go mono by using one positive from one speaker out put and the negative from the other speaker output. Some are also designed to utilize both positives. Usually your radio wiring diagram will include steps for wiring it mono.

DIY Dave (author)iminthebathroom2011-12-23

Thanks, that is easy

Davvik (author)2011-12-15

How did you get around the 60 Hz noise with this project? I found that a lot of computer power supplies aren't filtered well to eliminate the noise in the background.

iminthebathroom (author)Davvik2011-12-15

To be honest, i never had an issue with it - crystal clear sound. I know what your talking about though. i have found that most car stereos I have done this with have never had an issue. Perhaps its the radios own internal shielding, seeing how it is in such close proximity to other automotive goodies that put out lots of interference all ready. Or... I got lucky. I have done this 4 other time though with modern car stereos and havn't had an issue. Did this once along time ago with an old casette tape player, that was a different issue. However that was resolved with careful wire placement

rbutler8 (author)2011-11-18

Love the three oranges just chilling there :)

iminthebathroom (author)rbutler82011-11-18

yeah, turned out. wasn't intentional though

pedroSB (author)2010-12-28

I have one too...but mine is a box of three bottles of wine, with a sound system of a computer connected to it ... 5.1 pc system of "creative"

iminthebathroom (author)pedroSB2010-12-28

Cool, its amazing what a little car unit will power

pedroSB (author)iminthebathroom2011-04-13

ya...A lot of Power...when i put the radio on 20 all start a vibrate...

mdshann (author)pedroSB2011-10-14

I understand how you would use the front left and right and rear left and right for the front stereo and back surround speakers, and I am assuming you used the sub out on the head unit for the sub, but what did you do for the center channel? Where does the sound for that come from, did you just combine the two front signals into it? Thanks!

rapidprototyping (author)2011-08-24


bwdane (author)rapidprototyping2011-09-13

I am powering my head unit and a 500W amp off of a 500W power supply. Mind you it has 2x12V rails with a combined output of 34A. The amp is drawing a max of 20A but I don't know exactly how many Amps the head unit is drawing. I would guess around 5A.

When I was younger I did the same thing and never had an issue, mind you the amp was 500 watts. It should be fine, but... Try to find a higher out-put computer power supply if you can. Think I used a 300 watt PS. These days that is quite weak, minimums these days start at 4-500 watt and many are much higher. My stereo has been running perpetually in the shop now for almost 6 months 24-7 and hasn't had an issue yet. The only thing is being a cassette player, it will consume slightly more power then a CD player, but really only when rewinding or fast-forwarding. You may also want to think about ventilation and resonance. Building it into a PC case, the reverberations of a "tin" case may not sound great, find something to stiffen it or deaden it a little

tstarner (author)2011-07-27

Has anybody out there tried building one of these units using a 12v motorcycle battery for power?

iminthebathroom (author)tstarner2011-07-27

Should work just fine, the only caveat being are motorcycle batteries good at being drained and recharged like deep cycle batteries? Small tractor batteries should work as well. What might really shine are the small deep cycle batteries that come with electric pocket bikes. i won for my daughter at a carnival and it is tiny. Or the 12v batteries out of wall mounted industrial emergency lights. In the end, as long as its around 12 volts and gives enough amps it should work fine

tstarner (author)iminthebathroom2011-07-27

Maybe a 12v battery from a power wheels vehicle would work well. I'd bet a trip to the local Interstate Battery store would be a good idea as well. That place has a lot of batteries!!

dnutman (author)2011-02-11

Great pictures and a beautiful end-product. I'm thinking of doing something similar, but hopefully with a battery (or batteries) to power the whole system. Do you happen to know how many amps your head unit draws?

iminthebathroom (author)dnutman2011-02-11

Hmm... Not sure. I still have the manual I'm sure lying around. I'll see what it says, it should be listed in the specifications. You might be better off looking at the spec' s for your particular radio being used though.

static (author)2011-01-08

A nice looking compact unit, and a good instructable detailing the build. For my tastes the unit is too compact , not enough separation defeats the effort of constructing a stereo.

arocse (author)2011-01-03

Great stuff. I've bought a 2nd-hand busker's amp & will use this as my box. One question though, do you have to reset your station presets if the unit is unpowered?

iminthebathroom (author)arocse2011-01-04

look 4-5 posts down, somebody is all ready updating schematics

iminthebathroom (author)arocse2011-01-04

sadly yes, but only for now. If you read down through the comments this is being addressed by several people. I will be working on the issue myself when I get a chance. The simplest idea would be to just hook up a tiny 12 volt battery to the "memory wire" In theory the memory circuit will be the only draw.... but in theory is a dangerous word sometimes. It does need some thought, but should be simple to rectify with all the people on this site!

3366carlos (author)2010-12-30

All you designers and builders are awesome! I have plans for my tool box now!

asdfghqwerty (author)2010-12-29

how you connected the radio with the computer power

tblo163 (author)2010-12-26

I've built the unit and it works good,with good quality speakers,the sound quality is perfect.I have even added rainbow LEDS running off the 5volt supply of the PSU to the speakers to give it a great visual effect.However,I have a problem that you may be able to help with.The constant of the radio is connected to the 12v supply,but when the power is turned off I have to re-tune the stations and also re-enter the radio code.I am a bit reluctant to leave the PSU on all of the time.I was thinking maybe a back-up battery just for the memory might work.Does anyone know the minimum voltage the memory requires?

pedroSB (author)tblo1632010-12-29 have to add a batery to the radio memory...and the memory its 12v

iminthebathroom (author)pedroSB2010-12-29

Hey thanks, I'll say it again, having people comment on this site helps everyone. I always tell anyone doing any of these builds to read through the comments as there is always a wealth of info

iminthebathroom (author)tblo1632010-12-26

OH, totally know what you mean! Think about alarm clocks that have the 9volt battery for memory, that is what the orange wire is usually reserved for. The only problem I could think of is the negative ground. If when you powered up the unit would it multiply as feedback? Have to post this in the question section of instructables. Give me a couple day to work on it. Of course you could just add a small 12 volt battery and that should work fine, in theory...

tblo163 (author)iminthebathroom2010-12-27

I think the 9volt battery idea would work,it's worth a try.Also the installation of diodes should solve any feedback issues.I will experiment,and post the result.

About This Instructable




Bio: See some of my work here and as always accepting orders for custom design and fabrication as featured on Discovery Channel, Wired Magazine, Gizmodo, Engadget ... More »
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