When my USB car charger died for the 3rd time in a year (Luckily previous were all replaced under warranty, Jimmy at the Telephone Booth is awesome!) I knew it was beyond replacement time now and I really wanted something more.
With the plethora of USB-powered/charged devices, I wanted something that could do more than one device and be more reliable that the retail ones in the store.
I had an idea, just needed a few parts/suggestions and I'd be all set.4-port USB Hub
Step 1: 4-port USB Mod
Ok, so this step isn't totally necessary but I figure I was exploring and wanted to see what it looked like inside any ways.
Ideally I wanted to polish the plastic scratch from the clear surface and re-paint the body to match the car. I can still do that later if I really want to. Also, since we have a lazer at Thinkhaus (http://www.thinkhaus.org) I had dreams of getting all fancy with etching the logo into the plastic and lighting it up with either the existing LED or add more. I settled for a printout of the logo set behind the clear cover. Best not to completely over do this :)
Step 2: Fixing Cheap Crap
This is the underside of the 12V Power Accessory USB charger. My $2,99 device wasn't working when I got it, so being the hacker that I am, I took it apart. It seems this here quality product was rather hastily put together. The USB port itself has a total of 6 prongs that poke into the ciruit board. Two on the outside are large and are meant to hold it in place while the 4 smaller ones are in the middle and two of which are soldered into the circuit. Well one of the large ones wasn't even through the hole in the board (bent) and one of the smaller ones was also bent. So basically it wasn't even hooked up. I desoldered it, cleaned it, straightened out the pins, resoldered it and then hot-glued the pins for more stability. Worked just fine.
Step 3: The 12V 4-port Power Center
This handy little $20.00 4-port power station was an awesome find at Canadian Tire. I was happy that the switches were integrated, saves on mounting my own.
Step 4: The Bench Setup
This is the complete setup that is going into the car. Power goes into the 4-port switched power station, then I plug in my 12V USB charging unit and that run to my 4-port USB Hub-turned/power-bar. Seems kinda complicated but really is simple to install.
Step 5: The 12V 4-Port Power Station Failure
Well, first install and I got no lights from the Canadian Tire power station. Ugh. So back inside. I debated about simply exchanging it but decided 'screw it, I'll fix it' and opened it up. Well, I was rather confused. Red is always the power cable and here it is connected to the outside, that I always thought was the ground. That wasn't even an issue because when I lokked closer, the two middle red wires were actually being pinched by the casing! It's a little hard to see but if you look along the metal ridge between the circuit board and sockets, you'll see some 'grey' sections. Those are actually divits cut into it to allow the red wires to pass through without 'getting pinched' Cheap ass labourers.
Step 6: 12V 4-port Power Staion Fixed
There, rewired and then another continuity test. Hmm, every thing seems fine. Ok, put it back together and test again.
Step 7: If One End Is Bad....
Decided to check the plug end as well, you never know. All seemed good and again, the (red)power wire is hooked to the center. I figure the lazy buggers just switched red/wire wiring on the other end
Step 8: The In-car Setup
And here is the setup. Nice and neat for the most part. Maybe I'll move the new USB Power Bar elsewhere but for now, this'll do. To open my center console I just unplug the left cable.
Step 9: I Have Power!
I have power! Got the USB Power Bar plugged in and the 12V FM transmitter for my MP3 player. Still two switches left for future use (got two sets of fog lights to hook up still! Waiting for warmer weather.)
Step 10: My Dream Cradle
Top part of setup where my HTC Dream cradle sits. Cable isn't too intrusive. Still working on an idea to eventually move the cradle to a better spot once I figure out a good mounting method.
Step 11: That's It.
Well, that's it. Hope it gave you some ideas about doing one for your own car.