Introduction: Arcade Racing Setup for XBOX 360

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I recently had the chance to pull some parts off an L.A. RUSH arcade cabinet.  These parts use the same technology that the XBOX (and I'm sure PS3) controller does.  Knowing this, I was able to combine them to make a wireless arcade racing setup that will work on most racing games for the XBOX 360.

Note:  The PS3 controller should use a very similar design, and anyone somewhat knowledgeable about electronics could adapt this to a PS3 version.

These parts can also be found in an arcade parts catalog such as

Various lengths of 2 x 3 wood peices
Arcade steering wheel assy. w/5k potentiometer
Arcade gas/brake assy. w/5k potentiometers
XBOX 360 controller
various lengths of stranded wire
Wood screws

Drill w/drill bits and Phillips bit
Wood saw
#9 Security TORX bit (or very small flathead)
Wire strippers
Soldering iron

Step 1: Make the Frame

I made this frame out 2x3s that I was also able to get for a free price.  This step will depend on the exact setup that you use.  I basically just sat each piece where I felt it should go and screwed wood to it.  As I went, I had to trim the extra wood back to continue with the planning.  If you follow the pictures you can see the sequence in which it happened.

It helps if you have a sketch handy.

Note:  This steering wheel had some strange sticky substance on it, that is why there are paper towels stuck to it.

Step 2: Wire the Controller

Here is where we wire the controller to work with the setup.  You will need some soldering experience here, as there are small, three-legged pots that need to be removed from a multilayer board.

First step is to open up the controller.  Once it is open, look for the three key parts that control the accelerator (RT), Brake (LT), and steering (L JOYSTICK).  The RT and LT pots should be fairly easy to locate, as there is a lever connected to them from the part that your finger normally presses.  The pot that controls the steering is right on top of the left joystick.  I've pointed them out in the pictures.  Remove these carefully so as not to damage the traces or solder pads.

I also had some bundles of wire that came conveniently in groups of three.  Any thin, stranded wire will do, just make sure to keep them grouped into threes and mark each one as NEG/SIG/POS.  Even though the NEG and POS aren't completely accurate in this case, it really helps when it comes time to wire them up.  The SIGNAL wire will be the one in the center of each group of three wires coming from the controller board.  Once wired in and labeled, we should have three groups of wires, each group having three wires labeled NEG/ SIGNAL/ POS, or LEFT/SIGNAL/RIGHT, etc its just for labeling purposes.

Slap together the pieces of the controller so that the rest of the controller can still be used to navigate menus, select things etc.. You should then have a completely normal looking controller aside from the bottom grey piece being removed and a bunch of wires hanging out.

Step 3: Wire the Setup to the Controller

Here we wire everything together.  We should have three wires coming from each of the potentiometers on the frame, and if everything was done correctly with the controller, there should be three wires coming from each connection there.  Now all we need to do is match them up.

This should be pretty easy as long as everything was labeled properly.  Wiring up potentiometers can be simple as long as you know how they work.  As long as you keep the middle wires together there shouldn't be too much of a problem if it wasn't wired up right.

I had taken a while to wire mine up initially because I never wrote down the correct wires coming from the controller, so I had to figure out which ones were which from process of elimination.  That didn't quite work out so well, so once I opened up the controller again to take the pictures I was able to see how I wired it.

As long as you keep the middle wire from the controller together with the middle wire coming from the pots, the worst thing that could happen is the two outside wires are switched, so that the information is backwards and the pedals are doing the opposite of what they should.

For this step though, just wire them up, next step is testing and adjusting.

Step 4: Testing and Adjusting

Pop in a good racing game (I used Forza Motorsport 3) and give it a whirl.  You will probably find that nothing works.  That is because these new pots were configured for a different game, so they are not adjusted properly to give the same exact range as the ones inside the XBOX controller.

Notice what the on-screen car is doing.  Are the brakes on?  Is the gas floored?  The first step is to get the gas and brake situated.  Using an Allen Wrench, undo the set-screw that is holding the gear to the shaft of the pot for both the gas and brake.  Once it is loose you will be able to turn the pot by itself, therefore changing the value being sent to the game.  Notice how the car is reacting as you adjust it.

Adjust both the gas and brake pot until you find that the car is sitting still.  If you happen to have Forza Motorsport 3, there is a nice in-game feature that shows you the levels of intensity that the gas and brake are at, and those are tremendously handy for adjusting these.  The trick is to pull each to JUST PAST where it would rest stationary.  For example, turn the gas pot down until the car is no longer trying to accelerate, and then turn it 1/16th of a turn past that.  The reason for this is that there will be some play in the mechanics of the system, and that small amount of play will cause there to be some gas input when you return the gas pedal to rest.  Tighten the set screw once more and play with the pedal.

Continue this process with the brake pedal too, and then with the steering wheel.  You may notice somewhere in the system that it's doing the exact opposite of what you want it to do (steering left when turned right, or giving gas when pedal is at rest but not when it's floored).  This means that the two outside wires (the one's labeled POS and NEG) are switched around.  Turn off the controller and swap these back to normal and you should be good to go.

Step 5: Enjoy

Once everything is set-up and adjusted, it's time to test everything out!

Step 6: Future Upgrades

Things I plan do do in the future:

1:  Get ALL the buttons on the XBOX 360 controller to function on a dashboard (you can see the prototype dashboard in some shots).
2:  Construct an actual body for the frame.  In some shots you can see the the cardboard template that I've cut and taped on.
3:  Paint job.  This would look pretty nice with a nice spray paint job and racing stripes.
4:  Force feedback and rumble.  Force feedback is pretty key when it comes to feeling out the racetrack, the only problem would be to find a force feedback signal coming from the game.  The only real feedback is the vibrators, and those would be pretty cool amplified with big shakers on the seat/steering wheel. challenge

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