COOLer Tunes




Introduction: COOLer Tunes

After several years of tubing on the Salt River in Arizona and seeing some interesting music rafts, I decided I wanted some tunes of my own while going down the river!!

Materials that I used:
Car Stereo kit (purchased new)
26 quart cooler (purchased new)
Blue RTV, gasket maker
Marine Glue/Sealant
(4) bolts with nuts - mine were 2 inches long (depends on cooler thickness
heat shrink tubing
Car battery (came out of a Saturn)
iPod dock, with usb cable and head phone link
misc. acrylic pieces

Tools that I used:
Hand drill
Jig saw
xacto knife

Step 1: The Main Pieces

I found this "kit" at Fry's Electronic's (local big store) and it happened to be on sale. It was one stereo and two 5 inch speakers for $50. Note: If you can't get "Marine Certified"(Polk Audio are!) speakers, I would suggest getting non-coaxial speakers. Water did get into the speaker coils and started to rust and freeze the main speaker "bowls". Manually moving them and spraying a little WD-40(non-conductive and pushes water out) into the speakers seems to have helped but I don't know for how long!

You don't have to buy anything if you don't want to but this worked for me because I was wanting the ability to attach an iPod to the mix. This stereo by Dual has an Aux input (headphone link) and a USB port for charging.

I just guessed on the cooler size but it I got lucky and it was a perfect fit. I was using an extra car battery that I had, so I knew that it had to be tall enough for that. I would like to upgrade the design and use a smaller rechargeable battery, just for weight reasons. I will have to do some checking on that. I had also just spent a bit of money on the stereo and cooler so it was as much stuff on hand after this point!

Step 2: Installing the Speakers

I removed the grill from the mounting ring and used the ring to mark where the speakers would go. I wanted them on the top of the cooler to maintain the waterproofness(?) of the cooler. The speakers are not "marine certified" but I figured they weren't going to get too much water splashed their way.

Once the circles were marked, I used a large drill bit to make a starter hole for the jigsaw. you want to keep the hole on the inside of the circle. I actually used two holes because i didn't want to be spinning around the cooler with the jigsaw!

After cutting the speaker holes I placed the speakers in the hole with the mounting ring to drill the holes for the mounting screws. You have to be careful with the mounting clips, because of the shape of the inner liner. At least I did with this one. I had to take an exacto knife and trim a little extra to make room for the clip.

I used the blue RTV gasket sealer on the speakers because the surface of the lid was not smooth and I was trying to get a bit of a seal with the speaker. I also used it on the mounting ring for added security!

Step 3: Bonus Piece

My main point for this boom box was to be able to bring an iPod to the river. The trip can take up to five hours and I wanted a variety of music to listen to.

I measured the width of the dock and marked the off on the face of the cooler. I used my iPhone for a height reference since it is taller than an iPod. I drilled corner holes to start the cuts and went to town with the jigsaw.

I was lucky and the width was perfect and the dock had a pressure fit. Half the dock was hanging out the back of the hole so I cut a piece of 2x4 to give it more base. I didn't want the dock falling. 

I cut a piece of 1/4 inch acrylic scrap I had (scrap from wife's work!) to be about 1/2 inch bigger than the hole on all sides. I drilled corner holes for mounting to the cooler face. I used a marine glue/sealant I found at Ace Hardware ($3) because the face of the cooler is far from flat. I put a good helping around the edge of the window and bolted the window on. This was my only real weak spot when it came to keeping any water out of the cooler so I put a small bead of sealant around the edge as best I could, just to be sure.

I wanted to be able to use the dock because it would allow for the use of a remote control on the iPod. If you use a stereo that has a remote control and iPod/MP3 control, you can bypass this step.

Step 4: Setting Up the Wires

There is technically not a lot to wiring up the stereo.

short list:
Black wire - Ground
Red wire - Hot
Yellow wire - Switched Hot (usually connected to an accessory lead in a car. turns on when you turn the key.)
White wires/Gray wires - Front speakers, right and left (positive and negative)
Purple wires/Green wires - Rear speakers, right and left (positive and negative)
Blue wire - amp switch wire (when stereo is turned on, amp is turned on)

Since I was not using an amp or rear speakers, I did not use those wires and I tied them up. The amp wire already had it's end covered with heat shrink tube so I decided to do the same on the rear speaker wires. I first dipped the end in the RTV and then put the shrink tubing on. I figured that would be a pretty good seal!

I took the speaker wire that came with the speakers and cut them down to about 18 inches. I didn't need a lot but figured a little extra would be good since I planned to have the stereo on a shelf that could go in and out of the cooler. I twisted the leads together and put the shrink tubing there as well.

I had to add a little wire, about 12 inches, to the red, yellow, and black wires to help with the ability to remove the tray. I also decided to add a on/off rocker switch to the yellow lead. I wanted to be able to turn the radio on and off without having to touch it, if my hands were wet.

Step 5: Stereo Shelf

I used another scrap of acrylic to have a shelf above the battery for the stereo to sit on. 

Nothing fancy here. I drilled a couple holes the width of the stereo and literally tied it down with rope! It made a nice handle to remove the shelf with too.

Step 6: POWER

This was simple as well. I placed the battery in the cooler and wedged some wood to keep it from moving.

I was using a side post battery so I screwed some bolts in to tie the positive and negative wires to. I figured the battery can handle being in an engine compartment, so I didn't have to get too fancy here.

Step 7: Voila

Tie the power wires on and plug the wires into the back of the stereo and crank it up!

I am using this primarily for iPod play back so I just turn the stereo up loud and then control the iPod volume with the remote. The stereo can play CDs and even radio stations, but that was secondary to what I wanted. 

The iPod stays charged through the dock and the USB port on the front of the stereo and the sound goes through the headphone link.

It can get pretty loud and even louder when you close the lid.

Went tubing over Memorial Day weekend and this worked fantastic! Had one rough spot that threw water over the top and filled the speakers bowls up with water. This was fixed by opening the lid and letting the water drain out! (wait till you are out of rapids before opening the lid!) At the end of the day, there was very small amount of water in cooler and no damage!

Remote was lost on the river!! double bagged in ziplocs and it fell out of my pocket! I will work this one out.

Battery lasted for whole river trip and is still going! I had thought of putting solar charger on handle for extra boost but I believe the car battery can go for days with just the stereo to run!

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    you can bypass that head unit and just run it off an amp with your i pod that what i did i also have an amp for my sub to give me some extra bump in the trunk check it out


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I thought about just running an amp but the stereo opened up options for the radio and CDs too. i still need to add an antenna!

    I will have to add some pictures because I now have it running on a ten(10) AA rechargables with a small solar panel aux. It won't run on the solar panel by itself, but with it I get over 6 hours of play out the little batteries!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    My friends and I are also avid tubers and have made our own cooler-stereo.

    I would recommend using a 12V Gel battery instead of a wet-cell automotive or ATV battery. Gel batteries do not leak and they weigh a lot less.

    Have fun!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Amen... or even 6500 maH rechargeable Li-ion battery packs. Better yet, don't use a damn CAR STEREO!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Ive built a radio cooler that has the capacity to be a cooler, hold the battery and amp. yet it can still pack in about 45 "beverages of choice" and about a bag and a half of ice. and a built in cigarette lighter! I will try to post some pics of it.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That is a pretty good sized cooler!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    We also tooob alot. Typically at the Guadelupe river in New Braunfels Tx. The unit pictured is our second unit built. The first unit was square made out of plexi glass. This unit is gel coat fiberglass.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Woah, awesome project! Might it also be able to store an ice cold one as you're river rafting too?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Not this one, but if you used a larger cooler and had the electronics separated from the "normal" cooler area, you could kill two birds with one stone.

    Mine had extra room on the shelf to keep the car keys and cigarette dry!