Car Stereo PC Power Supply Mod With Pizzazz




About: 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, Geekologie, PCWorld, CNet and many more - Pinter...

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!



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Step 1: 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

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

  • 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

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

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

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

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

Step 9: 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

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

  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?

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

Awesome sound and looks, it gets used every day!

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79 Discussions


8 years ago on Introduction

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

1 reply

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.


2 years ago

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.


3 years ago

Veľmi pekný, dôvtipný výrobok. Vďaka.


4 years ago on Introduction

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


4 years ago on Introduction

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?


5 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

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.


5 years ago on Introduction

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!

1 reply

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!


6 years ago on Introduction

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

1 reply

7 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

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.

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.