I once saw a fellow tailgater with a radio inside a cooler. I thought this was genius. It's loud, cheap, and extremely portable. My own build was created based on the countless tutorials that I looked at online, in addition with my own ideas. (I apologize for the poor picture quality, my phones camera is cracked and i can't find my normal camera)
I apologize for my poor picture quality, my phones camera is cracked and i couldn't find my normal camera.
Step 1: Materials
My plan for my cooler was to add speakers and an amp, put some leds on the outside, and still retain the functionality of a cooler. The materials needed for this cooler stereo are rather simple:
Cooler: any cooler will work, I got mine off of Craigslist for 5 bucks. I believe it's about fifty quarts or so. I wanted a pretty big one so that I could retain the functionality of a cooler. $10-60
Amp: the choice if amp is up to you. I chose the pyle hydra mini marine amplifier. It's simple and easy to use, runs great so far, and sounds loud and clear. $55
Speakers: once again, you can choose these as you please. I chose the infinity reference 6.5 inch marine speakers. They seem perfect for the job, and they sound very clear. $83
Spare wire: any wire will do. I used cheap 20 gauge wire that I usually use to wire my led projects with. Any gauge will do, usually 16-20 is recommended. $0-20
Battery: I used a small motorcycle battery and it works great. It's compact and light, so it's easier to haul the cooler. $50?
Battery maintainer plug: this plug hooks on to your battery so that it can easily be charged without having to pull off the plastic covering the electronics. $6
Leds (optional): I wanted to put leds on my cooler, and i had a lot of spare ones from earlier projects. However, simply type "led strip" in on amazon and you can easily find a large roll of lights for about ten dollars in the color of your choosing. $10
Abs plastic: if you want to seal off your electronics so that you can still use your cooler as a cooler, then you need some abs plastic. $20
Silicone: I used silicone to seal off my abs plastic to give it a nice, waterproof seal. This can be purchased at a Menards, Walmart, or most hardware stores. $5
Step 2: Tools
The equipment needed to build your cooler stereo are as follows:
3/4 inch drill bit
Solder and soldering iron (clamp on clips could also be used)
Caulk gun (optional, you could shove the silicone out with your hands
Dremel or jigsaw to cut out the speaker holes
Electrical tape, or heat shrink tubing
Step 3: Cut Speaker Holes
Every speaker has a specific cutout diameter, which, for mine, was listed on the box. Once you find that diameter (mine was 5 1/8") you need to use your dremel or whatever tool you're using to cut out the holes for the speakers to go into.
Step 4: Drill Holes for Toggle Switches and Maintainer Plug
Here is where you drill your holes for your toggle switch that powers your system, plus any other things you need to mount to the cooler. My system has a toggle switch for power, a volume controller that came with the amp, and an auxiliary input jack that also came with the amp. I measured my holes so that they were equidistant from the speakers and each other. My toggle switch, as with most toggle Switches, required a 3/4 inch hole. I used my 3/4 inch wood bit to drill these out.
Step 5: Put on Leds!! (Optional)
This step is optional, but comes highly recommended by myself. You can basically put the light strips wherever you want, but keep in mind that you need to wire them. I choose to put one strip under both of my speakers so that it would be easy to run the light's wires through the speaker hole. Once you have mounted the leds, run the wires through to either speaker.
Step 6: Wire Everything
This is probably the most confusing step. You need to tie everything together: the toggle switch, amp, speakers, battery, and lights if you have them.
The speakers should be wired directly to the amps speaker inputs.
You need to run a power, ground, and remote wire from your amp to the toggle switch. I chose to solder the wires to the switch, even though it is recommended that you use clips.
After you have run your wires from the amp to the toggle switch, you need to run two wires from the toggle switch to the battery (power and ground).
Finally, there are two ways to wire the leds. The first way causes the leds to flash with the music, which is what I did. The second way is to tie the leds to the switch, so that they turn on and off, but they don't flash.
For the first option, simply take the positive and negative wires from your led strip and tie them in to the corresponding positive and negative terminals on your speaker.
For the second option, you need to run the power and ground wires of the leds to the same terminals of the toggle switch that you wired the amp to.
Also, do not forget to wire your maintainer plug to the battery, red to the battery positive and black to the negative.
Step 7: Mount Everything in Place
Once you've wired everything together, you need to make sure that things aren't moving around. I simply screwed my amp into the floor of the cooler, and mounted my speakers with the provided screws.
To mount the battery, I used a plate from the bottom of a fried drill battery charger, screwed it into the ground, and put the battery in it. You could glue down wood strips around the battery, and that would probably work just as well.
Step 8: Drill a Hole and Place the Maintainer Plug
Here is where you need to hook your maintainer plug up to your battery so that the cooler can be charged. You either need to drill out a hole for your maintainer plug to go through, or you could unscrew your drain cap and use it for your maintainer plug instead. I put mine right beside the battery, with as small a hole as possible.
Step 9: Mount the Abs
If you want your cooler to remain a cooler, you can use abs plastic and silicone to accomplish this. You need to figure out how you're going to wall off your stuff, and then measure and cut your plastic accordingly. If the plastic needs bent, I put mine on a flat surface and ran a torch over it while putting slight downward pressure on the plastic. This worked like a charm.
Step 10: Seal Off Plastic
Now that your plastic is in place, you need to seal it off and brace it so that it won't bend or leak. I used liquid nail all the way around the plastic, and then siliconed over that.
Do not forget to silicone the hole that you drilled for the maintainer plug. You want this whole thing to be completely watertight.
Step 11: Marvel in the COOLer's Beauty
Your cooler is finished!! After about 200 dollars and hours worth of labor, your masterpiece is finished. My cooler stereo was a little pricey, but the price could easily be dropped by using less expensive materials, such as the amp and speakers.
Some extra upgrades could include a solar panel to plug into the maintainer plug on the cooler. This would charge the battery while you're out tailgating/doing whatever.
These are fairly easy to build, but I would consider doing them if you don't want to do with the hassles of making one yourself. I would ask for 250-300 dollars, depending on the materials used.