Use car gauges to display computer stats

Colonel_Panic

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I had a thought about modding car gauges to display stats about a computer.

Picture this: a used dash panel from an older car hooked via USB to a computer. I imagine the gauges would be changed so that the tachometer shows CPU utilization, speedometer shows clock speed, gas gauge reads free space on a drive and the temp gauge shows the temperature of the cores.

Has anyone thought of this or even attempted it? As far as I know, most analog gauges use stepper motors for rotation, and some of the even older gauges use a simple analog voltages to move on the dial. The challenges I see with a setup like this are getting the stats from the PC, outputting over USB and having those values correspond to positions for each gauge (basically the whole thing). If it would work, how awesome would it be to have a dash mounted on your desk showing information?
 

W.Feather

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i imagine its possible, since its just reading volts for the most part..... programming would be a bitch, and probably pretty specific to the dash used, though i dont know
 

shawnoen

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Seen Bill at MNPCTech do it with a set of VDO gauges before. About 10 years ago or more......
 

Mohonri

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IIRC, the speedo (and likely the tach as well) get a pulse input--the fast the wheels/engine turn, the more frequent the pulses to the gauge.
 

MindBuster

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Could be done with a Servo controller like this $20 one, then a couple of servos sitting behind the panel with the needles attached to them, programming could be done easily with AutoIt, just read the temp (or whatever) and set the servo accordingly.
 
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Uncle Humjaba

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Could be done with a Servo controller like this $20 one, then a couple of servos sitting behind the panel with the needles attached to them, programming could be done easily with AutoIt, just read the temp (or whatever) and set the servo accordingly.

100x this. You don't want to mess with trying to emulate inputs from the car's PCM
 

Colonel_Panic

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Is servo control typically the basis for most gauges? I was always under the impression they were stepper motors inside (maybe the old ones). I was going to use an Arduino in between the PC and motors to handle translation of signals.
 

MindBuster

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Is servo control typically the basis for most gauges? I was always under the impression they were stepper motors inside (maybe the old ones). I was going to use an Arduino in between the PC and motors to handle translation of signals.

Dunno if servos is typically used for gauges, but for this it would be the easiest to use.
Rip out all the electronics of the dash panel and only use a servo controller as the above mentioned, buy a couple of your own servos and that's all, you wouldnt need the electronics from the dashboard, as others have mentioned, you dont wanna mess with it.
 

Colonel_Panic

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Thanks for that video, it's some good inspiration. I think I might take a visit to the local auto recycling yard and see what I can find. As MindBuster suggested, rip out the motor guts, install my own and have at it.
 

Wiregeek

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pulse generation isn't a bad solution, either. Arduino can do PWM all day long.. don't scrap the original mechanicals right away, give it a shot!
 

Colonel_Panic

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pulse generation isn't a bad solution, either. Arduino can do PWM all day long.. don't scrap the original mechanicals right away, give it a shot!

How easy do you think it is to find the pinouts of specific gauges to actually get them connected properly?
 

Wiregeek

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How easy do you think it is to find the pinouts of specific gauges to actually get them connected properly?

pretty.


Of course, I haven't _done_ it, yet.

And I might - this looks as cool as could be. Hey, OP, what dash you gonna get?
 

ryuji

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Servos take a pwm signal anyway, arduino uses a ttl to usb chip, which is seen by the os as a serial port. From there it cant get any easier to get what you want input to arduino. You can make yourself some j or k type thermocouples and have a much more accurate temp reading especially if you use purpose made chips
http://www.analog.com/en/mems-sensors/analog-temperature-sensors/ad595/products/product.html
that one only goes to 50C but there are other chips, thats just a example
 

Colonel_Panic

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pretty.


Of course, I haven't _done_ it, yet.

And I might - this looks as cool as could be. Hey, OP, what dash you gonna get?

I'm really interested in this project now. I spent some time on eBay to see what was out there, and I'm liking the Mk4 VW dash, with the cool blue lights. I drive a 2010 Golf, so this might work nicely. I probably won't buy from eBay, but instead visit the local auto recyclers here in town and see what they have, hopefully for cheaper.

Right now, though, I see 2 problems: getting hardware sensor data into a format I can read (probably with Python) and reverse engineering the gauge inputs to actually move them. I really like these kind of hardware projects, so I'm looking forward to it. I'll keep the thread updated.
 
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