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Sapphire - 2019 Prado 150 Kakadu Buildup

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  • Sapphire - 2019 Prado 150 Kakadu Buildup

    This is a buildup of my 2019 Prado 150 Kakadu, both for my own reference and to hopefully share my ideas with some of you fine folk, whom I have repeatedly leveraged over the years (I had a 2008 Prado 120 GXL for 11 years which I sold when I bought the new truck a few weeks ago, and I repeatedly found myself on these forums when looking for info and materials).

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    In particular, I haven't seen any references on these forums to many of the parts and ideas I have decided to install:
    • Ultimate DCS 12V 150Ah Dual Battery Setup (Lithium)
      • Tracer7810BP 390W/12VDC 780W/24VDC 30A solar charger
      • Genuine toyota 2nd battery tray
      • Maxray 12V 250W Folding Solar Panel Blanket Solar Mat Kit Mono Camping Power USB
      • MT-50 battery / solar charge monitor
      • Wifi module for Tracer
    • DCS 12V 75Ah (Lithium) - third lithium battery, removable for camping
      • Tracer7810BP 390W/12VDC 780W/24VDC 20A solar charger
      • Diode isolator
      • USB ports + USB-C PD upgrade
      • Wireless Qi charging pad
      • MT-50 battery / solar charge monitor
    • Strike Alpha Cradle with clear Strike case for iPhone X and iPhone XS
      • RFI Quadrant internal glass mount multiband antenna
      • ProClip 604803 dashboard mount
    • TPMS Tire Pressure Monitor System 4 Internal Valve 22 Sensors DVD Video Car
      • Spare Part - Masten TPMS Internal Sensor (sensor for spare tyre)
      • Toyota Landcrusier Prado A/V AV Video DVD GPS Navigation input to Factory Screen
    • ARB CKMTA12 air compressor - installed into engine bay
    • GME XRS-330C XRS Connect Super Compact Hideaway
      • Kaon Rear Aerial Mount to Suit Toyota Prado 120 / Prado 150 / Lexus
    • Blackvue DR900S-2CH 4K dashcam
    • ARB bullbar
    • Mikrotik LtAP 4G / wifi access point
      • Mikrotik Active GPS antenna
      • Quectel EC25-AU MINI PCIE FDD-LTE 4G data modem
      • Raspberry Pi 3+ onboard computer for unifying everything (with 7" touch screen)
    • ELM327 OBDII OBD2 Bluetooth WIFI Car Scanner Scan Tool Torque Android IOS iPhone
    • Kaon 30L Stainless Steel Underbody Water Tank - Toyota Prado 150 / Lexus GX 460
    • Dometic Waeco CFX 75DZW
    I took delivery of the truck on Saturday 16 February 2019, with only the dashcam installed. The ARB bullbar was installed a couple of weeks later, and most of the other equipment I've already received or have on order (mostly from ebay, some from Aliexpress, some direct). Bodgy temporary installation of some of the things will be done by myself and a friend, to help decide on locations and wiring layout, with permanent installation being done by Guest 4WD in Alphington, Victoria - scheduled for 18 March.

    Some photos to come shortly with the bodgy UHF install for the first 4WD trip, and the troubles I've already encountered before I even started. I'll also undoubtedly end up rambling on endlessly about Anderson PowerPole connectors for 12V power, which will be used throughout (no cig lighter connections for me!).

    There's also a long story to tell about every aspect of the build (what it's supposed to do and why I chose it over other options), which I'm happy to share for anybody else who is interested. Please let me know of any questions you have as I get my stuff together over the coming few weeks.
    Last edited by zylantha; 02-03-2019, 08:22 AM.

  • #2
    UHF Buildup

    My first little jaunt last weekend required me to be able to communicate with my friend over the UHF as we took my kids (4 and 3) out for their first geocaching trip in Wombat State Forest, so we clearly needed the antenna installed. Since I don't have the ARB bullbar on yet, this was going to have to be on the Kaon rear aerial mount that sits behind the spare tyre.

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    This location for the antenna is not new to me - I rigged up the same thing on my 120 ten years ago, but back then I used a piece of aluminium angle from Bunnings. It lasted the distance, but this one is so much cooler in beautiful pressed stainless steel. It does require removing the wheel cover, which we were going to do anyway (more on that later).

    The plan is for the UHF antenna to be here up high on the back ("height is might"), with the stubby AW4704B radome on normally, and the taller antenna only when necessary. With the stubby antenna on, the total height is still 195cm so still able to get into the shopping centre carparks.

    For this inital trip, I ran the antenna cable under the rear door and into the car to the UHF, since I'm going to get the experts to run it through the door and into its final location later on.

    It all works great except ... the rear wiper hits the antenna mount and stops dead halfway through a stroke :O The guys at Kaon are on it and have promised me a fix or replacement. Meanwhile we can't use the rear wipers until it's fixed, for risk of burning out the motor (which continues to desperately try to complete its full stroke).

    UPDATE (27/02): Kaon have got back to me and advised that they are redesigning the entire mount, and will send me a new one within a couple of weeks. Hats off to their prompt attendance to the issue.

    More to follow...
    Last edited by zylantha; 27-02-2019, 07:22 PM.


    • #3
      A word about Switches on the Prado 150 (2018+)

      There is only one standard rectangular Toyota switch blank on the dash. Toyota now have a new smaller 'square' switch, of which there are three on the left of the steering column, and one on the right.
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      There is only one place that you can get the blank switches, Air On Board. Here's the first ones I decided on:
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      ... this leaves me two square switches still blank, and the larger single rectangle one. I was going to use the larger rectangle one as a TPMS, but I ended up changing my mind and went for an AV integrated system instead. Unfortunately AOB don't have a TPMS switch in this form, for some reason .. I may email them and ask them why, maybe it's an oversight.

      I will also need somewhere to neatly mount the RJ45 connector for the UHF radio. Originally the UHF was going to be in the dash - but I've now decided it will be in the boot, closer to the antenna (shorter cables = less cable loss). Given my kids love to talk on the UHF from the back seat, a mount that is nearer the centre of the car may be better - so rather than taking up one of the switch blanks with the UHF port (I've seen the really neat ones available on ebay that were originally announced by a PP forum member here - but they are all for the larger switch plate), I may look to mount it on the centre console somewhere instead. It also avoids the dremeling work that would be required to mount a keystone RJ45 jack in one of these switch blanks, which I was not looking forward to.

      I've found that removing the switch blanks just needs brute force - using the flat screwdriver from the prado toolkit, inserted underneath the switch and levered out. Once you've got one out, you can put a finger behind the others and push them out from behind.


      • #4

        I had originally ordered one of the practically ubiquitous blank-switch-plate mounted TPMS from Aliexpress (only A$75 with four external sensors). That didn't seem to want to ship, and with a big discount offered on ebay, I dropped more on a Masten system from digoptions, together with a fifth sensor for the spare tyre.

        Please will somebody tell me why:
        1. Nobody sells a five-tyre TPMS (does nobody care about their spare tyre?)
        2. Nobody allows you to simply enter a tyre rotation into the TPMS? Doesn't anybody rotate their tyres any more?

        The blank-switch-mounted TPMS only has a display for four tyres, and is dirt-cheap, so that's forgivable. The Masten supports up to 22 tyres, so adding the fifth should be a doddle ... except the display looks like it is only configurable for 4 or 6 tyres (no 5 tyre option?) Am I going to end up with a 6 tyre setup and constant warnings about missing a tyre? I hope not!!

        Even then, each of the sensors has a tyre designation on it (FL, FR, RL, RR) .. so what happens when you rotate the tyres? Looks like you have to go through an entire re-enrolment process. Maybe I'll get used to it -t here's a little wireless button that allows you to click against each tyre during programming, so we'll see. I reckon it will be a pain to have to reset them all each time - or even figure out whether they are out of whack. They should just have a code hard-printed on them, so that when they are rotated you can just switch the codes around rather than try to guess which one is now where. Or just take your car to Melbourne City Toyota for servicing, where for 10 years I don't think they ever rotated the tyres on my old 120 ...

        So anyway, the Masten arrived, and at some point I'll be off to the local tyre centre to get them to install the sensors.
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        I'll need to wait for the AV input cable to arrive before it can actually be hardwired into the head unit (I could wire it into the AV input on the rear system, seems a bit silly though ... maybe just for testing ..)


        • #5
          A few words about the Kakadu rear entertainment system

          There are some reviews out there that mention an HDMI input on the rear entertainment system for the Kakadu. I was even told by the salesperson that there was an HDMI input in the centre console. This is all false - there is no HDMI input, there is only a composite video input.

          The car comes with a ridiculously overpriced (I've seen that thread!) but very basic remote to control the system, and three wireless headphones, which everyone at the dealership seemed to think were bluetooth - they had very carefully written my VIN on each of the three boxes so as not to get them mixed up and unpaired. This too is false - they are infrared wireless headphones, and as such do not need to be paired. They each have a single "A/B" switch on them, and are powered by two AAA batteries. They switch on automatically when you rotate the ear pads, and switch off when you flatten them. They seem very cheaply built, and have a pretty dodgy (ie cheap) user manual included (which identifies them as infrared headphones).

          I remember from my childhood, probably in the mid 1980s, my parents bought a pair of infrared headphones that I could wear while listening to the TV, so as not to disturb them... so this type of audio transmission standard dates back 30 or 40 years, there's nothing special about it. I'm sure there's not many different standards for it - so it may well be that if you break a set, you can get another one from somewhere other than Toyota (the first link on Aliexpress for "infrared headphones" is US$20 for headphones that look fairly similar (but not identical)). So I won't worry too much about the kids breaking these, although it would be nice if they had a bit more of a quality build.


          • #6
            Following the build mate! Very intrested ! Love the peacock black ! Wish I seen one in person when getting our 2018 prado in crystal pearl, going off the Toyota colors online etc canít tell what it looks Like !

            can you tell me more about the dual battery set up as I am looking in to setting up one shortly for our car


            • #7
              Dual (triple) Lithium Batteries

              I always had a second battery in my 120, but everything about it was wrong - and so this time I have vowed to do it right.

              Battery tray: I had installed a gold passivated steel battery tray from ebay, however a couple of bad batteries leaking a little bit of acid had eaten away any corrosion resistance, and it was rusting badly. I was determined not to make that mistake again! This time I went with a genuine Toyota battery tray from eBay - this tray is plastic, not metal, so no chance of rusting this time. Of course, since I'm going lithium, there is no chance of any acid spills, but nonetheless I'd prefer not to have this same poor quality metal under my bonnet any more. Most accessories (like DC-DC charger mounts) are now available in stainless steel, so I would strongly recommend going for that option over anything else. Also I'll convey a word of advice from Guest 4WD: The plastic tray may not be the best option for large aux batteries, because it is only plastic after all. However my lithiums only way 10kg each - half that of an equivalent lead-acid at around 20kg, so I'm not worried about it sitting on plastic.

              Connectors: I warned at the beginning that there would be rambling about Anderson Powerpole connectors, so let's start.
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              Top: What everyone calls an "Anderson" connector, but is actually an Anderson SB50 (50 = 50 amps). You can also get SB120, SB175 and SB350 connectors that are rated for 120, 175 and 350 amps respectively.
              Bottom: An Anderson PowerPole PP45 connector, rated at 45 amps. You can also get PP75 and more.

              Spot the difference? Yeah for only a few less amps the connector is about a quarter of the size of the PP50. It's actually about 1/8th the size, since it's also about half the height of the SB50. The PP45 also comes with three different options for the contacts that you use - rated at 15, 30 and 45 amps respectively. In practice, the contacts themselves are all the same, however the crimping barrel is sized differently, for different sizes of wire. The 15 amp is for wire from 20 to 16 AWG, the 30 for 16 to 12 AWG, and the 45 for up to 10 AWG wire.

              So here's the deal: Every DC appliance I buy quickly gets its plug cut off, and replaced with a PowerPole. They are smaller than the SB50, have all the advantages of being genderless, I can have different colours to indicate the voltage output / expected (we use yellow for 5v, orange for 12v solar, pink for higher voltage solar (90v), green for 24v), they are cheap, easy to attach, and I can fit four PP connectors in a panel mount the same size as a single SB50. There's nothing not to like about the PP45 - and there's a reason why they are ubiquitous in the ham radio world.

              The connector plan: Everywhere that needs less than 45 amps will be connected with PPs (things like the battery interconnects and the air compressor will need more, so they will have something else), but 45 amps is plenty enough for everything else. I'll be stacking four PPs in each panel mount, with one somewhere in the dash, and two in the boot. There will also be connectors under the bonnet (or maybe in the bullbar) for the solar panel inputs.

              To me there is only one advantage of the SB50 over the PP45: The SB50 has a much tighter connection than the PP, so it's harder to pull apart accidentally. But really - I'd prefer the connectors to disconnect when you trip over a wire, rather than risk damaging a solar panel or something else (like the wires actually coming out of the connector, like has already happened on a pre-terminated SB50 that came with my solar panel ...)

              Dual Battery: I went through three deep cycle batteries in my 10 years with the 120, with each limping along mostly fubar for several years before I overcame the bill shock to pop another $300 on a new one. Really it should have been at least four - the last battery had been cactus for at least the last three years, and I had never bothered replacing it (young children had meant no camping for a while). The first battery was an uber-expensive high capacity battery from the US, which didn't last, then the second was a deep cycle marine battery, and the third was a standard deep cycle from Anaconda. They all sucked - although having a broken Waeco fridge, which I eventually discovered had its interior light on constantly even when it was off, draining the battery with no protection, clearly didn't help. So I plan to keep the new truck for 10 years, and I can budget on around $1000 for a battery if it lasts the distance ($300 per deep cycle battery x 3 = $900+).

              There are three underlying issues with your standard "deep cycle" lead acid battery, whether it's AGM, wet, calcium or anything else. First - you don't actually get the rated capacity; a "100Ah" battery can really only be discharged to 50% or you will quickly kill it. Secondly, you need a DC-DC charger to ensure that your aux battery is fully charged from the alternator, and good ones of these run up to $1000 alone (e.g. the Ctek PowerPass + D250S are about a grand, the Redarc a little cheaper as an integrated unit - but won't charge as fast as it doesn't have the bypass and is limited to 25A or so). The third issue is that they don't last - five hundred cycles maybe if you're lucky, and about three years.

              Not to mention: AGM are insanely heavy, all the others are also heavy, and they are all filled with horrible acids that you have to check and top up regularly. Yuck.

              I spent a lot of time researching what I would do, but kept coming back to Lithium as the only sensible option. You can pick up a "drop in" 100Ah Lithium aux battery starting from about $600, all the way up to around $2000. Aside from the likely difference in manufacturing quality, a large part of this will be going to the inbuilt battery management system (BMS) - all Lithium batteries need to be balanced (each cell needs to be individually monitored and charged to the same voltage), and you need to protect the battery from being overly discharged or charged - otherwise you run the risk of it catching fire. So every Lithium battery intended for this purpose will have a BMS of some sort, and a $600 Lithium will likely have a cheap one (they can be had for as little as $20), and $2000 gets you a battery with a really fancy bluetooth one that has a companion app on your phone that will tell you all sorts of statistics about the state of charge and battery condition.

              Most Lithium batteries will also state that they are not suitable for cranking - they are strictly as auxillary batteries, so they're not truly "drop in" replacements. I also spoke with the guys who make the $2000 battery, and they specifically told me not to install it in the engine bay - which seems to be a prevailing mantra among ... well, everyone.

              There is one notable exception to this: the systems available from Deep Cycle Systems (DCS), who specifically sell a dual 75Ah battery system (that's TWO 75Ah Lithiums) for $1899, with free delivery, including the VSR, with the specific purpose of being installed in your engine bay, replacing the lead-acid starter battery and providing your Lithium aux battery. The system has a 3-year warranty (ever seen one of those on a lead-acid battery?), and they make it very clear that everything is absolutely rated for installation in the engine bay, AND you don't need that pesky DC-DC charger - because you have two identical batteries, and they have inbuilt BMS to manage the charge voltage, they will charge fine together straight off the alternator - at up to 80 amps (that saves up to $1000 on the DC charging setup). This is what I decided on - I'm not going to go into more detail here, they sell their stuff pretty well; check out their website, read their blog, watch their videos (they have one where they are demonstrating winching, pulling over 150A!), and email them if you have any questions (Paul has been a great help).

              The only issue so far was getting an installer who is willing to do the work - their regular installer in Melbourne was too busy for me, and it took some convincing for Guest 4WD to agree to it, but they have .. so fingers crossed all will go well next month when it all goes in.

              Triple Battery: If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing. I have had a Projecta 33Ah AGM portable jump-starter for probably about 10 years as well (maybe longer, since before the 120) - and it's proven infinitely useful - for powering the fridge when camping or picnicing away from the car, as well as jump starting mine and other friends' cars in sticky situations. The air compressor on it was always rubbish - and it died a long time ago, along with the useless inbuilt compass. The kids love to play with the stupid flashing lights on it, which is a pain. And now the AGM battery in it is dead - so what to do?

              Clearly I needed a new portable jump starter - and the only choice is clearly Lithium. Looking around for what's available, they are all pretty cheap and dodgy, or insanely expensive. So I'm building my own, using ... well, another DCS lithium battery. Except battery boxes alone are all filled with cigarette lighter sockets (which we've already established suck - I want all PPs). And they are mostly all cheap flimsy plastic, except the ones that are really fancy and cost a grand without a battery (which have DC-DC chargers and inbuilt 240v inverters - which I do NOT want; when I'm camping we are strictly low voltage for everything). The one sensible one I found was the Antpak DC10 battery box, which is really bare bones - a LCD volt meter with two 2.4A USB outputs, a couple of cigarette lighter outputs and a Hella socket. Oh, and a 400A switch and some big terminals on the back for jump starting. And a huge reserved space at the top, which they use in the other models of the box for their DC-DC chargers and 240v inverters. For about $110 this was perfect - I could customise it to be exactly what I wanted, replacing the cigarette lighters, adding a solar charger, as well as more USB, and a wireless charger for my iPhone.

              I chose to get the 75Ah as the portable battery rather than the 100Ah (even though the latter would have fit in the battery box), to save weight (and for the strange satisfaction of having three identical lithiums in the setup). The target is to have the new system to be four times the usable capacity, with the same weight as the old one.

              I wanted this battery to be able to be charged from the alternator along with the other two batteries when the car is running, however simply connecting it up in parallel could run the risk of damage to the system if there was a significant difference in the state of charge between the portable battery and the aux battery in the car (one would try to charge the other). DCS immediately said that I needed a diode in between the two - and bundled this up with the extra battery as part of the package.

              Side note: I also ordered a fourth lithium battery at the same time for a friend, who is replacing the wet deep-cycle battery in his portable battery box. He's getting the 100Ah version, and installing it in an Antpak as well - but he will be using the Ctek D250 charger since he still has a wet cell starting battery in his car.

              Battery Monitoring / Solar Charging: With the batteries sorted, I still needed a way to do the solar charging, and I wanted to be able to see their state of charge as well. When I got my third battery for the 120, I imported a Battery Bug from the USA so I could see the condition of the battery - this is a little LCD mounted on the battery, under the bonnet. I never really liked it, and it seems they are mostly defunct now. I wanted something far more high tech this time, and I stumbled upon the EPEVER brand of chargers, which come out of China (like everything else). The Triron series is the latest and greatest, and has a full graphic LCD display, along with wifi and bluetooth options - just the ticket.

              Except it's not waterproof and would need to go in the car - which I didn't want - I wanted it under the bonnet close to the battery. So I settled on their Tracer-BP line instead - these are fully waterproof and display-less, but you can add a "MT50" remote display which communicates over RS-485 to the main unit, which is perfect.

              Again - I did a lot of research on these, and there's a lot of people using the EPEVER equipment on their Lithium setups (mostly for home power rather than vehicle use), they seem very popular. You can configure every parameter of the charging cycle - but they also have an inbuilt lithium profile that you can set to start off with.

              I'll do a separate ramble about the solar chargers and monitoring as there's lots more to say about them. I bought two of the Tracer-BP chargers, one for the aux battery in the car (30A), and one for the battery box (20A). They were meant to be different dimensions - but ended up being the same for some reason. I also bought two of the MT50 displays, two Wifi interfaces, and a bluetooth interface. You're only supposed to be able to wire up one at a time, but I'm going to try to hook up several at once (RS485 is a multidrop standard).

              I also needed a way to mount the Tracer-BP under the bonnet - and while I was at Guest 4WD we tried it against one of the stainless steel mounts they use for mounting the Redarc BCDC on a Prado 150 - it fits perfectly with two of the pre-cut screw positions, and will just need two more holes drilled. Sorted.

              An experiment in in-car solar charging: With the Blackvue dashcam constantly drawing power in parking mode, along with the 4G access point, ideally I'd have some form of solar power available to keep the batteries topped up. I had always wanted a solar panel on the roof racks (probably on a flat roof platform), but this seems an invitation to have them stolen. I had the idea of putting a solar panel underneath the moon roof, sitting on top of the privacy door. I knew that there'd be some significant efficiency loss - but there is this great big place to put a solar panel there, I thought that I could make that up by putting as large a panel as I could; my target was to have at least 10W from it. I'm not the first person to think of this - I found reference to doing the same thing in another forum about 10 years ago, but nobody seemed to have actually tried it out. I borrowed a really old 5W amorphous solar panel from my friend, which was about the right size - and ran a basic experiment. In the direct sun it was pushing out 2.3 watts (yeah it's really old). Under the glass on the windscreen, 1.5 watts (35% loss). And under the moon roof - it would give out enough to fire up my power meter, but it never measured any current (the power meter has a minimum measurement of 100mA). I may still revisit this with a much larger / more modern panel later on, but it's not looking promising.

              Wiring: I did all the wiring on my 120 myself, when I was much younger and more nimble. Now I'm too old and crotchety to want to do it, so am getting it all professionally done. The dual battery is pretty simple - same as any other battery setup with the VSR. The dashcam will be rewired over to the aux battery, along with having PP outputs throughout as I already mentioned. I will also run a separate cable to the boot for plugging in the portable battery through the diode. This will either be using an Anderson SB50 or a PP75 (the larger version of the PP45, rated at up to 75 amps). Fun fact: The contacts in an SB50 are identical to the contacts in a PP75, even though the PP75 is rated for 50% more current than the SB50. Go figure. Why can't you run 75 amps through a SB50 if it's the same contacts?

              I'm on my third chicken-scratching of a wiring diagram, and continue to tweak it as I go; I've got until 18 March to finalise it and hand it over to Guest 4WD

              So anyway, the batteries shipped out yesterday, and should arrive in the next few days - I will then finish off the battery box in a separate post, as most of those parts have also arrived. That will be in another post.


              • #8
                Mobile 4G Hotspot / Connected car / lojack / unifying all the Wifi

                Warning: Post contains technical nerdy content.

                One weekend camping trip, at a time that the Mrs was thoroughly addicted to words with friends, I was told that we couldn't go camping if she couldn't get internet connectivity. Of course, my friend and I took that as a challenge. We knew of a local dog-friendly state park near a lake where there would be some mobile reception, all we needed was extra height to ensure we had a good signal. We armed ourselves with a 4G Wifi access point and an external battery pack - all we needed was a way to get them as high up as possible. The obvious place was up a tree - but how do two wimps who can't throw for nuts get valuable electronics high up in a tree, and still be able to get them down again afterwards? Clearly this job required a bicycle pump-powered air cannon made out of PVC pipe, with a solenoid irrigation valve-trigger. But that's another story.

                Armed with one single additional Telstra SIM on a grandfathered family sharing plan ($5 a month sharing the Mrs. totally underused data), my aim with the new truck here is threefold:
                1. Provide reliable high-gain-antenna supported 4G connectivity over Wifi when we're out camping and geocaching (especially since I'm now on a work-provided Optus SIM which has limited remote coverage).
                2. Provide an onboard computer (a Raspberry Pi 3) to do other miscellaneous stuff that I decide to do in the future, or make a bridge for all of the other things that refuse to talk properly.
                3. Provide single Wifi connectivity into all of the stupid IoT devices that now adorn the truck, NONE of which will properly operate as a client AP:
                  1. Blackvue dashcam
                  2. OBD2 interface
                  3. Battery management / solar charge controllers
                  4. Waeco CFX fridge
                Just to explain myself on the last point.. I was excited to hear of all the new-fangled capabilities of the devices that would be going into the new truck, all of which were "wifi" enabled. This all sounds great, until you begin to understand what it means in practice - and this applies universally to all of the devices in this list. If you want to view the footage off the dashcam (or talk to the OBD2 interface on the car, check on the battery, or turn the fridge on or off), you need to connect to that particular device's wifi hotspot. Those devices will not connect to your own wifi hotspot and allow you to do the same things ... no sirree .. you have to connect to it. That means that on your phone, you need to tell it to connect to that wifi network, provide the wifi PSK (if there is one ... on many there aren't), do what you want to do, and then forget that network. Because while you are connected to the device's wifi, you have no internet! And as soon as your phone comes back into range of the device ... it will go "wifi!!!" and connect back to that network, and you lose internet again. That is not cool.

                My third goal here is therefore to have all the legwork being done by my 4G hotspot - it will connect up to all of my wifi devices, it will obtain the IP addresses from them, and it will act as a go-between and make my phone think that it is connected to the wifi on the device itself, allowing the app to work, yet still providing me with that sweet, sweet internet connectivity that I would otherwise lose if I did it the way those stupid manufacturers insist that we use their devices. And all this needs to work seamlessly enough that my wife can turn on the fridge from the front seat of the car, without needing to fart around with wifi settings every time (how stupid is that?).

                So my system needs to be smart, flexible, and ready to be complicit in my hacking attempts at making all of these devices think we're operating as (stupidly) directed by the manufacturer, even though they totally aren't. Piece of cake.

                A small insight into my psyche here: I hate being told that I can't do something, or have to do something dumb, without a reason or justification that I regard as valid. It's an invitation for me to find a way around your stupid rules. I guess that's why I'm a lawyer. Or was. But that again is another story.

                Being the amateur networking nerd that I am (as you can probably glean from these objectives), there's really only one choice for an in-car networking system: Mikrotik. While there are commercial / industrial options from Sierra Wireless, Robustel, Teltonika, and even some semi-professional systems from Netgear, I'm neither going to spend commercial amounts of money on this, nor am I going to ever buy Netgear again. There are two simple reasons I'm going Mikrotik over any other options: 1. They are not expensive, and 2. They do not abandon their hardware products: they have one software platform (called RouterOS), it is exactly the same across all of their hardware, regardless of how old it is (you can still run the latest RouterOS on Mikrotik hardware from 10 years ago). This means that security issues are resolved, and new features continue to be added long after the hardware is discontinued - your only limitation is the capabilities of the hardware, not the support of the hardware from the vendor. If your Mikrotik hardware no longer fits your needs - you can save the software configuration, upgrade the hardware (remember - it's not expensive!) and load the configuration onto the new hardware. Incidentally, that's also why I will also only recommend Synology NAS in that space (I suppose again that's another story).

                SO what do I mean by "not expensive"? Fully-capable Mikrotik routers start from about $50, and the mobile hotspot I've chose is around $135 without the 4G modem (which adds about $70). So for about $200, I have my 4G hotspot all set. At least that's I thought.

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                Pigtails, pigtails and more pigtails... and hardware limitations
                The Mikrotik LtAP is a really cool device, it's splash resistant (sort of), intended to go in a car, has a low power consumption, and has an inbuilt GPS for tracking ... really cool. Except for every cool feature, it has even more debilitating limitations:
                1. The GPS doesn't work if you have an LTE (4G) card installed, unless you have an external antenna. To install the external antenna, you need a $15 pigtail adapter, drill a hole in the case, and buy the external antenna for another $35.
                2. The Wifi only operates at 2Ghz (i.e. 802.11b/g/n; no 5Ghz 802.11ac for higher throughput).
                3. It only supports a Mini PCIe modem operating over USB (limited to 150Mbit; the faster cards all use M.2 interfaces that are not compatible).
                4. The ethernet interface is only 100Mbit, and doesn't provide PoE out (to power a secondary 5G access point).
                5. It doesn't have any voltage monitoring nor LVD (so it will happily drain your battery right down to 8V)
                6. You need more pigtails to break out the LTE card's antenna connections so you can connect your high gain 4G antenna - and the Mikrotik ones are SMA (or RP-SMA I can still not tell the difference), rather than FME which is the correct standard.
                7. There is no external antenna option for the wifi
                Really, I would not have understood all of these issues before I bought the device - so I'm sharing them now for posterity. My ideal device for this purpose would address all of these issues for a few more $$ - include the GPS antenna, include 5GHz wifi, provide an M.2 interface, gigabit ethernet with PoE out, some basic voltage monitoring and LVD, and include the connections for external antennas.

                Anyway, most of these can be overcome or don't pose a real issue in the bush (you're not going to exceed the USB or 100Mbit ethernet limitations when you're at a campsite), but remember - I don't take kindly the imposition of arbitrary limitations on what I can do.

                Experiment II: LTE Modems
                I'll continue to use the terms LTE and 4G interchangably - they are actually the same thing for our purposes.

                Now that I had the router sorted, I needed my LTE modem. I have never bought one of these before: I've had a Telstra Netgear 4G hotspot (which sucked), and plenty of phones and iPads with inbuilt 3G / 4G, but no experience with raw LTE modems. I had originally thought that the Mikrotik package of the LtAP with their own "worldwide" modem was a great buy, I continued to google - quickly discovering that Australia has some specific 4G frequencies that are not directly compatible with what they use elsewhere in the world, and found that was selling my LtAP bundled with a "Quectel EC25-AU" 4G modem here in Australia. Perfect - we at least know there is a combination that worked, even though they were a bit pricey.

                I've bought more than my fair share of Mikrotik equipment in my time, so having decided on my router I went ahead and bought it from my friend Mike at, and then set out to source my modem.

                I discovered a list of Telstra-approved 4G modems, in descending order of category (which denotes their highest connection speed), and set about searching for these from the fastest downwards until I found one available within my price point. I found the "Fibocom L850-GL LT4210 4G LTE 917823-001 WWAN Mobile Module" which seemed perfect - only $70 and capable of 450Mbps. And hit the button. Then discovered it was M.2 and then learned that M.2 is not Mini PCIe, and totally not compatible. Thankfully the seller agreed to cancel the order, and I wound up buying the Quectel EC25-AU that were selling, but sourcing it from aliexpress for $75 instead.

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                When the modem finally arrived (everything from Aliexpress takes weeks... I'd had the router for ages) I expected everything to "just work" when I connected it all up, but alas - that was not the case. The EC25 has been supported in RouterOS for a many years, however nothing was working as it should. I'll post the technical details up where it belongs (on the Mikrotik wiki) but to cut a long story short, I had to put the modem out of PPP mode and into usbnet mode using a PC, after which I plugged it back into the LtAP and it worked flawlessly.

                So I now have a fully working 4G hotspot in the new truck, for about $200, that I can build out to do everything else I had set out to do.

                Pigtails again
                What's a pigtail? It's a short cable that goes between a printed circuit board (like the Mini PCIe modem, or the main board of the router) out to a "bulkhead" mount (i.e. socket on the outside of the box of the router) - or it's a short cable that converts between one connector to another. Don't you just love standards? Great way to make $$$ on selling adapters.

                So has let me astray, and the pigtail I got for the GPS antenna isn't the right one (I had ordered the GPS antenna from ebay and it had arrived, but it's RP-SMA. Or SMA. Whatever it is, it's the wrong one for the pigtail that told me I needed). And I needed FME for the big RFI 4G antenna that I'm putting on the bullbar. I eventually found what I was looking for at Aliexpress for cheap-cheap, so I have some of those on order now too. If the world needs anything, it needs more pigtails. They're yet to arrive, but I paid extra to hopefully get them here before Christmas.

                Diversity / MIMO
                I still don't understand this. I have an iPhone, which has no external antenna connection, but will sit in a Strike cradle, which has a single external antenna cable - which I will be connecting to an RFI windscreen-mounted antenna.

                My LtAP has two inbuilt patch antennas for LTE (whether they cover all Australian frequencies or not, I do not know ... Mikrotik is based in Latvia fwiw), but these can both be broken out into external antennas using those pesky pigtails. I've invested in a fairly expensive 4Gx (there I go again ... let's just call it LTE) antenna with up to 7.5dBi gain (varies dependent on the frequency) - but it is only a single FME connector - easy to see how it's compatible with the Strike cradle (still don't know how it connects to my iPhone without an antenna connector, some form of weird RF magic voodoo I suppose), but if I want to connect it to my LtAP and Quectel modem, there's two antenna connectors - what does one do?

                Nobody has told me I can't just connect one antenna. There's web pages that eschew the virtues of two identical antennas ("MIMO") but what if you only have the one antenna? And what if you need to take the whip off the antenna so the wife can drive into the Aldi carpark without setting off the fire sprinklers with the 2M tall 4G antenna? Nobody knows ... at least nobody has published the answer in an easily googlable location, and if you can't google it, nobody knows ...

                So anyway, the plan is that my RFI 7.5dBi antenna goes onto one of the antenna connectors, and the second is left on the internal patch antenna. We'll see what happens. As long as the wife can play words with friends while we're camping out next to Lake Eildon, I'll think we'll be fine.

                GPS / other nonsense
                Why do I need a lojack in a Prado? Who knows, but since my LtAP has a GPS, I may as well make it work - so we have an external GPS antenna going in (once I figure out this SMA / RP-SMA nonsense and get the correct pigtail), but the rest of it looks like it will be hand-coded in scripts and stored somewhere "in the cloud" in a probably totally insecure location. At least it won't be the biggest in-car privacy lapse (did I mention that you can livestream the in-car Blackvue dashcam of at least two other vehicles in Melbourne, many more from around Australia, and thousands from around the world? Hmm.... seems fine)

                So there you have where I'm up to. There's still a lot to do from here, integrating the wifi connectivity and enabling the apps to all work on my phone - but all that will come once I have a steady secondary power supply in the car from the aux batteries, which are due to arrive tomorrow.

                Again .. more to come.
                Last edited by zylantha; 28-02-2019, 08:06 AM.


                • #9
                  More Electricals & PowerPoles: First 3D printed parts!

                  Warning: Post contains more rambling on about Anderson PowerPole connectors

                  I think I've already said enough about why I exclusively use PowerPole connectors instead of any of the vastly inferior and quite frankly ridiculous other options. Let's now talk more about how I'm going to be mounting these PowerPoles.

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                  Four 12V, 45-amp rated outlets in one nice little flush mount package.

                  The problem with these flush mounts is that they need a ruddy great big hole cut out of the internal bodywork of my nice new truck, and on top of that - the cables all come out perpendicular to the panel - not great when you are stuffing the back of the car full of stuff. Ideally you want something that's more surface mounted, allowing the cables to come out in line with the panel, so that they don't interfere with all your stuff.

                  Unfortunately Anderson don't make anything that's surface mounted, and all of the other surface mounts that people are making are either for the venerable SB50 connectors which we aren't going to use. Anderson Connect have made some good use of their in-house 3D printer and are selling some very expensive single PP mounts that are quite frankly a bit ugly and one set of PPs just ain't going to cut it with all of my grand plans.

                  To hell with all that, I'm going to make my own PP surface mounts. With blackjack. And hookers. Well maybe not the hookers. Or the blackjack. But at least we can make it prettier than those from Anderson Connect. And we've gotta have more than just one PP in each block.
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                  My "v1" first iteration 4-way PP surface mount block

                  Given that I have been building and rebuilding and rebuilding my 3D printer for the last four years, it seems silly to buy 3D printed parts off somebody else, especially when they are so ugly. I've had at least three hours experience in using Tinkercad, so I'm clearly overqualified to be able to create my own surface mount blocks for the PPs. This was my first iteration, just to check that everything was going to fit reasonably and that i hadn't broken the printer in the last "upgrade". It's not bad, but it clearly is lacking in a number of areas - mounting holes for one. But we can fix that in the next iteration.

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                  Ahh that's better. Ignore the poor quality, I'm printing really fast as this is just a draft, and this printer filament is really really old (like four years) .. and the wrong colour.

                  Here's the final draft print of "V2":
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                  and with that, I'm putting this part of the project on hold, because I discovered this:
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                  This is one of the rear cupholders, which pop out with a screwdriver, leaving access to the nice big cavity for all my stuff. And last night, I realised that I could design and print a whole new panel to replace it, with all my surface mount PPs (and anything else I need) - without needing to drill a single hole in the panel work!

                  So it's off to the drawing board for me, to start designing a drop-in panel to replace the cup holder.
                  Last edited by zylantha; 02-03-2019, 08:02 AM.


                  • #10
                    Fridge stuff and nonsense - hacking the Waeco CFX-80DZ

                    I'm definitely learning to hate the Waeco's WiFi connectivity.

                    Open port scan:
                    Discovered open port 80/tcp on
                    Discovered open port 6378/tcp on

                    I'm going to write more about the Waeco later. But I do really hate it. I'll explain more soon, but I have a distraction right now.


                    • #11
                      Zylantha, can you tell me what happened with your front grill mounted camera when ARB fitted your bullbar. Was it removed and refitted into the bullbar framework so the bullbar did not interfere with its view and functioning. I believe they have a Relocation Kit for the 200 series. Is there one also for the latest model as I am about to embark on the same path as you have. Any info would be great. cheers.