Raspberry Pi Adds A Digital Dash To Your Car

Looking for a way to make your older car more hi-tech? Why not add a fancy digital display? This hack from [Greg Matthews] does just that, using a Raspberry Pi, a OBD-II Consult reader and an LCD screen to create a digital dash that can run alongside (or in front of ) your old-school analog dials.

[Greg’s] hack uses a Raspberry Pi Foundation display, which includes a touch screen, so you don’t need a mouse or other controls. Node.js displays the speed, RPM, and engine temperature (check engine lights and other warnings are planned additions) through a webpage displayed using Chromium. The Node page is pulling info from another program on the Pi which monitors the CAN Consult bus. It would be interesting to adapt this to use with more futuristic displays, maybe something like a pico projector and a 1-way mirror for a heads-up display.

To power the system [Greg] is using a Mausberry power supply which draws power from your car battery, but which also cleanly shuts down the Pi when the ignition is turned off so it won’t drain your battery. When you throw in an eBay sourced OBD-II Consult reader and the Consult Dash software that [Greg] wrote to interpret and display the data from the OBD-II Consult bus, you get a decent digital dash display. Sure, it isn’t a Tesla touchscreen, but at $170, it’s a lot cheaper. Spend more and you can easily move that 60″ from your livingroom out to your hoopty and still use a Raspberry Pi.

What kind of extras would you build into this system? Gamification of your speed? Long-term fuel averaging? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE – This post originally listed this hack as working from the OBD-II bus. However, this car does not have OBD-II, but instead uses Consult, an older data bus used by Nissan. Apologies for any confusion!

36 thoughts on “Raspberry Pi Adds A Digital Dash To Your Car

  1. You can spend a lot less doing it too, cheapest tablet with BT you can find, ~$50 cheapest ELM327 dongle you can find ~10, Torque app off Google Play, $5 usb car charger, set tablet to sleep after a min on battery, done. You can spend another $10 or $20 and get a tablet with GPS in it too for nav.

    1. Sure, I thought about the same, but in movie description on YT there’s info, that the car is pre-OBDII, so it doesn’t support OBDII dongles. Anyway, with a little work on hardware & software, I’m pretty sure that even for this cheap tablet can be used also.

        1. X is correct, this is using a consult port adapter which is pre-OBDII and the car does not support OBDII dongles :( Would have much preferred to go that route and have a dash much quicker. Could have definitely used a cheap tablet to power this, looking back no real reason I went Rpi, but it was fun :).

      1. I’ve seen it done on pre-OBDII cars with a Palm Pilot talking TTL serial to the diag connector… in new hardware you could probably do it easy enough with a cheap nano clone and cheapest available LCD, or rip one out of a nokia yourself.

        Got a CE satnav that forgot it was a satnav sitting in a box waiting to fill an unknown destiny, think I pulled it out of a dollar box at a yard sale or something.

        Older satnavs the ones that just give position and tracking etc, if they have a USB port they probably work as a GPS dongle, so if you get a “free” tablet, you can probably get inside it, find where to attach USB hub and stick cheapy BT adapter and cheapy/free dongle or GPS on it.

    1. Well turns out it isn’t, because Mr Ignoramus just used “OBD-II reader” as a generic name for anything that connects to any diagnostic port, rather than something that actually uses only those with an OBD-II protocol.

  2. Consult is not OBD nor OBD-II, this will only work with Nissans with Consult ports (90% of Nissans from late 80’s and early to mid 90’s). Completely different protocol/port/everything.

  3. I want to create a similar system, but not necessarily with such a large screen
    Displaying some essential monitoring ie fuel consumtion, boost pressure, intake temperature, knock control, fine learning knock control
    There used to be a small devicce called the “Jax Dash” which did all this, but its no longer being manufactured.
    My vehicle is a 04 Subaru.. I will be in touch to get your input, if thats okay !!

    1. Thanks for checking it out! Definitely was fun to make. The boot up time does suck, but most of the time I have to pull out of the garage, go and manually close the garage, and then head off to where ever I was going so by the time I actually start driving the dash is all booted up. Definitely not ideal, but hasn’t been too bad.

  4. Great project. I was wondering to put like a dozen screens in a custom car would be cheaper than putting a lot of racing dials.
    You should try a mirrored screen acting as HUD display. Also some small screens in windshield column.
    I think an Rasp Pi/Arduino aproach is better than some Android/BT dongle, because you are free to mod as you want… You could put a GPS speedometer sided with a conventional one. Also you could add some termocouple there aren’t in car ECU, like rear set temperature, oil temperature, or other sensors, like aftermarket turbo pressure.

  5. Old, clearly this is a rather ambiguous term, I was hoping for something pre, err shall we say pre diagnostic port? Oh no, that implies some form of electronics, apart from the contents of the “modern” alternator.
    think more battery, starter, lights and a rather nifty flasher unit.
    my needs are, MPH, RPM, Mpg would be good, a gear position indicator for 24 gears a forward/reverse indicator and a 2 speed PTO indicator, diff locks and four wheel drive along with oil pressure/temp, hyd oil temp, eng temp and low fuel indicators.
    Oh and no, like really no boot up time.

    1. That’s a bit of a ground up implementation. RPM is kinda “easy” in that you can use an inductive pickup on the spark wires. MPH, you can get the GPS to do, otherwise, need to put a magnet and hall effect sensor on a driveshaft. MPG can be a bit of a bugger, since reliable flow meters that aren’t going to suddenly gush gas everywhere when they break are hard to come by. Typically electronically controlled vehicles derive that from injector timing and duration, the ECU knows how much it doses the motor per pop, so the computer just logs it and adds it up. Fuel level is typically a float driven variable resistor, so that’s pretty easy to feed to an analog input and read.

      There was a mpg/fuel economy forum making some progress with mileage computers for older vehicles, but I haven’t checked up on that in a couple of years.

    2. > no boot up time

      A Raspberry Pi with a Buildroot image boots fully in 2-3 seconds (power on to fully booted), depending on how much you have in your boot process. Of course building a Buildroot image takes some effort, but it would be a perfect fit for this kind of project (embedded, single task, very short boot up time).

        1. Here’s a nice comparison video of a custom Buildroot image vs. Raspbian for a similar application:

          And a word of advice: when you make a Buildroot image for an RPi, don’t make the same mistake I did in the beginning: don’t use the third-party “rpi-buildroot” repository you’ll find on GitHub. Buildroot has proper Raspberry Pi support built in, that repo was created when there wasn’t support yet.

          1. Am I thinking right though that you need to be sure what modules you am and amn’t going to use, and also may need to rebuild it again if you change things up and need support for extra stuff?

    1. Hmmm wonder what special sauce they use for headrest and flip down in car entertainment monitors. I have seen people wreck a phone or tablet like that, usually due to hot car plus direct sun, so not doubting it happens, just saying that the vehicle intended ones might be less prone. Now they’ve been around a while you could probably pull the manufacturer supplied ones in a wreckers cheap, then they’re gonna just be a composite input.

  6. Lol… Yesterday I went to MicroCenter and got a $42 10.1″ tablet with GPS and Bluetooth. Today coming home from work I had it wedged in front of my cluster running DashCommand (LCD Black Remix skin)… pages of info… Big digital speed w\ digi rpm page, fuel economy page, trip stats page(s), engine sensor page… pages and pages and pages.

    Now I just have to figure out if the cheap chinese ELM327 Bluetooth OBDII can be made to be quicker and more reliable when it comes to connecting to the ECU… Eventually I’d like to work my way up to a complete CarPiuter with media, nav and maybe even mobile data.

    1. Nice, I wasn’t going to specifically recommend DashCommand(er?) because on the phone I was trying it on, I couldn’t get many readable dials on screen whereas with Torque it was more legible, glad to hear it works nice on a tablet. Maybe it’s been updated since I last fiddled with it also.

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