Ford Ka Becomes Diwheel Monster

If you’ve been to the right events, you’ve seen them before – the cars with an external cage that let the car complete a somersault in the forward direction under heavy braking. They’re impressive, but it’s possible to take things even further. Enter [mastermilo82] and the RollKa.

The RollKa follows on from the RollGolf, which was a straightforward roll car build. Built around a Ford Ka, it eschews the external cage for a more radical design. The Ka has been shortened, and designed to fit within two enormous steel rims which wrap around each side of the car. Additional idler wheels have been welded to the Ka’s roof to enable it to effectively roll within the outer steel rims.

It’s a rather eccentric design, known as a diwheel. We’ve seen impressive electric versions before, but at least at this stage, this project appears to lack any advanced control systems and gets by on sheer luck and welding prowess. The build is still at an early stage, with episode three starting some early movement tests under power. It’s a testament to what can be achieved with a spacious garage and some imagination, and we can’t wait to see what happens next! Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Jump Start Your Car With A Drill Battery

Sometimes, you move to a new city, and things just aren’t going your way. You’re out of cash, out of energy, and thanks to your own foolishness, your car’s battery is dead. You need to jump-start the car, but you’re feeling remarkably antisocial, and you don’t know anyone else in town you can call. What do you do?

It’s not a problem, because you’re a hacker and you have a cordless drill in the back seat of your car. The average drill of today tends to run on a nice 18 volt lithium battery pack. These packs are capable of delivering large amounts of current and can take a lot of abuse. This is where they come in handy.

Typically, when jump starting a car, another working vehicle is pulled into place, and the battery connected in parallel with the dead battery of the disabled vehicle. Ideally, the working vehicle is then started to enable its alternator to provide charge to the whole system to avoid draining its own battery. At this point, the disabled vehicle can be started and its alternator can begin to recharge its own battery. After disconnecting everything, you’re good to go.

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Replacement Audi Plastics Thanks To 3D Printing

Old cars can be fun, and as long as you drive something that was once moderately popular, mechanical parts can be easy enough to come by. Things like filters, spark plugs, idle air solenoids – they’re generally available for decades after a car is out of production as long as you know where to look. However, plastics can be much harder to come by. 20 to 30 years into a car’s lifetime, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a radio surround or vent trim in as-new condition – they’ve all long ago succumbed to the sun and air like the cracked and discoloured piece in your own car. What is a hacker to do? Bust out the 3D printer, of course!

[Stephen Kraus] has developed a series of parts for his Audi, ready to print on the average home 3D printer. There’s the triple gauge mount which fits in the radio slot for that classic tuner look, to the printed wheel caps which are sure to come in handy after you’ve lost the originals. There are even useful parts for capping off the distributor if you’re switching to a more modern ignition setup. [Stephen] also reports that his replacement shifter bushing printed in PLA has lasted over a year in normal use.

This is an excellent example of what 3D printers do best – obscure, bespoke one-off parts with complex geometries are no trouble at all, and can be easily made at home. We’ve seen this done to great effect before, too – for example with this speedometer correction gear in an old truck.

Retrotechtacular: Car Navigation Like It’s 1971

Anyone old enough to have driven before the GPS era probably wonders, as we do, how anyone ever found anything. Navigation back then meant outdated paper maps, long detours because of missed turns, and the far too frequent stops at dingy gas stations for the humiliation of asking for directions. It took forever sometimes, and though we got where we were going, it always seemed like there had to be a better way.

Indeed there was, but instead of waiting for the future and a constellation of satellites to guide the way, some clever folks in the early 1970s had a go at dead reckoning systems for car navigation. The video below shows one, called Cassette Navigation, in action. It consisted of a controller mounted under the dash and a modified cassette player. Special tapes, with spoken turn-by-turn instructions recorded for a specific route, were used. Each step was separated from the next by a tone, the length of which encoded the distance the car would cover before the next step needed to be played. The controller was hooked to the speedometer cable, and when the distance traveled corresponded to the tone length, the next instruction was played. There’s a long list of problems with this method, not least of which is no choice in road tunes while using it, but given the limitations at the time, it was pretty ingenious.

Dead reckoning is better than nothing, but it’s a far cry from GPS navigation. If you’re still baffled by how that cloud of satellites points you to the nearest Waffle House at 3:00 AM, check out our GPS primer for the details.

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The Hacky Throttle Repair That Got Me On The Road Again

Old cars are great. For the nostalgia-obsessed like myself, getting into an old car is like sitting in a living, breathing representation of another time. They also happen to come with their fair share of problems. As the owner of two cars which are nearing their 30th birthdays, you start to face issues that you’d never encounter on a younger automobile. The worst offender of all is plastics. Whether in the interior or in the engine bay, after many years of exposure to the elements, parts become brittle and will crack, snap and shatter at the slightest provocation.

You also get stuck bolts. This was the initial cause of frustration with my Volvo 740 Turbo on a cold Sunday afternoon in May. As I tried in vain to free the fuel rail from its fittings, I tossed a spanner in frustration and I gave up any hope of completing, or indeed, starting the job that day. As I went to move the car back into the driveway, I quickly noticed a new problem. The accelerator was doing approximately nothing. Popping the hood, found the problem and shook my head in resignation. A Volvo 740 Turbo is fitted with a ball-jointed linkage which connects the accelerator cable to the throttle body itself. In my angst, the flying spanner had hit the throttle body and snapped the linkage’s plastic clips. It was at this point that I stormed off, cursing the car that has given me so much trouble over the past year.

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Reverse Engineered Media Controller From Car Is Best Friends With Android

The CAN bus is a rich vein to mine for a hacker: allowing the electronic elements of most current vehicles to be re-purposed and controlled with ease. [MikrocontrollerProjekte] has reverse engineered a CAN bus media and navigation controller and connected it to an STM32F746G-Discovery board. The STM32 is in turn connected to an Android phone, and allows the media controller to trigger a large number of functions on the phone, including music playback, maps, and general Android navigation.

When reverse engineering the controller, [MikrocontrollerProjekte] employed a variety of approaches. A small amount of information was found online, some fuzzing was done with random CAN bus IDs and messages, as well as some data logging with the device inside the car to identify message data to the relevant IDs on the bus.

The STM32F746G-Discovery board acts as a Human Interface Device (HID), emulating a mouse and keyboard connected to the Android phone via USB OTG. The LCD screen shows the output of the keystrokes and touchpad area. We’re not sure how useful the mouse-emulation would be, given that the phone has a touchscreen, but the media functions work really well, and would also make a really snazzy music controller for a PC.

We’ve covered plenty of other cool CAN bus hacks, like reverse-engineering this Peugeot 207, or this general purpose CAN sniffer.

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Headlight Mod For An Audi A3

If you have a car that is getting on in years, it may be missing some of the latest frills and features that the latest models sport. [Muris] has a slightly dated Audi A3 8P which did not have an AUTO setting for the headlights. In the newer models, this feature turns on the headlights when the ambient light falls below a threshold level (overcast conditions or when going through a tunnel), or when the windshield wipers are turned on. The light sensor is integrated behind the rear view mirror in a special mount, requiring an expensive windshield upgrade if he were to opt for the factory retrofit. Instead, he decided to build his own Automatic Headlights Sensor upgrade for his Audi A3.

His local regulations require the car headlights to be on all the time when the vehicle is in motion. So adding this feature may seem moot at first sight. But [Muris] programmed the headlights to be powered at 70% during daytime conditions and switch to 100% when his sensor detects low ambient light conditions. In the power save mode, all of the other non-essential lights (number plate, tail light) are also turned off to hopefully extend their life. He achieved this by using the VCDS (VAG-COM Diagnostic System) – a widely used aftermarket diagnostics tool for VW-Audi Group vehicles. His tiny circuit switches the lights between the two power settings.

His plan was to install the device without disturbing the original wiring or light switch assembly in any way. The low-powered device consists of a PIC micro-controller, an LDR (light dependent resistor) for light sensing and a low current relay which switches between the two modes. Setting the threshold at which the circuit switches the output is adjusted by a variable trimpot acting as a voltage divider with the LDR. [Muris] wired up a short custom harness which let him install this circuit between the default light switch and the car electronics. After switching on power, he has 15 seconds to enable or disable his unit by toggling the light switch five times, and that status gets stored in memory. The tiny board is assembled using SMD parts and is protected with a heatshrink sleeve. The circuit would work equally well with a lot of other cars, so If you’ve got one which could do with this feature upgrade, then [Muris] has the Eagle CAD files and code available for download on his blog.

Check out the video below where he runs a demo, describes his circuit in detail and then proceeds to assemble the PCB without using a vise or a third hand to hold the PCB. That’s a fancy watch he’s sporting at 00:50 s down the video.

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