Transistor Tester Becomes Car Display

These days, the electronics hobbyist is lucky to have access to a wide range of ready-made modules that enable sensors, screens, and microcontrollers to all be linked up with ease. However, this manner of working generally ends up with a project that becomes more of a PCB salad than a finished product. Oftentimes, it’s possible to find something off the shelf that’s close to your requirements, and repurpose it to work. That’s exactly what [Aaron] did.

[Aaron] wanted to install a display in his classic Jeep to display the time and some basic parameters. A screen and a microcontroller were called for, and a cheap open-source transistor tester had exactly that already. Consisting of an ATmega-328P linked up to an 128 x 64 graphic LCD module, it had most of what [Aaron] needed from the get go.

To repurpose the device, [Aaron] started by swapping the 8 MHz crystal for a 16 MHz one to make it more easily programmable through the Arduino IDE. Then, a custom firmware was written, which communicates with a DS3232 real time clock, temperature and pressure sensors, and also monitors battery voltage. It’s all neatly installed in the vehicle behind a 3D printed faceplate, and the graphic LCD is clear and easy to read – if you speak German.

[Aaron] has helpfully outlined the various online resources that helped with the hack, including the transistor tester schematic. Our very own [Adam Fabio] reviewed these units in 2015.

If you’ve cleverly reused some existing hardware yourself, be sure to let us know on the tip line. Video after the break.

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Retrotechtacular: The Best Jeep Commercial Ever

How often do we find ourselves thankful for advertising? When it comes to Hackaday’s Retrotechtacular column it’s actually quite often since it snapshots a moment in culture and technology. Today’s offering is a shining example, where we get a great look into vehicular utility of the day that is rarely seen in our modern lives.

The origin story of the Jeep is of course its prominence in World War II when more than half a million were produced. GIs who drove the vehicles constantly during the war greatly appreciated the reliability and versatility and wanted one for their own when returning home and a market rose up to satisfy that need. The modern equivalent would be the Hummer fad that started in the 1990’s. Humvee, the early ancestor of the Hummer, replaced the Jeep in the US military in the 1980’s and a version called Hummer entered the consumer market in ’92. But that was more of a comfort-meets-icon proposition, where the Jeep of the 1950’s (seen in the commercial below) delivered — even over delivered — on a promise of utility.

In this ad, the case is made for Jeep as farm implement, acting as plow, mower, even post hole digger. As a firefighting implement the announcer boasts that “One man with a Jeep can do the work of 100 men with shovels” by cutting fire breaks into the soil. It’s sold as the workhorse of cemeteries, ranches, county service crews, and anything else their marketing gurus could write into copy. We think the metrics are dubious but certainly the inexpensive build, versatile nature, and need for power equipment across the countryside brought these Jeeps into widespread rural and industrial service in myriad roles.

Power take off driving shaft to power circular saw. You can also see the hydraulics that lift and lower the saw.

What makes most of this possible is the existence of a power take-off (PTO). This is a mechanical connection from the engine of the vehicle to external components that can be switched out. Once connected, the speed of the engine can be controlled to adjust the power take-off operation. In conjunction with a hydraulic system that can lift and lower the implement, it becomes a remarkably versatile system. We begin to wonder the American vernacular includes the saying “it’s like the Swiss Army knife of…” rather than calling everything that’s insanely useful a Jeep.

Connect a pump to the PTO and you have a fire-fighting Jeep. Connect a generator and you can drive electric tools like the chainsaw used to cut down a tree in the video and to power an arc welder. There’s a gnarly-looking circular saw blade, and you’re going to spill your coffee when you get to the “Jeep-a-trench”. That’s right, a trenching attachment gives the vehicle’s suspension a rough workout. It boasts the ability to dig down six feet and complete the footings for an ordinary house in just three hours.

Willy’s MB, the company behind the Jeep must have employed a crew of hackers. What a blast it would have been to be in the research and development sessions to come up with 1,001 more uses for the equipment. The company has a bit of Jeep history you can peruse, but we’d really love to hear about the addon equipment ideas that didn’t make the cut. Are there any readers who have some stories along these lines? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jeep Wrangler Dome Light Mod

If you’re the owner of a Jeep Wrangler, you may have experienced some frustration with the interior dome light. For those not in the know, removing the doors on a warm day or for a bit of fun can lead to a dead battery. This happens because the Wrangler’s light stays on unless the fuse or light are removed, or a custom shutoff switch is added — at the expense of troublesome wiring. You could say it’s a Jeep Thing. [Tim Nummy] offers a solution with minimal modifications.

First off, pop the switch out of the door and set it aside. As a replacement, [Tim Nummy] has managed to salvage a door light switch from an old Mercedes. In addition to the same momentary-off function as the Wrangler’s stock switch, the button on the new one can be pulled out and locked for a secondary off position. Many machines and appliances use this same type of switch in their safety interlocks as a service position. [Tim] didn’t want to cut apart the wiring in the Wrangler in case something goes awry down the line, so for now he has filed down some spade terminals to slot into the Mercedes plug. He’s also 3D printed a nut to nicely secure the new switch in place. Check out his how-to video after the break!

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Remote Controlled Jeep Destroyed For Your Amusement

Something you learn when you spend a good portion of your day trolling the Internet for creative and unique projects is that “Why?” is one question you should always be careful about asking. Just try to accept that, for this particular person, at this particular time, the project they poured heart and soul into just made sense. Trust us, it’s a lot easier that way.

This mantra is perhaps best exemplified (at least for today), by the incredible amount of work [Stephen Robinson] did to convert a real Jeep Cherokee into a remote control toy. But the crazy part it isn’t so much that he managed to convert a real Jeep to RC, it’s that the first thing he did with it was take it into a field and destroy it.

The stunt is part of a series of videos [Stephen] has on his YouTube channel called “How to learn anything”. His goal in this series is to learn two different skills from industry professionals and combine them in interesting and unconventional ways. The production quality on these videos is really top-notch, and definitely blew us away considering how few subscribers he currently has. If we had to guess, we’d say [Stephen] is about to get real big, real fast.

As it turns out, the process for turning a full size vehicle into a remote-controlled one isn’t actually that complex, relatively speaking. [Stephen] starts by removing the seat and replacing it with a metal frame that holds a motor salvaged from an electric wheelchair to turn the wheel, and a linear actuator to push the brake pedal. He lucked out a bit with the throttle, as this particular Jeep was old enough that there was still an easily accessible throttle cable they could yank with a standard hobby servo; rather than some electronic system they would have had to reverse engineer.

The rest of the hardware is pretty much your standard RC hobby gear, including a Spektrum DX6 transmitter and FPV equipment. Though due to continual problems with his FPV setup, [Stephen] eventually had to drive the Jeep up the ramp by line of sight, which took a few tries.

While this is still probably safer than riding around in a life-size quadcopter, we can’t say it’s the most sophisticated way a hacker has taken over a Jeep remotely.

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Car Security Experts Dump All Their Research And Vulnerabilities Online

[Charlie Miller] and [Chris Valasek] Have just released all their research including (but not limited to) how they hacked a Jeep Cherokee after the newest firmware updates which were rolled out in response to their Hacking of a Cherokee in 2015.

FCA, the Corp that owns Jeep had to recall 1.5 million Cherokee’s to deal with the 2015 hack, issuing them all a patch. However the patch wasn’t all that great it actually gave [Charlie] and [Chris] even more control of the car than they had in the first place once exploited. The papers they have released are a goldmine for anyone interesting in hacking or even just messing around with cars via the CAN bus. It goes on to chronicle multiple hacks, from changing the speedometer to remotely controlling a car through CAN message injection. And this release isn’t limited to Jeep. The research covers a massive amount of topics on a number of different cars and models so if you want to do play around with your car this is the car hacking bible you have been waiting for.

Jeep are not too happy about the whole situation. The dump includes a lot of background for vehicles by multiple manufactureres. But the 2015 hack was prominent and has step by step instructions. Their statement on the matter is below.

Under no circumstances does FCA condone or believe it’s appropriate to disclose ‘how-to information’ that would potentially encourage, or help enable hackers to gain unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems.

We anticipate seeing an increasing number of security related releases and buzz as summer approaches. It is, after all, Network Security Theatre season.

Reverse Engineering Enables Slick Bluetooth Solution For Old Car Stereo

Those of us who prefer to drive older cars often have to make sacrifices in the entertainment system department to realize the benefits of not having a car payment. The latest cars have all the bells and whistles, while the cars of us tightwads predate the iPod revolution and many lack even an auxiliary input jack. Tightwads who are also hackers often remedy this with conversion projects, like this very slick Bluetooth conversion on a Jeep radio.

There are plenty of ways to go about piping your favorite tunes from a phone to an old car stereo, but few are as nicely integrated as [Parker Dillmann]’s project. An aftermarket radio of newer vintage than the OEM stereo in his 1999 Jeep would be one way to go, but there’s no sport in that, and besides, fancy stereos are easy pickings from soft-top vehicles. [Parker] was so determined to hack the original stereo that he bought a duplicate unit off eBay so he could reverse engineer it on the bench. What’s really impressive is the way [Parker] integrates the Bluetooth without any change to OEM functionality, which required a custom PCB to host an audio level shifter and input switch. He documents his efforts very thoroughly in the video after the break, but fair warning of a Rickroll near the end.

So many of these hacks highjack the tape deck or CD input, but thanks to his sleuthing and building skills, [Parker] has added functionality without sacrificing anything.

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The Year Of The Car Hacks

With the summer’s big security conferences over, now is a good time to take a look back on automotive security. With talks about attacks on Chrysler, GM and Tesla, and a whole new Car Hacking village at DEF CON, it’s becoming clear that autosec is a theme that isn’t going away.

Up until this year, the main theme of autosec has been the in-vehicle network. This is the connection between the controllers that run your engine, pulse your anti-lock brakes, fire your airbags, and play your tunes. In most vehicles, they communicate over a protocol called Controller Area Network (CAN).

An early paper on this research [PDF] was published back in 2010 by The Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security,a joint research effort between University of California San Diego and the University of Washington. They showed a number of vulnerabilities that could be exploited with physical access to a vehicle’s networks.

A number of talks were given on in-vehicle network security, which revealed a common theme: access to the internal network gives control of the vehicle. We even had a series about it here on Hackaday.

The response from the automotive industry was a collective “yeah, we already knew that.” These networks were never designed to be secure, but focused on providing reliable, real-time data transfer between controllers. With data transfer as the main design goal, it was inevitable there would be a few interesting exploits.

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