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Old 01-21-2013, 05:14 PM   #1
m3sv
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Default DIY Radar Detector Hardwire with SmartCord Functions– Escort Passport 8500 X50

After purchasing an Escort Passport 8500 X50 radar detector for my 2013 WRX I decided that in addition to the power cord dangling in front of my face all the time, I didn’t want the smart cord taking up the only cigarette power port in the dash (center console isn’t convenient). I use the power port mainly to charge my phone and GPS, and using a splitter just makes it bulky and gets in the way of shifting. Another thing I was going for was a clean look. So, after doing some research on various forums I was able to find some helpful DIYs and a schematic for the Smart Cord (I was avoiding having to open mine up since I still want to keep it in case I use it in other cars).

Here’s the write up on my DIY radar detector hardwire that will hopefully help you with yours. I took pictures along the way but not of everything. Enjoy.

===============================================

Depending on how much work you want to do, features you want to have, and money you want to spend you have several options for hardwiring your detector:

(1) Buy the OEM Escort Direct Wire SmartCord kit for about $30 (non-OEM, i.e. eBay, will run you around $15),



(2) Open up the SmartCord that came with your detector (two screws) and use the circuit board inside,

or

(3) Build your own circuit based on the existing SmartCord circuit.

Even though it’s more work, I went with option (3) because I already had most of the components. I also wanted to add a kill switch and LED dimmer to my circuit. If you don’t care about the mute button and alerts you can hardwire +12V and GND on the cheap with just a few parts.
===============================================

Parts:
  • RJ11 or RJ14 Telephone Cord (Black, Red, Green, and Yellow wire)
  • Red (Alert) and Green (Power) LEDs
  • 2N3904 NPN transistor
  • Momentary Push-Button Switch (Mute Button)
  • 470ohm resistor (qty. 2), 10Kohm resistor (qty.1), 680Kohm resistor (qty. 1)
  • 5Kohm potentiometer (Optional LED dimmer)
  • SPST Mini Rocker Switch (Optional Kill Switch)
  • Small Perfboard
  • 22-28 AWG wire
  • Add-A-Circuit mini fuse holder
  • Inline and/or Add-A-Circuit fuse holder
  • 1-2 Amp fast-acting fuse (type varies with fuse holder)
  • Fuse tap (if you don’t have mini fuses)
  • Insulated female spade connector (if you’re using a fuse tap)
  • Ring terminal (grounding)
  • M6 nut (grounding)
  • 1/2" black hole plug
  • Plastic LED holders
  • Zip ties
  • Electrical tape
  • Heat shrink tubing (different sizes)
  • Piece of thin rubber
  • Small thin piece plastic
  • Rubber cap about the size of an LED
  • Velcro

Tools:
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Heat gun (or lighter)
  • Drill
  • Dremel (rotary tool) with fine grinding bits
  • Socket wrench
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Multi-meter

===============================================


SmartCord Design and Peripherals
:
Here’s a good schematic I found online of the disassembled SmartCord parts and wiring: http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=877254

Here’s my version with modifications. I’ve added a kill switch, potentiometer for dimming the LEDs (increase the resistance), and use a 1 Amp inline fuse:

This is what the circuit board looks like when complete:



I used a zip tie as a strain relief for the wires and then taped them together. I also wrapped the entire board in electrical tape to keep it from accidentally shorting. The potentiometer was purposely positioned on the edge and left exposed under the electrical tape (not pictured) so that I could adjust the LED brightness when installed in the car. Make sure you leave enough length in your wires so that everything reaches when you go to install. Also, before soldering and installing this in your car check your wiring with a multi-meter!

Here’s how the SmartCord circuit board looks like with all the wires (before electrical tape wrap). The red wire is the power wire that will be soldered to one of the kill switch contacts (the other contact is soldered to the inline fuse holder). The black wire is the ground wire with a ring terminal crimped at the end. The thin black cable (held by the white twist tie) has two wires inside which go to each end of the Mute button. The two black and white paired wires are for the Power and Alert LEDs. The RJ11 telephone cable connects to the detector. Make sure to label your wires and note the polarity of the LEDs (the longer lead is the anode, or symbolically the base of the triangle, and the shorter lead is the cathode, or symbolically the tip of the triangle with the vertical bar).



===============================================
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:19 PM   #2
m3sv
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Ok now that you’ve seen how the circuit board looks lets talk about where all the controls and indicators are going to be located and the order in which things should be done.

Kill Switch and Power LED – the plugs/blank on the driver kick panel.
Alert LED – left corner where the dash and windshield meet.
Mute button – behind the turn signal/ headlight multifunction switch (left side).

Kill Switch and Power LED:
So to get the kick panel off you want to open the driver side door and take the end panel off of the dash first. It’s held on by a few push tabs, take your time here. Next, pull on the edges of the kick panel. It’s also held on my push tabs. Pull it out enough to get access to the connectors on the back. Disconnect the connectors going to the traction control button, mirror controls, and instrument panel dimmer switch. I found a useful write up with pictures on how the interior panels are held in place if it helps (http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show....php?t=1399151).

Kick panel front and back:



The two plugs I’m going to use are on the mirror control panel. The panel itself is held onto the kick panel by some tabs that can be released from the back. Here’s a close up of the panel you need to remove:



The bigger plug is located to the right of the instrument panel dimmer switch (looking from the front). It fills the hole where the directional switch for HID headlights sits. To remove the plug you need to squeeze the tabs on the sides and pull. It’s jammed in there pretty tight so I had to carefully wedge needle nose pliers in the gap to make it come out. The smaller plug is actually where a switch for power folding side view mirrors goes (didn’t even know that was an option). To remove that you’ll need to stick the needle nose pliers in the square hole above the white socket from the back and squeeze the two tabs inside while pushing the plug out the front. The tabs are thin and easy to break so go easy.





Panel with the plugs removed:

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Old 01-21-2013, 05:22 PM   #3
m3sv
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The big plug is where the mini SPST rocker Kill Switch will be mounted. The rocker switch I used had two tabs that lock the switch in place when inserted into a rectangular hole. You will need to cut a hole that’s slightly smaller than the size of the inserted portion of the switch. This way you can open it up a little at a time to make sure the switch fits tightly into the blank. I marked the center of the plug and used painter’s tape to mask off the entire plug except for the center rectangle I was cutting. Masking will prevent the cutting tool from slipping and scratching the surface of the plug. I used several different Dremel bits to get the job done. Its ABS plastic so it cuts fairly easily, just messy. Make sure to flatten the inside edges of the hole. I had to customize the cut to make a recessed section for the outer edge of the switch to sit in. This gave a cleaner look since the plug is curved.
Important: You need to route the RED wire and inline fuse wire through the hole in the plug before soldering them to the switch. This will allow you to just snap the switch into the plug and have the wires stick out the back end. Strain relief the wires with electrical tape and insert back into the control panel until the tabs snap into place.






The smaller plug can be put aside because drilling a hole for the Power LED in the center will remove the tabs that hold it in the panel hole. Instead drill a hole in the center of a small 1⁄2” round hole plug. A plastic LED holder should slide into the hole from the top. When you insert the LED from the back it will expand the plastic tabs of the LED holder, locking it in place in the hole plug. Slide the round retaining ring over the LED in the holder to keep the LED from sliding out. Even though its round and the hole is square, the plastic will form to the hole easily.

Hole plug:


LED holder:


You will need to slide the LED through the small square hole in the control panel and the retaining ring over the LED before sliding it into the LED holder/hole plug assembly. Once the LED is in, push the round plug into the square hole and use needle nose pliers to slide the retaining ring into place from the back. Strain relief the wires with electrical tape.

Final control panel:


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Old 01-21-2013, 05:23 PM   #4
m3sv
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Alert LED: It took me some time to decide where to put the Alert LED. I wanted to have it somewhere I could see it while still looking at the road. Since mounting it behind the instrument panel was too much work I decided to mount it in the corner where the windshield meets the dash. If you don’t care about having a green Power LED you could just put the red LED in the control panel instead.

To make this little assembly you will need a rubber cap the size of the LED and an LED holder. The cap blocks stray light from the LED so you get a straight on panel mounted look. Simply poke the LED leads through the rubber and slide the holder over the LED. The holder should fit in the rubber cap and will expand when the LED is pressed into it. Snip off the excess leads but leave enough to then solder on the wires from your SmartCord circuit board. I used a needle to poke two holes in the rubber cap and then inserted the LED. I did mine at a right angle but it’ll be easily to put the leads straight through the back of the cap.





Mute Button:
For the Mute button I bent the leads of a push-button (Tactile) switch until they were flat and soldered the two wires from the SmartCord circuit board. I then put a piece of thin plastic on the soldered side and a piece of thin rubber on the button side. I then slipped a big piece of heat shrink tubing over everything and heated it. You can just leave the push button as is but the rubber has a better feel and is easier to press.




Here’s how the completed build looks. Ignore the red LED, I redid it later with the rubber cap.


Testing:
Before starting the installation I decided to test everything indoors first. I happened to be charging a motorcycle battery on a trickle charger so I used that to get +12V. The power LED will not turn on unless the RJ11 cable is plugged into the radar detector. I would suggest using a multi-meter to check voltage on the pins of the RJ11 cable before plugging it into the detector. This is a cheap way to ensure you’ve properly wired everything before you fry your $300 toy. The Red wire should read +12V, Green wire should read 0V, Black wire should read about +11V (from what I recall), and Yellow wire should read 0V. The most important part is making sure you haven’t reversed power and ground. If everything checks out plug the cable in and flip the kill switch to ON. The green Power LED will illuminate and the detector will begin its power on sequence with the red Alert LED flashing.


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Old 01-21-2013, 05:27 PM   #5
m3sv
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Installation:



+12V Power
To avoid soldering to a hot wire I tapped into the under dash fuse box (AUDIO or AUX fuse). The cheap way to do it is to wedge a fuse tap into the fuse receptacle but that can cause damage and can come loose. Make sure to have your inline fuse pretty close to the tap point. I would invest in an Add-A-Circuit fuse receptacle. They’re available online or at some auto stores. This will make your life easier and save your fuse panel from any damage. The Add-A-Circuit takes the existing fuse you tapped into for +12V and has a spot for a second fuse that branches to any circuit you add. This can be a replacement for the inline fuse, but I just found it difficult to find any automotive mini blade fuses under 5A that weren’t in an overly expensive variety pack at the auto store. So in my case I kept my inline fuse and used a fuse tap blade to insert into the empty Add-A-Circuit receptacle.



Grounding
Use a ring terminal at the end of the ground wire so that you can bolt it down at point where it’s touching the chassis. If the area is painted you’ll need to remove the paint with some steel wool until you’ve exposed bare metal. There are a few bolts by the fuse panel you can use. I used the exposed end of the threaded bolt that holds the hood release lever. Simply slip the ring terminal over it and used a matching nut to tighten it down.



Mounting the Radar Detector and Routing the RJ11 Cable and Alert LED:
Start by mounting the radar detector where you want it. In my case I hung the detector from the rear view mirror with a mount I made. The suction cups that come with the detector tend to come loose sometimes. I made my mount out of a P-clamp (electrical section at Home Depot) and some other parts. I used heat shrink tubing to cover all the metal brackets to hide the shiny finish and sharp edges. You will want to route the RJ11 cable starting at the detector so that you can hide the extra cable under the dash.





Before routing the RJ11 cable you will want to remove the SRS Airbag cap on the driver side A-pillar cover. Carefully insert a flat head screw driver or a flat plastic tool into the tab to pop this cap off. The cap is held in place by tabs from three sides. Remove the single bolt under the cap with a socket wrench or Phillips screwdriver. This will loosen the A-pillar cover at the top enough to get a grip on it. The side curtain airbag is at the top of the A-pillar so handle with care. The cover is held in place by 2 cone shaped push tabs. Pull perpendicular to the A-pillar to release the tabs. The bottom of the A-pillar slides into slots in the dash. Bend the top of the cover toward the center of the car and push the bottom away from the dash to fully remove the cover. Put it aside.

Next you want to fish the RJ11 cable and Alert LED cables through the opening between the A-pillar and fuse panel. The headliner has a little bit of play so the RJ11 cable can be tucked under the headliner fairly easily without loosening anything. Use a credit card or something flat to do this. Plug the RJ11 cable into the radar detector and start tucking the cable under the headliner from the detector to the A pillar.

Route the cable down the A-pillar and zip tie the excess cable under the dash. Make sure not to route in front of the rolled up airbag or over the two holes for the cover tabs!

The Alert LED cable will sit between the A-pillar cover and the dash. Position it where you want the LED to sit and put the A-pillar cover back in place. The cable will be pressed between the panels but there is enough flex in the cover so its ok.

Alert LED Installed:



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Old 01-21-2013, 05:30 PM   #6
m3sv
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Mute Button Installation:


I took off the top steering column cover and routed the mute button wire behind the left side multifunction switch. There are one or two screws under the steering column that hold the top cover in place and then tabs hold the top to the bottom. There’s a small cutout where the wire can sit. I used a thin strip of Velcro to hold the mute button to the multifunction switch.




Make sure all excess wires are bundled up and put all panels back in the reverse order they were removed.

And here’s the final product:



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Old 01-21-2013, 05:38 PM   #7
LUMBERZACK
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Awesome work, but my god! I have a the cobra radar that syncs through bluetooth with my iPhone and I control everything through it as a remote and all I had to do was tap into the home link mirror harness for power and I was good to go. Turns on and off with the car.
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Old 01-21-2013, 06:31 PM   #8
sabregen
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i see a bunch of dirt in your footwell. that belongs OUTSIDE the car. i got so sad.

good job on the wiring, install and breadboard though. i've been thinking about a radar detector stealth implementation myself.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:21 AM   #9
m3sv
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sabregen View Post
i see a bunch of dirt in your footwell. that belongs OUTSIDE the car. i got so sad.

good job on the wiring, install and breadboard though. i've been thinking about a radar detector stealth implementation myself.
Apparently you've never experienced winter in New England... It will be nice and clean come spring. The all weather mats are doing their job for now collecting sand and dirt.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by m3sv View Post
Apparently you've never experienced winter in New England... It will be nice and clean come spring. The all weather mats are doing their job for now collecting sand and dirt.
I thought I recognized some mass hole scenery there! I don't miss all the dirt/sand/salt since I've relocated from the Cape.
Radar detector is looking awesome, man. I may have to give a watered down attempt at this on my WRX!
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:40 AM   #11
KPunk
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Looks great! What fuse did you use on the fuse box for the add a circuit?
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Old 01-30-2013, 10:39 AM   #12
m3sv
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KPunk View Post
Looks great! What fuse did you use on the fuse box for the add a circuit?
Thanks. I used fuse #31 (7.5A) which I believe is the ACC (or AUX) fuse for the two cigarette power ports in the car. You could also use #24 which is the AUDIO fuse (15A). That fuse is for the clock, radio, and air vents. Both are active when the ignition switch is turned to the accessory (ACC) position with the key. Since the add-a-circuit is pretty bulky I would go with #31 to block less fuses. Notice I tap into the add-a-circuit with a spade connector and fuse tap (cant see it in the picture). If you want a cleaner install you can use a 1A mini blade fuse in the extra slot and crimp your power wire to the add-a-circuit, this will eliminate the inline fuse. I got the add-a-circuit after everything was built. Pricey but way better than having a loose fuse after cramming a fuse tap into the fuse box.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:42 PM   #13
JSchell1309
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I followed this thread from the DIY Mod thread. Great detail and write up. I have the Escorty 9500ix and used option 1 up there. The smart cord hard wire kit is easy enough and I just soldered it in with my defi gauges. I felt pretty damn accomplished when I did that, but this is 100x more in depth. Kudos for a killer DIY stealth set up.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LUMBERZACK View Post
Awesome work, but my god! I have a the cobra radar that syncs through bluetooth with my iPhone and I control everything through it as a remote and all I had to do was tap into the home link mirror harness for power and I was good to go. Turns on and off with the car.
Apples and oranges. Escorts are in a different league.
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Old 05-13-2013, 02:25 PM   #14
phenryiv1
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Brilliant thread. Not sure how I missed it when first posted.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:18 PM   #15
Ironstrom
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Thanks for the write-up. Good detail and pictures.

I bought the direct wire smartcord from Escort, so I was just looking for how to remove the panels. I didn't want to go jerking on the A pillar knowing the airbag was right there.
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Old 11-10-2013, 01:42 AM   #16
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I like the mute on the stalk idea... Might go ahead and steal it
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Old 11-14-2013, 03:32 PM   #17
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<3 This was great!
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Old 04-09-2014, 11:29 AM   #18
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Looks great! Thanks for the post!
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