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Calling All Stooges

Discussion in '348/355' started by Ricambi America, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. Ricambi America

    Ricambi America F1 World Champ
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    #1 Ricambi America, Apr 21, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    I've had it! I'm at my wits end!

    These 348 AC controllers suck. We've been able to repair a bunch of them and keep them working, but I think its time for a BETTER solution. I am seeking an Fchatter with some seriously big f^&ing electrical/IC skills who would be interested in tackling a "for commission" project. The goal would be to redesign the 348 HVAC controller using something more robust, while still keeping the same black housing, buttons, LED display. In other words, the unit would look identical from the outside, but have new guts. In essence, we would manufacture new circuit boards and have the customer install them into their existing black housing.

    1) I know this will not be cheap to manufacture. I estimate a total market size of about 750-1200 units would be sold. Street price TBD.
    2) New unit would need to survive automotive environment -- hot, cold, humidity, etc. with a bit more longevity than existing Borletti piece.

    Challenges:

    1) Why is circuit board "A" coated in this brown stuff? Could we even remove the brown crud to examine the chips underneath?
    2) Socket "B" must remain exactly the same as this mates with all the cars harnesses
    3) "Goo" in "C" is a mess. I don't know what it is, but I assume in modern electronics we won't need it.
    4) Can't see it.... but behind circuit board A is a 4-pin connected. A single jumper is used to jump pins 1/2 and switch the unit from Farhenheit to Centigrade. In the new unit, I'd prefer a way to do it via the control panel (i.e. press two buttons for a few seconds, or whatever). That way, we can sell worldwide without needing to open each unit and set jumpers.
    5) Although I usually operate in 24h time, it might be nice to allow this an AM/PM variant.

    So... who has the skills, time, and connections to tackle this project with me?


    :)
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  3. potxoli

    potxoli Formula 3

    Mar 22, 2007
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    Hi daniel,

    I feel guility since thanks to you, the one I have works for now. I hope you didn't try to put my old one in your car ;)

    suggestion: why do you need to keep it looking stock on the outside? I think maybe a cheaper way would be to find an off the shelf system with three rotary dials (temp, fan speed and location) and figure out how to wire to the existing fan and AC unit. Then you could simply make a new bezel to fit the unit and it could look OK. I'm just speculating that would be cheaper....
     
  4. Ricambi America

    Ricambi America F1 World Champ
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    I think keeping the stock look is important for a number of owners/dealers that want the car to present itself as 'original'. Personally, I wouldn't care too much -- but I think its easier to sell when we take the aesthetics of a re-design out of the equation.
     
  5. vvassallo

    vvassallo F1 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2006
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    Daniel, this is definitely not Stooge territory. You need a bona fide geekazoid for this project. Come to think of it, if might be right up ND's alley.
     
  6. copterjon

    copterjon Formula 3
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    Why not make something that can go in the glovebox with rotary dials that will be out of sight and keep everything else in the centre stock but not functional. Not that they are very functional anyway.:D

    I did something like this many years ago on a 944 turbo when the over priced Bosch climate control unit failed.

    Just a thought.:)
     
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  8. potxoli

    potxoli Formula 3

    Mar 22, 2007
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    I like this. It could actually be placed in the little bin at the back of the rear console covered by the oddments door.
     
  9. FandLcars

    FandLcars F1 Rookie

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    #7 FandLcars, Apr 21, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    As long as the cost was a lot less than a new replacement F unit, my preference would be stock looking, with different guts behind the dash. However, perhaps it could also be offered, (with little additional investment) as a hideaway retrofit. BTW - my later 348 doesn't have a trap door console. Has an open console.
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  10. bushwhacker

    bushwhacker In Memoriam

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    #8 bushwhacker, Apr 21, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2009

    All great ideas, Instead of reinventing the wheel and spending a cazillion $'s on electronic wizardry, spend little $'s on a cosmetic fix and still retain the stock look, either in the glovebox or the 'C' console.:D
     
  11. PAP 348

    PAP 348 Moderator
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    I like your idea Daniel and I wish I was competent in that sort of stuff! :D:D

    I dont know of anyone that can take something like this on. But it would be great if there was an alternative to the crappy original! :):)
     
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  13. ernie

    ernie Two Time F1 World Champ
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    #10 ernie, Apr 21, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2009
    I have zero knowledge about electronics.

    In all sincerity I think the way to go is an old school manual setup. A plain old knob with hot an cold. Twist the knob until you get the desired temperature coming out of the vents. As for the fan, the same deal, a simple knob to adjust the fan speed, slow, medium, medium fast, fast.
     
  14. lotusdude

    lotusdude Karting

    Jul 31, 2008
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    Got a friend who taught at Texas A&M Electrical Engineering and he works for my old company. I will shoot this over to him and see if he can do it or knows somebody who can.
     
  15. copterjon

    copterjon Formula 3
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    #12 copterjon, Apr 21, 2009
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  16. fatbillybob

    fatbillybob Two Time F1 World Champ
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    I would not think it hard to reverse engineer the thing. The hardest part is to find the connectors to interface with the factory harness and who knows that's where the problem may be. Look at the success that Dave Helms is having with the 348 retrofit kits. He is using the stock harness with robust connectors and that is making all the difference in the world. Could the problem be as simple as deleting the yellow connector and doing a GM weatherpak or similar? IC's and copper circuit paths are pretty bullitproof in general. Could you imagine the disaster if you spent all the money and time to make new boards and use japanese chips etc. only to find you got derailed by the ferrari connector?
     
  17. davehelms

    davehelms F1 Rookie

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    #14 davehelms, Apr 22, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2009
    The problem is reverse engineering the circuits. Little data is available on some of the IC chips used on the OEM boards and one can only take an educated guess at what the outputs would be and look for currently available components to do the same task. We have spent a good deal of time on this already. I looked at gutting the dash piece and running wires from the OE pots/switches in the stock dash piece to retain OEM looks to a remote brain of our design mounted in the pass. foot box. If we build a better mouse trap, send one out and a shop/owner hooks it up to a car with a frozen/shorted heater valve motor and it smokes the new unit..... in the age of the net it only takes one failure to assure a stalled project..... Its electronic...there are no returns in this industry on electronic parts yet there are some that think they should be an exception to that rule. One needs only look at the guff that Daniel took on an ECU a week ago, utterly rediculas to even suggest he was in the wrong in ANY way, quite the opposite.

    Many hours invested so far and once one "thinks" they understand the circuitry in its entirety.... how many can one really sell? Three a year and we had not yet put numbers to the production costs..... Shelved along with 25-30 other projects waiting for "spare" time to deal with them. Far too many of these projects meet their end due to the low volumes required to fill the market's needs. Last Friday I put hours to the engineering of my hose alone.... Catch 22. One cant stay in business using what is currently available on the market due to comebacks and one cant justify the time spent to design and manufacture an acceptable replacement if profit is to fit the equation in our small market place. If I happen to fog the mirror another 15 years it will all be justified if I put a low value on my personal time.... but build it we did.

    Contacts and plugs present little challenge now that I have every catalog of every manufacturer worldwide...it only takes quite time.
     
  18. brian.s

    brian.s F1 Rookie
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  19. brian.s

    brian.s F1 Rookie
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  20. Ricambi America

    Ricambi America F1 World Champ
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    ^^ My Symantec antivirus went bonkers on that page. It protected me from "Bloodhound" Virus :( ????
     
  21. PAP 348

    PAP 348 Moderator
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    I use McAfee 2009 and it opened that page without any issues. :):)
     
  22. No Doubt

    No Doubt Six Time F1 World Champ
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    #19 No Doubt, Apr 22, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2009
    Daniel, you are just showing above and talking about the two circuit boards for the clock display. A $2 digital clock could replace that.






    The rest of the HVAC circuit boards (not shown above), however, do what?
    Control one stepper motor for directing air flow direction up or down?
    Control one blower fan for air flow volume/speed?
    Control one heater-control-valve motor that determines air temp?
    Recirculate or vent mode?
     
  23. MaterMech

    MaterMech Formula Junior

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    I'm up for it and have actually been thinking about it for quite some time. Will check in on this when I get home from work.
     
  24. Ricambi America

    Ricambi America F1 World Champ
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    It is the complete HVAC controller that I'm talking about. Air deflection, air velocity, recirc, temp, reads input temps from sensor, displays error codes, etc.
     
  25. No Doubt

    No Doubt Six Time F1 World Champ
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    The diagnostic and error code functionality would up the scope of that project considerably above Stooge level!
     
  26. fatbillybob

    fatbillybob Two Time F1 World Champ
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    I guess you could be right. In the old days the IC had numbers on them and you just bought them by the numbers, resitors had color bands and you read their value, capacitors too. The it was pretty easy to figure out what talked to what because copper circuit boards were single layer and easy to read. We used to make new boards with tape cutouts on copper boards and etch off the boarn in some brown liquid and voila instand circuit board. If all that's changed then I guess it is a problem.
     
  27. Loser

    Loser Formula Junior

    Apr 11, 2008
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    Hey MaterMech and Daniel,

    I may be up to help out on this too. I also have quite a few recently unemployed "bona fide geekazoids" friends who might be able to help...for a few beers or something. What we need is a good weekend with a car, a working circuit board, whatever info we can come up with on the circuits, some paper, maybe some simulation software, and plenty of cocktails.

    Tom
     
  28. Loser

    Loser Formula Junior

    Apr 11, 2008
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    Daniel,

    Do you have a bad board that we can take apart? I am particularly interested in the brown board. Also, what is the part number on the IC on the main board? It looks like an NEC chip.
     

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