Tech-savvy parents are always looking for ways to keep the kids engaged and entertained during long car rides. A portable movie player is always a solid fallback, but if you really want to earn a few bonus points, install a mobile gaming center in your backseat. It’s a lot easier than you think, and you don’t have to be a car aficionado or an electrician to get up and running. If you already have a console and a small flatscreen TV, then you’re just one trip to the hardware store from winning that Parent of the Year award.
Here is a quick and easy guide to installing an arcade in the backseat of your car. It truly puts the “portable” in portable gaming.
Choosing the Right Vehicle
Installing a gaming system in your car is a fairly easy task, especially if you have an older car. Newer models have onboard computers that manage the flow of electricity, and these don’t always respond well to a sudden addition of 170 watts of power.
You also want to note a few things about the car interior. The TV is going to be mounted on a bar just behind the front seats, and so you’ll want to pick a vehicle with ample legroom so that the TV isn’t right on top of your young passengers. You’ll also need a clear line of sight along the ceiling between the rear doors, because that’s where a supporting rod for the TV will go. A dome light or sunroof can present an added complication.
You really can’t go wrong with a boxy SUV from the early 2000s with lots of rear leg room. Be sure you follow all the road laws regarding tech in cars — for example, in many states, screens are not allowed in the front seat. Keep any distracting tech behind the driver.
Choosing the Right Hardware
The most important aspect of installing a video game console is power management. A current gen system like a PS3 or Wii U is going to require about 110 watts of electricity, and a typical 24” flat screen display will need an additional 60 watts. You’ll need a power inverter to handle this additional wattage. These are available at some big-box hardware stores, but you might get a better deal at a car audio store, where a specialist might have a more affordable option. A 180 watt inverter should provide plenty of juice. Once you have the inverter and a gaming system, these can be securely fastened in the trunk of your car. Set them on a solid hard surface, like a piece of laminate shelving, to ensure maximum airflow.
Installing the Mounting Bar
It’s time to mount an aluminum bar to the front passenger handles in your car. This will run just behind the front headrests. Measure the distance between the handles, and then cut your bar 16” longer than that measurement. Flatten 8” on each side of the with a hammer and wrap some protective foam material over the handles. With a pair of pliers, securely wrap the flat end of the bar around the handles. Keep tightening until the bar rests securely against the headright with minimal movement.
Mounting the TV
Drill holes in the back of two pieces of metal tubing that match the mounting bracket on the back of your flatscreen. Cut the other end of these tubing pieces so that they overhang the TV at your preferred height. Lastly screw the tubing into your TV on one end and to the aluminum mounting bar on the other.
You are now going to run an insulated 12-gauge wire directly from your car’s battery to the trunk of your car. If this is a permanent setup, you might want to take the time to run the cord beneath the flooring just below the driver side doors. Additionally, an extension cord may be required for running the TV’s power cable to the inverter. Once you have all of the cords in place, tap the trunk-end of the 12-gauge wire with an industrial plug. Plug the inverter into your newly tapped cord, and then connect your TV and video game system into the inverter. Start the car and then give your new portable gaming center a test drive.