07 December 2010

DIY: Heated Gear Controller R&D

Sometimes it is better to check your bearing before you get to the destination. When I first started making my heated glove liners last year this time, I did a thorough search to see how different manufacturers and DIYers connected their gloves and controlled the heat. I decided to take a little bit of a different approach to the connectors by using mono audio plugs and jacks. After riding with the gloves for a while, there were some tweaks I wanted to make like a smaller controller and moving it out of the tank bag since that was not my original vision.

Working on the controller has definitely been more intensive than making any of the heated clothing.  By the time I'm done, I will have gone through at most 5 versions of controller.  Version 1.0 was the Lamptron PC Fan Controller.  Version 1.2 was the Sunbeam PC Fan Controller.

Version 2.0
I made a note about the handle bar mounted plugs, but I didn't keep a copy of the image. My memory of the image was flawed and I didn't realize it until I started re-working the controller. I knew as soon as I went from the fan controller to the dc motor controller. When I got the one I ordered from eBay, it did not perform up to specs so I sent them back and ordered 8a LED Dimmer switches. They use the same technology but at a much lower price point.  After the previous experience, I initially wanted to use a U.S. seller, but the price difference was so great that I ended up going the same eBay foreign seller route and crossing my fingers.

This time, the product arrived a lot quicker than the other and actually did what they advertised it would.  My problem was figuring out how to put them in one box and wire them so that I only needed one power source.  That was a lot easier than I thought.  A little sushi takeout, some liquid electric tape, and a dremel later I had them in the box and wired the way I thought would provide heat to both.

I was pretty pleased with my little box until I actually used it.  I only had heat to one glove and the wires were too long.  They'd been too long all the time, but tucked underneath the fan controller they were out of the way.  With this box, I could not hide them.  Then on the test, I only had heat to one wire so I decided to replace them with jacks (Version 2.1).  I had a couple already from when I added the audio jack to the radar detector.  Adding jacks was not as simple as I'd hoped.  I got them in the box and it looked great but it didn't work.  Since I'd fried two fan controllers I knew to stop before I ruined the boards.

Version 3.0
In frustration, I went ahead and ordered the MX033 dc motor controller then prayed that the LED Dimmers were still functioning.  The idea was to revert to the K.I.S.S. principle I abandoned when trying to put both controllers in the same box.

I put it inside an acrylic box that I got from Hobby Lobby since Radio Shack didn't have a project enclosure
in the size I wanted.  The other thing I did was exchange the panel jacks I used in my first attempt with inline mono jacks like the ones I already had on the gloves.  Wiring was simple since it would only be controlling one thing.  It came out better than I hoped.

PWM Controller in the Hobby Lobby acrylic box:

I used the same inline power switch and a SAE connector to get power from the battery charger pigtail instead of the aux power jack:

On the bike.  The wires from the controller are mounted on the handlebar with a velcro tie near each handgrip:

Temporary setup using the gps mount on the tank bag:

I really like this setup.  Cruzman is going to make a handle bar mount for the controller box that will free up the gps's spot on the tank bag.

Now that I've got the gloves exactly the way I want them--I may have to shorten the wires from the controller--I just need to figure out how to connect the controller for the jacket/pants liners.  The best idea is to get a y-adapter with sae connectors and keep using the battery charger pigtail.  Thankfully, the LED Dimmers are just fine, so I'll use it with the gloves instead of the mx033 and give the other to Cruzman for his vest.

In the end, I'll be using a combination controller version 3.0 and  2.3--a single LED dimmer with an SAE connector to power--and the y-adapter to control the heat to my DIY Clothing.

I switched the gloves to the dimmer switch and replaced the inline switch (after it blew) with an on/off switch then put the dimmer in an aluminium cigarette box with the wires appropriately shortened.

As I suspected last year when determining whether or not to do the DIY route, the controller is the biggest issue/expense.  With the value of hindsight, I realize it would have been better just to buy a commercial unit or follow the beaten path.  But taking my own way has been rewarding too!

Here are links to all of the DIY Heated Clothing posts.  

Thanks for reading,
patrice, theWolfTamer71


  1. Thanks a million for the time and effort to share this...EXACTLY what I was looking for. I really appreciate the help, and the clear instructions.

  2. It's really nice when someone takes the time to do a thorough (and honest) write up of their project. You have saved me a lot of time and frustration / trial and error. Thank you!

    1. Your welcome. It's exactly why I wrote these and started this blog. FWIW, I like the LED dimmer better than the MX033. It's been a little more reliable (could be my crappy soldering at fault). I had to put the MX033 in a real project box.


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