I essentially stole this idea after seeing it at a friends party. However, I think that I improved on the concept some. Basically it is a regular cooler with a car battery and car stereo / car radio built in. This write up should serve as a decent How-To build a stereo cooler (aka cooler stereo, party cooler, beach stereo, boom box cooler, etc).

It is perfect for car camping trips, tailgating, the beach, and basically anything not near a power source (including if the power goes out). I got an 88L igloo cooler for mine but any will do.

Cooler

I chose to purchase most of my components online, starting with some 5.25 Boss marine speakers. I thought that mounting to the cooler was going to be difficult but after bending the supplied clips and inserting them behind the first layer of plastic it turned out extremely solid and easy.

Hole in Cooler

The clip acts as a nut and washer behind the plastic.

Clip Installation

Then I was able to mount the head unit and battery. I also threw in a 400w power inverter (far right) for small jobs and I’ll probably add a larger one later for larger tv’s etc. Above the inverter is a small battery charger and maintainer to keep the 115AH deep cycle marine battery topped off when at home. A simple switch panel at the bottom controls the charger, stereo and other components to the system.

Mounting Equipment

Still to come is the marine subwoofer and amp, some 12v cigarette sockets and a solution to control the stereo via remote when the lid is closed. Just in case you were wondering why not mount the head unit through the cooler, I will be mainly using this car camping and It needs to be able to survive a heavy rain with no problems.

Update | March 2010

This is the setup that I used for ~8 months. I have yet to find a good price on a 200-400 watt amplifier so I just wired the subwoofer as a rear speaker for now.

Everything Installed

From West Marine I purchased a waterproof splash cover for the head unit. That allowed me to mount the stereo on the back side of the cooler for easy access. I lengthened the wires so that I can keep the sensor in the front.

Moved CD Player

The view from the front did not change. There is enough room on the front to move the current speakers to the sides and replace them with larger ones.

Front Speakers

The cover is translucent and allows you to view the display easily while keeping any sand/moisture/water off.

Head Unit and Subwoofer

Cover up.

Head Unit

The disconnect for the IR sensor that I moved to the front. This way the faceplate can be removed if needed without cutting any wires.

IR Sensor

Here is the old “caddy” I used to help me cart the cooler around. It was made out of junk parts and was meant to be temporary but ended up being used more than I liked. It slid off and was ugly plus it was unstable.

Caddy

So, I took the wheels off and made a K.I.S.S. solution. It only required ~$5 in bolts and brackets from the local hardware store. I reused the wheels.

Caddy Bracket

Each wheel has its own bearing and is just bolted directly to the 2×4 with a washer to add spacing. The main bolt goes in through the drain plug and holds the 2×4 up to the cooler while the brackets take most of the weight. This ended up working even better than I had thought.

Caddy Mounting

On the inside is a nut JB Welded to a washer which is glued to the cooler. When the wheels are removed you can put the cap back on the drain and no one would be the wiser.

Inside Cooler

First trial run. Very strong, doesn’t wobble or feel loose in any way. I can even stand on this end of the cooler (which also has the ~45lb battery) and it feels very sturdy. A nice handle on the end of the nut will have to be added in the future for ease of use. And perhaps a coat or two of paint.

Caddy Mounted

View from the front. The wheels will probably stay on when no one will be sitting on it and on the beach, but can easily be removed just by unscrewing the one bolt going through the drain plug.

Caddy Mounted Front

And from the back. Also the placement of the wheels give me more clearance when I pick up the handle to tote it along. That should be nice in the sand our outdoors in high grass/dirt.

Caddy Mounted Back

At the beach, even in very strong winds it can be heard and sounds great (with appropriate volume levels considering any neighbors). Ipod on top plugged into stereo’s aux in.

Action Shot at the Beach

Update | May 2011

As some of you may already know, I was hit by the April 27th tornado that passed through Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama. The full Story, Video, Pictures and Interviews can be found here. Here is a picture of the stereo cooler in action. I turned it around on what was left of the floor of my 2nd floor apartment and blasted radio tunes and tornado information out into the residents returning to see what they can find. This picture was taken the day after the tornado struck but I ran the stereo cooler every day that week.

Tornado Stereo Cooler

There was some damage done to the cooler housing but nothing that kept it from being operational. I removed all of the electronics and relocated them into a blue cube cooler with wheels.

Update | October 2011

I migrated all of the electronics from the previous cooler into the new blue one excluding the battery and inverter. I am using 2 7ah sealed lead acid batteries (temporarily) in the cooler. I moved the deep cycle battery into its own enclosure with the inverter mounted on top.

With these two batteries the stereo lasts ~6 hours at a loud volume . The 2 farad capacitor helps tremendously with the sealed lead acids in providing the needed current for the amplifier. Only one 7ah battery is required for full use, I simply added the other in parallel for added run time.

Smaller Unit

Here you can see the subwoofer on front with the stereo head unit above it. On the either side are the 3-way marine speakers. This side also has a 12v accessory outlet.

Smaller Unit Side

Everything is fused and all wires are “rattle proof” except for the temporary battery wires. The 12v outlet also allows me to charge the unit without opening it, or attaching an additional power supply such as the old 115ah deep cycle.

You can also see the amp for the subwoofer and the 2 farad capacitor. I never took a picture of them in the old stereo cooler setup.

Internals

I used a cheap battery enclosure from Academy Sports to house the 115ah deep cycle from the old stereo cooler. On top I mounted a 15A 12v outlet, master switch with removable key, and 400watt inverter all of which are from the old cooler. They are fused inside the housing. I would like to add an Anderson power pole plug/connector for HAM radio and other accessory usage. I do not currently have my amateur radio license but do plan on getting it.

Battery Pack

I added some reflective areas to the front and back of the case so that it will be easier to spot and less likely for someone to trip on it. Also I made an adapter cable that connects the banana plugs on the back of the inverter to the 12v outlet on the stereo cooler. The same cable is used to charge both units and allows the “power box” to be plugged into a vehicle. It is fused at 7.5amps so there is little risk of any issues involved in these uses.

Battery Pack Top

The original stereo cooler served many functions. Now that I have split it up into two units, I have found that it is more functional this way. The stereo is MUCH easier to carry/transport and the power unit can be used when the stereo is not needed. The new setup is much more compact and easier to use.

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