I’m starting this thread to collect together our recommendations, experiences, and questions involving sources of electronic parts and supplies. Let’s try to keep the thread tight to this subject. If you want to post about something of an electronic variety that doesn’t pertain to a supplier—either finding one or telling us about one, good or bad—then please post it separately in the Electronics and Interior Forum
or the Lighting and Electrical Forum
, as appropriate. That way it will get the unique attention that it deserves, and it won’t get in the way of searches for good suppliers, which is the whole purpose of this thread.
By “electronic parts and supplies” I mean things that are useful in working with car electronics that go beyond the typical offerings from dealers, auto part stores, or our participating vendors. Stuff like components, assemblies, cables and connectors, test equipment, and unique tools. Drifting a little bit into computer components perhaps, but those with more of a general electronics flavor that wouldn’t seem out of place on or near a Forester.
If you have further thoughts or additional info pertaining to anything you’ve posted here, try to go back and edit your original posts rather than adding new ones a few pages later on. We want this thread to be a reference work, not an ongoing chat.
I’ll kick it off with some of my favorites and be back from time to time with more. Please add your favorites, and be sure to include links to their websites and whatever information you might have about their shipping policies. Remember, this is an international forum, so try to include as much info as possible about the suppliers’ attitudes toward international shipping.
Marlin P. Jones & Associates (MPJA)
Nice 12 volt LED panel lights
in a number of different colors for under a dollar, individual LED bulbs as cheap as $1.95 a hundred, light hand tools (some quite specialized), soldering and breadboard supplies, crimp terminals, fuses, connectors and cables of all kinds, heat shrink tubing, PC boards (perfboards), car audio supplies, relays (both solid state and mechanical, though their relay selection appears to be oriented more toward 120 VAC than 12 VDC types).
While MPJA is not big into multi-LED assemblies, I do especially like their array of 14 white LEDs
, just an inch in diameter, quite thin, and very bright. I have two, soon to be six, in my Forester. You can see more at this thread
They have an especially large selection of power supplies: the common plug-in “wall warts,” “block” supplies like those used with laptops, embedded units, and also benchtop supplies, both fixed voltage and variable. Of special interest to automotive applications is their $40 4 Amp 13.8 volt benchtop supply
, which features both cigarette lighter and binding post outputs.
Visit their website and sign up for their twice-monthly special email letter. A nice thing about the site is that it often has direct links to datasheets, which they appear to have created themselves. Having a nice datasheet sure spared me a lot of work that would have gone into reverse engineering a complicated 30-pin LED array.
I recognize some of their stuff as being identical to that sold at Harbor Freight or the Hong Kong suppliers described below—LED flashlights, some small hand tools, that sort of stuff. You can probably get a better deal on these things at those places rather than at MPJA, especially when you consider shipping costs.
They have a $15 minimum order and ship UPS with a minimum cost of about $7. They offer nice quantity discounts for large buys. They ship internationally via UPS, but with a $100 minimum order. Another downer about their shipping policy is that they charge shipping on back orders. But they did call me up once to tell me that something was on back order and gave me a choice of waiting on the whole order or paying to have that item shipped later. I went for a substitute item instead.
Tools, car audio supplies, switches, fuses, cables, connectors, and crimp terminals. A great source for those convenient little high-current, 12 volt cube relays (at only $1.04 apiece! - both SPST NO 40 Amp
and SPDT 30 Amp
) and the associated sockets
. (These are often called “Bosch relays” in homage to their original manufacturer. I first encountered them on Audis and VWs.) Mods that involve relays frequently also involve fuses, so check out their in-line fuse holder
while you’re there. It’s a handy way of fusing a new circuit without having to figure out how to mount a fuse holder.
MCM also offers a line of 13.8 volt benchtop supplies
, similar to MPJA’s described above. These span a range from 3 to 20 Amps, at prices running from $32 to $95.
They carry a lot of what could be called “consumer electronics” in addition to components. They offer their own house brand “Tenma” line of test equipment, reasonably priced and probably of Asian origin.
Their on-line catalog is nicely illustrated and pretty easy to use, but you can also sign up for hard copy and promotional mailings at their Contact Us
MCM doesn’t appear to have a minimum order. Their shipping rates go by value, not by weight, and start at $7.99 for orders under $20 (though they do sometimes offer promotional shipping discounts). They ship to US states and territories (including APO/FPO) and elsewhere in North America.
Digikey is a full-line supplier of electronic components to the industry—ICs, transistors, resistors, capacitors, LEDs, everything! Top quality, known brands. They’ve got so much stuff that their website is not very easy to search. Your best bet is to get their printed catalog, now at least 5/8” thick, thumb through it the old fashioned way, make your choices there, and then order on-line.
Digikey also ships by UPS, with minimum rates in the $7 range. They have branches worldwide and ship to over 140 countries.
Update 4-7-2020: See this post for a member's report on finding a $4.10 relay at Digikey that is identical to the $84 'genuine' Subaru relay used in 4 different spots in his Forester.
Hi all, Just a quick note: I was working on a mystery task on my '18 Forester when I damaged a relay, "H/L RELAY HI" according to the fuse box in the engine bay. I called the local dealership, was quoted $84 bucks for each relay. I looked online and couldn't get a clear part number to order...
I don’t know how I managed to forget about Jameco in the year or so since I started this thread. They pull together in one place the major sorts of things you’d find at MPJA and Digikey, with a good bit of MCM’s sort of stuff as well! Components of all varieties including lots of ICs, LEDs, relays, test equipment, power supplies, prototyping gear and supplies, and tools. No consumer electronics or parts specifically aimed at automotive applications, but lots of stuff that wouldn’t be unhappy incorporated into something in a Forester.
No minimum order for Web purchases, they ship internationally, S&H to the US starts at a bit over $8 and goes by weight.
We all know Harbor Freight, mostly for their Chinese-made hand and power tools that are normally pretty good as long as you don’t intend to stake the success of your professional career on their continued sturdiness and guaranteed functionality. But they also offer a few real gems for the car electronics type. My favorites include the digital multimeters that often go on sale in their stores for not much more than the cost of the 9 volt battery contained within (see my Multimeter Tutorial
for more info), crimp tools, and their various assortments of crimp terminals, wire, heat shrink tubing, cable ties, and taps (AKA “vampire taps,” Scotchloks®, etc. HF calls them “quick splices.”).
They used to maintain two websites, one for their catalog sales and another for their brick & mortar stores, but it now appears that they have merged the two. So an on-line deal ought to be equally available at the stores. Sign up to have ads and coupons delivered to your mailbox.
Shipping from their catalog or website starts at about $7 and is based on value, not weight. Extra charges apply outside of the contiguous 48 states, and they do not appear to ship internationally.
I hadn’t ordered from them in years (for no particular reason other than that I hadn’t ordered from them in years), but they’re still around and on the Web. They offer components of all different varieties, along with special items that are clearly overstocks or surplus and won’t be around long. Their selection seems to be in the same general ballpark as MPJA’s, a bit heavier in basic components, and lacking MPJA’s concentration on power supplies.
I recently spent some time with their latest catalog, now up to almost 100 pages. It’s looking pretty impressive. They have a very good assortment of the basic varieties of LEDs, diodes, ICs, and other components. So I decided to give them a try. I went through both their catalog and MPJA’s, finding quite a bit of overlap but some unique items in each. MPJA's prices for identical or equivalent items tended to beat those of All Electronics, though the fixed price shipping policy of All Electronics did tend to soften the difference. Both of them shipped within a day.
Here are a few items I found in their catalog that look especially interesting for Forester applications: Nice looking rocker switches with 12 volt lamps inside priced in the $1-2 range, similarly priced LED panel lights, automobile specification zip cord red & black in color in gauges 12 to 24, split loom tubing in the range of 10 - 20 cents a foot or so (depending on diameter), and quite a few different types of multi-wire connectors that are handy for projects which are more easily constructed on the workbench and then connected into the Forester once completed. They are about the only place I've come across that offer bare LEDs with a built-in resistor, so that they will work directly on the 12 volt supply in a car. Very handy in lots of applications. If you’re looking to build up your parts cabinet for some serious electronic work, you can get a package of ten each of the 61 standard value resistors running from 10 Ohms to 1 Megohm for a mere $11.50.
There is no minimum order, and their shipping fee is a fixed $7 in the lower 48. They will ship to other locations when practical.
Sources of LEDs
MPJA, MCM, All Electronics, and Digikey are all good sources of bare LEDs, useful for custom applications. These come in all colors and sizes, and there are also blinking or two-color varieties and individual LEDs with a built-in limiting resistor suitable for 12 volt operation. Here are a few places that specialize in LED assemblies that are easy plug-in replacements for standard automotive bulbs. All of these have featured in numerous discussions here.
I don’t have any experience with this company, but it got good reviews at the New England Subaru forum and from some of our members here. Their website looks good. They've got stuff I haven’t seen elsewhere.
They all ship internationally, though with varying policies regarding fees and minimum purchase.
You can also find LEDs from eBay sellers, mostly in Hong Kong or China. They typically offer both bare LEDs and LED assemblies. These sellers come and go and some of them charge pretty high S&H, so use eBay’s search function to locate who’s selling what at the moment and what it will cost to get it delivered.
But there’s good news here. eBay has apparently been pushing the sellers to offer free shipping, and one Hong Kong seller called cwithk
is now offering a wide range of bare LEDs and a few LED products at very reasonable prices and with free shipping! Typical price for bare 3 or 5mm LEDs is 10 for $1.50, and this also includes the resistors appropriate for driving the LEDs from 12 volts. He also offers higher power LEDs, again with free shipping. And shipping of my order was super fast! (Do be careful, however, when somebody includes resistors with LEDs. Those from cwithk were perfect, right on the money, but I got some from another seller a while ago that allowed four times the recommended current for the accompanying LEDs. Trust but verify!) Edit April 2012: The seller is still registered at eBay but has nothing listed for sale. Tayda2009 (below) seems to have picked up the slack.
Our member Toddlamp got some nice waterproof 3-light white LED arrays
(also available in colors) at only $1.85 each for his puddle lamp mod
. He’s bought other stuff there too and is quite happy with the place. They offer a pretty large selection of LEDs and LED arrays
, including high power LEDs similar to those offered by the Hong Kong sellers described below, and a bunch of other stuff too.
The white LED arrays were out of stock for a while but are now back, though in small quantity. I suspect from the descriptions that some of their other items are specials that will only be around till sold out—so check back often! Todd advises that their S&H starts at the apparently universal price of $7. They ship internationally.
They also sell on eBay
, with an extremely random set of offerings that are all over the map, with very few targeted toward vehicular applications.
Another eBay seller from Hong Kong goes by the strange name of Kittybabies Auto Car Beauty Shop
. They offer quite a selection of LED arrays (as large as 6 x 8, for under $12!), LED strips, and bulb replacements, with over 2200 items currently listed—all Buy It Now! A recent perusal of the 75 or so pages of their listing shows that they’re also offering quite an assortment of nice looking switches and some very reasonably priced high-temp ceramic sockets for H4 headlight bulbs. And sparkly ‘diamond’ earrings! Their S&H charges are reasonable, with a modest discount for combined shipping. Feedback rating looks good. My order of instrument panel light LEDs arrived in fine shape.
Home Depot, Lowes, etc.
These have a pretty good selection of the more common crimp terminals and cable ties, with a good price on bulk quantities. Not quite the deals you can find on-line, but no shipping charge and no waiting. Sometimes you can find a bargain on odd lots of leftover wire.
If you have a project that needs just one or two crimp terminals and needs them fast, you can probably find them in those slide-out boxes in the nuts and screws department of your local hardware store.
Hong Kong suppliers
Our fellow member Sheepish put me onto a couple of his most favorite suppliers of all sorts of really cheap electronic stuff, both located in Hong Kong and both offering free shipping anywhere in the world! And they accept PayPal.
(Sheepish has now backed off his recommendation for Kaidomain. See his post below.)
I recognize a lot of what they sell as being similar or identical to things I’ve seen on eBay, but with none of eBay’s dreaded Shipping and Handling charges, which are usually just sources of extra profit for the eBay sellers.
I would expect Sheepish to be checking in soon and will leave it to him to describe the offerings of these places in greater detail. They’re really big in LEDs and flashlights. Huge even!
You can find anything on eBay. I’ve already described a few sellers of LEDs, and here I’ll list some who deal with other stuff, chosen because they seem to be really good in whatever piece of the market they serve and because their fees appear to be reasonable. Unless stated otherwise, I do have personal experience buying from each of them.
eBay sellers come and go. I've recently had to remove a couple; one of them just disappeared, and the other one shifted his line toward material that’s not too relevant to our needs. But another seller has appeared on the scene who appears to be well worth looking into. His name is gedeon-qc
and his eBay store is called HoneyComps
. He’s located in Quebec, which is convenient for our northern members and not too much of a problem to those in the US. He does ship worldwide at a higher rate. He has a broad offering of the basic components: capacitors, resistors, transistors, LEDs, ICs, and the like. An extra benefit is that most of his listings contain a link to the manufacturer’s data sheet. This is quite useful, and it also shows that he’s carrying name brand stuff.
Some of his stuff is surface mount, so you have to read the descriptions carefully. And I thought his diode selection was lacking—quite a few rather specialized ones but few if any of the general purpose types.
Currently he’s showing a 2” 12 volt muffin fan that would be perfect for the famous Samiam climate control fix. It’s priced at only $2.25. He also sells honey—thus the name of his store! He sports a 100% feedback rating on over 1000 reports, and his S&H charges are modest and reflect a good deal on combined shipping. I bought some power transistors from him and they showed up quickly, and in fine shape.
Another good Canadian seller is dipmicro
. He offers a pretty wide range of ICs—the standard 74 digital series plus a number of more specialized ones like PICs, temperature sensors, voltage regulators, CMOS 555s, and more. But he goes well beyond ICs to pretty much the full range of components. He’s a good alternative to MPJA for prototyping supplies and perfboards. And he offers great customer service. I accidentally ordered some surface mount ICs, and he was happy to trade them for the equivalent regular DIP version. He ships worldwide.
Here’s a good eBay source for relays—not the automotive Bosch style ones but small, enclosed, general purpose ones of both the 12 volt DC and 120 volt AC variety. Some are even of 4PDT configuration. The seller is called loisn14rxh
. She deals in sewing goods and electrical stuff! She presently lists about 400 different relays, all Buy-it-Now. Price tends to be about $3.50 including S&H for most of the basic ones, going up a bit higher for the more specialized types. Most (if not all) are described as Used, in Excellent Condition. The one I just bought easily meets that description.
I’m very happy with a seller from Thailand called tayda2009
. He also operates a separate website Tayda Electronics
. Prices and selections appear to be the same at both places, though there's a $5 minimum order at the website and greater flexibility in quantities. He deals in a very wide selection of basic components, and at extremely nice prices. A penny apiece for 1/4 Watt resistors, a dime apiece for 1N400x series diodes and 555 timers, and lots of other good stuff. S&H charges are extremely reasonable, and shipping has been very fast—sometimes direct from Thailand and other times from a drop ship location in the US. S&H might work out more favorably at eBay or their own site, depending.
Update: I'm becoming ever more happy with Tayda Electronics. The past three orders from them all got shipped from an address in the US, and very quickly. While they might still be headquartered in Thailand, their PayPal account is registered in California, so there's no currency conversion charge if you pay through PayPal via a credit card. The only drawback is that their prices are so cheap that sometimes I have to overbuy in order to get up to the $5 minimum order. How many lifetime supplies of something does one need?
Here's another Chinese eBay seller who looks interesting: G&CSupermarket
. I've only bought one item from them so far, so this isn't yet an unqualified endorsement, but so far so good! I'll update this after my next order arrives.
He's got a feedback rating approaching 6,000, and almost perfect 5 stars in all categories. Great prices and selection. He carries a lot of the interesting ICs from Dallas Semiconductor and from Maxim, in addition to the more basic ones. As for prices, you can get 100 of the common 2N2222 transistors for $1.76, with free shipping. Compare that to 33 cents apiece at Tayda! (Anybody remember the $4.50 CK722, c1955?) Many of his offerings feature free shipping, and others seem to run $1.50, with a promise of combined shipping costs. Some items are Buy It Now, while others are Bid. Check for both before ordering—there is one case right now where two people are bidding against each other for something with a shipping charge that could be had cheaper with free shipping Buy It Now! Bidding frenzy!
eBay seller lulu0713hk
from Hong Kong has what appears to be a very nice selection of round rocker switches and latching pushbutton switches, some with built-in pilot lights. They would be an easy mount in a blank filler plate as long as you check the required hole diameter. I've never purchased any of these, but the seller's feedback rating looks great.
Member ForcedInduction recently posted a link to a fascinating remote control device that lets you control something in your car via a wireless fob that you can keep in your pocket. This could be handy for those big light mods, when you don't want to have to find an acceptable hole in the firewall to run your wiring through, or for controlling something from the outside. Note that it is a bit low in the department of current capacity—6 Amp max. For those big light mods, you would want to use it to control a higher powered relay.
12v Wireless Remote Control On/Off LED Light Switch
If you’ve read this far, gotten excited about trying a mod, but aren’t quite sure that you have the technical background to pull it off, you might want to take a look at the tutorials
I’ve posted on the Lighting and Electrical forum
. They’re stickies, right up at the top of the page, and cover relays
, and LEDs
More to follow ... (Note that the 'update date' below is frozen in time, as updates by mods are no longer flagged as such. I do try to keep this post up to date.)