Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wow, Cool Radios Are So Much Less Expensive Nowadays

First Replacement Stereo
When I bought my RV, it had a "bargain basement" brand no-name car radio in the dash. It played, but really not all that well and all four speakers were dry rotted and dropping little bits of black speaker cone material on the carpet dash cover. Not pretty.... Fast forward a few months and you'd find me installing a new in-dash stereo and 4 new speakers, sized to match the old ones, but with a bit higher quality. This all worked well and i was happy. For a while. Not wanting to leave good enough alone, I started looking at the newer in-dash models. So many new features! So inexpensive (comparatively speaking.)

Note The "Goofy" Wire On The Left
While my first replacement gave me better sound, a bit more power and a front mounted AUX input (3.5mm headphone jack style) I had always wanted to have a input on the BACK so i could route my TV/Entertainment system's audio permanently without a goofy wire hanging down from the cabinet, plugging into the front of the stereo. It  worked, but not so great to look at. AND every time I opened the cabinet after a drive, the cable fell out. Not to mention the "Hum" from the speakers. Arrrgghh.. It was time for a fix. I figured if I could find one from the same manufacturer it should be a "plug and play" (vs. "plug and pray") replacement. Yeah...sure it would.

Pioneer Inno Portable XM Radio
After researching a while and knowing I wanted a rear panel input I found a later model from the same manufacturer. It needed an inexpensive ($3 + shipping) adapter to use the AUX input on the back. Not only would it let me permanently connect the TV/Entertainment components, it had a myriad of cool extra features! Which ones.....? Well, it had a built in HD Radio tuner. for those that don't know what that is, or have heard about it, but not tried it.....UPGRADE! When I am home, in the driveway, I could only get 2 radio stations. They were both on the edge of reception range and sounded pretty awful. Analog radio (AM/FM) isn't that great in fringe areas. With the HD Radio, which is digital, you either get perfect sound or none at all! I now have well over 25 stations in my driveway! Wow...I'd say that's an improvement!  In addition, the new radio gave me a Bluetooth connection for the GPS and my phone. Pretty neat that it will display the caller's name/number on the display! It was also, XM/Sirius compatible, but that requires another box under the dash and a subscription. I have XM, but use it with a portable device that has an FM transmitter built-in, so I can send the XM audio through the in-dash stereo's FM tuner. Since it's about 2 feet away from the works really well!

Gaping Hole In Dash
On to the install. After the dash was lifted, I unplugged all the wires from the back of the stereo. Then loosened the bolt on the back of the bracket holding the unit in. Using the two metal "keys" inserted on the front left and right of the radio until they clicked (these come with the radio), I released the radio from it's frame in the dash and slid it out. I had already unpacked the other radio so I packed the old radio into that box for storage. I slid the new radio into the space vacated by the old one, it clicked in place and locked.

The Connectors
Now back on my back under the dash I tried to reconnect all the wiring. Antenna problem. Main wiring harness connector...problem. I compared the two and they really LOOKED identical. I tried to press it in, all different ways, multiple times. It wouldn't fit. They say that repeating the same action over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of "crazy." You folks make that call here!

I had to cut the old connectors wires and replace it with the new one. Thankfully, the color of the wires from the old harness matches the new one so it was simple to swap. Extra work...but still simple.
Scotchlocks Installed
I used "Scotch-lock" style wire connectors. Many people love these for this kind of install, including me. Have never had a problem with them. Your mileage may vary! Once it was all wired up, I used zip ties to secure it from flopping around under the dash or getting pulled out when the dash is lifted.

Now for the big test. After turning it on and listening to the sound I moved the fader and balance from front to back and left to right to confirm the sound was coming out of the speaker it was supposed to. It worked!

Bad Photo Of Back-lighting

You all know how hard it is to read stereo instructions, especially if they were originally in another language, right? These were no different. I spent a while "translating" and managed to setup the features. Even the clock was set! You can even set the colors of the display and key back-lighting to match your dash illumination.

I tested each one of the input sources...all good. Ran a wire from the upper compartment TV/Entertainment cabinet all the way down to the back of the dash. That sentence contains about 2 hours worth of aggravating work! But it got done.

After putting in a DVD and selecting "AUX 2" as the source...I was stunned. The hum was still there! All that work and NO relief. I DID finally figure out where the hum was coming from and it was a simple problem. We'll talk about THAT next week....stay tuned.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

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