Saturday, January 24, 2009

Adventures in Car Stereo Installation

I have never been much into car stereos. Whatever the factory provided for sound used to be good enough for me. I did have a Bazooka tube sub woofer installed in my 1997 Saturn SC2 and my 2003 Toyota Matrix XRS. I paid Circuit City over $150 just for the installation for each of those. At the time I didn't know what I was doing (I still am almost clueless....but I read directions well!). My Toyota Matrix was my first real jump into more "advanced" car stereo installation.

For my Toyota Matrix I installed a factory GPS system first. This was easy as it was plug and play. After that I installed a Kenwood Music Keg and a Kenwood Sirius Satellite receiver. That installation went well and I learned quite a bit. The Kenwood Music Keg was a little ahead of its time. The Keg was a MP3 hard drive for your car. You could load 20GB of MP3s, which at the time was quite a bit. The keg was really nice and easy to use. The addition of Sirius made it even better. That setup served me well while I had the Matrix.

With my Mazda5 I have done more car stereo installation than ever before. To date I have installed the following:

Pioneer Avic D3 touchscreen Navigation system

Pioneer Bluetooth System (integrated with the Avic D3)

Pioneer XM Radio (integrated with the Avic D3)

Boyo Nightvision Backup camera (displayed on the Avic D3)

Kenwood KSC-Sw10 Sub woofer - mounted in the hatch area

Shark fin Antenna color matched to my car (replaced the factory traditional antenna)

Mazda Auto Dimming rear view mirror with compass (not car stereo...but the install was kinda tricky)

I installed the Pioneer Avic D3 (along with the bluetooth, XM and backup camera) back when I first bought the car. The installation took me about 9 hours total. If I had gone to a stereo installation shop (or Circuit City) I would have paid over $400 for the installation of all the components. I did have one glitch where a piece of trim was damaged. Thankfully (where I bought the system and followed the included instructions...which were wrong) paid for the damaged all was well.


Just getting started. Radio partially pulled out...cables galore!

Installing the sub woofer was a little tricky. The sub woofer is self powered (meaning the amp is part of the sub woofer versus having a separate amp). The instructions were kind of clear. The Pioneer Avic D3 has RCA outputs for a sub woofer so the connection to the radio was easy. Getting power to the radio and finding somewhere to mount it....not so easy.

The Kenwood KSC-5w10 comes with all the cables included in one harness. I could either tap the rear speakers for sound or use the RCA plugs. I chose RCA plugs. Power is supposed to come directly from the battery. This is where the installation took a stop. Getting from the passenger compartment to the engine compartment isn't easy. When the car is built all holes are plugged up and sound insulation is put in. I know in my Matrix they drilled a hole. I didn't want to drill a hole in my leased car. So I thought...and thought...peeked...looked...scratched my head....then found a way. When I popped the hood I saw a smallish hole going along the hood and coming out just behind the where the side mirror would sit. I had to use a fishing tool to get the cable through...but it worked. I ran it under the weatherstripping and then above the gas/brake pedals, under the center consoles, where it joined the rest of the cables running back to the sub woofer. Quite a run.


Cable run to the back where the sub would go.

Attaching the cable to the battery required me to make a Home Depot run for a 1/4 inch adapter to attach to the cable and then slide it onto the positive battery cable mount. Done. I then had to find a grounding point. I pulled the trim off the driver side passenger door floor and found a good piece of bare metal. I first tried simply soldering the grounding cable on....but whatever kind of metal that is on the car isn't solder compatible. The solder didn't stick. Boo. I eventually figured out a way to securely attach it.


Mounted on the back of the third row. You can see the bottom of the seats.

I wanted to install the sub woofer under the driver or passenger seat. It's just a little too high. I then wanted to install it between the second row Captains chairs..but the sub woofer is just a little too wide. I finally decided to install it behind the Captains chairs on the back of the third row bench. The third row bench is always folded down making a very large cargo area. I secured it with heavy duty velcro strips so it won't move. If I ever end up carrying 6 passengers I can uninstall it in about 5 minutes.


Looking back. The view is from the center console on the first row. Wires are hidden. I forgot to put the screw driver away before I took the shot.

After putting everything back together...everything appeared to work fine. I took a drive and enjoyed the extra boost of bass. The bass from the sub woofer isn't the kind that will be heard down the street....and it won't shake the car...but it fills where the factory speakers fall off. While driving around I attempted to use my Zune MP3 player. I say attempted because the Pioneer Avic D3 popped up a screen stating "viewing videos while in motion is not allowed". DOH! When I first installed the Pioneer Avic D3 I "hacked" the unit so it would always allow viewing video and allow navigation changes while in motion. When I reinstalled it, the hack (the grounding of a specific wire) must have come loose. The fix takes 10 seconds. Getting to that 10 seconds requires 20 minutes of work pulling off trim panels and putting them back on. I will attack it this afternoon.

Overall I am happy with the unit. I wished it would have fit under a seat like I planned. I doubt I will ever have 6 passengers in my car (the second row consist of two captains chairs, the third row is a bench) so it should be fine. I saved another $150 by installing the unit myself.  Go me!

I think I am done. I have never done this much work on a car before. Besides the car stereo install I installed the factory auto-dimming rear view mirror with homelink. That installation was a little tricky as my car as rain sensing wipers. The wipers will automatically clear the windshield if water touches it...pretty neat. Due to the sensors used in the automatic wipers, I had to order a specific hard to find installation kit. The running of wires and splicing was a little tricky. I really wanted the mirror for the homelink buttons. Homelink allows you to control your garage door opener (and more) from the rear view mirror versus having a separate button. It works fine. Homelink is also a safety feature. There have been cases where a thief will break into a car and steal a garage door opener and your car insurance card/piece of mail. Since most people don't lock the door between the house and the garage, once the thief opens the garage door they are free to roam the house. By having the's one less thing for someone to steal.

Everything I installed is "stealth". I don't want a flashy stereo system as it invites prying eyes. From the outside of my car it looks like a normal the shark fin antenna below.


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