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My 2nd Toyota Tacoma Aftermarket Stereo Upgrade

The first stereo I put in my 2005 Tacoma got stolen this summer so it was time to do it all over again. It was a lot easier this time since I wasn’t starting with the stock stereo still installed, but it’s a fairly easy project either way.

Shopping List

Head Unit: Last time I bought a Pioneer unit and liked it, but this time around I was looking for more features, especially built in Bluetooth. I narrowed my choice down to the JVC KD-R810 because it had Bluetooth and good iPod support along with customizable backlight colors. One of the preset colors matched the rest of dash exactly. You can read my full review of it here.

Dash Kit: The Scosche kit is pretty nice and matches the flat silver color on my 2005 SR5 Access Cab almost exactly. I prefer it to the stock stereo which has the textured silver. I chose to run the Bluetooth microphone and the rear USB connector through the back of the dash kit’s pocket. There’s a plastic support piece that screws onto the back of the pocket and it covers up nearly the whole thing. I was able to drill two 1/2″ holes right next to each on each side to feed through the mic and USB. There’s just enough room with the support piece on for the cables themselves and covers up the bulk of the holes. You can kind of see this in the picture below.

Wiring Harness: The wiring harness is a must. Not only does it make installation go quicker, but it avoids having to cut the factory harness off. The wire color on the harness and the stereo are standardized so you just have to match them up and crimp. You can solder them, but either way works just fine. I found joint pliers were the easiest to get a good crimp with.

Final Results: I’m much happier with the install this time. My old stereo matched the color of the dash, but it had white text and green backlighting. I think I prefer the JVC and its black/silver front with matching lighting.

Installation Process

  1. Pop out climate control panel with a screwdriver
  2. Unbolt stereo from dash, 4 total behind the climate control panel (exact head size of bolts eludes me)
  3. Pop the whole stereo out, it’s held on by little clips
  4. Unconnect everything and bring the stereo inside
  5. Transfer the little yellow clips onto the dash kit
  6. Transfer the clock and hazards assembly to the dash kit (kind of a pain to get out)
  7. Wire up the harness to your new stereo, twist matching wires together, stick them in a crimp cap and give a good squeeze with pliers (give them a tug to make sure they’re in there tight)
  8. Drill any holes you might want in the pocket
  9. Install stereo in kit, but be careful not to scrape the mouth of it, the metal sleeve will take paint off
  10. The metal sleeve around the stereo has little tabs, bend those up along the back of the face to help lock it in
  11. Hook the stereo up and test it (having a second set of hands will help here)
  12. Connect the hazards and clock harness
  13. Once everything looks good, bolt the dash kit back on
  14. Snap climate control panel back into place

Acura RSX Stereo Upgrade – Aftermarket Head Unit Install with Auxiliary input for iPod/MP3 player

A couple of the buttons on our Acura RSX’s stock radio were dying and I wanted an auxiliary input to plug in an iPod or other MP3 player so it was time for a replacement stereo. Compared to the install of a new radio in my 2005 Tacoma this was a cakewalk. The stock stereo is a standard single DIN size so there was no need for a dash kit or anything extra.

There were a couple things I wanted on the replacement stereo: black face and red backlighting to match the rest of the dash and a front auxiliary input for easy and cheap iPod integration. The Kenwood KDC-MP208 matched this pretty good and the price was hard to pass up, $59 shipped from one of the third party sellers at Amazon. If you are hooking an iPod up to an auxiliary input I highly suggest a cable that gives you a line level output like this Cables To Go – 4ft iPod Dock Connector to 3.5mm Cable.

Type-S Owners: If you own a Type-S with the premium stereo (no pocket, like this) you will need to get a replacement dash kit to accept either a single or double DIN aftermarket stereo. This Scosche installation kit allows for either single or double DIN and comes with the pocket if you go with a single DIN unit.

Installing Double DIN unit: If you want to install a double DIN unit then you’ll need the Ssosche kit linked above.

Head Unit: This JVC unit looks interesting as it has built in HD radio and customizable colors: JVC KD-HDR50. These units look like good matches to the RSX’s red/orange backlighting too: Kenwood KDC-MP142, Sony CDXGT430U, and Sony CDX-GT330. I got the Kenwood KDC-MP208 but it is no longer available at Amazon.

Wire Harness: Scosche HA08B Power Speaker Connector for 1998-Up Honda

Installation Steps

  1. Pull off bottom plastic dash cover that houses the power adapter plug. There are little tabs on the side to get a screwdriver in. Pop one side out and firmly work the rest of it out. It might be tough at the end, just give it a good tug straight out and it will give.
  2. Unplug power adapter to get it out of the way
  3. Using a small ratcheting wrench with 8mm socket or stubby Philips screwdriver, unscrew the two screws going up towards the stereo. They’re at a funky angle and there’s not a whole lot of room to work. Might be a good job for someone with smaller hands. I loosened the screws and backed them out by hand to avoid the risk of dropping them into the bowels of the dash.
  4. Once the screws are out the whole stereo and hazards section will slide out with a little force. Grab the back of the stereo mount through the dash and give it a real good pull. Mine had never been removed and it took some pretty good yanking to get it to budge. I used a screwdriver to pop a clip on the top right corner above the hazards switch. Slide it out a few inches and disconnect the hazards wiring harness and then the stereo’s harness.
  5. Unscrew the stock stereo from the bracket and replace it with the new unit. Plug it in with your prepared wiring harness and test to make sure everything is working. Pan to each of the channels to verify the speakers are connected correctly.
  6. Plug the hazards harness back in or your turn signals won’t work. Wonder how I know that?
  7. Slide the whole thing back into the dash while trying to keep all the new wires on top of the stereo so they don’t get smashed behind it
  8. Replace the 2 screws and pop the dash cover back on. That’s it.

rsxstereo

I’m really happy with the results. The sound on the inexpensive Kenwood unit is much better than the stock stereo. The bottom end was very lacking before, but now it is more than adequate with the stock speakers. Radio reception is good and overall this is a nice cheap way to get your MP3 player hooked up in an RSX.

2005 Toyota Tacoma Stereo Upgrade – Aftermarket Head Unit Install with Auxiliary input for iPod/MP3 player

UPDATE 10/11/2010: This stereo got stolen a couple months ago and I’ve replaced it with a JVC KD-R810. I wrote a new post about that installation process with more detailed instructions and new after pictures: My 2nd Toyota Tacoma Stereo Install

The Tacoma’s stock receiver does not have an auxiliary input and there’s no way I was going down the FM transmitter route so it was time for a head unit upgrade. Here’s a quick look at my installation of an aftermarket stereo/radio/cd player and auxiliary input for an mp3 player, Ipod or any other audio playing device in my Tacoma. The install isn’t too bad so if you want to breath new life into your Tacoma’s stereo on the cheap then this is a great little project.

Dash Kit Info: I got the Scosche TA2052B Single Din from Amazon, there’s also a double DIN version.

Head Unit Info: I got a Pioneer DEH-P4800MP, but it is discontinued now which is too bad since the finish matches the dash kit almost exactly. I keep looking, but haven’t found anything with as good of a color match.

If you want to buy new, these Pioneer units have a bit of the lighter silver color and have received good reviews: Pioneer DEH-P5000UB , Pioneer DEHP4100UB, Pioneer DEH2100IB.

This is the stock stereo I had to work with. The trend has been towards completely integrating the stereo into a car’s dash, it looks great but as soon as you want to install an aftermarket stereo in you might be stuck. The aftermarket dash kit is color matched to the silver around the vents.

Stock stereo in 2005 Toyota Tacoma

Step 1 – Rip out climate control, unbolt and remove dash and stereo, unhook everything.

Rip out the stereo and connected trim

Step 2 – Wire up the wire harness so you don’t have to cut any of the factory wiring.

Wire harness all ready to go

Step 3 – Hookup stereo and test to make sure everything works before putting the whole thing back together.

Testing before putting it back together

Step 4 – I’ve got everything in and just need to stick the climate control panel back on. Getting the head unit and hazards/clock panel into the replacement dash was the most time consuming part of the whole project. First I couldn’t get the hazards panel out of the stock dash but managed to pry it out after an hour. Secondly, the installation instructions for the dash kit were pretty brief, I guess you can consider a diagram and a few unintelligible sentences instructions. At this point I had also drilled a hole in the back of the pocket to feed the cable for the auxiliary input through.

Almost done

Finish – With everything put back together I actually like the look of the replacement dash kit more than the original bumpy texture.

Finally done with the install

Audio quality is much better after a little EQ’ing and I can now hook up an Mp3 player. New speakers would be a nice upgrade, but the new head unit really helps the stock speakers come alive.

Not a terribly difficult project and I’m glad I did it myself instead of paying an installer a good chunk of change to do it. I probably got lucky since most dashes aren’t this accessible and easy to work with.

Methods of connecting an Mp3 Player up to your car stereo

Posted a comment on a friends page and inspired me to post on this subject.

I wouldn’t even consider an FM transmitter and would only resort to tape at last resort.

The best option is to plug directly into your car’s head unit through an auxiliary input. Even with stock car stereos there is a chance an adapter is available. And if not, I’d try a FM modulator (different from transmitters, they plug directly into antennae on the stereo to minimize interference).

I use to have a Kenwood head unit in my old truck and I got the adapter that plugs into the cd changer port and it worked great. Just ran the RCA cable out from under the dash and up to the center console and plugged straight in.

The best list of available adapters I’ve found is at Installer.com.

So in summary:

  • FM transmitters (the cheap toys you get at Radio Shack) – avoid like the plague.
  • Tape Adapters – Final resort if you are strapped for cash and you actually have a tape player (which is becoming quite rare on newer cars and head units).
  • FM modulator – plugs directly inline with your car’s antennae, final resort if you value sound quality.
  • Auxiliary input – Stereo manufacturers are finally catching on and Aux inputs are becoming more widespread. They offer the least amount of sound quality loss and depending on your setup can be pretty affordable.

I think a lot of people view hooking up their Mp3 player the same as the headphones they use, they simply see no reason to upgrade. After dropping $200-300 on a very capable Mp3 player, most people will not spend the extra money to upgrade their headphones. This is why you see the trendy Ipod masses on college campuses walking around with their white earbuds stuffed in their ears. Spend another $35 on something like these Sennheiser PX 100‘s and increase the quality of your music, unless looking trendy and “cool” matters more.

The same goes with hooking your Mp3 player up in the car, don’t spend $15 on the FM crap emitter, invest a little more and get a higher quality signal with less hassle. I look at it this way, how much is it worth to not have to listen to crappy radio music and commercials? Stick it to the man and hook your mp3 player up to your car stereo.