Expensive Car Month

July is a huge reminder about just how much money we spend on automobile transportation. The planets seem to align when insurance and registration for both of us come in at about the same time. This year I got the added joy of renewing my drivers license and smogging the RSX for the first time (I kid you not it took about 3 minutes for them to test it). All that on top of two car payments is a nice little sum of money vanishing in a short period of time. The monthly cost might not seem bad, but it all adds up to a significant portion of our income.

I’m one step closer to my bike commute though. I bought locks, rear rack and trunk bag last night which means I might be ready to make the switch in a couple weeks. The Topeak rack and bag are pretty sweet since they have a slide on mechanism for easy installation and removal. Ordered from Tree Fort Bikes which had everything I wanted at very competitive prices. Still contemplating if I want to put fenders on.

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.