So Thumper, my beloved LJ — a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited with lots of fixings — has been in storage in Colorado for a couple weeks now. I drove it out for the big Anasazi trek and then left it in Ouray, which is a far more fitting place for an awesome four-wheel-drive rig than Charleston, South Carolina. Without it around, though, I’ve been getting antsy to work on something. And since, you know, the new Kia Rondo is right here … I decided to pimp my ride, as the kidz say. No, not spinning wheelcaps or neon lights on the undercarriage. A new car stereo.
It’s not that the factory stereo was bad. It was actually quite suitable. Simple to use, good sound, looked nice. No complaints at all.
Well, except one itsy bitsy little thing: It didn’t have any way to plug in an mp3 player. And in the months since we bought the Rondo we’ve grown quite reliant on our iPod Touch. Since the FM transmitter things we’ve tried are a real pain in the butt to use on any regular basis, we needed at least an auxiliary input for the iPod. Kia remedied this problem in the 2008 Rondo — putting an “aux in” jack inside the console — but no such luck on our 2007.
We contemplated a number of aftermarket stereos — some with touchscreen GPS navigation and other newfangled technological what-not — but in the end we opted for a simple JVC KW-XG500 from Crutchfield. It has an auxiliary input jack on the front (score!), but we went ahead and added on the JVC KS-PD100 iPod adapter, which I planned to route up through the console. Sound and charging the iPod? That’s pimpin’, baby.
The unit came just after noon today. Installation began a few minutes later.
Getting the panels off was a bit of a pain, since I don’t have the fancy-pants tool the pros use, but I got them loose without incident using a tiny pry bar and a pair of fingernail clippers. Seriously.
Factory stereo now thrown into the backseat. Getting to this point didn’t take very long at all, really. I’ve installed quite a few car stereos over the years, and the de-installation is never that big of a deal. It’s the installation of the new one coming up that’s always a pain.
So this is where I’m routing the iPod adapter and jack through the console, which is partially disassembled. The adapter unit itself is mounting on that black plastic in the gap to the right, with wires running up past the shifter to the receiver head unit in the dash. The iPod connector itself will run up through that conveniently placed rectangular opening in the bottom of the console tub to the left. There’s a felt “bottom” that slips down into that tub, and a quick bit of knife work opened up a perfect hole for the cord to pass through. Everything but the lovely iPod connecting line itself will thus be completely hidden — and even that line routes through the console, where it can be easily stowed out of sight. In addition, this set-up means the iPod control has enough slack to be reached by both front and rear seats.
Routing the iPod connection lines was a pain — there were a lot of panels to pop loose, and little tight spots to squeeze hands or lines through — but it wasn’t worrisome. No, it’s this wiring part that’s always stressful. If I’ve connected the lines wrong I’ll blow a fuse at a minimum, if not the stereo itself. Anyway, this is what the wiring harness looks like once everything is matched up. It’s mostly color-to-color, though a few connections weren’t quite that simple. Just follow the wiring diagrams and cross your fingers!
Okay. I’m all set to plug in the new stereo now and start putting things back together in earnest. I’ve cleaned up the connections with zip-ties and electrical tape to make a nice little bundle. Fewer rattles that way. Looks like it’s all ready to fit.
New stereo went in without a hitch. I won’t know if it works until I reconnect the car’s battery, though. Just another minute or two. Hopefully I won’t hear that tell-tale pop of electricity arcing, or smell the acrid whisp of fried electronics, or see any drifting tendrils of grey-white fuse-smoke.
So, 2-3 hours after I started, installation is complete. Remarkably, it worked right away, with no need to redo any connections. I wish I could say every car stereo installation went so well, but I can’t. At any rate, the money saved is worth it. A basic install at most retailers runs about $150, and the addition of the iPod adapter made this one non-basic. My guess is it would have been a minimum $250 to have someone else do the work, and they might not have put the iPod line in as nicely as I managed. That’s enough to pay for the stereo itself!
All done! And just in time, too: we’ll be leaving on our summer trip out West in a few weeks, so we’ll use the heck out of this right away!