Life

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Truck gets a GPS

The truck gets a GPS
It really started out to be just new speakers for the truck’s sound system. The radio was the factory original and, judging by the way they sounded, so were the four speakers mounted in the doors. Crutchfield had a speaker on sale that looked like it would work for this truck so I figured it was worth a try. Couldn’t sound any worse, or so I thought, and I was almost right.
The installation went smoothly. The door panels came off just like the directions from Crutchfield said they would. But after the four speakers were installed, only the right channel worked. Both the left front door and left rear door speakers were completely silent. The right side front and rear door speakers sounded great; much better than the original equipment, but not having a left channel was a bummer. I figured the original radio couldn’t handle the new speakers and blew an output transistor or something. Dang.
I knew replacing the radio was not going to be as easy as replacing the speakers, or as cheap, but half a radio wasn’t going to cut it. So, back to Crutchfield.
This time I found a radio that would fit and it had a built in 7 inch touch-screen display with GPS navigation. A little pricey at $600, but we had priced hand-held GPS receivers with smaller screens at $500, so it didn’t seem too bad (Dodge wanted $2500 for the radio with the navigation option). I also learned the truck had three smaller dash mounted speakers. You can only buy speakers in pairs, so I ordered a pair of those also.
Got all the stuff and thought I would do the easy part first, so I peeled the top panel of the front dash to replace the smaller front speakers. Except where the original speakers were supposed to be were just speaker cutouts. No speakers and no cables for the no speakers. Dang. Still, how hard could it be to cable in a couple of speakers? But first, I needed to replace the radio.
Did I say this wasn’t going to be easy? Boy was I right. But I got it done without breaking anything and a few days later the original radio was sitting on a shelf in my garage. Now the fun part: installing the new, much cooler radio.
The Crutchfield installation kit for the new radio included a bundle of wires that needed to be connected to a similar bundle of wires from the new radio. Took a few more days, but I got it done.
Did you know modern cars use coded signals to communicate stuff like the emergency brake status, or when reverse has been selected by the driver? True. The kit included a decoder with a bundle of wires for the outputs. This radio was also a DVD player so you could watch movies on the touch-screen display, but only if the emergency brake was set. One of the wires from the decoder was the emergency brake indicator. Just in case you were a little slow, the instructions carefully pointed out that you should not just ground the emergency brake wire to the radio or the DVD player function would work all the time. I hooked it up to the emergency brake wire from the decoder.
The new radio/GPS/DVD/Ipod player had a bunch more wires coming out the back than the original radio had, but I got it all stuffed back in. I buried the GPS antenna under the cover for the smaller center dash speaker that I didn’t have (looking up through the front wind shield) and it worked fine. After everything was back in and powered up, the only thing that didn’t work were the left door speakers. Dang. I guess it wasn’t the original radio’s fault after all. So I pulled the left back door panel off and took a look at the speaker. I forgot to hook the speaker wires back up when I replaced the original speaker. Twice, since the front door had the same problem. Now all the speakers worked and I had a really cool radio with GPS, a touch-screen display, and a remote. No kidding. The new radio came with a remote. We even used it on our last trip to visit friends in northern Minnesota. Turns out the remote is easier to use for some things than the touch-screen is. Still haven’t watched a movie on it, but with the remote we could sit in the truck bed and watch a DVD. As long as the parking brake is on.