distraction in action

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Posts in category Car :

About a year ago I bought a 2005 Subaru Legacy wagon with an in-dash 6-CD changer. It's proven to be an excellent car, but it has one nagging flaw: there's no way to connect an iPod to the stereo. The usual way this is done for factory stereos without aux-in jacks is to use a kit to convert the CD changer input to an aux-in, but with the changer integrated into the stereo that's not an option. Another option would be to replace the whole stereo with a 3'rd party unit, but the Subie's stereo is integrated with the heating and AC controls

When all else fails, there's the option of using an FM modulator connected directly to the antenna input for the stereo. Amazingly enough, Subaru made even this option painful by using a non-standard antenna cable! Metra now sells the cable you need to make this work, but the sound quality for FM modulators is only marginally acceptable. Oh, and don't even mention those FM transmitters you find at Target–those just sound awful!

However, thanks to a couple of enterprising hardware hackers at legacygt.com my problem has been solved. A fine gentleman known as centerpunch made the whole thing possible, and another called jazzymt made it easy. The install requires you to dismantle the stereo and connect a circuit with an aux-in between the CD changer and the main stereo circuit board. I did the install myself this afternoon and thought I'd share some tips for anybody who wants to try it themselves. But first, the standard disclaimer. These tips are based on my experience with my car. I'm not an expert, and I don't know your car. Maybe they'll work for you, maybe they won't, but don't blame me if you break something trying to follow what I've written here.

There are three pieces of trim that will make your life difficult.

  • The emergency-brake cover. This is the first thing you're asked to remove, and unfortunately it can be really tough to get out. It's hard to get a hold of because the driver's seat obstructs it. (It helps to lower the driver's seat completely if you have power seats.) The cover is held on by two clips, one at the front and one at the rear. If you're clever maybe you can figure out how to unclip them. If you're like me, on the other hand, you just have to grab the edge and pull straight up, really hard.
  • The Silver ring around the shifter. (I have the automatic transmission, and this might not be a problem if you have the manual.) Prying that thing out was quite frightening. There it is, right in the middle of the cabin, all shiny, just waiting to be scratched, bent, or otherwise befouled. The trim underneath it gives a little too easily as you try to pry the ring up. It's scary stuff. To defeat it, here's what you need to know:
    • To pry up the ring, use a well-padded flat head screwdriver, and twist. To pad mine, I used the felt pad from the armrest cubby underneath the screwdriver and two playing cards on top of it.
    • The clips holding the ring in are on the sides, at the top and bottom. The one on the lower right is not quite at the bottom, but about an inch from the bottom. Dont pry anywhere else or you might bend the ring! Be as gentle as possible, and work each clip a little bit at a time.

  • The arm rest console. This damned thing was the bane of my existence the first time I removed the stereo. There are two bolts inside the console that are easy enough to remove, but the two clips up near the shifter would not let go without a serious struggle! I was very concerned that I was going to break the console if I pulled with the amount of force required to detach those clips. I thought about drilling out the clip that's visible, but that wouldn't have helped with the hidden right-hand one. In the end, once again, brute force did the trick and nothing broke. Just pull straight up, really hard, and don't blame me if it breaks for you.

Here are some pictures that I took the first time I took apart the stereo, back in January. I've always found it helps to know the locations of the clips holding the trim in when I'm trying to take something out.

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Like my work? Check out HexaLex, my game for iPhone & iPod Touch. It's a crossword game like Scrabble, but played with hexagonal tiles. http://www.hexalex.com