As mentioned earlier, completed the installation of a new Pioneer AVH-W4400NEX stereo yesterday. It was a drawn-out process mostly due to a bit of a learning curve and some stupid moves on my part… like doing all of the testing while the R wasn’t running and killing the battery. There was also an issue of the Auto-Vox Cam 6 backup camera not playing nice with the Pioneer unit. Once I got it all sorted out everything came together and is working great now.
When I first decided to swap out the OEM unit I did a bunch of research and landed on this particular Pioneer model based on it’s features and what I wanted matching up pretty closely. (Thanks to everyone that made their recommendations... they were all great and really helped!) It has Apple Car Play and Android Auto built in. It’s wireless, uses Bluetooth to connect to my iPhone and once it does it has all of the features on my phone that I want including Maps, Pandora, audio books, podcasts and so on. It can even mirror my phone’s screen so I could stream YouTube or other videos from my phone to the Pioneer’s screen. It does have (many) wired connections for anyone that wants to use them. I chose to put the USB, AUX and extra video input connectors in the glovebox.
Of course it’s also capable of, wait for it, being a radio - HD radio - playing CDs as well as DVDs. Might come in handy if I ever wanted to watch a movie on a 7-inch screen I guess.
The integrated backup camera works very well. It takes over the screen when I put it in reverse (plus I can bail out of the screen for 10 seconds if needed) and returns to whatever it was doing before putting it in reverse. Clear picture with pretty accurate backup parking guides.
After watching numerous videos on every aspect I could think of I was a bit intimidated. I installed my first car stereo about 45 years ago along with many more since. Back in the day it meant either pulling the radio and putting another one in or hanging an eight-track or cassette deck under the dash. The hardest part was running speaker wires into the doors, back deck and such. Today it’s a bit (LOT!) different and more challenging. Then there’s a 14 year old R that had a nice Bose 6CD system at the time but is reluctant to give it up and let you put today’s modern technology in its place.
So I felt that I had the cursory knowledge to tear into the project, literally in some instances.
I followed Dicktator’s and other’s tutorials to pull the dash. First I turned off the airbag switch (in the glovebox) with the key and for safety’s sake, pulled the airbag fuse out of the engine compartment fuse panel. The rest was pretty straight-forward, but a bit of a pain due to the passenger airbag being a total, um, nuisance. They clearly put it in while the dash was outside of the R and gave little thought to replacing it later. Once I pried the dash out and over the airbag (with the help of some Dawn dishwashing soap) I was off to the races. I was careful though and didn’t break any clips or other important bits. I decided to follow Dicktator’s instructions and remove the airbag to make it easier to put everything back together. I removed the glove box - the easiest part of the entire process - and rather than cutting up the areas around the airbags two top bolts I removed the bottom bolts that hold in the airbag first. Boy am I glad I did too. When I started removing the second bottom bolt the airbag began to move. I pulled the bolts out and it was completely loose. The two top bolts had no nuts on them. Per my earlier post the previous owner had the Chevy dealer replace his instrument cluster and they noted on the work order that they pulled the airbag at that time. I’m only guessing, but it looks like they did not replace those two nuts on the top bolts. Good for them, and me! I disconnected the wiring pulled it out easily and set it on my workbench.
Pulling the OEM stereo is only a matter of removing three little bolts. It slides right out and the harness is easy to disconnect. I “dry fit” the new unit and immediately realized that it wasn’t going to fit without some mods to the cavity it was going to live in. It hit the back lip and was going to stick out too far. The box the stereo sits in is made of hard plastic. There’s a small upturned “lip” at the back. That was going to have to go. There are also a couple of metal tabs. One in the middle supported the back of the OEM stereo. I don’t know exactly what the one on the right is for but it's recessed enough that it could be ignored. So after studying it a bit I ended up not using a Dremel as I had planned because of the tight space. Instead I simply grabbed on to the lip with a small pair of channel locks and snapped pieces of it off one-by-one. They broke clean right at the bend from the bottom of the box up. Nice. Afterward I took a file and smoothed out a couple of rough edges. The fit was much better but that metal tab in the center was still in the way. So I actually took a small hammer and whacked it a few times to bend it back as far as it would go. The next time I slid the new head unit in, it fit like a glove. Sweet.
I used a Metra Electronics 95-2001 Double DIN Installation Dash Kit to mount the head unit. It's one of those that has a zillion holes to try and fit all occasions and it worked okay but it took a few trial and errors to get it right including one where I reinstalled the dash and had to pull it back off because the head unit sat too low. The faceplate was never going to fit but it looks pretty good without it.
I documented installing my Auto-Vox Cam 6 backup camera here
in case anyone’s interested. I’m glad others here recommended it, it works great.
So those are the only important bits I can relate to my personal experience with this swap. The rest is pretty typical I think.
I used a Crux adapter that I purchased from Fanatic RG (thanks Richard!) to keep the steering wheel controls and such. It works great. Some people swear by Crux, others PAC and others like, well others. I can confirm the Crux works. I think it’s a Crux SOOGM15, but I can’t be sure because the guy that custom built it (Dave Galloway in Tempe, AZ) took the labels off.
In case that adapter didn’t work I had a PAC RP5-GM11 that IFytFyrs used on his R as a backup. I didn’t want to tear everything down only to be left hanging and waiting for Amazon’s “two day” (sometimes four or five day) delivery to arrive.
The Pioneer unit I bought has an ungodly number of inputs and outputs. It connects directly to the R’s stereo wiring harness no problem. Beyond that it has a loom of RCA plugs and other wires for custom amp installations (I kept the original Bose amp, works great) as well as “hardwire” in/out for audio, another camera or video source, HDMI, USB for Apple and Android, AUX, GPS and more. The number of wires coming out of it and the ports going in are stunning. Due to the tight space behind the head unit where the Crux adapter was going to have to reside I ended up cutting and capping about a dozen wires and connectors that I didn’t need. I left enough wire for someone to add things back in if that day ever came. As you can see in the attached photos, the number of wires are still eye-popping for those of us that remember a positive, negative and two wires for each speaker in a fancy-dancy four speaker setup back in the day. It’s truly amazing it all fit inside.
So that’s my story. There were some rough patches along the way as noted in a few of my other posts, but in the end it all worked out fine and now we have a nice-sounding stereo that’ll do most everything except wash the wheels.
I’ll add a couple of posts with additional photos. If you’re like me you get more out of seeing than reading with stuff like this.
What I thought might be a four-hour or so job turned into about a day and a half. I see why car stereo shops charge upwards of $500 or more to do this. It’s a pain, but I leaned a lot and feel like this R is more “ours” now than it used to be.
Hope that helps those that follow and didn’t bore those that have already been down this path. Happy to answer any questions… just keep in mind you get what you pay for.