The following is a description of how I was able to install my new iPod into my 2001 Honda Civic EX.
Edit 2003-07-20 13:07 – added the pictures
1) Acquire the necessary parts and do your homework…
- First, you’ll need the HON-AUX input converter, available from Logjam Electronics – I bought mine for ~$50 + S&H. This plugs into the CD-Changer port which is located on the back of the your stock head unit, and talks the unit into thinking that a set of RCA inputs is really a CD changer. (If you’re clever, you’ll see how this can be used to tie in a satellite radio unit like XM or Sirius as well!)
- Second, the HON-AUX converter provides female stereo RCA jacks, so you’ll need either a cable or adapter which converts 2 male RCA jacks to a 1/8″ stereo jack. I ended up with a $20 Monster Cable (because Best Buy was out of cheaper ones), but you can find one at your local RadioShack for under $10 – try part numbers 42-2551 ($6.99) or 42-2483 ($7.99).
- Third, a power supply for your iPod. I’ve got one of the new 10GB ones with the Dock connector on the bottom, so I went with the Belkin unit, which you can get at an Apple retail store, or buy it online from Apple for $39.99
- Fourth (optional), something to put your iPod on/in. I found a cell-phone holder at RadioShack for $21.99 which seems to work fine.
- Fifth, tools. I used a couple metric sockets (8 and 10 mm), a flathead screwdriver, and a cordless drill.
- Sixth, your stereo security code. In the packet of material that came with your owners manual, there should be a small card/sticker which contains your radio’s serial number and the security code for it (a 5-digit number). You’ll need this or your radio won’t work when you’re done!
2) Opening the center console and removing the stereo.
For this section, I relied on a couple illustrations from this page at carstereohelp.com. Print it up and take it out to your car with you!
a) Before doing any electrical work on your car, always disconnect the power. Pop open the hood and disconnect the negative battery terminal. The bolt on mine was tough to get a normal wrench at, but a 10mm socket wrench worked fine.
b) Remove the lower center panel (where the cigarette lighter plug is located at). It’s easiest to pry gently at the bottom left and right sides first – then the panel comes off fairly easily. Disconnect the power plug to the cigarette lighter (it pulls off).
c) Following the diagrams you printed up, there are two bolts holding in the radio / air conditioner control assembly which are located under the top edge of the open panel. I just reclined the seat and laid upside-down with my head under the steering wheel to get good access. The bolts are both 8mm heads. Yellow arrows on the picture above show the approximate location of the bolts behind the panel.
d) Remove the upper panel. Be careful prying, as you can damage the dash! Just so you’re not surprised, this isn’t just the faceplate you’re removing – it’s the entire unit, which includes the climate control knobs/buttons, the head unit, and the CD storage box.
e) The HON-AUX converter plugs into a connector on the rear of the head unit on the right side (just next to the main wiring harness). Based on the diagrams included with the converter, if you’ve got the factory cassette deck installed as well, I assume you daisy-chain and connect to the cassette deck instead.
f) Route the RCA jacks on the converter to a good location for you.
I drilled a hole in the inside top of the little pocket in the bottom center panel and fed them through there. You might be able to just fish them around the side of the panel on the passenger side as an alternate routing. (Eventually, I ended up switching to this as well.)
g) Reinstall the upper center panel, the bolts holding it in place, the cigarette lighter connector, and the lower center panel.
h) Reconnect the negative battery terminal, turn the car on. When you turn on the radio, it will request the security code, which you can enter using the radio station preset buttons.
3) Connecting the iPod
a) If you just plug the iPod into the input jacks directly, you’ll probably hear terrible static instead of your music. Apparently, the power source of the car and the iPod’s battery compete. So, the car charger isn’t only smart, it’s necessary. The Belkin adapter I’m using also provides line-out capability, so I plug into it instead of the iPod’s headphone jack.
b) To get your head unit to the new input, push the “CD / Tape” button until “CD-C” (CD-Changer) is displayed as the mode. Push again to cycle back to the in-dash CD player
c) I didn’t want to leave the iPod on my passenger seat to slide around, so I got a mount for it. The one I described above can be mounted into the tray below the parking brake handle. Putting it in the front left corner keeps it from interfering with the parking brake, and puts it right at your fingertips if your arm’s on the armrest.
Update 2004-06-29 – I posted some followups to comments in another blog entry. Read that article too before posting a question. Thanks!
Update 2007-02-22 – I’ve redone how I have my iPod installed in the car, and gone to an even more integrated approach.
For Christmas, I got the harman/kardon drive+play system for the iPod. This is, in my mind, the best way to integrate an iPod into the stock head unit. The system consists of a “brain”, which is hidden from view, a small LCD display which can be mounted on the dash, console, etc., and a controller which mimics the iPod interface. On the LCD display, you’ve got full access to the “Music” section of your iPod’s menu – playlists, sorting by artist, genre, etc. The controller has the same 5 buttons you’ve got on the iPod’s Click Wheel, and it rotates to simulate the touch function of the wheel.
Here’s how I installed it:
1) Install the power connections – Remove the lower center console per the instructions above and disconnect the cigarette lighter connection. The wires going to the cigarette lighter should be yellow and black. Carefully cut and strip the yellow wire (+12 VDC) and connect it to the yellow AND red wires on the d+p’s wire harness. You should have three yellow wires (the two ends of the yellow wire going to the lighter and the d+p yelllow wire) and the red ACC wire. Twist together using pliers and join with a suitable wirenut. Wrap off the wirenut in electrical tape to secure. Cut the black wire, strip the ends, and twist them together with the black wire from the d+p’s harness.
2) Test power connection and choose location for “brain” – Just connect up the controller, display, and iPod cable, hook up your iPod, and start the car. On my car, the display comes on and turns off while the engine is starting. Push the Play button on the d+p controller to turn it on. The iPod display should give you the “Ok to disconnect” message. You should have control of the iPod through the d+p now. If you’ve connected your HON-AUX to the d+p “brain”, you ought to be hearing music now. Now, stash the brain somewhere. I stashed mine behind the center console on the driver’s side – there’s a nice amount of space there.
3) Select controller and display location and mount methods – I chose to mount my display to the left of the dashboard, above the vent and roughly even with the windshield pillar. I mounted the controller basically where I used to have the iPod – right where my hand would rest off the end of the armrest just in front of the gearshift. In both cases, you have the option of self-adhesive mounts or screw-on mounts. I opted for adhesive, as I might be getting a new car in the next couple years. Route the cables as you see fit. I routed the controller cable straight down the driver’s side of the console, then tucked it under the plastic all the way to the “brain”. For the display, I tucked it into the seam wher the windshield pillar and dash meet, down the inside of the door, above the hood release, under the floor mats just behind the pedals to the “brain”.
4) Select location for iPod – the natural place is the covered pocket in the center console under the armrest – it’s out of view to deter theft, but easy to access to grab your iPod. You can remove the black part of the console (up to the seam by the gearshift) by prying. Start from a back corner and work forward. The parking brake handle will need to be up to remove it. Drill a 1/2″ hole in the bottom rear of the pocket. Route the cable to the “brain” underneath the center console.
5) Replace all your covers and rock on.
Enjoy, and if you’ve got any questions/comments, please post below – if you want a response, be sure to include a valid e-mail address!
Also – in the comments below, I periodically insert my responses to your questions in italics. Just so you know…
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