Install your own car stereo

94 Mitsubishi Magna

My car isn’t great. A 1994 Mitsubishi Magna TS Executive V6 manual, it is better than some and goes pretty good, within reason. But it’s not great. One of the frustrations I had was the lousy sound system.

The Executive is the base model and as a result, the audio system consists of a radio cassette player (FM and AM) connected to two tiny, buzzy, cardboard 4″ speakers in the dashboard. Higher up models had 6″ speakers in the doors and 6×9″ speakers in the rear parcel shelf, along with a CD player if you bought a Verada.

Thanks to platform sharing, all Magnas have the brackets for those better speakers in the car body, hidden by trim, so if you are brave and willing to cut up your car, an instant sound upgrade is yours for the taking. As I had to run wires from the rear of the car to the back of the dash anyway, I decided to replace the stock radio cassette with a much newer unit.

So I went down to Supercheap, found some nice Panasonic 6×9’s going cheap, bought a JVC KD-G425 MP3 CD player/head unit and then had a good hard think about whether I was going to install it. Those speakers probably sat there for about 6 weeks before I got the courage to cut up my parcel shelf.

Panasonic 6x9 speakers

But cut it I did. You have to remove the back seat so you get good access to the parcel shelf. I ended up having to measure, mark, cut, fit the speakers, then do it all over again, then trim the carpet some more, but eventually I got the speakers screwed down securely with a (slightly) jagged edge around them. The speakers came with some cable (7m for each side) so I started feeding that down the cable run down the side of the car. After that I had to go out, so I replaced the back seat and took a big deep breath.

A week later I had composed myself enough to try and finish the job. I bought some spade connectors and crimped them onto all the wires that came out of the new stereo. I then finished running the new speaker cable through to the front of the car – I had to remove all the kick guards from the bottom of the door frames, but not a big deal in the end. Once that was at the front I removed the centre console from the car.

This involved about 10 screws in different places and the only complication came with the boot for the gear lever – it is fixed fast to the gear stick and heavily screwed into the console, but without detaching I could not get the console fully out of the way. With that done, I unscrewed the trim from the centre stack and could finally see the radio. I pulled out the bracket and unplugged the radio from the car – I was at last free of cassette tapes and FM radio that didn’t work which the engine was running.

JVC KD-G425

I had to snip off the plug which led from the car to the radio so I could attach my new cables. Aftermarket car audio manufacturers tend to adhere to a standard ping arrangement and plug type but car manufacturers do not, a Holden has a different plug to a Toyota, to a Hyundai etc, which is why I had to snip the plug. I then crimped the matching spade connectors onto the leads coming from the car (including the new rear speaker cables).

Once that was done, I had to match up the colours of the car leads to the colours of the stereo leads – a bit of a challenge. In Mitsubishi’s wiring diagram, the cables manage to change colour when you look at the speaker end (black/white & white) to when you look at the radio end (green and blue). I had to make a couple of corrections but it was mostly plain sailing.

12V battery – always hot, keeps your radio settings and clock set even when the car is off. 12V ignition – active when ignition is at ACC or ON, provides power to run radio. Earth – completes the circuit, attached to chassis, not battery Antenna – connects to radio antenna. Speakers – positive and negative for each speaker – 4 speakers = 8 wires

Once the cables were connected I mounted the JVC head unit in the bracket, plugged in the cables and replaced all the trim I had removed. Reconnected the battery and turned on the ignition – it worked first time! I had left the old, buzzy speakers in place and set the fade level most of the way to the rear, bass is back and volume is now an option, not to mention I can now play a CD in a car I own for the first time ever.

In the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I feared, but I would still hesitate to recommend installing your own car stereo unless you have a car you are willing to damage, or a desire to have a learning experience about cars and stereo equipment. Let me know if you’ve ever done something similar by leaving a comment below.

One regret I have is that the new 2007 model of the stereo I bought comes with an Auxilary input on the front, something that would be most helpful. Maybe on my next car, hey?

Tekken RX-7

Electronic Stability Control

Does it have ESC?: Australian website explaining Electronic Stability Control

Buying a new car (as opposed to an used one) doesn’t happen every day, but if it happens to you, I’d like to encourage you to ensure you get Electronic Stability Control on your new car. Statistics show that ESC, under whichever name you have purchased it, reduces the likelihood of a crash.

The worldwide body that represents motorists, the FIA, has been encouraging politicians worldwide to legislate to make ESC mandatory by 2012. According the FIA, making ESC standard on all cars will only increase prices by US$111.

In many luxury cars and even many family cars, ESC is standard. But in many smaller cars, ESC is an option you have to choose to pay money for. On a Mazda3 it costs $1000, on a VW Golf $690 and it can be tempting to rely on your own skills and experience and keep the money in your pocket.

But please, for your safety, for your children, for the person who buys your car used from you and for the general public, put safety as a priority and choose ESC when you buy your next new car.

For more info on modern automotive safety systems, check out Renault’s global safety page.

Depending on your brand, ESC is known as:

  • Electronic Stability Program (ESP) – Holden, Audi, Chrysler, Mercedes, Saab, Volkswagen
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) – Ford, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover
  • Vehicle Stability/Swerve Control (VSC) – Toyota, Lexus
  • Active Stability Control (ASC) – Mitsubishi
  • Dynamic Stability And Traction Control – Volvo
  • Vehicle Stability Assist – Honda
  • Vehicle Dynamic Control – Subaru, Nissan.

30 days with Ubuntu, Vista and OSX

HardOCP logo

Spotted via Slashdot:

HardOCP.com has published “30 days with MacOSX” — with the same author from “30 days with Linux” and “30 days with Vista” doing the evaluation. Ultimately he likes the stability and security but other concerns keep him from recommending it.

Reading the 3 articles you come away with the conclusion that the perfect Operating System hasn’t been invented yet. Even Windows XP SP2, the current standard by which all others are judged, doesn’t make the grade when you consider the advantages the alternatives bring.

If you have a bit of spare time and an interest in what your next computer might look like, please have a read.

30 days with Linux – March 5, 2007 30 days with Windows Vista – April 4, 2007 30 days with Mac OS X – June 5, 2007

Book review: Walking the Bible

While it’s on my mind I might let you know of another book I recently read that I got for Christmas: Bruce Feiler’s Walking the Bible.

Walking the Bible cover

Walking the Bible tells a narrative of how the author connects the stories told in the first 5 books of the bible into a geographical, historical reality. The author tells of how the stories of Noah, Abraham and Moses were always just stories, fairy tales or similar, until one day visiting Jerusalem someone pointed to the dome of the rock saying “That is where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac.” Feiler realised that you can actually visit the places where many of the stories in the bible took place, so he began a journey to do so, discovering that many of the stories are profoundly influenced by where they occurred, such as pillars of salt around the Dead Sea.

The author writes in a manner that is sensitive and respectful of all the major religions in the area, indeed, focusing on Genesis to Deuteronomy he addresses a period which is foundational for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. There is tension in places, he is after all in Israel and Palestine for much of his journey, but it is just as frequently between science and the bible as it is between a Muslim or Jewish point of view.

One of the highlights of the book is when Feiler stays at St Catherines Monastery near Mt Sinai. Feiler speaks with reverence of the men who serve and worship there, then goes on a trek up the mountain. St Catherines is the supposed site of the burning bush that God spoke to Moses through.

I found the book very helpful – it did make the first five books of the bible seem more real, more connected to the world I live in. Short of actually visiting the places mentioned, I think reading this book is an excellent grounding in the current state of affairs in the Middle East and the history of our faith.

Read an excerpt from the book: Chapter 1 In the Land of Canaan

Some more extracts from different chapters

Look inside (via Amazon) – really cool

Book review: Honest to God?

Honest to God? bookcover

Honest to God? Becoming an Authentic Christian by Bill Hybels is a book I received for Christmas and am only now getting to. From the publisher’s website:

Synopsis: This analysis of the inconsistencies in the lifestyle of today’s Christians is accompanied by specific examples and discussion of how Christians can restore authentic Christianity in their personal lives and thus nurture a troubled world.
Description: In Honest to God? Bill Hybels challenges Christians to examine their lifestyles and honestly see if God has changed their lives. Some areas he addresses include: – family life – work – male and female role models – spiritual disciplines – sound physical fitness – emotional life – marriage values — “Christianity is a supernatural walk with a living, dynamic, personal God. Why, then, do so many Christians live inconsistent, powerless lives?” Hybels answers this question with – Practical, down-to-earth advice on living the Christian life – 12 signs of inconsistent Christian living — and what to do about them – How to go beyond just “talking” the faith – Honest personal examples about failures and successes — Honest to God? is a clarion call to Christians to restore Christianity in their personal lives and thus influence the world.

I found the book to be greatly encouraging. Encouraged to pray, plan, look after myself and be more genuine in all I do. This most certainly is not a theological textbook but most of the principles Hybels outlines come with accompanying biblical text. I found this book to be a bit of a wake up call to live life as God intends us, rather than what I let myself get away with day to day. It definitely would come from the “Christian Living” section of the bookstore and is a helpful day to day encouragement.

Bill Hybels is the leader of the very large Willow Creek church in the USA, not that I knew that as I read the book. Read this book and get inspired to start living out your faith, rather than just believing you are. It is a difficult challenge, one that will probably take the rest of our lives, but the rewards in your relationship with our Creator and with your friends, family and workmates will be the better for that effort.

Anything But iPod

Anything but iPod is a news and reviews website for digital audio (MP3) players that looks beyond the market leader. Their aim is not to bash or diminish Apple’s offering, but to publicise and review MP3 players from other manufacturers that are, in their words easier to use, that give you more for your money, and that still have style and class.

Grundig MPixx 2000

The site gets updated most days with reviews of the latest MP3 and Digital Audio players from such brands as:

  • Grundig
  • Samsung
  • Meizu
  • Philips
  • Toshiba
  • Sony
  • Creative
  • SanDisk
  • iRiver

iPod has been incredibly successful and with good reason. iPods are stylish, easy to use, well integrated with iTunes and your computer’s operating system. Priscilla has an iPod nano which she enjoys on a daily basis. But I love going against the grain, supporting the underdog, so I applaud Anything but iPod’s efforts to promote some appealing alternatives.

In slightly related news, Maximum PC have an article up comparing iTunes regular 128kbps AAC sound quality (DRM spec) with the new, improved 256kbps AAC (DRM free). They perform the comparison with the regular iPod bud earbuds and also some high end Shure SE420 earphones. Read it here. Interesting and unexpected conclusions.