These directions only address the physical installation of the head unit and do not deal with the wiring, amp bypass, etc. (If anyone has links to good tutorials for this, drop me a note and I will add them in to this.) Although I’ve installed many stereos in other vehicles in the past, I decided life was too short and turned to a professional installer this time. Evidently I was wrong and life was not too short as I ended up doing the physical install myself. The installer did wire up the harness adapter and install the video bypass switch for which I am most grateful.
Installing a double din head unit involves completely removing the dashboard bezel for trimming and cutting a pretty big chunk of plastic from the internal structure of the dash. I chose a Clarion NX500 and while the perimeter dimensions of double din units seem to be standard across all models and brands, I did notice the depth can be different. The NX500 is 7” (179mm) deep. If you can find one that is not as deep that would be helpful.
Tools you’ll need:
- Din hooks for removing the factory stereo
- Torx (T-25) head screwdriver (the one that came with your car),
- Dremel tool with cutting bit (I used a post type bit as opposed to a cutting wheel) for trimming the bezel. You do not want to try this with a blade as the middle horizontal piece seems fragile.
- A flat saw blade like a hacksaw blade (I used the saw blade from a Leatherman Supertool) for cutting the piece out of the dash.
- Small flat head screw driver for bending metal tabs.
Dashboard Bezel Removal
- Removing the dashboard bezel can be tricky, just remember to be gentle and use a steady hand. To start, remove the stereo with the din tools and unplug the speaker harness, antenna cable and cd changer control cable (if you have one). Next take out the stereo cage. There should be several small tabs that need to be bent in. I used the tiny flat head screw driver from my Leatherman. Once that’s gone, you can reach up and pop out the SID and disconnect the plug. Next remove the SID cage/cup holder. Again there are several metal tabs in the cage the need to be lifted in order to remove it – two the top, one on each side, and one on the bottom, you will need to open the cup holder to get to that one. Once the tabs are cleared, depress the top of the cage slightly as you work it out of the dash. There are a couple of metal stops up there that need to clear the bezel.
- Now remove the plugs and switches. Be gentle. With the stereo out, you can pop hazard switch out from behind and unplug. Then pull the headlight switch. With it out, you can reach in and push out the fog light switches. Then pull the illumination dimmer switch. You also need to pop out the blank to the left of the dimmer switch. The fasten seatbelt sign doesn’t come out, but the light bulb slides out the back.
- With the dash cleared, it’s time to remove the steering wheel cowl, blinker, and wiper arms. Extend the steering wheel all the way.
- Remove the cowl by pull two screws on each side of the steering wheel and one underneath. There are two plastic tabs on the back of the cowl that join the top and bottom halves. Not easy to reach – I used a small flathead screw tip to depress these tabs and gently pop the top off. The bottom is removed by pulling it forward a bit and dropping it off from below. You may have to play with the position of the steering wheel lock level to get the cowl to clear. Be sure to lock the steering wheel in the extended position when you are done.
- The blinker and wiper arms are removed by depressing the white tabs and sliding it out. Unplug them by popping up the red catches. The wiper switch has another small plug that is detached by inserting a tiny blade or paperclip into the top of the switch – look closely to see which side. Be gentle with the white tabs as they can be brittle.
Now you are ready to pull the screws and remove the dashboard bezel!
There are 9 screws holding the bezel in place (I think – previous owner had been in my dash and there were only 4 screws holding mine in):
- 3 in the opening where the stereo and SID were
- 2 on either side of the steering column
- 2 above the gauge cluster
- one behind the headlight switch
- one behind the blank next to the dimmer.
With the screws removed, the dash will come out with a little firmness. You will need to flex it a bit to get the vents to come out. It comes out towards you, then lifts up to clear the steering column. Just be careful and don’t force anything!
Trimming the Bezel
Now that you have the bezel out it’s time to trim the area around the stereo opening. Using the dremel, take the bottom edge down to flat. I also trimmed down the raised edges to each side of the screw hole. (It’s a good idea to put masking tape on the areas around the opening to protect from nicking it with the dremel.) Take the top edge down to about 1/32″ (the red line in the pic shows what I removed). I tried to leave as much as I could to prevent snapping that horizontal accidentally. The sides are fine and do not need to be trimmed. There should be about 1/8” of space side to side. Be very careful, and go slow. Trim down until the head unit will slip easily through the opening.
Back in the car, you need to remove the black polycarbonate horizontal piece that is below where the SID cage lives.
This is where the flat saw blade comes in. I took it out right at the edges where the horizontal meets the vertical, but I could have left 1/16″ to 1/8″. Slow and steady – you do not want to cut into the vertical supports. I cleaned up the shavings as I went and used a damp paper towel laid over the wiring and junk below to catch most of the shavings.
With that part out, it’s time to run your wires. Again, I’m not much help there but here are some tips for dressing your cables:
- The main harness needs to run above and to the right of the head unit in the back. The harness adapter is pretty big and can be shoved to the right between the air vent tube and the internal dash structure. As you can see in the pic, my original installer used wire-nut type crimps – Not recommended. I would solder the connections and use heat shrink to seal them.
- As you monkey with the main harness, note that there is an air tube that comes from the firewall and heads off to the right. This is just fitted in place and can come unattached.
- I ran my iPhone cable down behind the climate control unit and have it coming out in the bottom most tray in front of the stick. There’s a gap behind that tray that’s just big enough to slip the iPhone connector through. I did remove the climate control unit for easier access.
- With the AC control unit out, I noticed there was quite a bit of space below the control unit so I pulled a bunch of my wiring down there to give the head unit more room.
- To the right of the stereo opening, between the center area and the glove box there is a small oval insert piece (probably covering screw access). This is where my installer placed the video bypass switch (not that I will ever use it of course).
- Test your connection now BEFORE putting it all back together.
Putting It All Back
Reinstalling the Bezel
- If it’s all working, you are ready to put it back together. Start with the dash bezel. You have unplugged everything so be careful not to jam up one of the switch plugs or get them stuck in a place you can’t get to them. You will need to manage them, feeding them through their openings, etc as the bezel moves closer to the installed position. Once the bezel is place, put your screws back in. Do not over-tighten or you will crack it.
- Next, put all your switches back and make sure they are working.
- Reinstall the blinker and wiper arm switches.
- Reinstall the steering wheel cowl. The bottom can be a pain, and you will need to fiddle with the lock lever. Just don’t let the steering wheel slid inward or you risk cracking the top part.
- **ADDITIONAL NOTE** I replaced my original bezel with a “simulated burlwood” version, and when I did so I realized that I had not properly seated the air vents back into their tubes. Here are some tips:
- The right hand tube can be accessed through the stereo opening. Reach through and hold the tube as you press the vent assembly back into it.
- The left side is tricky. I ended up dropping the lower dash panel so I could reach up from underneath. I don’t have picks of this but I’ll try to explain the process:
- There are two screws on the front face of the lower panel, plus two at the fuse panel, plus one into the side of the center console.
- There is also a hex bolt that goes into the A-pillar (?) just inside the door.
- To completely drop the panel, it is also necessary to pull the three screws from the fuse panel and let it hang free AND pull the two screws from the computer interface connector which is in the middle of the lower dash panel closer to the pedals.
- With the screws out and the fuse panel out of the way, you can drop the panel. Be careful to feed the computer connector through the panel. Once clear, the panel can be removed from the car.
- You can now reach up and wiggle the air tube back onto the left side vent assembly.
Install the Head Unit
- Plug everything in.
- Start inserting the head unit into the hole. You will need to manage the wires behind and make sure the factory harness stays above and to the right.
- Check to be sure the air tube is still in place as you go.
- The head unit should just clear the harness and the air tube in the back.
- I left the AC control unit out while I did this to give me access to the wiring from below.
- Turn it on and test your functions again.
- Reinstall the SID cage/Cup Holder
- Bend the tabs back out so they will lock into position behind the bezel.
- Gently slide the cage in place.
- Gently flex the top to allow the two stops to clear the bezel.
- Plug in the SID and slide it in to the opening.
- Reinstall the climate control unit
- Clear any wires from behind – just enough so it will fit back in the opening.
- Slide it back in.
I do have to insert a couple trim strips along the sides of the head unit to finish it off. I’m holding out until I find something that matches the charcoal of the dashboard. But otherwise it looks great and works just fine! ***UPDATE*** For the record, I returned the Clarion NX500 and exchanged it for the Pioneer X920BT. With the Pioneer products, you can change the color of the illumination to better suit the dash and the nav system is updateable. It also had a different bypass setup that did not require an external switch which was nice.