Category Archives: Electrical

Replacing the Sub (…again!)

On the off chance that you’ve blown the paper cone OEM sub-woofer in your TJ, OR if some clown installed a small door speaker where your subwoofer is supposed to be, replacing it with a functioning product is not particularly difficult or expensive.  Jump on Amazon, pick up a Pyramid 6.5-Inch 300W White Injected Cone Woofer, and play along at home.

You’ll want to get started by removing the center console which is held on by three bolts covered by cup holders that remove by hand.  A 10 mm under the front cup holder and two star bits beneath the rear.

BEFORE you yank out the center console, GENTLY disconnect the wiring harness underneath the console from the Jeep.  Now remove the entire console.

With the center console removed, it’s time to extract the subwoofer and OEM amp.  Start by removing two phillips head screws inside the arm rest.  Next, remove three phillips head screws on the side of the console near the subwoofer grill.

Take a moment to marvel at what’s there and then remove 4 star bits from the 4 corners of the speaker.  That’s all that’s holding the speaker to the box.  My door speaker below has extra bolts that you won’t see on your OEM speaker because this is an adapter plate to fit a 5.25″ speaker into a 6.5″ slot.  The funny thing is that the previous installer spent almost as much on the adapter plate as the Pyramid sub for this install costs!

Remove/disconnect the speaker and set it aside.  Disconnecting may require a set of wire cutters if the wires are soldered.

To fit the Pyramid sub, a little trimming to the inside bottom of the speaker box is necessary since this speaker is a bit deeper than stock.  Not a lot, but enough that you need to cut down the plastic to make it fit.  I used a Dremel with a EZ544 cutting wheel to make short work of that plastic.  Yeah, I know that cut off wheel is designed for wood, but it’s what I had on hand and it did the trick with out any problems.  Keep the Dremel speed low, and go at it with a steady hand.

To help prevent any vibration or rattling, I put foam strips (available at any hardware store) around the lip of the speaker mounting location.  Nicer speakers typically come with foam strips for mounting, but when you use the $20 Amazon special, that sort of thing often gets left out.  No, you don’t need it, but I suggest it.

Next, connect the sub and please try to do a cleaner soldering job than I did.  Clearly, not my finest work.

To further increase the quality of my enclosure, I used a little filling to pad the inside of the sub box.  I’ll let you read up on why here.  To continue to keep the cost down, instead of proper polyfill, I snagged the cheapest firm pillow I could find at my local Target and borrowed a little of the stuffing.  (…man I hope I didn’t over fill it!)

With the wiring connected, the edge covered in foam, and the box stuffed, you can go ahead and install the speaker.  I tried to get as close as possible to the OEM holes, but in the end I had to drill small pilot holes about 1/8″ closer to the edge to mount the speaker.  Just a small pilot hole mind you, the speaker screws will dig in the rest.

Next, slide the speaker box back into the center console.  Loosely tighten the 3 phillips head screws on the side near the grill, next fully tighten the two screws inside the arm rest, finally go back around and fully tighten the screws on the side.

Reinstall the console in the reverse order that you removed it.  Connect the wiring harness and secure it to the console using OEM clips.  Install the console into place and finger tighten the front and rear bolts.  1o mm in the front, two star bit bolts in the rear.  Position the console in the final resting place and make sure to tuck the carpets how you want them to sit then tighten everything down.  Drop in the cup holder covers and enjoy your new sub!  Go ahead, crank it up!

Tune it Up!

And now, the exciting installation of a Kenwood head unit into my TJ.  To be honest, this install ended up being rather anticlimactic.  I humbly suggest that TJ/LJ owners stop paying to have a new stereo installed since you can DIY pretty easily with a few common hand tools and the step by step instructions below. Start by removing the dash cover closest to the windshield.  It’s just attached with clips and pops right off. 

Next, remove two screws next to the windshield defroster vent that were covered by dash panel you just removed.

Once those screws are remove, gently pull forward on the center dash panel.  It’s held in with clips at this point and will tilt towards you and pull out.  Be firm, but gentle and the end result should like this. 

With the stereo exposed, remove 4 black Phillips head screws at all four corners.  Do not mess with the gold screws, those won’t get you anywhere.  I’m pointing to one of the screws to be removed below.

With the four screws removed, the stock radio will slide out freely.  Disconnect the harness and antenna from the back of the radio and remove the head unit.  Congrats!  You just completed the un-installation portion of this job.

Now, it’s time to get the new stereo ready to install.  Start off by preparing the wiring harness.  To be honest, this is the biggest time suck of the entire project.  In the picture below, you’ll see two sets of connectors with wires.  On the right is a standard Chrysler Jeep wiring harness made by Metra (included for free from Crutchfield).  On the left, the wiring harness that came with the head unit from Kenwood.  All you need to do is connect the wires in the correct order.  In the instruction manual from Kenwood, they tell you what each wire does and on the packaging of the Metra kit, they do the same.  I’ll leave it up to you how you choose to connect them as long as you do so in the correct order.  Here are three good options.

***IMPORTANT***
If you have the four speaker stereo, you can skip this step.  For those with the factory subwoofer, You will need to connect the Blue/White power control wire from the Kenwood harness to the blue antenna wire on the Metra harness in order to active the amp that powers the factory sub.  With out this step, your dash and sound bar speakers will work great, but your “subwoofer” will not produce any sound.

Check out the finished product below, isn’t it pretty?  I prefer to solder, then heat shrink, then zip tie my connections.  Yeah, it takes a little more time but the finished product is OEM quality and should remain problem free as long as you own your jeep.

Set the harness aside for a moment, grab the dash kit and the mounting sleeve that came with the head unit.  If you don’t see it, check if the mounting sleeve is still attached to the head unit.  If it is, simply slide the head unit out.  Insert the mounting sleeve into the dash kit as shown below.

Turn the dash kit/din sleeve combo around and fold up the little tabs to create a nice tight fit between the two pieces.  Don’t forget to do this on the top and on the bottom.  With out this step, prepare to have the head unit rattle around in the dash till the end of time!

Install the dash kit using the same four screws that you used to remove the OEM head unit.  Use a hand screwdriver so you don’t over tighten.  Plug in the wiring harness you just created into the harness and the antenna adapter into the Jeep.  At this point, you can also install any optional accessories for your radio like an XM module or external microphone, or if you want to run external amps, this is the time to do so.  The only piece I added was the included microphone for hands-free calling.  You can see the little 3.5mm jack hanging down near the temperature control below.

If you are following along, your dash should look just like the picture below.

Plug the harness, antenna, and microphone (optional) into back of the new head unit and slide the head unit gently forward into the din sleeve until you hear a click.  Reinstall the center dash panel (pressing firmly but gently), screw the two screws back in at the top of the dash, and replace the top dash trim panel.

That’s all there is to it!  Fire it up and test it out.  I’ve noticed that even my old crappy paper cone speakers sound better with a cleaner signal running to them than they did with the stock head unit.  Stream your favorite playlist through your phone and turn it up! Hope you enjoy your new tunes.

Parts List:
1. Kenwood KMR-D365BT
2. Metra 99-6503 Dash Kit For Chrysler/Jeep
3. Metra Metra 70-6502 Wiring Harness
4. Metra 40-CR10 Chrysler Antenna Adapter

Let the Good Tunes Roll!

One of the best parts about a new rig is that it’s a clean slate, primed and ready for you to make it your own.  That also means there are a lot of low budget mods that can offer you a huge bang for your buck.  Pictured above is my new Kenwood marine grade head unit replacing the 11ish year old Chrysler cd changer (blasted volume knob stopped working!) with all the modern day connectivity you could ask for for at around a $100 depending on your retailer.  Personally, I ❤ the good folks at Crutchfield.  They always take good care of me with quality customer service, techs that know mobile audio, competitive prices, and if that wasn’t enough… All the install gear (harnesses, connectors, dash kits) is generally included at no charge when you buy a head unit. #WINNING

The item on the right is SmittyBilt’s vaulted glove box.  It bolts into your dash and is made out of 16 gauge steel to discourage the few things in your Jeep from mysteriously walking away. A great purchase for peace of mind for fellow soft top owners at around $65 bucks.  This one is crazy easy to install and is another one of those items that I’m buying again b/c it was so good the first time I owned it.

In case you can’t tell, I’m incredibly excited to get these two mods in the Jeep so I can rake off the half upper doors and go for a nice drive while streaming some great tunes!  Hoping for a big install day this weekend to get everything done.

Bike Rack Question

An excellent question was recently posted on Wrangler forum…
For those of you that have back up cameras, how do hitch mounted bike racks affect the visibility?

Not only do I have a camera and a rack, this is something I’ve been wondering about since I installed my very own back up camera.  I thought it would pretty much make the camera pointless since its mounted directly in front of the support post of the hitch rack.  Instead of speculating, I broke out my Yakima Double Down 4 bike rack and tested the alleged 170* viewing angle of the Gino Backup Camera.

YakimaRackMy Yakima rack is actually a little odd.  The rack was a gift and mistakenly ordered for a 1.25″ receiver instead of a 2″.  To correct the problem, I just got a 1.25″ to 2″ conversion piece that you can see in the picture.  This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for a few reasons.  First, it pushes the rack out far enough to get around my over sized spare and second, by being pushed that far back it doesn’t really impact the view on the back up camera as much as it could.  Sure I have to put a ratchet strap on it to keep it from swaying, but I’m pretty sure all of these racks have at least a little play in them.

CameraWithRack

The Great Backup Camera Kerfuffle

The 2012 and newer Wranglers (that I’m aware of, it could be older) have been using the exact same head units as everything else in Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram’s stables with the exception of the new 8.4″ units that we’re starting to see in the Dart, the RAM line, and other recently redesigned vehicles.

  • The 130 – el cheap-o grande.  This head unit is perfect for the folks that plan to swap out for aftermarket stereo components or if you simply don’t need anything more than just a radio and a CD player.
  • The 430 – An excellent feature filled full color touch screen Nav system.  The interface was designed by Garmin and the mapping software is theirs too.
  • The 730 – Chrysler’s top end system at the time including live traffic, football score updates, and a bunch of other goodies that I personally didn’t need.

In just about every Chrysler vehicle equipped with the 430 or the 730, there is a back up camera option.  However when it comes to the Wrangler, Jeep simply decided not to offer that capability.  Same head unit, it has the ability, they just turn it off at the factory.  Seems like an easy $100 up-charge to me.  Especially for my rig… She’s a got a big steel butt and that tire sticking off the end doesn’t help anything.   I started to investigate into the issue a few months ago to see what my options were.

Option 1 – OEM Mopar GrandCherokee/Commander Kit
MoparCameraMy first thought was to keep it in the family and go with strictly MOPAR.  I ordered the GrandCherokee/Commander back up camera kit which came with everything you see above.  While getting the head unit replaced in my JK, I had the service guys drop the wiring behind the dash and flash the CPU for the 430N to accept a camera.  After I got home, I set up the wiring for a test and toggled the 430N’s camera mode to ‘on’.

Unfortunately, that setup didn’t do the trick.  When reverse was engaged, the 430N would look for a camera but nothing was sending any signals.  A black screen would display telling you to check surroundings.  So the camera kit went back in the box and back to Mopar.  I would have liked for this to work, but in the end that specific camera housing is a bit of a pain to use on any vehicle it wasn’t intended for so maybe this is for the best.

Option 2 – NAVTool
BoxContents
After the Mopar kit went back, I looked around for aftermarket options. There are three companies that have a similar product. NAV-TV, MyGIG LockPick, & NAVTool. I can immediately cross off both the MyGIG LockPick & NAV-TV since they each told me their products wouldn’t work with a manual transmission. That leaves me with the kit from NAVTool.  I clicked to buy and a week later a box showed up with the parts shown above.  A little blue control module with two buttons, one harness, and one RCA plug wire.  No instructions, nothing else, just the items shown above.

I contacted the NAVTool to see if I was missing anything, to ask what those two buttons on the control box are, and if there are any instructions.  I was told to ‘just plug it in and it would work.’  No instructions, no discussion of those buttons, nothing.  Just plug it in.  When I told them about the missing harness that connects all the other features (pictured below), they said that plug wasn’t included but they would send it that day.

Yay!  Except, they didn’t send it that day.  Or the next.  Or the one after that.  In fact, I called them daily for several weeks and every time I was brushed off or told it was in the mail but they could never provide any shipping information.  Communication with this company was incredibly sketchy.  No matter what button I pushed, I ended up speaking to the same guy who would insist my case was with another department.  The guy claimed he had a Wrangler that he took off-road all the time, but when I pressed him he couldn’t even name one single mod on his rig.  Not one.  Red flag!

NAVTool1As you can see from the image above, my cable did finally arrive. But after weeks and weeks of dealing with this company, I lost any faith I may have once had in their product. I didn’t want my CPU to be a guinea pig or wind up bricked, so I contacted them to start the return process. Just like everything else with this company, it proved incredibly challenging. My case was, once again with another department at every call. I got the run around for a few days before I reached out to PayPal for a resolution. Suspiciously, once PayPal was involved NAVTool was incredibly quick to come to a refund agreement. By quick, I mean within 30 minutes quick.  I contacted NAVTool to ship their product back, only to receive no reply. At this point, I’m calling the case closed and moving on with my life.

Option 3 – $20 water proof camera on Amazon
Up till now, this has been one hell of a wild goose chase.  But, what I do currently have is my CPU flashed by the dealership (code ‘XAC’), the skills to easily remove the head unit, a labeled cable that accepts a standard RCA plug, and a simple sub $20 flush mount waterproof camera from Amazon.  So, I decided to pull my dash, remove the head unit and give this whole thing one final run.
Clip2The cable pictured above is from NAVTool.  However, I found a very similar cable on Amazon that I think will also do the trick.  I haven’t tried it out for myself yet, but my buddy ordered one and when he’s ready I’ll help him with the install using that new cable.

Clip3First, find the camera input in the harness, plug in the camera feed and grab a little electrical tape to make sure it stays put.  I like to tape these connections since I have no interest in pulling the dash after I go over a few bumps in case the cable has wiggled loose.

Clip4I’m not using any of the other plugs at the moment, but what’s to say I may not want to use them for something in the future?  To keep them from flopping around, I taped them to each other.

Clip5Since I’ll have some extra harness pieces behind the dash, I added a little foam padding to minimize any rattling noises.  If you don’t have any foam on hand, just cut a beer koozie in half.

Clip6

Clip7You can see the loose ends all taped up above and ready to tuck behind the head unit.
430NNow that the cable is ready and the head unit has been removed, you can see that there are two 22-pin slots on the back.  All of the factory connections go in the right slot while the new wiring harness goes in the left where the red arrow is pointing.  This is a fantastic time (if you haven’t done so already) to test out your camera to make sure you are getting a signal and you can see the camera image on the 430N’s screen.

Did it pass the test?  Take a minute to rejoice!  When you are done with your celebration, remove your rear tail light housing on the passenger side in preparation for the next step.

Run the wiring from the head unit behind the dash towards the passenger side and down behind the kick panels.  Feel free to remove your glove box if you need an easy way to get an extra set of hands back there.  Keep running the cable towards the rear of the Jeep down the passenger side behind the plastic panels.  There are other wiring harnesses running front to rear that you can attach your wiring to keeping it nice and neat.  Once you get to the rear corner of your JK, pull up a little carpet to find a rubber grommet with a wiring harness running through it.

**Warning, this part is kind of a PITA**  Fish the RCA plug through the rubber grommet down into the tub of the Jeep.  If you have a spreader that can make this a lot easier.  I used a set of 11″ 45 degree needle nose pliers as a spreader to get the plug through the grommet.  If you did this part right, you should see an RCA plug dangling in the opening where your tail light used to be.  As a side note, this isn’t the only way to run the video feed to the camera.  I’ve seen it run under the cargo tray next to the drain plug as well.  I personally prefer my method, but the choice is completely up to you as long as the video cable gets to the camera, you win!

Next, go get the other plug that came with the camera kit.  It’s the one that has a red and a black wire (power/ground for the camera) that plugs into the non-video plug coming out of the camera.  What we are going to do is jump these wires onto the existing power sources going into your rear tail light on the wiring harness.

Wiring1Grab the tail light wiring harness and use your tester to determine which wires you’ll need.  I’ll give you a hint… black is ground.  To test, turn the key to the accessory position and put the vehicle in reverse.  Touch the tester to the connectors in the harness and when your tester lights up, that’s the cable you want.  I’m 90% sure it’s that white wire with a gray stripe pictured above but it’s been a few weeks since I completed the install and my memory is getting a little foggy.  If your tester is flashing while maintaining a good contact, you’ve found the turn signal.

With the wiring connected to power and ground, feel free to plug in both cables (power/ground & video feed) to the camera and test it one more time.  This is a great time to decided on a mounting location if you haven’t done so already.  It’s also the last chance you have before the point of no return… Making holes in your Jeep!
CameraHole1 I wanted my camera to go right smack in the center of the bumper, but that’s what works for me.  You should put your camera where ever you can get the most visibility and wherever it works for you.  I taped off the entire area to make it easy to draw on in pencil and measured off dead center.  Using a center punch and a small sledge hammer, I made my first mark to help guide the hold borer that came with the camera kit.

If you have a stock rubber bumper, the hole borer that came with the kit will probably work just fine.  For anything a little heavier like a steel bumper, I’d suggest drilling a pilot hole the same width as the drill bit on the hole borer first and then using that hole as a guide to bore out the full diameter hole needed for the camera.  Why the extra step?  Because the drill bit on the hole bore is garbage.  Mine snapped in half as I was drilling the initial hole.CameraHole2With the hole drilled, take a metal file to edges and a little flat or semi-gloss black to cover up any exposed metal.  Let the paint dry for an hour or so, and then go get a friend to help you out with the next part… Aligning & installing the camera.  The actual install is incredibly simple.  You really do just pop the camera in the hole you just drilled.  But WAIT, before you do, make sure the camera is facing right side up and the guide marks are parallel to the ground.  The camera itself has no markings on it, so you’ll have to kick on your screen to help you align it exactly how you’d like it.  This is where a friend comes in handy.  One of you to rotate the camera and the other to watch the screen.

Once you have it aligned perfectly, slowly but gently push the camera into the bumper hole.  I really hope you have this aligned because once it’s in, that camera ain’t coming out!

CameraCompleteAt this point, all you have left to do is a little tidying up.  Reconnect the wiring harness and put your passenger side tail light back on (4 screws).  Reinstall your dash (4 screws), glove box (if you removed it) and you, my friend, are done!  I hope you enjoy your new camera.
CompletedScreen

Despite my long journey to finish this mod, I’m really happy I did it.  The camera displays a very clean image on the screen and has helped me park (especially parallel parking!) with out having to worry about backing into anyone or anything.  Knowing what I know now, I’m pretty sure I could wire this up in about an hour or so with all the parts on hand and the CPU flashed.  For under $100 in parts/labor, this mod is well worth the effort.

Bro, do you even Tweet?

Let it be known that I surf and comment on Jeep forums.  I know, no shock there, right?  The other day, one mod caught my eye on Wrangler Forum from a user named Pressurized.  The idea was to swap out the capacitors on your stock front tweeters to get better performance out of them.  I’m posting pix, comments, and a brief write up below but feel free to also check out Pressurized’s step by step and more detailed write up using the link above.

First things first, pop the tweeter out of the dash housing in the Jeep and disconnect the wiring clip.  One of mine disconnected incredibly easily, one was a PITA.  Make sure to have a small screw driver and a good bit of patience to keep from breaking any of the plastic clips.  If you break a clip, the game is up.
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I picked up the same 10 microfarad 100v capacitors that Pressurized used from Frys.com.  The cost of the parts was under $3 but $7 in shipping for $3 of parts in general bugs me.  You can probably grab them from your local radio shack to save on shipping, I just didn’t check the store before I ordered online.
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Next, you’ll want to remove the tweeter from the plastic housing.  You don’t actually have to, but I found it easier to work on the speaker with the edges exposed.  The first picture in this post shows the tweeter in the housing, the picture below is out of the housing.  I placed the new cap on the edge of the plastic clip and used a little Loctite Super Glue to keep it in place.  Do this first so you can free up a hand to work on those small connections.
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After clipping and bending the connections from the stock tweeter out of the way, solder the connections for the new cap in place.  When running the wire from the bottom of the cap, make sure not to cover the opening where the wiring harness clips in.  Also, don’t forget to trim any extra wire from the capacitor that goes past the connection.
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Put the tweeter back into the plastic housing, connect the wiring and reinsert the housing back into your dash.
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I don’t have any before/after pictures of the dash because you can’t see a difference.  You can, however, hear a difference.  The highs are much more crisp and more pronounced.  For under $3 and a few minutes of effort, this is a mod that’s well worth the work.  Especially in the older JKs.

uConnected!

After banging my head on this problem for a while and hearing what Chrysler/Jeep corporate had to say, I drove down to my local dealership on a snowy day. Luckily, there were zero customers in there and a bored (but very nice!) service tech had about an hour or so to sit and trouble shoot the problem with me. As it turns out, despite everything the corporate guys told me my software was WAAAAY out of date.

Performing the update is very simple actually. Just pop in the disc with the most up to date operating software version and it auto loads a version checking protocol.
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Click yes to update. My update took me from version 2.22 to 4.07.
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Then click yes to update the radio software. This update took me from 44.00.01 to 50.00.07. I specifically told the Chrysler/Jeep support techs what my software version was and they continued to tell me that there were no updates. Thanks a lot 1800iAmUseless email, chat, & phone support.

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When the update completes, hit eject to pop out the disc and power cycle the system.
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The big question… Is it fixed?  Sort of. Yes, it’s updated but as soon as we tested it again after the update, the phone dropped off again. It took longer than the usual 27 seconds, but it still happened at the dealership.  They don’t want to take any chances so they are going to swap out the head unit. That being said, it hasn’t dropped off once since then. I’m calling it fixed for now until it gets fixed again aka replaced.