Sunday, September 11, 2011

My New Car Stereo

Originally written 8-24-2010....posted shortly thereafter.

Some of you may remember that our van died a while back. It’s been nearly 2 years, I think, since it died. We’ve looked into getting it hauled off to the junkyard, but just haven’t done it yet. Now we’re ready to get it out of the yard (don’t you love when folks have old, dead, vehicles overgrown with weeds, sitting in the yard?!) but I’ve been dying to have the stereo out of it. When we lived in GA, a co-worker of Dad’s put nice stereo systems in both our van and truck. The one in my car is a continual aggravation to me, so I wanted to swap it out. Trouble is, Dad had already tried getting it out, and he couldn’t figure out how. Today we were in a getting-it-done sort of mood, so I decided to swap out the stereos. Need I remind you that we’re very much a do-it-yourself sort of family? To convince you of that, in case you didn’t already know, several years ago the air conditioner in an old Cougar of our’s went bad. Dad found out what was wrong with it, but didn’t have the money to get someone to fix it. My granddad came home one day to find the dashboard out of the car, and the entire contents of the dashboard laid out on a tarp in the yard. (We lived next door to him.) Dad had taken the whole thing apart, determined to fix it himself. My granddad made the statement “that car will never leave the driveway again!” (BTW, my grandpa did not say this to Dad. He never once has said anything negative to Dad about any project he has undertaken...whether it was replacing the engine in his truck or fixing the air in the Cougar. Just wanted to make sure that clear...while he thought he was crazy, he never discouraged him and helped him when he could. I think that's incredible!)) Well, Dad not only put everything back together, but the air worked, and the car left the driveway many, many times over again! He did have an extra screw at the end, but I guess it wasn’t an important screw! All that to emphasize the do-it-yourself attitude ‘round these parts! Why pay someone to do something you could do, or most likely do, yourself? It’s a good, albeit slightly scary and sometimes reckless, attitude to have!
So, I got out an old phonebook, called up the place that installed the stereo for us, and asked for Dad’s former co-worker. He wasn’t there, but another guy helped me over the phone. When I explained my situation, he told me that I’d have to have some sort of metal key to release the stereo from its metal casing. To find that, I’d have to find a stereo shop and ask them for these special keys. Humph. Well, I was ready to switch them NOW! So, after a lot of finagling (a word I should work into my bio, I think…) with safety pins, paper clips, and finally, kitchen knives, I got the stereo out! I did have to sort of tear the plastic off the inside of the van (good thing we’re junking it!), but I got the stereo out! After that, I was on the phone with the guy from the stereo shop again, and he told me how to undo the various wires (there were about a dozen, I think) and when I asked him about a black hose-looking thing plugged into the back of the stereo, he said “is it the antenna?” Um…that’s why I asked you! I have NO idea what any of this is! So, I didn’t have to cut any wires in the van, because when the guys at the stereo shop installed this one, they had done a very neat, orderly job. All I had to do was get the wire nuts off, and untwist the wires from each other. Got it!
Ok! Now I had the stereo out of the van, a handful of wire nuts, needle nose pliers, and wire cutters. But then I took my stereo out of my car. As I pulled it out, the wires just kept coming…and coming! There were, oh, maybe, 12,000,000 or so, all tangled up in my dash! It was actually a great thing, because the stereo that was in the car when I bought it wasn’t the original one, so someone else had replaced it. In doing that, that had added some sort of plug that plugged into the existing wire and color-coded the extensions to match other stereos! After I sat there and studied and analyzed for a bit, I saw that all of my wires really did match. All but one odd blue one, that is. In the stereo from the van, there was a blue wire that wasn’t connected to anything…it was just capped off. But in my car, there was a blue wire coming from the gaping hole where my stereo used to be. (Along with the other 11,999,999 wires.) Oh, well. As I studied, I found a slight problem. The wires from my car were printed with what they were…front left, front right, etc. That was great, but then I saw that the wires were labeled positive and negative as well. No problem there…positives go with positives, negatives with negatives. Well, the wires on the back of the new stereo weren’t labeled so conveniently. But then, it dawned on me! In each set of wires, one would be solid, and the other would be solid, but have a black stripe running the length of the wire! So after I got all that figured out, I snipped all the wires in my car (Yikes!) and then stripped the ends. I was a little nervous at this point, because I didn’t know if the wires would be hot or not! I mean, the car wasn’t on, so they shouldn’t be, but I was still nervous! I wasn’t in the mood to blow up or fry. So, I matched two wires up…purple positives…and flicked them together for a split second. I don’t know what happened, but at that exact moment, the lock/unlock button in my car did its little clickity thing a couple of times, and I almost jumped into next week! It didn’t happen again, though, so I guess it was just a fluke. I hope. Anyway, I matched all the wires up, twisted them all together tightly, and then clamped the wire nuts on the ends. All except for the blue wires…I was still unsure about what to do with those! After I got everything together, I turned the key in my car, and hit the stereo’s power button. Well, all the lights came on, and all of the buttons worked, but there was no sound whatsoever. Hm. So then I stripped the ends of the blue wires, twisted them together, and then clamped on the wire nut. And repeated the turning the key and all that…and the lights came on, and I blasted the whole yard with bluegrass!!!! It worked!!! I did it!!!

I did have to work with it some more, to get the new stereo in the old hole, and I ended up having to swap out the metal casing. My new stereo wouldn’t fit in the old metal casing, and then the old metal casing wouldn’t slide over the new stereo, and since I had already attached all the wires, I had to cut the old casing to get it off. I was able to slide the new casing in, bend the tabs back up to hold it in, and then snap the new stereo in place.

Here are the pictures to prove it!

My old stereo…see? It’s just so ugly!

Taking the stereo out of the van. The wires are so tidy here…

See..all the ends are wire nutted neatly!

Taking the stereo out of my car. This is where I got a little intimidated at the wires!

And the wires just kept coming!!!

Look at all of them! Yikes!

“I hope this is the right one to cut!”

Snip, snip, snip…

Snip, snip, snip, snip…

My camera man (Titus) left, so I didn’t get pictures of twisting all of the wires together and clamping the wire nuts back on. This is the next picture I got…see the numbers?!

This is where I turned it on and everything but the sound (that little, unimportant thing!) worked fine. So I twisted the blues together and then tried it again. The sounds worked this time, so I installed it in the gaping stereo hole…

Now, doesn’t that look snazzy?!

Ok, so who’s impressed? Besides me, that is! Later I told Mom that I was going to go fix my fuel gauge next! Now that is something that is an aggravation! And maybe I could figure out why my horn only works every now and then, and maybe fix my air conditioner (it’ll blow out the dash up by the windshield, OR blow out the vents, depending on how you press the gas pedal…)

Dave said “forget leatherworking…be a mechanic!” Mom told me to go fix the engine in the van. Dad just said “HOW?” when I told him on the phone. He couldn’t figure out how to get the thing out for anything! Oh, and by the way, if you’re ever in a similar situation and don’t have the essential metal key, butter knives work best!

One thing I really don't like is the fact that I can't swap comments over when I swap posts. So, I think this is what I'll do:

DMS (i.e. Grandpa) said:
"Hey Miss Custer,
I've got a funny "knocking" noise under the hood of my '52 Studebaker and wondered if I could swing by and let you take a look at it?
You might say there's no such thing as Santa,uh I meant"Superwoman",but as for me and grandma, we believe."

Nicole said: "I’m impressed!"

And Tara said: "This is great!! You can do anything!! And I love the comment from DMS!!"


  1. Good job! :)
    So, are the brakes next?

  2. Uh huh...the guy at the shop is taking care of them for me. :) Dad and I dropped my car off this morning, with a big long list of stuff to fix.

  3. It's nice to have other people do things sometimes, isn't it? :)

  4. Yes, it is! :) Now we just have to wait to hear the bill...