Installing an Aftermarket CD Changer

By Kabir Mahadeva  - kabir@alumni.Princeton.EDU

This may be useful for anyone who wants to add a CD changer to the MSS system. You might ask, "Why bother?" In my case, I had an extra aftermarket changer from my wife's car after I sold it. Secondly, the changer seems to have much better resistance to road shocks than the factory CD player. The existing FAQ handles most of the issues, so I'll summarize the commonly known parts of the install along with my suggestions. My changer had the standard RF modulator setup (it plays CDs through an unused part of the FM band, excellent fidelity, actually) with a small remote control wired to the RF unit and a separate cable that goes to the changer itself.

1) Remove eyeball vents. I used a screwdriver padded with cloth, but not enough! I have two tiny nicks in the center dash. I can live with them, but purists need to be really careful getting them out.

2) Unscrew the shift knob, then remove center console and then the center dash plastic frame by undoing all the black Phillips head screws. Save the screws in a safe place. Make sure the little fuzzy sticky things stay on the metal frame. Otherwise you will eventually get little squeaks and rattles (see the squeak FAQ). After the dash and consoles are loose, detach the wiring harnesses at the front of each and set the plastic frames aside. This is a great time to detach the shifter boot and remove all the crud that has caught in the crevices.

3) Take off the screws at the front of the metal frame holding the MSS and slowly work the MSS out of the dash. The cables to the back are very tight. If you can move it partway out and detach the two plastic wire harness connectors and the antenna connector in the back then you will have an easier time. You will need to get at one of the cable harnesses to splice in the harness.

4) Remove the glove compartment. I did this because of where I chose to put the RF unit.

5) Assuming you have enough wire lengths coming from the CD changer's RF unit, bring the wires in from the glove compartment side behind the center dash along the side, popping out the plastic insert on the side if necessary to guide it. Connect/splice the wires appropriately (a wiring diagram of the wire harnesses for the MSS are in the MSS FAQ). There are three wires: one to go to constant 12V (probably red), one that gets 12V when the ignition switch is on (yellow), and one ground (black). Connect the ground to the back of the MSS. Connect the factory antenna to the RF unit and the RF unit's cable to the back of the MSS.

6) Let the RF unit dangle in the hole where the glove compartment goes until you reinstall the MSS.

7) Take the remote control cable and the cable to the changer and insert the plug ends that connect to the RF unit underneath the metal frame below where the MSS sits and slide them along the side of the console to the back where you can plug them into the RF unit. You now have two cables hanging out which you will eventually run under the center console. If you want to keep the wired remote in the glove box, don't run its cable from the front, just plug it into the RF unit. The cable to the changer needs to be at least 12 feet long to reach the trunk the way I routed it. My original cable was permanently installed in the old car, so I had a local company make me another cable for $10.

8) Now it's time to reinstall the MSS. Put the unit partway into the place where it goes and reconnect the wire harnesses. You will have to rearrange some of them and stretch them a bit to connect them. Wiggle the MSS back into place. Make sure the bracket in the back that mechanically supports the MSS isn't bent out of place otherwise it will impede reinstallation of the head unit. Once it's back in, heave a huge sigh of relief.

9) Decide where you want the remote unit. I have it hidden inside the armrest and brought it through the hole in the back where the remote trunk and gas filler release levers go in. If you want it out all the time, you can just bring the cable out from the side and secure it using Velcro. You can also just leave it in the glove box. Your choice.

10) The cable to the CD changer needs to to to the trunk. In the trunk, remove the spare. Scoot both seats to the front and lean them forward. Pop the plastic buttons securing the carpet to the back of the car and peel it forward. Run the cable along the transmission tunnel and behind the carpet. Go along the top of the padding on the passenger side and push the plug through the hole. Amazing, it emerges in the trunk. Pull out as much cable as you can into the trunk without disrupting the routing inside the car under the console and across the back. Connect it to the changer.

11) Reattach the wiring harnesses to the dash and console but don't reinstall them. Test the CD changer for operation. You will probably have to choose a frequency for playback and program a preset for it. On mine when you turn on the CD changer, it disables other FM transmissions. Play a CD in the changer. Problems? Troubleshoot your connections. The most common may be power connections. I used those wire splice things that push a blade through two wires and had a loose connection. No problems? Yay! you wired it properly. Now reinstall all the plastic and the carpet. Note that there's lots of room under the console sides to run cables.

12) Put a CD in the factory player and another with similar music/sound intensity in the changer. Switch back and forth between them and see if they sound the same. I had to adjust the playback volume on the RF unit a little bit to match the factory CD. Wedge the RF unit into the back of the dash area and replace the glove box.

13) In the trunk, I struggled with choosing a good spot for the changer before settling on the depression in the spare tire. I got a big piece of MDF (medium density fiberboard, used to make speaker enclosures, nice and heavy), cut it to the largest inner diameter minus 1/4 inch, and glued black nonwoven carpet material onto the top and sides which padded out the edges a bit. Then I attached the brackets for the changer on top. I can insert the changer/platform assembly into the tire by tilting it into place; it fits snugly due to the carpet material.I keep my changer horizontal. I have plenty of cable slack so I can move the changer out of the way if I need to get at the tire or need more trunk space. The changer is thin enough to sit on top of the MDF and stay just barely below the slanted part of the back of the trunk. If you have a fatter changer, you can find another spot in the trunk or remove the spare tire and use the threaded hole in the bottom to secure a piece of MDF onto which you can mount the changer. The MDF dampens vibration so it keeps the changer more stable. Other places to mount the changer in your trunk are discussed in the Audio technical section.

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25 September, 1998