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Car PC Hacks by Damien Stolarz

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Hack #13. Install a New Head Unit

After you've pulled out your head unit, you may want a few tips on putting in a new one.

Most technophiles' needs will exceed the capabilities of their factory car stereos very quickly. First, they'll want to play some computer-based audio format, such as MP3, and they'll have to use a tape adapter to get it into the stereo. Then they'll start wanting to load up MP3s on a CD, and they'll be frustrated that the built-in stereo won't play them. Even if it does, they'll expect the works—intuitive navigation, album art display, and track names. They may also want to install satellite radio in addition to the CD changer. With a three-to-five-year development cycle for new products, auto manufacturers usually can't keep up. That's where the aftermarket comes in.

If you're looking to hook up an in-car computer to your factory stereo, there are definitely ways to do it, but it's often easier to just upgrade to an aftermarket stereo with auxiliary inputs, or even a fold-out video screen. And as you may want to upgrade your sound in the process, adding an external amplifier [Hack #15] is a very standard and beneficial upgrade. But if you're just replacing the head unit, in many cases it is simply a matter of splicing together the correct wires.

Standard Head Unit Wiring

A bundle of wires grouped together in a car is called a harness. All radios with built-in amplifiers have pretty much the same wires going from their specific harness to the car, with a different ...

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