Intro: Swap Out Your Car Stereo(s)
I was going to call this instructable "Stereo Echo Head Transplant"... here's how I swapped the CD/radio/cassette head unit (head transplant - get it?) from my Toyota Echo with the crappy radio-only head unit from Carla's car.
She had been asking for a new car stereo for a while, problem was that she wanted one with a cassette player as well as a CD player, which turned out to be impossible to find in aftermarket car radios. Since my car stereo actually does have a cassette unit, I decided to give her mine, as a Xmas present. Meaning I'll be stuck with the crappy one for now, but that's easily fixed.
Swapping stereos between two cars of the same year and make is about as easy as it gets - no need to worry about cable harnesses, etc. A good starter project for someone who's never worked on a car stereo before.
Yes, we have matching cars. Ya got a problem with that? Three guesses which one is hers...
Step 1: Find Info Online!
There's all sorts of information to be found online about cars and cars stereos. In my case, I'm lucky there's a lively Echo fan community. These links were particularly helpful:
Echo Drivers Forum
Removing the center console
Toyota Echo 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Car Stereo Removal and Installation Instruction Guide
Install Doctor - The Do-It-Yourself Car Stereo Installation Resource
Toyota Radio Wire Harnesses
Step 2: Gather Ye Tools
The only thing you really need for this car stereo is a Philips screwdriver. I found a needlenose plier (to grab those pesky screws all the way in the back) and a flathead screwdriver (to unplug the connectors) to be useful as well.
Trusty Bag o' Tools on the right, printed out instructions next to it...
Step 3: Dismantle (a Small Piece Of) the Dashboard
Now, before you start messing with the guts of you dashboard, remember to unplug your car battery! I didn't - see Step 8 - Oops!...
Ok, time to get down to business. You could just pry off the plastic trim panel around the radio, but the top edge of it is kinda wedged under the center dashboard panel, with the climate control knobs. Turns out this panel is actually hiding some screws we'll need to get at to unscrew the radio, so let's just start with that panel instead...
Two screws cleverly hidden underneath the left and right knob, a good pull on both ends, and the whole panel just pops off. Easy!
If we had a bigger job to do, we could now start unplugging all the connectors to the center panel. In this case, I decide to just let it dangle - it's not (much) in the way anyway.
Next, carefully pull off the trim panel around the radio. From what I've seen of radio installation tutorials for other car brands, most of them seem to use a similar approach: find some hidden screws, remove the trim panel and/or part of the dashboard, and then you can get to the screws that hold the radio itself.
Step 4: Unscrew the Screws
That's what they're there for - duh!
Step 5: Pull the Radio!
Four screws later, the radio slides right out!
Or.. ehm... it would, if you remembered to put the gear shift in L, so you have space to slide the radio out.
Left cable is antenna. Wire colors on the blue and white connector match exactly the diagram I downloaded from the [www.installdr.com Install Doctor] (once you realize the diagram is drawn head-on, i.e. what you would see if you unplugged the connector).
Step 6: Repeat on Second Car
Note the flowers, just stuck into the passenger side vent. No need to feel envious of the little flower vase that comes with the VW bugs...
I'm not removing the center panel, just lifting it up a bit, so I just left the flowers, makeshift clock and everything else in there.
Pull off knobs, unscrew two screws, pull center panel, pull trim panel and set aside, unscrew 4 screws, slide out radio...
Same connectors as on the other radio, just turned around - excellent! This one is a "single-DIN" head unit, whereas mine is a "double-DIN". In other words, my radio is "fatter", this radio has an empty space above it.
Step 7: Time for the Head Transplant!
Unplug the connectors, and swap the radios. Get the happy recipient to pose with her radio!
As expected, I just need to flip the connectors around to make everything fit. Wiring colors on the connectors are exactly the same, so we should be home free. The tabs on the connectors are a bit hard to squeeze & pull by hand, but they're just the right size for a flathead screwdriver...
Make sure to snap a picture of the label on the radios for good measure - never know when it might come in handy.
Plug everything in, and screw the crappy radio into it's new (and likely very temporary) home.
Moment of truth - it works! Well, in my car anyway... Put the trim and center panel back into place, screw everything back up - DONE!
Now do the same on the other car...
Step 8: Oops!
Here's where the comedy of errors starts. Make sure the recipient of the new stereo is there for this part, to witness how you ruin her car...
Remember those top screws holding the radio in? Well they're kinda far back, so make sure you don't slip and drop them behind the radio into the central console! They unscrewed like a breeze, and they screwed back in on my car just as easily. But for some reason I had a hell of a time with these (probably because Carla was watching this time, and I was going "See how easy this is? - Oops!").
If you do drop one of the screws into the center console, you'll have to unscrew the radio again, stick your arm into the gaping hole as far as it fits, and grope around blindly. Try not to touch anything. Try not to electrocute yourself (highly unlikely). There's probably a better way to do this (like, taking off the plastic panel below the dashboard), but I actually found the screw fairly easily.
Next... put everything back together again - use a needlenose plier this time to maneuver those pesky back screws into place - a magnetized screwdriver would be handy here as well.
Moment of truth...
It doesn't work.
Not only does it not work, but we seem to have drained the car battery somehow! No clue what happened - the CD tray on the radio made happy purring noises when I first plugged it in, so I know it had power 15 minutes ago. Was the car battery low to begin with? Did the dangling connectors cause a short against the chassis somewhere? Did I cause a short somewhere by groping into the dashboard innards? No idea...
So... unscrew everything again, and unplug the radio again asap - just in case that's where the problem lies. Jumpstart the car, then gingerly plug the radio back in. It works! No sparks, no suspicious dimming of the lights - everything looks fine. Disconnect the jump cables, and go for a nice sunset spin by the Bay, to make sure the battery is fully charged.
Step 9: Tadaa!
Everything seems to work fine. We have two functioning radios, two happy car batteries, and one very grateful Carla. Now she can listen to her collection of old tapes in the car again!
Now the only thing that's left is for me to get a new car stereo...