Tuesday, January 26, 2016

On The Workbench This Week

Only this time it's not something being repaired, but something being assembled.

A few months after I bought my Jeep in the fall of 2006, I decided I wanted a navigation unit for it. I'd just helped my son install a Pioneer AVIC nav radio in his Xterra, so I started looking into an aftermarket unit, as the Jeep came with a pretty generic AM/FM/Sirius radio with a single-disc CD player, and I wanted something more integrated to the vehicle so I wouldn't have to reach over and grab my hand-held GPS when I wanted to see where I was.

WELL......at that time, in order to keep my steering wheel controls, I would have had to add several aftermarket modules, and cut into the wiring harness in several places, and it still wasn't guaranteed that everything would work.

SO....I opted for an OEM navigation unit from an eBay seller who came highly recommended on several Jeep forums.

I bought the radio at a great price, and then got the replacement plastic bezel for it, and installed it in less than 45 minutes!

The first thing I was unhappy with was that it did NOT have a touch screen, and I had to enter the street name and number one.....character.....at.....a.....time.....using the scroll knob.

What a huge PITA!

You simply didn't have enough time at a red light to do anything, and as soon as your speed went over 5~7MPH, it would lock out the front controls, so your passenger couldn't even use it!

Yeah, I understand the safety aspect, but if the car's  computer is smart enough to trip the seat belt warning chime when my dog is riding with me, why couldn't it be "smart" enough to sense a passenger is there, and unlock the controls so the passenger could make adjustments?

Damn lawyers.....

ANYWAY...fast forward 10 years to the present. The joystick/scroll knob used to input data or move the on-screen navigation cursor has been getting intermittent, and the 6-disc CD changer has gotten to where it maybe will/maybe won't play a disc, depending on ambient temperature, the day of the week, and possibly the phase of the Moon. It might be fixable, but I 'd really like a touch screen, and the Sirius/XM tuner has started getting funky, too, dropping signals and suffering "digital breakup" more and more often.

Things have progressed to the point that I was able to get a single box adapter that splices in between the OEM plugs in the car, and the wiring harness for the new radio, and retain full functionality of my steering wheel controls.

This little gem is called a "Maestro RR", made by Automotive Data Solutions, based in Montreal, Canada.

Just a little black box that captures and manipulates the data from the steering wheel controls, and turns it into something the radio can understand.

So, being somewhat of a Kenwood aficionado,  I ordered a DNX771HD from Cructchfield, a Maestro "Rr" interface unit, and all the other wiring harness adapters.

After going through some of the spotty documentation, I finally figured it all out and sat down and soldered the two wiring harnesses together.

Here it is, with the Kenwood on the left, the Maestro RR module in the middle, and the gray plugs on the right  which connect to the existing Jeep OEM wiring harness:

The Maestro RR module also has connections to the OBD II port, allowing various engine parameters to be measured, and displayed:

And it all plugs into the Kenwood radio using the Kenwood OEM connectors:

I used my typical "Good Amateur Practice" from the ARRL Handbook, and soldered the connections together, and covered them with heat shrinkable tubing:

And then we hit some snags.

The M5 screws provided with the Kenwood were too short to go through the thick plastic brackets in the dashboard adapter, so I had to hit the hardware store for some longer ones:

And, of course, some washers to spread the clamping force on the plastic, so it won't crack, which I've had happen before:

Since installing an aftermarket head unit loses control of the OEM Sirius/XM radio, a new receiver module is needed, seen here with the mating plug to the new head unit:

The new receiver has a $70 up-front cost, but when I call to cancel the service on the existing one, and activate this new one, I'll supposedly get a $70 gift card, making the receiver essentially "free". I'm also told that any remaining time on my existing contract will be added to the new contract for this new receiver.

And finally, the last remaining snag that stopped me from having this installed this weekend.....

This radio is an "iDatalink Compatible" model, which means that it's designed with the Maestro module in mind. Besides all the small plugs on the Maestro adapter harness and the OEM harness, which allows the Maestro to tap into the CAN bus of the vehicle, there's two addition connectors on the radio that go to the Maestro module.

WELL.....guess what? One of the cable assemblies that transfers data between the radio and Maestro module was missing from the new, sealed box the Maestro was in!

I went to "the12Volt.com" forum, where the Maestro technical reps hang out, and after a few days, I have a replacement cable on the way. Hopefully it went out Monday afternoon and I'll have it by Friday, but with the weather problems on the East coast, who knows when it will show up.

I'll do another post detailing the actual installation into my Jeep Grand Cherokee and a mini-review of the whole shebang once I get the missing cable.


  1. Very interesting. Now, can you tell us again in English? Just kidding. I know just enough to follow along. I wouldn't try to do it myself, but it was interesting.

  2. Sure, I can do that....

    I'm putting a new radio in my car. Along the way I found out I was missing some parts, and some of the others were wrong.

    I got new parts and put the radio in, and it works.


    1. See, I understand that. I hung am 8-track with a 4 speaker system in my '65 Buick just before I went to SEA and my brother really enjoyed my car while I was gone.

    2. I had an 8 track in my 1969 Charger, but only had two speakers mounted in the rar package shelf.

      Why they ever called it a "PACKAGE Shelf" is beyond me, because anything put back there becomes a real head knocker the first time you slam on the brakes....

    3. They were called a package shelfs because when they were first put in cars, the breaks didn't slam, they just sort of went "huh, did you want to slow down? Well okay."

    4. HAH!

      The first car I ever drove with real "American Style" power brakes was my Dad's 1969 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale.

      First time I clamped on the binders about sent me through the windshield......

  3. That's quite an undertaking. I diddle around with a few things in my Jeep, like the navigator system, but nothing so complicated as what you are doing!

    1. Well, the only "hard" thing about it was soldering the wires together, and putting the heat shrink tubing on them.

      You don't even need to solder the wires together anymore, as they make these neat little things like wire nuts, but better:



Keep it civil, please....