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I wrote this guide up as an eBay guide, to keep up my rating as a top-5000 reviewer - but I think some of the members here may find it useful, especially seeing how many related questions are being asked. If you like it and found it helpful (and have a minute), please also mark it as helpful on ebay as well - it will help with my ratings there as a reviewer.

Here is the guide itself:

Many recent cars and trucks come with an option of a touchscreen navigation system which also plays DVDs. Older vehicles, however, lack that option. This guide is written from my experience of adding it on to a 3rd Generation Ram truck (2003 Dodge Ram 2500).

Many places are now passing laws prohibiting talking on a phone while driving unless you use a handsfree device. Some GPS units come with Bluetooth handsfree function but the sound quality is usually pretty bad - and more importantly, you need to manually turn off the stereo to talk. If you talk a lot while driving, you probably already have an in-ear device - but if you only need to be able to make a "honey, I am on my way home" call and answer an occasional call from someone while driving, they are not worth bothering with - you need to keep them charged, keep it in your ear while driving, etc. I am in that latter category of people - and having something like that in my ear drives me nuts.

And how about all of those CD's you carry with you in the car? Many newer car decks play MP3s but still require them to be on a CD - and CD-R blanks are now getting pretty rare and expensive.

There are many inexpensive units on the market now which combine all of the needed functions in one. Most are made in China and are based on the same basic unit running Windows CE but with different screens and mounting options. Most such units will have the following features:

DVD playback for video and MP3s
USB MP3 and video playback
GPS navigation with optional GPS antenna and optional maps on an SD or microSD card
Bluetooth handsfree calling
Rear camera integration
TV with an optional antenna (not very useful in North America)

For vehicles that had a non-standard stereo (such as the 2002-2005 Chryslers and many others), you can buy and use an adapter to convert the console to a 1-Din stereo slot. Sometimes that works great, sometimes not so much. In the case of my 2003 Dodge Ram, the console is slightly curved, so in order to achieve a decent mount of anything that has a screen that is bigger than the unit, I had to modify the adapter kit slightly (a bit of sanding here and there). Even then, the results were less than perfect - there was a small space between the stereo and the console, visible from the side.

I was able to make it look somewhat decent - but not perfect. As a matter of fact, so not perfect that a thief walking by my truck saw the gap and was able to steal the stereo without opening the door of the truck and therefore without triggering the alarm (a standard 1-Din mount is not very secure since it is based on metal tabs). So, a new passenger window and a new stereo for me.

I discovered that I was super-lucky: for my truck, there are some "custom" units. They mount in place of the factory Chrysler stereo, have a 4.3" screen and look just as if they were standard equipment (to the right of the stereo, you can see the damage the bonehead who stole the old one left with his screwdriver – but the stereo itself looks great).

Just like the original unit, they mount into the centre console on four bolts and plug into the existing wiring (except for two new wires I will discuss later). Other than running the wires to the rear view camera, the actual replacement (even including installing the GPS antenna) takes only a few minutes. Running the wires for the rear camera takes a bit longer. There are wireless cameras available - I just did not want to use one since the truck is quite long and there is a lot of metal between the camera and the stereo. If you decide to run a wired camera (which I recommend), see my separate guide (I have not posted it here yet but do have it posted in eBay guides section: on how to do it and put on some clothes you don’t mind crawling under the truck in.

So, here is how to replace the stock Chrysler stereo in a 2002-2005 Ram (or another vehicle) with a DVD/Nav/Bluetooth custom unit.

First, look at the picture of the unit you found listed for sale. Compare the shape of the front with what you see in your car. If it looks the same, check with the seller or make sure that your vehicle is listed in the list of compatible vehicles.

Also, please note that these units are not designed to be used with amplifiers. There are no pre-outs and the head unit drives the speakers directly. None of the 2002-2005 submodels of the Ram came with a separate amp but if you do have one, you will need to bypass it and wire the speakers back into the stereo harness. In the case of other Chrysler models (especially the more upscale ones), check first.

When you order the unit, make sure that you also have all of the pieces you want to integrate. Specifically, the rear camera - you may want to order it separately and mount it even before you get the stereo itself since you will need to attach it to the rear of the vehicle, run the wires (if applicable), etc. If you need maps, make sure they are part of the listing (or order them separately on an SD card). Make sure that the GPS antenna is included in the stereo listing.

The unit will likely arrive directly from the manufacturer in China - most of the sellers have simply negotiated a deal and have the stereo drop-shipped to you (same with me). That is not a problem at all - but you need to make sure that the seller is knowledgeable about the vehicle and the unit since if there are any problems, they will be your first contact. I will be happy to provide you with support on installing into the Ram – but if you have a Caravan (which the stereo should be also compatible with), I can help no more than anyone else. Ask the seller whether they have personally installed the stereo – and if yes, into what type of vehicle.

Make sure you know how to get at the standard stereo in your vehicle. In the case of the Ram, it is just a matter of removing a single screw near the passenger's left knee (behind the garbage-bag hook) and then pulling the centre panel – it is on spring clips. Easy.

Most of the time, you can google for a vehicle service manual or a description of how to change the stereo in your vehicle.

Now, order the unit with the options you need. When it arrives, check that it got to you more or less undamaged in shipping - most of the time, it will be packed quite well.
When you pull the stereo out of the box, you will see two screws in the stereo saying "Remove before use" or something similar. Do remove them - they hold the moving parts in the DVD drive from moving during shipping and really need to be removed.
You will also see a wiring harness that connects to the Chrysler harness on one side and the stereo on the other. The wires are colour coded on the Chrysler side - but you will need to figure out how they attach to the stereo itself. There are pictures in the manual, of course, but it can be tricky to figure out what is up and what is down. I have a picture of the unit connected a few paragraphs later.

There is also an antenna adapter. Chrysler used a non-standard antenna connection - not a big problem as long as you don't try to just yank it out of the factory stereo - we will get to it in a minute.

If you ordered a GPS unit, there will be a GPS antenna in the box.
And, of course, the manual. This is going to be a bit of comic relief for you. However, most of the time, you can figure out what the writer meant.

Now, to the vehicle!

Make sure you have everything you are going to plug into the back of the stereo ready. Although it is not hard, you don't want to pull the unit out again - so plug everything in when you mount it in the first place. Most of these things (like the GPS antenna and the rear camera) you can install before even removing the stock stereo.

First, the wired rear camera. If you need help, follow my guide on installing the rear view camera. If you want to save yourself some work, you can buy a wireless camera and receiver to plug into the stereo instead of running the wire – but you will have some interference problems, and the signal may not be strong enough to reach through the box of a full-size pickup. I had a wireless camera in my old pickup and it worked OK, but I decided to go wired this time – and it is a lot better, at the expense of some elbow grease.
Running the camera wire is unquestionably the hard part – see my separate guide on doing that. Now, you just have the easy bits left.

Now, the GPS antenna. I ran the cable for it (it is a co-ax with a screw-in connector) along the left side of the dash - it is quite unnoticeable. Attach the antenna itself to the dash with velcro or double-sided adhesive tape. Run the antenna connector somewhere close to the centre console - you will do the last few inches when you remove the factory stereo. I thought running it along the left side of the dash was easy – the side panel just pops off.

Now open the centre console. With the Ram, remove the one screw (picture above) and pull the console towards you (don't forget to remove the ashtray - the ashtray itself slides out, and the holder just snaps out). You don't have to disconnect the wires that go to the climate control - just be gentle and let the console lean away from the dash.
You will see that the stereo is mounted on four bolts. Remove those bolts and pull the stereo out. This is a photo of the new unit mounted (the pictures were taken after it was in), but the old stereo will have the same four screws holding it in place. I suppose I could undo everything and put the old one in just to take a picture, but why?

Remove the wiring connectors. It is "clicked" in - you will need to press on the side of the connector before pulling. To disconnect the antenna, pull on the collar next to the stereo - that releases the connector and allows you to pull the antenna wire out.
Connect the new, standard, harness. For the antenna, make sure the new wire clicks into the Chrysler connection. The rest of the wires are in a harness that matches the Chrysler connector – it can only connect the right way. The other side connects to the stereo – there is a way to mess it up, so look at the second picture and note the wire colours.

The picture above shows a lot of useful stuff. First, look at which connector is on the top and on the bottom – it took me a while of turning the manual upside down and then back to figure that out. Second, the yellow RCA is the feed from the rear camera – that is the connector it goes to. Third, note the brown wire grounded to the case – that is the one that is supposed to go to the parking brake (I will discuss it below). The square connector built into the case goes to the iPod connector (you can sort of see the connection at the centre of the picture, there is only one that fits). The coax cable with the bronze connector comes from the GPS antenna.

This leaves two wires "hanging". One (pink) goes to the reverse lights in order to switch the input to the rear camera, and the other (brown) - to the parking brake, in theory. You have already run the camera connections pretty close - get them all the way into the stereo bay now and connect the reverse light wire to the pink one. As for the parking brake wire, you are supposed to connect it to something that is grounded when the parking brake is on if you want to comply with the laws that say the screen must be off when you are driving. Certainly, watching movies while driving is plain stupid - but unfortunately, turning off the screen also means no song lists if you have your MP3s on a DVD disc, so I did not spend too long looking for the parking brake wire and simply grounded the brown wire to the stereo itself (as shown in the picture). Now the stereo "thinks" the parking brake is always on and keeps the screen on at all times, allowing me to decide whether I am stupid enough to watch movies while driving.

The GPS antenna has a cable that works like the one for your cable TV - just smaller. Connect it to the only connection on the stereo that looks like that.

All of these connections are in the picture above.

If your stereo came with the iPod connector, connect it now and route it out someplace you will keep your iPod.

Some older units also had a rear USB connection - get a USB extension cable and run it out to an accessible place. The newer units have a front USB connector.

If you want to run the video output to an external screen, connect some video extension cables to the back of the stereo now and let them hang behind the centre console of the vehicle. Using my picture above as a reference, it is not hard to identify the other outputs on the back of the unit. If your is different from mine, it is not that hard, after all, even with the sort of manual you get.

Now it should work. Make sure that you don't have any wires hanging that could be carrying +12 Volt and could short out, and turn the ignition to "on" (not ACC - you need "On" to test the rear camera). The stereo will need to initialise itself, and should then be in the Radio mode. Find a station and make sure it works. Then put in a disc (DVD preferably) and make sure it plays. Now make sure the parking brake is applied and shift to reverse. The screen should switch to show you what is behind your car. Finally, try GPS (you do need maps to try this). It will take the unit some time for the stereo to figure out where it is located and you cannot do this in an underground parkade. Eventually, it will figure out where you are and you can give it some address to figure out where to navigate to. Check any other functions that are important to you (like Bluetooth was for me).

Once you are sure the connections are right, slide the new unit into the bay (there is not a lot of room there, so make sure the wires and connectors are all the way at the back). The stereo has two plastic "pegs" that go into holes in the brackets it mounts into - make sure they are in, then screw in the four screws. While screwing in the screws, try to apply some upward pressure to the unit and keep it straight.

Now close the console. If the new stereo does not look straight, open the console again and adjust the stereo to make it look right. Screw in the one screw securing the centre console.

You are done!

One of the relatively common problems is that the stereos that come from China use the worldwide frequency spacing while you are in the North America (or vice versa). You can see the problem if you are trying to tune the AM radio and it jumps by 9 kHz instead of 10 kHz, or vice versa. This is where a good seller comes in handy since they can help you switch the tuning to the one that is right for your area. The procedures (or, rather, passwords) are different for different units – so I can help you with the stereos I sell but not someone else’s. The good news, though, is that the frequency spacing is a tunable parameter – and someone will know how to change it.

Hope you enjoy your new stereo and have fun showing it off to friends!

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Nice install. Thanks for the pics :rep:

· Registered
122 Posts
Very nice. Rep points for the easy read. I'm about to put my rear camera in my 2004 Ram 1500 QuadCab. I'd love to find someone who has taken pictures where they routed their wires along with where exactly they tapped into the reverse wire. I've got a tow package so hopefully I can find the reverse wire in question off the, I'm guessing, 7way circular connector in the back?
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