1997 Ford Aspire > Car Radio

Car Radio

My Ford Aspire came with an AM/FM radio. It functioned as expected if all you wanted from it is to listen to the news or music. But it had a bundle of defects.

Nonetheless I was content with the radio until one day after I replaced the speedometer, when I turned the radio on, only to find it would pick up only the schlock radio station out of Muncie. And that was because that station has the most powerful transmitter in east central Indiana. I checked the antenna, but there doesn't seem to anything wrong with it. The radio seemed to be plugged in correctly.

I decided that this was as good a time as any to replace the radio.

I went shopping for a new car radio. Fry's radios started from eighty dollars to way, way on high. Ditto for Best Buy. Radio Shack no longer sells car radios, and I was directed to Best Buy or H.H. Gregg. I decided to buy from Best Buy the Pioneer 45W DEH-1700 CD Player with FM/AM Tuner for eighty dollars.

Pioneer 45W DEH-1700.

Fig. 1: Pioneer 45W DEH-1700.

Replacing the speedometer was a breeze compared with the radio. I found that the radio was connected to a "harness", the auto equivalent to an adapter on a computer. In fact, it was connected to two adapters: The radio was a custom job, as a Best Buy clerk told me when I showed him one of the harnesses. In the end I bought a replacement speaker harness at AutoZone in Marion.

Radio Wiring in my Ford Aspire.

Fig. 2: Radio Wiring in my Ford Aspire.

I drew up a plan on wiring the speaker and radio harnesses together according to the diagram. My brother Bill, who installed Vickie's radio and was visiting a couple of Saturdays ago, looked over my plan and said it was okay.

Later that week I wired the harnesses together with "twistie ties": plastic caps with metal insides with which you can connect two wires without soldering them. I had thought I would have to twist the ground and power wires directly to the car's wiring, like in the diagram. But I found it was easier to take one of the original harnesses; strip out all but the power and ground wires; and twist that together to the radio harness.

All I had to do after that was to plug the radio into the speakers and power. I did that as a test before installing the radio, and it works muy bien.

Installation was simple, eh? Not when you have to downshift because the gear stick was in the way. Nor when you had to pull out the original radio's frame because it was in the way. Nor when you had to move the wires around because they and the ties took up more volume than the original harnesses did. But the radio did go in, and now I can listen to NPR on my way to work again.

I thought I was lucky because the check engine light went out after the radio was installed. But a couple of days later, it was back on. It looks like I will have to visit Spark's after all.

Or, I could follow my brother's original suggestion, screw a ground wire into the chassis, and connect that to the radio's ground. The weather has been nastily hot, as it has been for most of the summer, as it had been when I installed the radio. When the heat dies down, I will work on the radio some more.

Aftermath (26 January 2006)

It was a good radio for the six months I had it. But I was stupid: To not have learned how to set the clock; to not have used the CD player; and over all to have forgotten to remove the front plate regularly as a security measure. It just never occured to me.

Now it doesn't matter: Two mornings ago I discovered the radio was stolen from my car. I gave an oral report and serial number to the local police, but it is unlikely that I will ever see the radio again. Nor will I buy another, at least until they catch the bastisch who stole it.

Written by Andy West on 20 August 2005, and updated on 26 January 2006.