Installing Head Units Made Easy – DIY your next head unit installation
So, you’ve grown tired of your old head unit. You (finally) realised that the features of your stock car stereo are so outdated from the advanced features on head units that are coming out today. It has no touchscreen, no multimedia player, no GPS navigation, and is not internet-capable. You now know that you’re missing out on the fun of a true infotainment system in your car head unit. It’s time to get started with that new head unit installation!
Installing head units is one of the easier modifications you can do on your car. And you can do it yourself, even if you’re a beginner. You just have to be comfortable using some basic tools and happy to plug some cables in.
However, you need to consider one thing first.
What is the right car head unit for you?
These are the basic things to consider in choosing the ideal head unit for your vehicle:
1. The size of the head unit
First, know what size is your car head unit. You can have a quick look at your head unit and measure it or take a photo and send it to the team at Vhedia and we can point you in the right direction.
DIN, named after the German norm-setting organisation Deutsches Institut für Normung, is the standard unit for car head unit sizes. Car head units can either be a Single DIN, Double DIN, or a 1.5 DIN head unit.
Most OEM and aftermarket head units today are Double DINs. The extra height in these head units (180mm x 102mm or 7in x 4in) means more space to install features. You’re looking at HD touchscreen and other controls into the unit. Unfortunately, this also makes Double DINs the most expensive option out of all the sizes. However, more affordable aftermarket options are now available.
Also, since Double DIN is the biggest size for head units, some people opt for smaller (and cheaper) replacements that can easily fit the original dash with little work (and a proper installation kit).
Vhedia’s kits, where possible, will come with a plastic surround that will allow your new head unit to look like it was installed from the factory. We also have universal ones that are suited to brands. For example, the Toyota universal system looks like a double din system but has a few changes so that it fits correctly into your Toyota.
Speaking of touchscreens, these devices open up more advanced options for your vehicle, such as on-screen GPS navigation, phone integration and voice controls via Apple Play or Android Auto, and rear-view camera capability. Your car head unit can now transform into a smartphone and a car infotainment system at the same time!
Single DIN head units measure 180mm x 52mm (or 7in x 2in) and are more commonly seen as the stock head unit for older car models and for smaller vehicles. If your car is pre-2004 or a basic model, there is a high chance that it has a single din unit.
They obviously take up a relatively smaller dashboard space that can limit the features it can have. However, newer Single DINs feature touchscreens, normally as fold-outs, so that the head unit can fit the dash.
A third, less common, size of head units is the DIN-and-a-half or the 1.5 DIN. GM brands like Chevy, Cadillac, and GMC have these head units on their older vehicles. The actual measurement is roughly 180cm x 80mm or 7in x 3in.
Owners looking to replace their 1.5 DIN head units normally look for the much more common Single DINs if they cannot find a head unit of this size. Fitting Double DINs may take more than just a facia kit, as the opening may require major trimming to accommodate this size.
2. The type of head unit
The next thing to consider is the type of head unit you will use. Will you opt for an OEM or factory-made head unit or an aftermarket option?
Factory head units are those manufactured with the vehicle that comes when you purchase a new one from the dealership. Depending on the model, features of these head units can range from a simple stereo to the latest technology in infotainment systems.
However, replacing or upgrading factory head units could be very expensive. It is because the dealership normally does the installation. And they will charge you the OEM price which will be far over the value of the device. Plus, factory units are normally basic and you will want to upgrade to an aftermarket unit so you have better features and options.
Good thing, there are plenty of aftermarket head units to choose from now. Prices can range from less than $100 to more than $1,000 per unit. There are head units from more well-known brands such as Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood, and Alpine, and there are also Android head units that are plentiful in the market today.
Vhedia’s focus is on higher-end Android-based head units that are ahead of the main brands in terms of features and technology. We also do not deal with the lower-end units which may be cheap but the quality is not good and the user experience will not be where it should be.
However, whatever aftermarket option you choose depends on the features you need from your head unit.
Do you need just a normal radio or do you need an HD touchscreen?
Does it need to have apps similar to your smartphone?
Does your new head have to be branded or not?
Remember that if you want more functions in your head unit, then you will have to pay more, but beware of cheaper units and unsupported sellers as these will just create issues.
3. The car model
Not all car head units are universal. And for modern cars 2005+, they are normally unique to the car make and model. This means that there are certain head units that will only fit a certain car model.
If your car is BMW Series 3 F34 2014, for example, then you should look for a head unit for this car model. Note that you should also consider the trim and model year of your car. Even minor differences like these in the design will matter in the fit of the head unit.
As with any purchase, do your research and always buy car head units from a legitimate outlet. They should value customer driving experience by offering quality products with the latest technology at the best possible price.
Vhedia is one such company. As a direct-to-customer enterprise, it provides the latest vehicle media solutions – Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Android Head Units, Dashcams, and head unit upgrades. They deliver right at your doorsteps without hurting your wallets. They sell items made from reliable components and up-to-date technology. To top it all off, Vhedia has a live support team ready and able to assist with concerns on your purchases.
How to remove the old head unit?
Here are the few easy steps in removing your old head unit:
- Prepare the tools you will need: (Vhedia’s Kits will come with tools required)
- Screwdriver set
- Prying tools
- Socket set
- Head over to your battery and remove the negative terminal. This is an important step to prevent shorting the wires once you expose them.
- Before removing the trim piece or face panel of the console, assess first what bounds it onto the dash. Do not forcibly open this part, but gently use your prying tools to search for a fastener, screw or bolt along the sides.
- Once you’ve removed the trim piece, disconnect the wires connected to the head unit. Be careful in pulling these cables as they may connect the air conditioning or climate control system to the head unit.
- Time to remove the head unit. Unscrew or unbolt it from the bracket that holds it. You may need to remove the bracket as well, and this depends on the size of the replacement head unit you’re going to install.
- Remember to remove the wiring harness from the back of your car’s head unit. Disconnect the antenna as well.
How to do the new head unit installation?
To properly do a DIY installation of a car head unit, you need to follow the following steps:
- Prepare the new head unit. We recommend you purchase a head unit that comes with an easy-to-install kit to help you make the process easier.
- Part of an easy-to-install kit is an easy-install wire loom you can plug on the factory vehicle wires you unplugged earlier. New technology wire looms are mostly plug-and-play types, so you don’t have to worry about connectivity. Re-attach the antenna wire and all the factory connections.
- After you’ve double-checked all the connections, if needed, screw the head unit onto the removed factory bracket. Then slide the new head unit into its slot on the centre console. A Facia kit normally comes with an aftermarket head unit, and you can use this if the head unit does not fit the opening or face of the console.
- Fasten, screw, or bolt the head unit on the console opening. Put back the trim piece as well.
- Reconnect the negative terminal of the battery and restart the engine. Check the functions of the new head unit. If it doesn’t turn on, remove the head unit again and go back to the wiring.
- Most head unit manufacturers and sellers will include a plastic surround or bezel that you can place above the head unit to complete the new finish.
- Enjoy your new infotainment system!
Our Final Word
Installing head units via DIY saves you a lot of money on labour and is simple to execute on most modern cars and can be done in around 1 hour. The most important thing here though is your choice of the head unit to use. Aside from getting the right size, features, and model, the quality and reliability of the new head unit are crucial for obtaining the true value-for-money. So, get your head unit upgrade now and experience a real automobile infotainment system.