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March 2012 Randy’s Electrical Corner

Posted in How To: Electrical on March 1, 2012
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Stop paying other people $50 (if you are lucky) to put a stereo in your girlfriend’s car. Well, that is, if you are the lucky 1-percent of Jp magazine readers who actually have a girlfriend. If you are unlucky, you are paying some 16-year-old who knows way less than you to do a crappy job putting a stereo in your Jeep. I’ve talked about soldering here. I’ve covered other good ways to connect wires. I guarantee you that the teenager you pay to install your stereo isn’t using any of my good advice. You might not believe me. One guy told me once he didn’t believe in plastic. I’ve seen plastic. It exists. And I am right about wiring a radio.

I am going to start with what not to do. Don’t ever put a head unit in your Jeep like this one. If you had a Toyota Prius or an FJ Cruiser or something else that never saw dirt, this would be fine and last a long tim. But a head unit with an opening for a tape or a CD like this one is the fastest way to put another head unit in within one wheeling season. No matter what its benefits are, don’t buy one. If it is free to you and you just want to re-do the install job in a few months, then go for it.

Oh, let’s get one thing straight right now. The stereo in your Jeep and the radio you listen to are different. In a Jeep, the “stereo” is all the parts that make up your “system.” There is the “head unit” which is the thing in the dash that you put eight-tracks into (Editor’s note: or last decade, rather than four decades ago, you put CDs into). The radio is that thing that pulls stuff out of the air to give you music, and right when a good song comes on, you drop into another valley or canyon and lose it. Then there are the speakers, which, if you aren’t Editor Hazel, you have more than one—four at least, I’d say, but we covered how to hook them up already.

So, I am really talking about how to wire-up a head unit. And, if you can hook up fog lights, “auxiliary,” or “driving” lights, or if you wear khaki shirts with too many pockets, you can put a head unit in too. The thing that makes Jeeps special is the amount of dirt they see, and picking a head unit is a unique experience to the Jeep owner. Unless your Jeep sees a lot of water on the inside, most “marine” radios will do you no good. They protect the electronics against water spray—not against dust or dirt. Someone needs to make a dirt-resistant head unit. Until then, I always pick head units like the one included here from Sony. They won’t guarantee a kryptonite-proof radio experience, but they go a long way from some other head units.

I guess I am covering a lot of things here with this column. Some things I’ve picked up by being with this Jeep magazine for so long, and some things are just really easy, but you just don’t know it yet. I hope you can take something away from how I pick and put “stereos” in Jeeps.

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