A swanky stereo set up for just £200? Why not, eh? What about a Sat nav and a reversing camera? Oh yes!
Unless you have purchased a particularly posh specification, new T5, it is more than likely you will not have a factory-fitted satellite navigation system, or reversing camera / sensors in your Van. While some people may eschew GPS for a good old map, there is no denying it can come in handy, particularly when it is the middle of the night, you’re somewhere in rural France and there are no signposts. Similarly, a reversing camera is also a handy addition. You may not always need it, but the time it prevents you hitting the short post just out of view in the mirrors, you will be grateful for it.
Fortunately, the price of such technology is falling all of the time and, if you are willing to avoid the big brand names, you can retro-fit your Van with all this kit for surprisingly little money. For several years now, the internet has been awash with no-brand, Chinese-made car stereos and electronic equipment. Following some research, it appeared that some of them are actually pretty good, too.
The requirement here was for a double DIN-sized stereo, capable of playing DVDs, accepting an MP3 player input and incorporating a satellite navigation system. To explain, the double DIN refers to the size of the mounting aperture (not the front panel, as some people mistakenly think). International Standard ISO 7736 defines a standard size for car audio head units and enclosures. The standard was originally established by the German standards body, Deutsches Institut für Normung, as DIN 75490, and is therefore commonly referred to as the ‘DIN car radio size’ (180 x 50mm). This was adopted internationally in 1984. More recently, head units started to appear in double DIN size (180 x 100mm). As far as we are aware, only America uses different sizes, sticking with good old inches – either 2 x 7 or 4 x 7.
The stereo we opted for was sourced from eBay, with the decision as to which to go for based on a combination of aesthetics, functionality and user feedback. The unit we chose features a built-in multi-region DVD player, video input, video output, two phono outputs and a phono input. It all runs on Windows CE mobile operating system, which has a proven track record of being (relatively) reliable. We also sourced a wireless reversing camera system from another vendor. This came in a kit that consisted of a camera unit, a wireless transmitter and a receiver, which simply plugs into an available video input on the chosen head unit. The best bit is the whole lot was obtained for less than £200. Even more impressive was the delivery time from China. The head unit was ordered on a Friday afternoon and turned up first thing the following Monday!
Fit a double DIN head unit: Job info
- TOOLS USED: Basic hand tools; 25mm hole saw; VW stereo removal keys
- SKILL LEVEL: 2/5
- TIME TAKEN: Half a day
- COST DIY: £200
- COST PRO: £400
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 1
The first task is to remove the standard stereo. Depending on the year of Van you have, this may be a single DIN tape player, with a storage compartment above, or a double DIN CD unit. You will need a set of removal keys, which can be purchased from most motor factors for a few pounds. If you have a single unit with a storage compartment, this simply unclips once the stereo is removed.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 2
The standard VW radio features two ISO multi-plugs, one for power and the second for audio. Here the brown plug is the power feed and the other an aerial lead. The other ISO plug (out of view) will have the speaker connections wired into it.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 3
The new radio came with an adaptor to allow these plugs to be fitted to the new unit, which uses a DIN standard plug. The same applies to the radio connection so an ISO-to-DIN aerial adaptor is also required.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 4
The new radio is capable of playing DVDs, as well as videos, from a memory card. However, from the back of a Van, it’s nigh-on impossible to see a standard 7-inch screen. Taking advantage of the fact that the head unit has video and audio outputs, we decided to run a video cable to the rear of the Van, allowing for the future fitment of a video screen when budgets allows.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 5
It is quite simple, if a little fiddly, to secrete the cable behind the interior panels. To begin with, it was fed down the right-hand side of the stereo aperture and underneath the column.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 6
A piece of stiff wire with a hook bent in the end was used to snare the wire though the gap at the bottom of the steering column. From there, it was fed along to the far right-hand side of the dashboard. It is possible to remove the lower dash panel, but this seemed like the easier approach.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 7
We then removed the plastic door step cover and pulled the rubber floor matting away from the door seal, being careful not to tear it. The step cover can be tough to remove as it has adhesive underneath, but a sharp tug should do the trick. It was then simply a matter of routing the cable across the door threshold, under the rear door trim and behind the interior units. When the time comes to fit a screen in the rear, we will be able to just plug it in. Alternatively, the two RCA audio connectors could be attached to an amplifier to power rear speakers, or a subwoofer.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 8
Though the head unit is able to accept an iPod interface, many people have other MP3 players, so the addition of a regular 3.5mm audio input jack was desirable. Our head unit did not have an input on the front, so instead a phono-to-3.5mm jack cable was used, connected to the radio’s audio input sockets. The ideal place to keep said music device seemed to be the dash top storage tray, so a hole was drilled in one of the compartments to allow the cable to pass through. A small hole was also drilled on the front edge of the tray for the GPS aerial cable, which sits at the very front of the windscreen where it can see the sky.
- Want more DIY guides? Visit: VW Transporter technical guides
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 9
Conveniently, the radio had a schematic of the connections printed on top of it, making putting the right plugs in the right place easy. Depending on how many devices you are attaching, things may become a little cramped behind the unit, thanks to VW inconsiderately placing a dashboard reinforcement directly behind the radio. This is only plastic though, and can be trimmed out of the way if necessary.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 10
Moving to the rear of the vehicle, the reversing camera is straightforward to fit. It consists of a transmitter /power unit and a camera unit that connect together. The camera is fitted into the rear bumper just above the tow bar (handy for reversing) while the transmitter is housed just under the nearside rear light cluster.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 11
Power for the camera is taken from the green reversing light cable (on a 2004-spec T5) meaning it will only power up when the vehicle is put in reverse. The power lead from the camera was spliced into the vehicle harness, while the earth was attached to an earthing point that was fitted for the tow bar electrics.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 12
To start with, the camera system was mocked up in place to check to what extent the tow bar ball interfered with the field of view. In order to do this, the head unit was plugged in, powered up and the WiFi receiver attached to the video input. The vehicle was put in reverse and the picture checked.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 13
Once we were happy with the location of the camera, a 25mm hole was drilled in the bumper, taking care not to make it oversized, and the camera slotted into the hole. It is held in place by a small metal spring collar.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 14
With the camera in place, the image needed orientating. The camera mount is like a ball and socket, and the image can be rotated 360 degrees. Unfortunately, there was no marking for ‘top dead centre’, so someone needed to sit in the Van and direct the person at the rear to rotate the camera until the image was level.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 15
Once happy that everything was working correctly, the wiring was routed through a convenient hole between the bumper and the rear quarter trim and the WiFi transmitter secured in place with cable ties. All of the cable connections were wrapped in waterproof tape. Even though the camera itself claimed to be rated to IP67 (the top rating for weather resistance), the connections most certainly weren’t, so the extra precaution seemed like a good idea.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 16
With all of the wiring in place, all that remained was to fit the securing cage for the stereo. This slides into the aperture in the dash and is secured in place by metal tabs that bend out to interlock with the back of the dash.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 17
There were also self-adhesive foam pads supplied with our head unit radio that help securely locate the unit and damp any potential rattles. If you have these, fit them.
Fit a double DIN head unit: Step 18
There was also a fascia panel to finish the install off neatly but, due to the author’s clumsiness, ours snapped. The whole fitting process, for both the camera and radio, took about half a day. For the price of the parts, it represented a very worthwhile improvement in both the entertainment and practicality stakes. Why not do similar in your Van?