Car Audio

A couple of times over the past year I’ve replaced a factory-fitted CD player with an aftermarket one. In both cases (my car, a 2004 VW Touran, and my parents’ 2006 Peugeot 206), the ability to play CDs was failing. Several years ago, I also replaced the tape player in my 1996 VW Passat – this was much easier as it was just a straight replacement with no adaptors required – but these days it seems to be a bit trickier. Essentially, there is a standard shape and cabling arrangement (DIN) that car radios/CD players are meant to conform to. Largely, the makers of the CD players match this standard, but the car manufacturers no longer follow it because they like to style the equipment to fit the dashboard. Adding in features like remote control stalks on the steering wheel that aren’t in the DIN standard makes things more complicated still.

So in both cases I needed to get adaptor cables (known as a harness), an adaptor for the aerial, and the bits to physically mount the CD player (head unit) in the dashboard (facia). I used the following websites:

The different bits I needed varied in price by a surprising amount. After postage and so on, I could have paid anywhere between £23ish and £43ish for all the bits, so shop around when you’re looking. I found Dynamic Sounds particularly friendly and helpful but my communications with all three companies above were quite positive.

A couple of interesting things that needed some problem solving in the process. These are all for my VW Touran: the 206 was fairly easy to deal with as the harness cable did all the work for me, including making the stalk controls work. The instructions were a bit cryptic but all the information was there and for the most part it was hard to put the cables in the wrong place!


The aerial connection in the Touran is a double “Fakra” connector, which looks like this:

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The two connectors are because there are two aerials, so the radio can get a good signal more often. they are also amplified, so they need power supplied to them. I managed to get this which takes care of merging the two feeds into one and passing on the power: the blue wire carries the power and goes onto the blue wire coming out of the head unit. Be sure to wrap the metal part in insulating tape! It seems to be active in some way and I blew a fuse when it touched the car chassis.

I also got a DAB radio: the VW aerial amplifier filters out all signals except AM/FM, so is useless for DAB. A DAB antenna came with the head unit, this stuck on the windscreen and a cable from it was tucked away fairly easily behind the dashboard to the head unit. This works pretty well.


The Touran uses CAMBUS (a computer signal) to tell the radio when to switch on and off, to avoid draining the battery. In contrast, after market head units just have a cable going in that’s live when the ignition is on, and off otherwise. They don’t understand the CAMBUS signal. It is possible to split the +12v wire to go into this switched cable on the head unit as well (pins A4 and A7 on the connector – see here for the pinout) but the problem here is that if you forget to turn the radio off you’ll get a flat battery. Better is to find a source of power that’s switched with the ignition. I found a great solution: a fuse tap, a cable that taps into the fuse board in the car, without needing to break into any existing wiring of the car. It looks like this:


This one has two fuses, one to protect the radio, and one to replace the fuse that the tap has taken the place of. With a voltmeter I found a vacant spot on the fuse board that was switched with the ignition, so I just used that. Just to the right of the first 15A fuse on the bottom row:


The final result was pretty tidy!


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