Sunday, October 09, 2011

Our Story Thus Far IV

IV. The Radio

Being the stripped version, the car arrives with speakers - but no radio. I laughed when the salesman offered to sell me an $800 dealer-installed radio. I checked with the dealer's parts department: I could buy the factory radio over-the-counter myself for $430 + tax, install it in myself, and save over $330. They'd have to order the thing, but that should take only a few days. Or I could install my own after-market radio and save something over $600.

But, for a while there, it looked like I might have outwitted myself: neither Crutchfield nor Scoche, (nor the other brand whose name escapes me) has an installation kit available just yet for the brand-new Civic. (Oops.) I even called Crutchfield; they said they'd have a kit by the summer of 2012, nine months from now. Three local installers said they didn't have those parts. Best Buy said they'd certainly be able to do something - I even made an appointment with them - but when I went in, they wanted me to buy my own harness connector kits first. (Best Buy graciously gave me the Scoche parts numbers, which helped me figure out what I needed.)

My pal Aaron ran down an on-line forum where a guy posted pictures of his radio installation: by looking at those, I was able to confirm that the parts numbers that Best Buy provided me were correct. (The wiring harness is available because it's the very same as the one in a 2008 Accord - which makes it a perfect example of how these options move down-market after a few years.) I ordered the wiring harness and the antenna connector on-line; went to Walmart and bought a Sony head-end with radio/cd/ usb connector.

- Sony receiver: $79 + tax = $85.32.
(Which is sort of astonishingly cheap: 4ch x 50W, AM/FM/CD/ USB/aux)
- Wiring harness: $16 delivered
- Ant. connector: $22 delivered
- A bit of heatshrink and solder
...for a total of just about $125 - say, about $675 less than letting the dealer do it, a saving of fully $11/month on the car payment. That's a total saving of more than two car payments, 1/27 of the entire cost of the car.

I spent a very pleasant hour one recent Saturday afternoon (Oct. 8) soldering up the new wiring harness. So it took me 38 days to assemble the elements for this job, mostly because I couldn't believe that parts for such a common car weren't yet for sale SOMEWHERE, o I kept looking in ever-more-improbable places. (It also took me a few minutes to locate the right toolbox, the one with the soldering gear....)

Now I have a car stereo that's at least electrically connected - I'll mechanically finish the installation when those parts are available in the spring. (Probably another $25-40.) Right now, it's rattling around loose in the dash, propped up on some scrap wood. The Youngest Member and I took a lovely Sunday drive up to Curtis Lumber to shop their 'exotic wood' department, and came home with a $1 scrap of cherry to mask the opening in the dash.

The stock speakers aren't bad at all. The 21st century receiver has a basket full of annoyances - multiple menus, unlabeled controls, arbitrary and unmute-able beeps, etc. But despite that, it's a joy having a CD player / iPod player in the car. My family minivan has had a CD player since 2002; but my commuter cars haven't, not until now, in the year 2011.

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