iPod Car Adapter - How To Install An iPod Into Your C5
Installing An iPod In Your C5 Has Never Been Easier
From the February, 2009 issue of Corvette Fever
By Tom Benford
Photography by Tom Benford
There's no denying it-the iPod is a great little gadget. it's no wonder it's so popular when even an "old fogey" like me has one. I have all my favorite tunes and albums (over 2,000 songs and still counting at this point) on my little white 30-gigabyte iPod, along with some home videos I shot and a plethora of digital photos. The amazing thing is all of this fits into my shirt pocket and barely creates a bulge. Even more amazing, I still have over 10 gigabytes of storage space left for more tunes, pix, and flix.
I like my music and so does my wife, Liz. And we like our Corvettes. Of the six Vettes in our stable, we use Liz's '98 C5 ragtop more than any of the others, so I made sure it was well-equipped to keep us in cruising tunes with an in-dash CD player and a 12-disc changer in the trunk. But even with the capability of having 13 CDs at our disposal at any one time, that doesn't even put a small dent in our musical library. And while we also have the requisite AM/FM stereo radio reception and have tried XM Satellite radio, we have a constant and on-going complaint about radio of any genre: you're always at the mercy and discretion of the DJ and program manager as to what you'll be hearing, and that's just not for us. We like to choose what we listen to, and if that makes us control freaks, well then, so be it.
Now, back to the iPod. The problem is you need earphones or ear buds to listen to it, and that isn't convenient or safe while driving, plus only one person can hear the tunes so the other party in the car isn't a happy camper. The ideal situation would be to get the iPod to play through the Corvette's stereo system, while still giving full control of the tone, balance, and fader, and also providing a convenient way to see what tune/track is playing and to control the little wonder without having to fumble around with the iPod itself.
Apparently, someone else thought a device that could do all this would be a good thing, too, and-voila, the folks at Harman/Kardon produced it. It's called the Drive+Play. They tout it as "the smart way to drive your iPod" and, after installing and using it for a while, I concur with that statement totally.
Here's what you need to take...
Here's what you need to take your iPod music on the go in your Corvette: (left to right: Harman/Kardon Drive+Play, an iPod, and an optional (but highly recommended) wired FM transmitter adapter.
The Drive+Play consists of three major components: the "brain," which is the heart of the system, the display unit, and the controller. Here's how it works: you plug your iPod into a cable that connects to the brain; this provides power for the iPod and transmits your song data from the iPod to the display unit, which shows you the song, artist, track, time, and other pertinent stuff; another cable leads to the controller, which permits you to control the iPod much in the same way its own controller wheel does, but this is a much more tactile and easier-to-use controller.
If you've ever done any type of stereo installation in your vehicle before, this should be a snap. If you decide this is a bit over the top for you, the dealer you purchase your Harman/Kardon Drive+Play from will probably do the installation for you.
Before I get into the nuts-and-bolts of how to install the Drive+Play, there are a few decisions you'll have to make first. As I said, there are three components to the Drive+Play: the brain, display, and controller, but there's also a fourth component-the iPod itself. So you're going to have to decide where to place these items. The brain gets hidden, so that's an easy one; the display should be placed where you can see it without difficulty; the controller will have to be located where you can reach it conveniently; the iPod will have to be connected to the Drive+Play, so you'll have to decide where you want to put it as well. The display and the controller come with a variety of mounts that give you some choices for their possible locations, but free space in the C5 is pretty well spoken for already.
I, too, gave all of this some thought, and here is what I decided: the brain and the bulk of the excess wiring would be tucked away inside the center dash console; the display unit would reside under the flip-up cover in the console that houses the cigarette lighter and ashtray; the controller would mount just in front of the armrest next to the traction control; and the iPod itself would reside in the armrest console, out of sight and harm's way. Doing it this way provided a noninvasive installation, aside from a small hole I made next to the auxiliary 12V power socket in the armrest console to accommodate the iPod connection cable. But you can place these components anywhere you wish; whatever works for you is the way to go.
All the required cabling,...
All the required cabling, mounting hardware, cable ties, and detailed installation instructions are included with the product. The "brain" of the unit is the rectangular unit at the top left; the display unit is at the top center on its mounting pedestal (which I later removed); the controller is at the lower right. Depending on your installation options and method, you may not need all the cables or accessory mounting bases supplied.
I also recommend purchasing the optional Harman/Kardon FM transmitter adapter. This is a direct-wired unit that really improves the FM transmission performance, and it's a simple plug-and-play unit, so it doesn't add any additional work to this installation. Please note that you don't need this adapter to install the Drive+Play since it has its own built-in FM transmitter, which works much the same way as the other devices I covered in the companion article in this issue on MP3 road music to go. The wired adapter, however, totally eliminates all the FM transmission problems you might experience going the wireless FM route, which is why I recommend going with the wired adapter.
One more thing: you're going to need an antenna adapter cable since the C5 stereo radio uses a mini-antenna jack and the Harman/Kardon unit uses a standard jack socket. These are available from the dealer you purchase the Drive+Play from or from your local NAPA auto supply or Radio Shack.
| DIFFICULTY INDEX ::: || NN |
|ANYONE'S PROJECT | no tools required || N |
|BEGINNER | basic tools || NN |
|EXPERIENCED | special tools || NNN |
|ACCOMPLISHED | special tools and outside help || NNNN |
|PROFESSIONALS ONLY | send this work out || NNNNN |
No. 15 Torx driver
10mm and 7mm nut drivers or sockets/ratchet
So that's all there is to installing the Harman/Kardon Drive+Play in your C5. But these same installation steps would also apply to any year Corvette (except for the steps pertaining to the console removal, of course). So if you love your iPod and the tunes you have on it, there's no reason not to take them along for the ride. Enjoy!
The forward shift console...
The forward shift console of the C5 must be removed for this installation, and this starts by popping off the two plastic covers to expose the two 10mm armrest console mounting nuts beneath them at the rear of the console. You can use a nut driver or socket and ratchet to remove these nuts. As always, put all removed hardware in a safe place, as you'll need it again for reassembly.
Lift up and remove the traction...
Lift up and remove the traction control cover, unsnap the wire connector, and put the cover in a safe place. Disconnect the connector from the rear of the auxiliary 12V power outlet at this time as well. Then remove the two 10mm nuts that hold the front of the armrest console in place.
You'll find that it makes...
You'll find that it makes life much easier if you remove the lid of the armrest console; this is done by using a Philips screwdriver to remove the four lid hinge screws. Put the lid in a safe place for now.
Pry off the cover next to...
Pry off the cover next to the ignition switch to reveal the Torx screw and remove it.
Two Torx screws are also found...
Two Torx screws are also found under the flip-up cover to the ashtray/lighter compartment-one is next to the lighter and the other is behind the ashtray-remove both of these Torx screws. When these are out, put the gear lever in drive (or Second if it's a stick), push back on the armrest console as far as it will go, and lift the tail of the console up and back; unsnap the electrical connector attached to the cigarette lighter and continue to lift and remove the console. Slip it over the gear shifter and get it out of the way. This takes a bit of doing, as it is a tight fit and it can be stubborn. Just take your time, have perseverance and patience, and, eventually, it will come out.
Remove the two 7mm screws...
Remove the two 7mm screws that hold the radio in place. Once they're out, pull the radio out to gain access to the antenna cable at its rear and unplug it.
If you wish, you can power...
If you wish, you can power the Drive+Play unit with the cigarette lighter cable supplied, or you can hard-wire it directly to a 12V power source, which is the way I opted to go. The C5 fuses are located under a removable panel on the passenger-side floor. On the inside of the panel cover, the fuse layout is listed along with a location diagram. Two electrical feeds are required: a constant 12v to retain programming, settings, and preference memory for the Drive+Play brain (I used fuse No. 7-the cigarette lighter), and a switched 12v feed that turns off when the ignition is switched off (I used fuse No. 10-windshield wipers); it's this latter connection that actually powers the Drive+Play unit. I connected the black ground wire to the metal frame superstructure of the console assembly.
With these connections made,...
With these connections made, you can plug the antenna cable and the power connector into the D+P brain unit, which you can see resting at the lower left of the console. Notice that all surplus wiring has been coiled and bound with cable ties-all this will be stuffed into the lower portion of the console structure to get it out of the way. The brain itself will reside on the left side of the console frame, a few inches above its current location, and it will be hidden from view when the console is back in place.
The C5 radio uses a mini-antenna...
The C5 radio uses a mini-antenna jack, so you'll need an adapter cable like this one. Plug the mini-plug into the radio, then plug either the wired FM adapter cable or the Drive+Play antenna cable into the socket on the adapter. If you're going the wired FM route, then plug the Drive+Play antenna cable into the wired FM adapter. Route the cable down the back of the radio into the bottom of the console compartment, slide the radio back into position, and replace the two 7mm screws to secure it.
Back on the workbench in the...
Back on the workbench in the garage, I took the pedestal base off the display unit using Torx drivers, after establishing that it will fit in the console opening in front of where the ashtray used to reside.
Another trial fit to make...
Another trial fit to make sure the display unit will fit where I want it to go, and it does, nicely. Now the console goes back out to the car, and the cable from the display is plugged into the brain with the surplus cable tucked away.
I wanted to keep the iPod...
I wanted to keep the iPod itself in the armrest console where it would be protected and easily unplugged if I wanted to take it with me. In order to do this, I had to notch an opening for the Drive+Play connector cable to pass through. I did so using a file next to the opening for the 12V auxiliary power socket. Optionally, you can just leave the socket out and have the cable pass through its opening, but I wanted to have the convenience of the 12V socket as well, so I notched the opening. This was rough (I cleaned it up more with the file after this shot was taken).
The wiring diagram supplied...
The wiring diagram supplied with the Drive+Play unit is clear and easy to follow, as are the excellent installation instructions. Even if you've never done an installation like this before, the connections shouldn't be a problem even for a novice. It's getting the console out and back in again that's the tricky part.
After everything is plugged...
After everything is plugged in, it's time to replace the console and button everything up. Reassembly is the exact reverse of disassembly, in that order. I recommend plugging in the iPod and powering on the Drive+Play first, however, just to make sure everything is working as it should before reassembling the console. Be sure to confirm all your cable routing at this time as well, otherwise you'll have to take it all apart again to correct any mistakes.
I attached the controller...
I attached the controller to the cover that holds the traction control switch and simply routed the cable under the front of the cover since I ran it under the console. This way the controller is within easy reach of both the driver and passenger. The display unit is also easily readable in daytime or at night in its location under the flip cover of the console.
And the iPod itself nestles...
And the iPod itself nestles comfortably inside the armrest console. I usually keep it in its leather case to protect the screen, but I left it exposed for this shot. When I want to take it with me, I simply unsnap the Drive+Play connector cable from it and away I go.