PDA

View Full Version : '96 Oldsmobile Ciera stereo installation



mechanizeddeath
08-03-2010, 03:54 AM
Like many of you, I prefer the look and feel of a stock stereo. Not to mention the obvious anti-theft nature of it. However, I don't enjoy the basic tape deck and AM/FM radio either. The radio stations here are garbage, and I've never been fond of wires coming out of the dash for a cassette adapter. Plus, I already had a nice modern stereo from my old car. A Kenwood Excelon KDC-X891. No point in letting it go to waste in the garage. :)

The first step was to procure two things: a harness adapter and a dash kit. (An antenna adapter is also required, but usually comes with the harness adapters.) I actually had the GM harness adapter already, long story short I bought it for an old girlfriend and her 4th gen Grand Am, and I’m sure you can all guess why I still have it. :p And it came with the antenna adapter too. Anyway...

With these cars, a dash kit is needed as well, and there are a few different manufacturers to choose from. I decided on the Metra kit, since the Scosche kit as pictured showed the stereo bulging out of the dash, while the Metra came with a flat panel along with a few sizes of bulging panels. I believe this is to accommodate vehicles with shallow radio compartments. I didn't like the bulge look, and wanted the option of the flat mount if it would fit.

I actually ordered the kit before I even bought my Ciera, and in fact back then I wasn't even sure what one it was, though I suspected it might be a Century. Regardless, the kit was for multiple GM models, including all A-Bodies, so I knew it would work. This is the kit I bought:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0001.jpg

The first step is to assemble the harness by connecting the one that came with your stereo to the one you bought for your car. There are a few ways to do this, I prefer the solder and heat shrink method but you can also use crimp connectors. Whatever you do, don't twist and tape! That might work for a while but eventually it will come loose.

Crimping is straightforward, and soldering guides can be found elsewhere online. Regardless of the method you choose, at the end you'll have a harness that looks something like this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0007.jpg

I made the harness a couple weeks before I even had the car. Once I had the car and a free afternoon, it was time to begin the install! Apologies first, as the rest of these pictures are “crappy cell phone pics”. Also, I did this several weeks ago, and I may have forgotten something since then. But here’s a reconstruction of the process, to the best of my memory.

With the Ciera, you start by removing the two air vents at the ends of the middle dash panel. I pried from the sides with a flat bladed screwdriver wrapped in tape, and both came out without issue. Behind each one of these panels are 7mm hex screws, which need to be removed:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00051.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00052.jpg

There were two other screws on either side of the ashtray which I had to remove as well:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00057.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00056.jpg

And a final screw found above the steering column, behind a rubbery trim ring that just kind of pulls off:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00053.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00054.jpg

With those removed, the long dash panel holding the vents in place should just pull right off. Once removed, you’ll find the bottom set of screws to the upper panel that actually goes around the radio and instrument cluster. These screws are a little more obvious than the ones for the lower vent panel, but here are pictures regardless:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00060.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00061.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00063.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00066.jpg

Additionally, there appeared to be another screw location here, but mine was missing, and judging from the appearance of the screw hole, it never had one:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00067.jpg

Now for the upper screws, which are obvious:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00062.jpg

As with the lower panel, it should now be easy to pull right off, revealing the stock stereo and mounting brackets:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00068.jpg

Remove the four bolts, and slide the stereo out of the dash, being careful with the wires, especially the antenna cable as it is kind of short:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00069.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00071.jpg
(The two wires at the back are unrelated, and are part of the headlight system.)

The back panel of the stock stereo. It has a few more pins than the aftermarket harness adapter, leading me to believe that the extra pins are for steering wheel control on the models that had it:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00070.jpg

At this point I went back inside the house and put together the dash kit. I’d measured the depth of the radio cavity and concluded that the flat panel from the kit would indeed work. You’ll need the metal sleeve that came with the aftermarket stereo, which can be a problem if you bought the stereo used or are moving it from another car that didn’t use it, as I was. Thankfully, I hadn’t thrown mine away.

I didn’t take any pictures of this step as my crappy cell phone camera wasn’t focusing on the detail anyway, but the sleeve should slide right into the rectangular opening from the front, and once it is in place you simply bend the appropriate tabs in order to lock it in place.

You’ll also have to remove the metal brackets from the top and bottom of the original stereo, as they will be used on the mounting kit. Once finished:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00073.jpg

I went back outside, connected the cables, and made a test fit to make sure the stereo fit okay and wasn’t upside down:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00076.jpg
(In my case, it was, and I had to flip it. lol.)

At this point, reassembly would begin, but the Kenwood has a back mounted USB port on a cable that needs to be routed somewhere. It’s easier to drop it through the dash and just let it dangle, or run it to the ashtray, but I wanted it in the glove box. This was actually the most tedious part, since I was having trouble fishing for the USB cable and ended up having to remove the glove box liner and pull it through from the back. The liner was held in place by no less than 9000 7mm screws. I kid, but seriously it took longer than anything else, only because I was missing some tools (thanks dad) and had to remove the top screws by holding a 7mm socket with vise grips. Talk about annoying. I did this again a few weeks later when I installed the junkyard trunk release switch, and with the right tools I did it in 1/10th the time. Anyway, I ran the USB cable through the hole next to the fuse box that the light shines through.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00075.jpg

With that done, it was time to check for function. It powered up fine, radio worked, dimmed with the headlights, and all speakers worked, so back together it went, in reverse order of course.

The final product:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00079.jpg

I’ll admit the stock stereo looks a lot better, but the Kenwood definitely has the edge when it comes to sound quality and features. Unfortunately, it also showed the limitations of the tired old stock speakers, which I upgraded a few weeks later.

Normally, I’d make a post detailing the speaker install, but the thing with the Ciera (and perhaps all the A-bodies) is that the speakers are so easy to replace that there isn’t any point. In the rear, they’re held in place with metal brackets, and in the front you just pull the panels off with your hands and remove two screws each. Replacement terminals or adapters are needed of course, but that’s the only issue, aside from possibly having to modify the rear brackets a bit to fit your new speakers. That’s it, no complicated dash/door panel removal or pulling apart the entire backseat and package shelf. What a relief! Regardless, here are two pictures I took of the front:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00170.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/IMG00171.jpg

I also installed my old amp and sub, but I didn’t take any pictures of that I’m afraid. Anyway, I hope this thread and pictures help anyone looking to switch out their Ciera stereo. :)

CamoDeafie
08-05-2010, 03:42 AM
nice. theo nly complicated speaker install for the A-cars would be the wagons. and only the wagons' rears. (they're in the gate lol)

mechanizeddeath
08-05-2010, 05:12 AM
Still, I doubt it's as hard as the rears in some other sedans. On my Camry I had to remove the entire back seat, several trim pieces, the rear shelf, the CHML housing, and then had to drill 8 holes in the metal because Toyota uses the "satanic triangle" for a stock speaker mount. It's a nightmare to deal with. I think I worked on it for an hour and with interiors I tend to be pretty fast. At the end I wanted to beat up a Toyota engineer.

It was so much work that when the car died, I didn't even bother taking them back out, I just left them.

Doug B.
08-05-2010, 12:46 PM
Great write up, Im probably going to follow your lead on the metro kit if I decide to upgrade my head unit, I like as flush a mount as I can get , too. I have had thoughts of doing an amp, and an ipod interface, and leave the stock radio in the dash due to the theft deterrent aspect, but I like a good sounding stereo in a car so I do not know for sure what I am going to do.

One thing I'll add is that crutchfield (and possibly others) offer rear speaker brackets that are made to accept speakers with larger magnets, I havent tried them yet, but I always drilled holes and mounted GM speakers with bolts in the past, as those brackets weren't even close to going around my speakers. If you modified yours I'd be interested in seeing what you did there to make them fit.

SilentWing
08-05-2010, 03:45 PM
Nice work on the writeup. I've had an aftermarket radio in mine for a couple of years now, but it's pretty crappy to say the least (ebay's finest) so I'm going to swap it out for a different aftermarket at some point. The reason I went aftermarket was because I needed something that could handle both of my amps (one for my sub, another runs 6 speakers... I have the stock 4 and then we put one in each front door) plus I needed the aux input. With that being said if you have the stock bench seats the door speakers rub, which annoyed me to no end. With the Camaro seats in now though it's fine. I like crisp clear sound and clean bass (well as clean as you can get with the music I listen to lol) which is why I need to get a better aftermarket radio, the one I got has craptacular radio reception. I like how you fit the faceplate in too.

mechanizeddeath
08-05-2010, 06:24 PM
Thanks guys!

Regarding the rear brackets, for starters I bent the four "tabs" at the bottom of the brackets until they were flat. The speakers were just a little bit too tall at this point, I could barely get the wire hook into the slot, so I chose to use zip ties around the wire hook and slot. Pull them tight and it won't budge. Michigan roads are legendary for how bad they are, especially around Detroit, but even on the west side of the state our roads can be worse than a 3rd world country. If mine haven't vibrated loose by this point, I'd say they're good. :D

Larger speakers do exist though, and in that case I'd probably have to either drop them in from the top or modify the bracket further. I suppose using zip ties on the other side (with the two tabs) would work also, but mine were just the right size that I was able to use the tabs and slots on one side while using zip ties on the other.

I didn't bother with an amp for the other speakers, just my sub. The Kenwood does a decent enough job with those tiny fronts and rear 6x9s, so I decided not to worry about it. In fact, with those tiny fronts providing the highs, the rears with the mids, and the sub obviously providing the lows, it's probably the best sounding car I've ever owned. I'm sure the factory sound deadening helps too, my Subies hardly had any of that. Most of my other cars had 6.5" speakers all around and it seemed to have a more muffled sound, I think "muddy" is the term the audiophile nuts like to use.

When it comes time to replace your eBay treasure, I'd suggest looking at Kenwood, Alpine, Pioneer or Clarion. Those are the brands I've had the best luck with over the years. It's too bad our cars aren't double DIN, because Clarion makes a couple double DIN units that look factory but provide all the aftermarket features we want.

http://www.clarion.com/us/en/MungoBlobs/24/539/CX609-US_01.jpg

Imagine those blue lights switched to your dash light color instead, and you can see what I mean.

mechanizeddeath
08-25-2010, 03:12 AM
A good friend of mine is moving to Boston soon, and she needed a bit of help with packing and also fixing her computer. As a reward, I got some "junk" she didn't want. A Kenwood amp with two 10" Pioneer subs that came with one of her old cars. Also an old HP PC that I sold her years ago when I sold computers. More of a sentimental thing, that is.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0031.jpg

But the amp and subs I can really use. My existing amp and sub are almost as old as my Ciera, and while the amp is alright the subwoofer is starting to show wear and tear. A replacement was in order anyway, and with as poor as I am it was a very nice gift indeed! :D

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0032.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0033.jpg

Before I did a ton of work for nothing, I hooked the amp up to my existing wires, just to make sure it wasn't DOA as it has been sitting in her basement for several years. Anyway, I was good to go!

My original plan was to disconnect the power cables from my current amp, tape them to the bigger ones that came with this one, and pull them through. Easy and fast, right? Unfortunately, I ran into a few snags, literally.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0046.jpg
(This didn't work.) lol...

After pulling the interior trim and running the power cable along the side, I came to the realization that I was going to come up short. The vehicle this had originally been installed in was a Mercury Tracer, much smaller than an A-body, and it was obvious that whoever installed it didn't leave much extra wire. Certainly not enough for a vehicle as long as a Ciera.

This caused some issues with my other plan, which was to clean up the wiring job I'd done when I got the Ciera a few months ago. I wasn't able to find either an unused rubber plug in the firewall, or a spot that looked safe enough to drill a new hole. (Suggestions?) So I ended up doing something I hate: I ran the wire under the fender and through the door. :( I can't stress enough how much I hate doing this.

Well, I'd hoped to rectify this issue and run the new wire properly, but with as short as the power cables were I didn't have a whole lot of length to work with. Doing rough measurements, the fender-door route was the most direct and would give me *just* enough cable.

During this phase, picture taking stopped out of frustration. But here's what I took after:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0051.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0049.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0050.jpg

You can see just how tight the cable is. I could almost pluck it and play a tune. :p I even flipped the terminal around to get that extra half inch of length. In order to get it to fit at all, I had to connect everything to the amp, then push it forward and pull the cables tight. So if I ever need to remove it, I'm going to have to disconnect the cables from the battery and ground point before pulling the box out.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0053.jpg

Here's the offending fender-door cable path. Again, I hate this, but I didn't have much choice with as short as the power cable was. I'm eventually going to buy some replacement power cables with more length, and when I do that I'm open to suggestions on where I can run the new cable.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0048.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v241/mechanizeddeath/Ciera%20Stereo/DSCI0047.jpg

And here's the final result! I ended up removing the covers as I felt they looked lame and were cracked anyway. It's hard to tell from pictures, I actually gained a bit more usable trunk space, as my old single 12" box was too tall and couldn't be pushed back all the way, so it just sort of sat in the middle. This one fits right under the speaker brackets and can be pushed all the way back, so despite being larger overall I can actually fit stuff in my trunk again. :)

SilentWing
08-25-2010, 12:58 PM
If you get a chance to rewire it at any point you might want to take the wire and put it though the firewall into the engine bay either by where the hood cable goes out or where the shifter cable goes out, and they make rubber gromets to seal it up in there so it doesn't get pinched and blow your fuse or worse. I was talking to Don about that same setup about a year ago, mine is routed through the middle of the rubber gromet so it doesn't have a chance to rub on anything, but I'll probably still switch it over to be routed through the firewall at some point... that's a nice setup, lucky you to get it for free. I've got a Kicker 10" sub and Boss amp, it's pretty nice. Nice job with the writeup too :)

occupant
08-25-2010, 01:12 PM
That is a VERY clean install IMO. Much better than the power cables running through door jambs and hanging below the dash. And I like that Metra kit with the flat plate. Every GM car I see with a DIN size radio has this silly bulge. Some are worse than others, mine has about a 3/4 inch thick bezel (and the stupid black trim plate won't stay on to cover the edges):

http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/4/502/4129/38754564051_large.jpg

I'm very tempted to get a better Sony stereo to throw in. There is an XR-CA350X in there now. In theory, I should be able to use any other XR series head unit without changing the wiring up. Sadly, I think that limits me to cassette players. I'm not sure any of Sony's CD stereos have the same white plug. I'd like to get a CD stereo in there, maybe one of the later CDX-GTxxx models.

mechanizeddeath
08-25-2010, 04:53 PM
If you get a chance to rewire it at any point you might want to take the wire and put it though the firewall into the engine bay either by where the hood cable goes out or where the shifter cable goes out, and they make rubber gromets to seal it up in there so it doesn't get pinched and blow your fuse or worse. I was talking to Don about that same setup about a year ago, mine is routed through the middle of the rubber gromet so it doesn't have a chance to rub on anything, but I'll probably still switch it over to be routed through the firewall at some point... that's a nice setup, lucky you to get it for free. I've got a Kicker 10" sub and Boss amp, it's pretty nice. Nice job with the writeup too :)

Thanks, always glad to help. And yes as soon as I get some money for some cabling (yes I am that broke!) I plan to replace it. It usually takes months, or even years for the insulation to wear out on the fender-door route, so I have a while before that fuse blows. And with this being Monster brand cable it has too much insulation anyway, so I have even longer. I should have just waited so I didn't have to do the job again, but by the time I realized the cable was going to be either too short or just long enough, I was almost done so I just decided to finish it.

So you're saying there's a spot next to the hood cable and shifter cable? (Where is the shifter cable anyway?) I looked around for a while and didn't see anything. Nearly every car I've owned had at least one visible, unused plug for optional equipment. My Legacies had several, I used the spot where the clutch goes and where I think the boost gauge wiring goes for the twin turbo.

mechanizeddeath
08-25-2010, 05:02 PM
That is a VERY clean install IMO. Much better than the power cables running through door jambs and hanging below the dash. And I like that Metra kit with the flat plate. Every GM car I see with a DIN size radio has this silly bulge. Some are worse than others, mine has about a 3/4 inch thick bezel (and the stupid black trim plate won't stay on to cover the edges):

I'm very tempted to get a better Sony stereo to throw in. There is an XR-CA350X in there now. In theory, I should be able to use any other XR series head unit without changing the wiring up. Sadly, I think that limits me to cassette players. I'm not sure any of Sony's CD stereos have the same white plug. I'd like to get a CD stereo in there, maybe one of the later CDX-GTxxx models.

The silly bulge is due to most people using the Scosche kits, as they are carried at Wal-Mart and similar stores. I'm pretty sure the bulge is there to clear shallow dash openings in some cars, but the Ciera has plenty of room back there. The bulge also allows units with a fold out screen to clear various obstacles, in this case the rather large overhang of the dash top. Since I had neither issue, the flat mount worked and looked a lot better. :)

Regarding your Sony, how old is it? If it is newer it may very well share the same plug as all of their current stuff. If not, making a new harness is a simple process.

white89euro
08-25-2010, 11:55 PM
Wow! Incredible job detailing the installation process. This is really going to help other Ciera owners. Nice job!
George

CamoDeafie
08-26-2010, 12:08 AM
the grommet/holle is way up in the firewall, if youve a column shifted car, then the hole is above and to the Left of the steering column, bout 6 inches away, its rather hidden, and from the engine bay, its behind the driver side strut tower, and under a couple relays. if your car has a floor shifter option (no reason why it wouldnt...tho for 1993 buckets/console were no longer options), there should be a hole somewhere for the floor shifter cable to go to...im not sure where though, i've never actually looked for a floor shifter cable hole lol. but i think its possibly the same hole >.>

mechanizeddeath
08-26-2010, 04:40 PM
Ah, that's probably why I didn't see it then. Well I'll look again as soon as I get some more power wire.

CamoDeafie
08-26-2010, 06:38 PM
its also hidden by the black lower trim panel.

a1veedubber
08-27-2010, 01:32 PM
Regarding your Sony, how old is it? If it is newer it may very well share the same plug as all of their current stuff. If not, making a new harness is a simple process.

I am pretty sure that Sony has used the same plug since about 1996 or so.

They share it with a bunch of other manufacturers too, although the wires are not always in the same locations!

My celebrity required the large 'bulge' due to the rear stereo mount for the factory stereo. Once I removed it, there was much more room.

mechanizeddeath
08-27-2010, 04:38 PM
I am pretty sure that Sony has used the same plug since about 1996 or so.

They share it with a bunch of other manufacturers too, although the wires are not always in the same locations!

My celebrity required the large 'bulge' due to the rear stereo mount for the factory stereo. Once I removed it, there was much more room.

Regarding the connector, that's kind of what I thought. I've owned Kenwood exclusively since about 2000, and the connector has stayed the same for those. When my dad's stereo (JVC I think) finally bit the dust, I went to swap the harness around so he could have one of my retired Kenwoods, only to discover the connector and even pinout were the same. That was a nice surprise, let me tell you. I don't mind a little soldering or crimping, but I also don't mind a job that gets easier. :)

dieselman32
01-15-2014, 04:42 PM
I installed a Sony and some pioneers. It went pretty good sound is great too. Any one have some good suggestions about some good but cheap amps and Subs.

vlpronj
10-18-2017, 12:05 PM
I know this is an ancient thread, but it was mentioned that it would be nice if the A-bodies were double-din, since there are some stereos that would look "stock" - i.e., period-correct?

I was wondering if anyone had tried this stereo... the RetroSound Newport 1.5 DIN (https://www.google.com/search?q=RetroSound+Newport)

I'm pretty sure you could put a tiny AC-Delco logo on there and most people would never notice it's an aftermarket. I'd just want a blank plug of some kind to conceal the USB port (it has Bluetooth, too!) so it would look stock.

86euro
10-21-2017, 01:05 AM
Hmmm, that's kinda cool. It looks like they styled it a little closer to the Chrysler units.