Un-crapifying My Stereo

Hey, Internet! Long time no see!  Anyway, today I’m going to show a quick (but not necessarily dirty) hack I did on my car, literally 24 hours after purchasing it.  The glorious beast of a vehicle I purchased (From my grandparents) is a 2001 Ford Focus Wagon. The car had everything I wanted (namely getting me from point A to point B), minus one thing. It didn’t have aux in! http://i.imgur.com/0GEgv.jpg What was I going to do!? How would I survive? Who shot Mr. Burns? All of these questions were running through my head. I knew something had to be done.  After doing some research, I came upon some forum posts from people who were in the same desperate situation that I was in. I found that I had the following options:

  • Get over it (impossible)
  • Tap into the built in AUX capability of the cd player (Doesn’t exist in my car)
  • Use the weird Ford media protocol built in to the back (Beyond my abilities)
  • Trick the stereo into thinking it’s playing a cd, and inserting my own music (Bingo!)

As you can see, my only option was the fourth. I would have to hack into the CD audio lines inside the stereo.  First, I had to open the stereo up. In order to remove the stereo from my car, people were saying I would need to buy some fancy stereo removal tools on Amazon. Having literally no money available, I decided to use what I had. Namely, tent pegs and coat hangers. Both worked perfectly and soon I had the stereo out. Here’s a blurry photo of the insides of the cd player section:


In the lower left, you can see the ribbon cable slot that goes from this board, which is the CD player assembly, to the rest of the stereo for amplification and stuff. Under that are the solder pads I need. Here’s a close-up:


Aha! We see ROUT, LOUT, and several GND connections. That’s our entry point. Some very careful soldering and very liberal hotgluing later, we have this:


There! Wire those to a 3.5mm jack and we’re done here, right?  Wrong. There’s just a little bit more work to be done. The stereo apparently requires a signal from the CD player, saying “Hey! I’m playing music now!” Before it accepts the audio and amplifies it. So we have to fake that information, with a fake cd.  I opened up Audacity (Everyone should have Audacity. It’s awesome.) and clicked “Generate silence.” I chose 1 hour, but I could’ve fit more on. Oh well. Burned that to a CD and voila! A silent CD!  Now all that is required is to put the CD in and play it, then play your music from your phone, iPad, or whatever. Here’s a picture of the finished product:


And a closeup of the jack:



There! Everything’s pretty, and works like a charm! Here’s a video of the thing in action:



15 thoughts on “Un-crapifying My Stereo

  1. Pingback: Un-crapifying a Car Stereo

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  3. Nice job, I did this on a 1999 Honda Odyssey years ago that had a bad CD player but I had issues with distortion when turning the volume up higher which I think was from impedance matching. I was just wondering if you have the same issue?

  4. Pingback: Un-crapifying a Car Stereo | Hack The Planet

  5. Something else you could’ve done to not have to worry about having the CD constantly spinning in the player(blank or otherwise), is find the traces to the Rout and Lout, and cut them from the CD player side, leaving the connection into the ribbon connecter to piggyback your AUX in port on. The only risk is that if the CD player is smart enough to verify the lines are actually connected to something and it disabling itself until a solution(short them through a resistor?) is attached. Not sure how much you wish to maintain use of the CD player otherwise, but you could use the switch to disable the CD player on one side, and the AUX in gets disabled on the other, basically just disconnecting the AUX in as there’s nothing “smart” on the AUX in anyways.

  6. Pingback: Hacking Aux-IN to a car's CD player - The Unsuspecting Bit

  7. Nice hack! I, too, owned a 2001 Ford Focus Wagon, and eventually replaced the stereo. I kept the original even after getting rid of the car, and now it’s sitting on a shelf in my garage.

    Should you ever want a second FoFo radio (so you can attempt multi-day hacks without having to live with a silent car), let me know!

  8. hi, i’m trying to do the same as you but on a vw cd player, and i’m having some problems figuring out where to solder the leads. There’s a “rch” and “lcha” marked, that i assume is the right and left channel but i cant seem to find the ground.
    Can you take a look at a picture i’ve taken from the board?

  9. Dude 13 year old car i just did this thanks car is tranpo only no glame or ect but will be racking up hours in it. Just could not see spending cash on a radiojust to be stolen. Thanks again

  10. This was really useful! I just performed this on my 2000 Focus. It had a slightly different CD player in the guts of the stock stereo, but L and R were still clearly marked. There was no obvious ground marked near the ribbon, so I just tied to one of the large ground pads elsewhere on the board, and it worked fine. Also, thanks for the tip on Audacity.

    • Man, my 2007 Jeep Liberty has a cd-player bun didn’t find near ribbon nothing about left or right marked . How could I identify them?

  11. your trick was a life saver and very informative. i jut got my aux ready with silent cd in just 2 hours, thank you very much,

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