Saturday, June 18, 2011

2005 Subaru Outback AUX-IN Hack Via Radio Module

Single CD (no 6CD changer) Manual Climate Control
MODEL NO. 86201AG64A
Manufactured June 2004 by Matsushita in Japan

I believe that the 2005 and 2006 Legacy and Outback had the same stereo, so this mod should work for them as well. 

I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time on the road for an upcoming vacation and wanted to be able to plug in my own audio without spending a lot of money on a replacement faceplate and new head unit. The CD player had previously stopped reading/ejecting discs so if I could not do this mod I would be be listening to static filled radio the entire trip... *horror*

If you have a functioning CD player and don't want to solder anything I would recommend the JazzyMT mod which you plug in to the ribbon that connects the CD player to the mainboard. A CD that plays silence is needed for the JazzyMT aux input board.

If you don't mind soldering small things on a circuit board, don't want to spend much and would rather not have a CD spinning when you listen to your iPod, read on!

First remove the radio!
I found this youtube video very helpful when removing the radio: I first had to remove the chrome trim around the automatic transmission stick using a screwdriver with some tape on the end (to prevent scratching) which is not shown in the video.
Back of the stereo, I mainly took these pictures so that I'd be able to see how it all went back together!
Model No. and other information.
Removing more screws

Front faceplate removed showing control/display circuit board.
More screws removed and CD ribbon disconnected and we can finally see the main circuit board.

I was inspired by a great post by Jordan found via Hack-a-Day about doing this to an older '04 Subaru stereo, it helped me locate the radio module and begin searching for the audio interface.

To find the Left and Right interface I hooked the mainboard and faceplate back up in the car and turned the radio on. A Zune was playing audio and hooked up to a couple wires via the 3.5mm interface below. I held the ground wire to the casing and touched each leg of the radio module with the audio out wire until I heard sweet crystal clear audio from the Zune coming out of the car speakers... well it was still mixed with the FM signal, but we'll fix that soon!

As you can see in the the above picture, I've used a sharpie on the two legs that output audio from the radio module to the mainboard, Red for Right and Blue for Left.

Underside of the mainboard at the radio module area. I did not see a good way to patch in here.

3.5mm interface

Edit: Apparently the Radioshack link does not work, here is a similar product from Digikey:

A good search to find it in other places is: "3.5mm switched jack stereo audio 5 contacts"

There are only 3 wires shown in this picture, but there will be 5 when it is finally installed.
Diagram of which audio wires connect to where.

The Left and Right radio output legs were carefully clipped and bent outwards.

Be extremely gentle and use a low heat solder to attach these two wires. I felt one of the legs loosen from the radio module when I was applying heat to it and I have no idea how hard it would be to reattach if it detached completely.

Important: It is not shown here, but I also soldered the ground wire to that blob of solder on top of the radio module.
The Aux input wires are soldered to the underside of the mainboard. I placed some electrical tape over the nearby capacitors and used hot glue to hold the wires in place.
The stereo re-assembled and ready for final soldering to connect 3.5mm jack. I marked the wires from the radio module with sharpie so I would be able to tell them apart. (I only had 3 colors of wire!) Also, may I draw your attention to the can tab which I used as a washer to hold the wires in place as they exit the main assembly :)
Everything ready to be put into the Subaru!
I hand drilled a hole for the 3.5mm jack into the back of the cubby above the stereo and quickly found out that the plastic there was just a bit too thick to fasten the jack. I had to use a 1/2" spade drill bit to carve out a circle of plastic from the front. I could have taken the entire cubby out and thinned it from the back if I wanted it to be a bit cleaner look.
Update: I recommend choosing a different location to put the plug, it is fairly tedious to insert the jack into the back of such a small compartment!

Everything works great! To use the Aux-In I just switch on the radio to FM. When the plug is inserted to the 3.5mm jack the radio audio cuts out and the audio from my device is played through the speakers instead.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage that arises from people attempting to replicate this hack, there are many things that could go wrong and I have not described every single step in detail. It is up to you to decide if you have the expertise to undertake this project.

Thanks to for having a ton of info available while I was researching this project.

Cheers and good luck!!

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