Putting a new stereo in a BA/BF Falcon is expensive and tedious. Let me tell you why.
So Ford, in BA/BF Falcons, and the same era Territories, integrated a bunch of stuff into the stereo (I believe the term these days is "Head Unit" but I'm going to call it a stereo). The fan, aircon control, heater, radio - are all built into the LCD display on the centre console. Look it's a nice console, quite well done, but it is showing its age. No bluetooth. No maps. No reverse camera. There is an AUX socket which you can wire in yourself, I did quite a while ago, and then you can plug your phone with a 3.5mm jack to at least play music. But these even phones don't come with 3.5mm jacks!
And it's not just the climate control, the security brains are behind there too, all wired in. So if you were thinking you could pop out the old stereo and jury-rig a double din stereo in there, you can't. But wait! A company called Aerpro a few years ago made a complete replacement console facia that allows you to mount a double din stereo in, with all the cabling and stuff you need. It ain't cheap, I managed to get one on special for (AUD2023)$460.
Then you buy the stereo itself - you can pay a lot for a Pioneer, Clarion, Kenwood...or you can get something with twice the power for half the price from China. I took a punt and grabbed a Joying Android 7" Double Din. I knew that the Aerpro came with standard cables and that you could buy additional cables for specific models of stereo, but not for no-name Chinese brands. I would see how it went when it arrived.
So for just under $1000 and all of it in my hands, I began.
Look, the instructions (Model FP970) were great, and I'm not the first person to do this, there are videos on youtube and articles about it, so I'm just going to give a few notes about the difficulties I had.
- At the very top of the console you have to take off a panel. The instructions warn that is it very brittle. The clips are very strong. Mine
smashed to bits as I took it off. Don't worry too much, you can get a new one delivered from eBay (AUD2023)$19. There are two colours, mine was
"Titanium". I know, because it is stamped on the back of the factory one.
Here is a picture which may help you, put all your force on your spudgers on the back towards either side where the yellow clips are. It will pop up and the six "teeth" that locate it at the front will pull out backwards. Hopefully if you get your spudger close enough to where the clips are you won't smash it! I spudged starting in the middle - bad idea.
- Underneath the "tissue" box is where there are FOUR! cables that interface from the factory console/stereo to the rest of the car. It's kinda cool how you unscrew that and move it over to the Aero. But the first time you unplug them, you will probably get frustrated. You can't really see the cables, so you do it by feel, each one has a squeezy tab on it, squeeze that and wiggle the cable out. They are all stiff. And the squeezy tab is a different style on them all, different sides too. Relax, feel around, squeeze, wiggle. You will need to take them in and out a lot of times - because every time you want to test something, you have to plug them all back in. The car won't even start if they aren't plugged in. Don't worry about disconnecting the battery when you do this, disconnecting them live doesn't break anything.
- You can get a bit more slack from the factory aerial cable - you will probably need it. Follow the cable back into the dash and pull a bit more out.
- The Joying stereo might be double din, but the hole in the Aerpro was too small to fit it. So out came the file. I had to file about 4mm from all four sides of the facia to make it fit. Don't stress about it, nobody will ever know.
- The Joying actually came with two sets of cables, and I found one was just what I needed. Yah! It seems that the speakers/power side of things is a standard connector for all stereos these days. The other cables are labelled, you will be able to work it out. There was one single wire ground that I left unconnected (shirley there are enough grounds elsewhere in the loom!?) and one earth on the reverse camera I also left unconnected. No problem.
- Speaking of reverse camera, the Aeropro "hijacks" the reverse camera function of the stereo to show the aircon/fan/etc. So when you plug the Aerpro reverse camera output and the reverse signal cable into the stereo, when you then press "fan faster"/etc the stereo shows a picture of what you have done. Look, this is pretty clever, but personally I would have been happy with LEDs on the buttons. The Aerpro must have half a computer built into it - no wonder they are expensive.
- Further speaking of the reverse camera, when you run the cable, just take your time. Start at the back, I drilled the camera into the plastic trim above the middle of the number plate, between the plate lights. There are 4 nuts that hold it in place. Cut a slot in the rubber grommit and pull the cable through. Use a snake, bits of fencing wire, whatever you have, and pull the RCA cable through to the front. I went down the drivers side, it was tedious but quite doable. Would have been easier if there wasn't a pesky RCA cable on the end...
- Since the reverse camera needs power, but only when you are reversing, I connected the power feed up to the drivers side reverse light. It is the factory red wire with black trace and any black wire for ground. The Aerpro is already sending a reverse signal to the stereo - one that it makes up based on you playing with the air con, and one from the CAN bus when you selected the reverse gear. So you could have the reverse camera powered up all the time...or do what I did.
- Still on the reverse camera (can you tell that this was the hardest part?) there are a few settings. In the Aerpro you need to hold down the menu button for a few seconds, and then press the fan+ and fan- button at the same time, then you get a secret menu. Enable the camera in there. I bought a fancy AHD camera, so I had to dive into the Joying "Factory" settings (passcode = 3368) and tell it I had the AHD camera. Once that was done, both the Aerpro menu/screen still worked, and the reverse camera did too. Nice.
- There is a fascinating factory plug that the stereo connects to, it lines up and recessed itself at the same time. The Aerpro has a cable that connects to it instead. I found that connector was really close to the back of the stereo, so I broke off the four locking pins on the dash side so the connector could go even further back. This worked well to stop the stereo from squishing up on the cables.
- The steering wheel controls come through the key1/key2 wires. It's super easy - you run the "controls" app on the stereo, and then press a steering wheel button, and map it to what you want it to do. There is some clever CAN bus stuff going on in the background here!
- The Joying happily bluetooths and does phone calls/etc, but doesn't seem to be able to share internet over the bluetooth connection. I suspect this is a limitation of the android version/hack it runs. But if you hotspot your phone, it will automatically connect and then it the stereo operates just like it was a tablet. I quite like the way it works when you do that.
- I ordered an ODBC interface when I ordered the Joying, it ended up being an ELM327. Ha, I already have a few of them, they work well but they are slow, I was hoping for something fancier. I plugged it in, connected the bluetooth, and installed Torque, all worked fine.
You will probably break the factory one. Note I put the GPS antenna underneath when I reinstalled it.
So there you go! A least a day of effort, mostly because I didn't know what I was doing, and it's (AUD2023)$1000 worth of parts. So while I'm not sure if this is an important upgrade for a 17 year old car, it sure is nice to have my podcasts at my fingertips WITHOUT touching my mobile phone! The Joying is a good unit, pretty powerful, it will do Android Auto/Apple Carplay but I think it is some sort of hack version, I prefer to use it "as a tablet".
One other feature I wasn't expecting - the amp in it is great. I didn't change the car speakers, but wow they sound heaps better through the new stereo!