Tacoma Radio/climate control swap:
Finally got to writing this post. A couple months ago I posted some photos of the project I did but have been too busy with work and school. Here it is, this is my first forum post, if you have any recommendations that could make the post better let me know.
I had the idea for this project a couple years ago when I wanted to upgrade my radio. I wanted to get a touch screen in my truck, but I did not like the placement of the stock radio, its too low. I thought it looked like a good idea to swap the radio and climate controls to make the radio easier to use.
- Heat Gun
- Dremel (I got the cheapest one at harbor freight and it did the job but I need to upgrade)
- JB weld
- Epoxy putty
- Sand Paper
- SEM trim paint
- Double din installation kit
The part that I refer to as the new radio face is a double din dash installation kit. Similar to this one
I had this idea years ago and started searching to see if anyone had done is and the only thing I could find was @sxwatson Ipad installation. I like this but I wanted the ability to use apple car play to connect through my phone.
I started by test fitting the new radio face with the front of the top bezel and marking where the lip of the face contacted the bezel. For the screen to fit I needed to cut out the climate control mounts and cross bar at the top of the existing radio. The sides of the existing radio face will sit behind the new radio face when installed so will not interfere. I ended up using them as support for the radio face.
Figure 1) Stock Tacoma Radio Bezel. Red outline shows outside of new radio face.
I cut out the climate control holder as an entire piece hoping to use it in the future.
Figure 2) Climate control Insert
Figure 3) Cutting out existing climate control insert.
After cutting out the climate control mount, I cut a slot where the top lip of the new radio face lined up with the bezel. After this I was able to put the new radio face in the bezel and measure the new climate control area (Figure 5). The new radio face has screw holes on the back that lined up well with the bezel, so I drilled holes to secure the face in place. (Figure 4)
Figure 4) Slot for lip of new face to fit in and one of the screw holes on the left
Figure 5) First mockup after cutting out climate control section
After the mockup, I decided I did not want to cut out a section of the bezel to fit the entire climate control panel because this would make it much harder to be aesthetically pleasing. I opted to just cut out the bottom, right section of the existing radio face. After some measuring I found that if I just cutout the red section, the climate control face will still show all controls.
Figure 6) Radio Bezel with climate control holder cut out, Red outline shows next location to be cut out.
Figure 7) Radio Bezel with climate control section cut out
Figure 8) Close up of cutout.
Figure 9) Face on of cutout
This cutout took some work to get right. Since this will be a visible part of the bezel I took my time to make sure the transitions are smooth
Next I made brackets, out of a coors can because that’s what I had at my disposal. These brackets were meant to help secure and stabilize the new radio face. The brackets also acted as a backing for the filler used to mate the new face to the bezel.
Fig. 10) Back of bezel showing brackets and screws
Fig. 11) Front of bezel, can see brackets
After making the brackets, I began securing the new face to the bezel. This involved putting a couple screws through the brackets, and using JB weld, a lot of JB weld. I used small spacers between the radio face and the bezel screws to keep face at slightly upward angle. This should make it easier to look at the screen while driving. After the back of the radio was secure, I used epoxy putty to fill in the side gaps. The putty doubles as a filler and additional support to secure and stabilize the new face to the bezel.
Figure 12) Back of radio
Figure 13) Epoxy Putty on sides and Jb on top
After I got this done, I noticed I had an issue beneath the radio where the climate controls will go. You can see in fig. 13, the gap on the bottom, left side between the new face and the bezel. This is from, the bezel sitting behind the new face and I used spacers to hold the face at an angle. Somehow, I lost the pictures I thought I took of how I solved this. What I did was cut out a section of plastic from a sheet and fit it in the gap. In figure 14 you can see this gap filled and the epoxy transitions on the front bottom of the new face.
Figure 14) Bottom bar in and putty for gap fill
Figure 15) Bezel sanded down and ready for primer
After getting the bar in came the sanding. It took a good amount of elbow grease to get these where I was happy. This took a long time because as I was sanding and looking for surface defects, I needed to fill in sections with putty and had to let it to dry before sanding again. Finally, I was ready to paint, the SEM trim black paint is great stuff I have used it on projects before and it is the best spray paint I have used. On the can it says, can be applied without primer but I decided to use a primer so I could work out more surface defects.
Figure 16) Primed radio bezel
Figure 17) Stock Bezel vs Primed new Bezel
Figure 18) Sanded primed bezel ready for SEM paint
Figure 19) Primed bezel test fit
Figure 20) Painted bezel with stock radio
Figure 21) Installed painted bezel with no radio
Here are some photos during the process I seemed to have not taken any pictures of the painted bezel by itself.
I did not have a radio before I started the project and planned to use the stock radio until I bought a touch screen. Before installing, I had to modify some of the interior of the truck. In figure 21 and 22, you can see the brace that separated the radio from the climate control, this must be cut out so the radio can fit.
Figure 22) Brace needed to cut out
The climate control panel just fits into its location and I needed to either cut it shorter or cut the bottom off the brace for the clip in figure 23. I opted to cut the bottom of the brace because I would like this to be fully reversible and if I cut the panel then I would need another one to be able to swap back to stock for whatever reason. I cut this support so that the clip is still functional. I also had to make a bracket to secure the climate control center. I used a piece of ½” plexiglass I had laying around and cut it to fit. I was able to utilize the bottom existing screw hole and drilled another hole on the angled portion to secure the new bracket. I drilled holes in the plexiglass to match the holes from the dash and for the climate control center to mount (figure 26). This took a lot of measuring and I was still just off on alignment but was able to make it work.
Figure 23) Bracket needs to be cut to fit climate control panel
Figure 24) Plexiglass cut to fit.
Figure 25) Mount in place
Figure 26) Drilled mount
Figure 27) Brace and notch cut out
I now have the radio bezel and the truck ready and can install the stock radio for now. I went to install the system and……. It did not fit. The clearance between the heater core tube and the radio bezel is 5.5” while the stock radio is 6.5”. So back to the stock set up until I can find a radio less than 5.5” deep. Glad I kept it reversible.
The Alpine ilx-w650 is a multimedia player (no CD player) that is only 2-13/16” deep. It also has an amp add on that still keeps the unit under 5.5”. I did not get the amp since I still have stock speakers, but when I upgrade the sound system one day I will get the amp. The radio installed easily but there was a gap on both the bottom and right side. I had some black tape foam I used and it looks good, this should also help with dampening vibrations.
Figure 28) Alpine multimedia player installed with gaps
Figure 29) Alpine radio installed with foam tape
Figure 32) Final install
Overall the project went well, I am happy with the result. A couple things that I would change, when looking at the climate control panel you can not see the A/C button or the top of the vent selection. I may some day shave down the part in the way but for now its fine and I know where everything is. A downside of this project is the limited selection of radios that will fit. If you do not mind having no CD/DVD player it should not be an issue.
Another placement I thought about was putting the screen where the vents are and moving the vents below the screen. I did not think this was possible before I started the project because I did not know a radio as thin as the iLX-W650 existed. Now that I know this, I believe it would be possible, but a new vent would need to be fabricated. I may explore this in the future with my spare bezel, I would get a new Dremel before I took this on.
Other than that I am very happy with the result and this is a huge improvement over the stock radio and location. Apple car play is a game changer, although the first day I had this installed, I got a ticket for illegal cell phone use while messing around on the radio. Court date end of next month.