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I modified my Nexus 7 to replace my stock radio in my Nissan Pathfinder.(r/DIY)
I have always wanted to have a “smart” radio. My parents have always owned various Pioneer, Kenwood, and Sony radio decks, but they always had their cons to them (clunky OS, different type of touch screens that suck, lack of features, very expensive $800-$2000), useless features, etc.). I wanted something that runs Android 6.0+. I thought about using iPads, but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of money for something that is going to be used in my car only. I wanted a budget friendly “smart” radio. That is when I found the perfect tablet, the Nexus 7 2013. Cheap, powerful, Android 6, compact, somewhat thin and small, and best part, it fits in a double-din radio deck.
After finding various projects that people have used, I decided to order a bunch of stuff from Amazon (everything was bought with Prime) and see if I could get this to work. It took about 3 weeks to work out all the bugs, but it runs perfect now. I never found anyone that did this mod in a Nissan Pathfinder, so that was difficult going on my own, reading various wiring diagrams and getting power, sound and steering wheel controls to work. After lots of testing each wire, and lots of trial and errors, everything is working how I want it too.
Questions that people have asked me that I can remember on the top of my head:
Q: How do you turn the tablet on and off if the power button is blocked?
A: Easy, with Timur’s Kernel, and the USB car charger hooked up to the accessory power, when I turn my key on/start my car, the tablet detects power from the USB, which wakes the screen/powers on. (ELI5: there are 2 power sources in your radio, a constant 12 volt power, and an accessory key power. So when you turn the key to ACC or ON, it gives power to the tablet, but when you turn the key off, it takes away power from the USB port.)
Q: How does it hold up in the wonderful California heat?
A: Shockingly very well. It hasn’t given me any issues in ~95F (+35C) degree weather. There was a day where it was 115F (46C) degrees outside, and that is when the tablet finally said NOPE and started locking up and freezing due to the ridiculous heat. After running my AC for a few minutes, it cooled the tablet down to reasonable temperature and ran normally again. When my car is parked, I have a windshield sun shade that helps a ton with keeping the sun off my black/gray dash, and/or microfiber towels over the screen to keep the sun off. If it’s super hot, I just take the tablet/radio/air conditioner part out of my car and bring it inside (not that hard to remove).
Q: How do you control the volume?
A: With the JoyCon EXC, it translates either CAN, IBUS, resistive, or digital steering wheel control signals, to USB keyboard signals that the tablet can see. I have the Joycon setup to have Volume UP/DOWN, Screen ON/OFF, PAUSE/PLAY, and PREVIOUS/NEXT. Click here for more information.
Q: How do you listen to the radio/music?
A: Spotify Premium. While I can spend ~$10 on a radio antenna to USB to listen to over-the-air radio stations, I never listen to the radio. When I had my old stock radio, I never listened to the radio part. I always used my 3.5mm jack to plug in my phone for Spotify. Great perk about being a broke college student is getting 50% off Spotify Premium.
Q: Can you/do you watch TV or movies on it while you drive?
A: I can, but I don’t. Pay attention to the freakin’ road.
Q: How do you get internet on it since it’s a WiFi version?
A: I use my Bluetooth hotspot on my phone to get internet for Waze, Google Maps, etc. I can also use the WiFi hotspot, but that uses more power. I can drive from California to Idaho running Waze the whole way and it uses about ~300MB of data.
Q: Can you make phone calls with it?
A: This has been something I have been trying, but have not had success with yet. I use an app called [TabletTalk] (play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.apdroid….), but it doesn’t push the microphone/sound through the tablet. I gave up on this since I have a Samsung Gear 2 Neo smartwatch that has a microphone/speaker on it. Some day I will explore with this more.
Q: How do you power your speakers if you removed the radio?
A: I lucked out big time with this issue because my Nissan Pathfinder has the Bose System built in. That means that there’s an amplifier already installed that powers the speakers. So the tablet sends the sound to the Behringer UCA202 DAC, that then converts to a 3.5mm headphone jack that then splits into the Left Front/Rear, Right Front/Rear, and dual subwoofer channels that go to the car wiring harness that then goes to the amp. This saves me hundreds of dollars. For vehicles without a stock amplifier that rely on the radio for power, that is when you will need to buy an amplifier to power the speakers. My 12 inch subwoofer also plugs into the DAC and works perfectly.
Q: I see the reverse camera, how did you get that to work with the tablet? How does the tablet know when you are in reverse?
A: There were 2 ways to get this to work, one way is by video detection, or the other way is by the JoyCon EXC. I chose to do the video detection way because it was simpler and waiting about one second for the app to open was fine with me. I use an app called EasyCap viewer.
Q: Why is there paper over the JoyCon, EasyCap, USB charger etc.?
A: The plastic pieces over the EasyCap and USB charger were bulky/broken. The JoyCon didn’t come with a cover. Paper was the easiest/closest thing I had at the moment. If only I had a 3D printer. Someday..
Q: Why is the mic in the vent and not somewhere else? Doesn’t the wind from the HVAC cause problems?
A: It was a last-second add-on and just put it in there without having to rewire the harness. I also didn’t know where to move it that made it look “stock”. I’ve gotten some great opinions on where to move it! Thanks for those!
I’ll add more common questions here when I think of them.
Breakdown of Parts:
Price | Part —|— $100 | Nexus 7 2013 32GB WiFi (flo) (bought from /r/hardwareswap) $5 | Nissan Radio Wiring Harness $6 | AmazonBasics 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub $20 | Esky EC135-05 Rearview Camera $95 | JoyCon EXC $7 | Tendak OTG USB cable $30 | Behringer UCA202 $7 | VideoSecu Amplified CCTV Microphone $25 | Timur’s Kernel v4.0 for Nexus 7 2013 $10 | Maxboost Car Charger Free/Other/Already owned | EasyCap USB Video Capture Card, RCA cables, 3.5mm audio cables, USB cables, 12-16 AWG wire, grinder, zipties, paper, hotglue, other random stuff. TOTAL COST | ~$305
TL;DR: Modified my Android tablet to work as a replacement for my radio. Worth it? YES. Best Radio Ever.
Have Questions? Ask away. Since I had to learn most this crap on my own, I can share my experience with others and give pointers in the right direction.
EDIT #1: Formatting.
EDIT #2: RIP my inbox. I would never have guessed this would get this popular. I’m just speechless. Wow. Thanks everyone! Trying my best to reply to everyone! Also added another question to this.