The joy of fitting a car radio

DISCLAIMER. Attempting any modifications to these types of vehicles is though with danger. Every part of the car is part of one system. Servicing of your car may be refused because you tampered with it. Yes thats how nasty the dealers can get. Things can go wrong so don’t blame me.

When I purchased my Touareg in 2014 I was quite happy with the card radio sound system as it was. The dash board was like an aircraft with lots of buttons to play with. It had a great AM/ FM radio receiver with dual diversity switch antenna in both side windows. and CD player and CD stacker in the back. So I had plenty of music.

As time marched on I upgraded the CD stacker to a Sony unit, this was able to play MP3’s, we’re talking now about 1000’s of songs. A FM radio to blue tooth car adapter to hook up the phone. This had issues, you always found a FM station would break through when travelling.

All the new cars had maps and reversing camera’s. I was reluctant to change the car from stock. The radio receiver was sold good

Upgrading choice?

Well there are the name brands but many don’t look factory and lack any knobs.

I want Android for the ham radio features I would like to try. Also I got then flexibility to uses what ever mapping I fancied.

Biggest hurdle

These euro cars are not just a simple beast. Just taking the Head unit out will flag errors in diagnostic reports. The car radio is part of the cars CAN network. The instrument cluster MFD has radio control, this feature will stop working. The original head unit unit monitors each speaker to see if its open or short circuit etc. The head unit controls the antenna amplifier switcher in the rear of the car.

So thats still nothing, there is no accessories dc circuit that switches off with the ignition key. So there’s not way to switch the radio off once plugged in.

So its a brave step forward!!

Can Bus decoder box

This box is need in a European car.

The car system are connected via a CAN BUS system. This allows every device in the vehicle to be commanded with two wires. Saves wiring and allows options easily changed. The head unit belongs with the purple blocks.

The CAN BOX job is to listen and decodes stuff like

  • Acc power on (+12)
  • Lights on
  • Reverse
  • Volume up and down

With the above there are can bus software version variations too. My first head unit would only switch on when the engine was running. Is should come on with just the key in. the second head unit can box decoder did this 🙂

So software version matters.

Antenna issue, I needed an antenna adapter with power wire to the head unit. The original head unit has two connectors Fakra. The White is for the AM/FM antenna and the second is for the FM antenna 2. With out the control the white antenna is switched in. This is the simple way to do it.

If you want the second antenna to work then modifications to the antenna switched is necessary. I was thinking of using the second antenna for DAB+ one day. The new head unit has antenna power for the adapter. The window antennas are active meaning they need 12volt to work. Radio study guide for your light reading


Now its all plugged and going you will get a whole bunch of errors when diagnosing your car. AS I said the car is expecting to see your original radio. I use VCDS tool to service my car, also work on Audi and Skoda vehicles. Cost a bit of money but it’s what to need to service and hack your VW. The radio function MFD on your dash will be lost. That is a bit of a bummer but you gain more. You can code out the original head hint to stop the errors, its feature 56. The errors will be gone :). If you never read the car you would never see the errors anyhow.

The first head unit I installed the the C300 (Android 4.4), I didn’t want to spend too much money. my logic was if its no go ill install the original one back. The biggest reason I chose this unit having a 3 day sleep mode that woke up in 3 second. After 3 days it will switch off completely to save your car battery.

The biggest hurdle was getting the original head unit out. I had the proper keys but the unit was stuck. Over many days and attempts I go the unit out, I though I was going to break it!! When I wired up the C300 to the Touareg I noticed the radio did not switch on when the key was inserted. You had to start the engine. Not happy 🙁

The CAN BUS box didn’t have the correct information to decode the key being inserted. The seller didn’t care so solutions are, put a manual ON switch or make a power timer running of the run circuit. The other idea is wire the CAN Box red wire out to a diode to the floor courtesy lights. These come on automatically when the engine is stopped and key out. They stay on for around 5 minuets, When unlocking the car they also came ON, switching on the head unit again. it was quite a cool idea at the time. Only downer of this was when the lights timed in 5min, I had to reopen the door to start the timer again. I used it like this for years.


I wanted this next.

This can be installed into Android using a dongle caller a CarLinkit.

Its quite costly all in one USB device, software APK is installed in your head unit and away you go. The software was quite buggy. they have got cheaper.

I upgraded the Carlinkit to a blue tooth version after I put a hammer through the original one. it was really unreliable with android 4.4. The new version needed no more connection the iPhone to the USB.

This is when the C300 started to give issue, it lacked ram and CPU speed. The Android system is stuck in 4.4 and the CarLinkit was struggling. Lots of apps would not run on it anymore. The head unit would often just lock up giving you a pleasure of black screen and no music.

So I upgraded to the Hipzo head unit with 2Gb of ram and a faster processor. Android 6 that ran CarLinKit way better. The best addition was the new CAN BUS decoder with updated software. Joying were not offering a Touareg unit at the time. There wasn’t much around.

The biggest bummer with this head unit had very limited quick boot time setting. Maximum sleep time was 60min. The only saving thing was even if it was still booting up, the reverse camera would still work. Thats the main issue when starting and then reversing blind. Not just putting the key in the care would turn the radio on. The unit had a brighter picture and wider viewing angle. The knobs had night lights in the too.

This head unit work flawlessly for 3 years, The carlinkkit was giving issues though, sometime dropping out or not connection. A few trip off road too many times , the touch screen stopped working intermittanttly . A few attempts to find the issue inside was never found. I could not see any physical electronic issues inside the unit. It may have even been software, who knows. I resorted to using a mouse to keep the unit going till I worked out my solution.

Maybe I needed to upgraded again.