Cab Upgrades / by Ray Phung

Soon after purchasing the van, we decided to take a trip up to Squamish to climb and to test out its livability.  But before we embarked on the 6 hour trek, I insisted on making some much needed upgrades to the cab.  

On the entire journey across the country, the two speakers built into the dash board were horrendous.  Any amount of bass would cause the speakers to rattle and buzz.  Also, the van's cargo area is LOUD.  The van is essentially a giant tin can, moving at very high speeds.  With the bulkhead divider removed, the road noise was even louder.  Hitting bumps on the interstate were notably terrifying.  

4" speakers in the dash, A-pillar removed.

Dash in disarray.  

First step was to gain access to the existing speakers.  To get to these, you have to remove the A-pillar, which foams the top outline of the driver and passenger doors.  They are removed by grabbing the entire pillar and pulling it towards the interior of the vehicle.  They pop right out.  I got some 4" Pioneer speakers from Amazon, and when you remove the screw tabs, the pop right into place.  And they worked - the buzz was gone and the sound quality improved dramatically.

Coping saw used to cut out the hold in the headliner.  

But lets be real - two 4" speakers on the dash are pretty lame.  So I decided to add some 6.5" ones to the headliner on each side of the cab.  To remove the headliner, you have to remove the A-Pillar (above) and the B-Pillar, which contains the seat belts.  The B-Pillar pulls away with a little brute force.  Remove the four star-bolts holding in the sun visors and remove the weather stripping from around the door.  After that, the entire headliner should pull free.  Have someone help you, as it's a little unwieldy to move around.

I used the template that came with the speakers to cut out the holes in the headliner.  You can use a drill bit to make pilot holes, and I then used a coping saw to cut out the circle. I am not sure what the material is, but it was pretty easy to cut through.  It's some sort of fibrous board.  The speakers mounted on with a couple of long screws.

Speaker mounted and wired in the headliner.

Speaker mounted and wired in the headliner.

I then scoped out where I would run the wires to the radio.  When I installed the dash speakers, i notice i could snake a wire around the speedometer gauge and under a vent to the back of the radio.  To do this, you unscrew the two screw facing upward in front of the speedometer and lift off the cap covering it.  Two bolts allows the driver's gauges to tip forward, and two more bolts allows the vents and plastic molding around the speedometer to come out.  Be careful not to break the vent fins.  They are fragile and a pain to get back together.  

I popped the radio out using two very small parring knives.  Stick them in the two small slots below the radio, and jiggle to the point of frustration.  Eventually it pops out.  I then ran the cable from where the speakers would be located in the headliner and ran them down to the radio area.  

The stock radio in the Sprinter kind of sucks.  Using a tape adapter to play Spotify off my phone was pretty lame, so I purchased a single DIN Pioneer Radio.  It's quite loaded with tons of features, including HD Radio, Bluetooth, and iPod/iPhone capabilities.  I soldered in a wiring harness  to make installation easier. Surprisingly,  when you remove the old radio, there is already a single din faceplate beneath the stock radio, so purchasing an additional one is not necessary.  Plug the soldered harness into the existing wiring, plug the antennae adapter in, and push the radio in the slot.  Good to go.   

Wires all routed through to the radio hole

Pioneer radio fully mounted and wired.

The next upgrade I opt for was a rear-view camera to help with backing out and parallel parking.  Seeing out of such a large vehicle is difficult.  I purchased a small camera and mounted it to the top of the third brake light.  I drilled into the back of the light housing and ran the wire to the inside of the van.  The power wire was directed down and tapped into the white reverse lights.  When you remove the light bulb circuit board in a Sprinter, you can figure out which wire goes to which bulb by tracing the metal in the circuit board.  The negative is the bottom brown wire.  

Rearview camera mounted onto the rear headlight.  The drawback is at night, i can see the glow from the brake light.  

The video wire was bundled with the existing wiring bundle and taken to the cab.  For the camera display, I found this rear-view mirror monitor that turns on when receiving a signal, and acts as a normal mirror any other time.  This required it's own power, which I ran down the B-pillar, through the drivers step, and underneath the seat.  I believe I tapped into the power mirrors circuit to power it, which is only on after ignition.  

After all these upgrades were installed, I put the dash back together, re-installed the headliner with new speakers (have someone help you.  It was tricky to align the headliner and plug the new speakers in at the same time.  After that, all the upgrades were complete, and everything miraculously worked.  

The added amenities made the trip up to Squamish much more bearable, with lovely music streaming through all the new speakers.  

Take-Away Lessons:
- Always unplug the negative terminal from the battery before working on electronics
- Soldering remains a good skill to have as it forms solid connections
- Use heat shrink on all connections for added protection
- New speakers + Stereo with iPod and Bluetooth Connections = much more fun road trips