Dodge Dakota Aftermarket Stereo Install

Every once in awhile, the right vehicle comes along for me. Those of you that have been reading my stories for awhile have already heard about my decade and a half obsession with Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4X4 trucks.

I always liked the second generation incarnation. I suppose it could be argued that I should move along with the “times” and get something newer. The Dakota isn’t manufactured anymore, so the newest one I could get would be a 2010. But honestly, I don’t particularly like the styling. It simply does not have the same appeal to me as the second generation.

So what to do? In my search, it means I’m limited to 5 model years – 2000 to 2004. I didn’t have the means to buy a new truck in 2000. So I waited. A long time.

If you followed Project X, I took a lightly crashed 01 and brought it back to life. That truck worked – it looked OK, and was decent mechanically except for the engine oil consumption, which bothered me.

One day I was casually but hopefully searching the local buy and sell site and came across a very nice 01 Dakota. It had spent part of its life being towed behind a motorhome. Even though the clock had rolled up a fair way, the actually run time on the powertrain was fairly low.

I scooped that one, and sold Project X. Enter Project Y.

First on the list is to replace the original stereo. Project Y came with the higher end factory Infinity system. Considering car stereos of years past, the stock system is very good. The AM / FM cassette CD deck delivers decent sound, but there is no provision for an auxiliary input, Bluetooth, satellite or anything remotely modern for that matter.

Original radio

The Dakota is slightly odd in that the radio is a weird shape. So a mounting and installation kit is required and a single DIN stereo is the only reasonable option without significant modification of the center dash section. I always like the option of returning things to stock if required.

I ordered up an installation kit from Car Amps Online –

Adapter Kit 2

The new stereo came from VM Innovations –

Stereo Box

My deck of choice was a Kenwood KMM-BT312U Bluetooth MP3 USB FM Car Stereo Media SiriusXM Receiver. No CD player, and that is fine. The unit itself is quite light, and is jam packed full of features. After using it for awhile, my only slightly negative comments would be that the volume knob is a little small, and the back lighting doesn’t automatically dim when the headlights are turned on. However, there are enough background colour and intensity options that this oversight is not an issue. Overall, I am very satisfied with this stereo.

Even before the removal of the stock stereo, I elected to get the wiring in order. In the modern era, there are adapter harnesses available to ease the installation process and negate the need to cut the factory vehicle harness. Plug and play, so to speak. However, the adapter harness needs to be mated to the radio harness.

This task involves trimming the aftermarket radio and adapter harnesses, joining the appropriate wires, and finishing up with a nice solder job and shrink tubing. If reading wiring diagrams and soldering is not your thing, ask a friend to help you out on this one, as this step can make or break the installation. Poor connections will cause cut-outs in sound. Worse case, the deck and/or vehicle harness experiences a thermal event (setting the wiring on fire).

Harness solder and shrink tube

Adapter harness

Once the harness was built, the head unit was installed in the vehicle-specific adapter. Looking tidy!

Adapter kit before the radio

Ready to install

Stereo ready to install

Before removing the instrument panel bezel, the driver’s knee bolster needs to be removed. There are a few screws at the bottom, and you will want to disconnect the hood release mechanism as well. It can stay with the trim panel.

Knee blocker from afar

Knee blocker 2

Knee blocker 1

Next step is to remove the instrument cluster bezel – this video is an excellent resource –

Running the antenna for the satellite radio was a bit of work, as the trim for the A-pillar has to be removed, and the wire run along the pillar, and around over top of the instrument cluster to the radio. The grab handle will need to come off first, but that is quite easy, as there are only 2 large Torx screws holding it on.

At the same time, I mounted the microphone for the hands free phone system close to the center rear view mirror, and ran the wire under the edge of the headliner, and down along the A-pillar as well, taking the same route over the instrument cluster to the back of the radio.

Once the wires are run, the harness is built, and the radio has been installed in the adapter, the reassembly goes quite quickly, and down the road you go with new tunes!

In the dash

All installed

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