Renault Sport Clio V6

Renault Clio Sport V6

This week in the shop

When you have clients that are car collectors, you get to see and work on the occasional unicorn like this Renault Sport Clio V6. This particular Renault made its way to America from Japan. At the moment, this is the only one here legally in the country. It was marketed and sold as the Lutecia due to Honda owning the rights to the name Clio in Japan.

Renault Sport Clio V6

Jeremy Clarkson famously once stated, “In my perfect ten car garage I would definitely have one of these – no question.” Yet, there were only 1,309 production vehicles made between 2003-2005. Finding one, especially in such great condition, is incredibly rare.

Rear Mid Engine – Renault Sport Clio V6

This rear mid engine, rear wheel drive hatchback boasts 255 horsepower with an impressive 0-60 second time: a mere 5.9 seconds. Which doesn’t sound like a lot in todays world of electric vehicles capable of launching to 60 mph in under 3 seconds, but for a 6-speed manual made 20 years ago, that’s exceptionally fast.

Renault Sport Clio V6 – Freshly installed Sony Bluetooth receiver

This Renault Sport Lutecia V6 made its way to our shop as it arrived stateside with a hole in the dash where the radio should have been. For some unimaginable reason, whoever removed the previous radio felt it necessary to hack off the harness rather than simply disconnecting it from the radio (why????). Identifying wiring and installing a new radio was no problem for our skilled technician.

Hot Hatchback – Renault Sport Lutecia V6

This particular client has an impressive car collection with many rare and exotic models. He could drive any number of vehicles from Lamborghini, Porsche, Acura, Mercedes etc. Yet more often than not, he stated this is the car he prefers to take out and I totally get why.

Renault Sport Lutecia V6

As the owner of a 2013 BMW 135i M Sport 6-speed manual, I understand exactly what this client means. I know my old BMW isn’t the fastest and it would surely lose in any race against the Clio Sport and any number of newer cars out there, but I would still choose to drive it any day over a newer BMW model. Some cars simply have the power to stir up a special kind of nostalgic and simple joy. The kind of joy you used to get as a kid in your friends go kart tearing it up and down and around the cul-de-sac on your neighborhood street. Sometimes what makes a car great isn’t how fast it is or how attractive its styling, but simply how it makes you feel when you’re driving it. The Renault Sport Clio V6 definitely falls into that category.

Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing

UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing - demonstrated on CDE-172BT

Phone says connected, but there’s no audio streaming

Are you having a hard time figuring out your Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth pairing? Whether you’ve got the Alpine UTE-73BT, CDE-172BT or the CDE-175BT this post covers how to set up a new phone, clear out an old phone and resolve most Bluetooth connectivity issues.

Out of all the stereos I sell – single din, double din, touch screen, CarPlay, Android Auto, Alpine, Kenwood, Sony, Pioneer, Boss, Jensen, Stinger, Grundig, etc. – these 3 Alpine models are the ones that seem to trip up the most clients when it comes to resolving Bluetooth connection issues. Unlike most head unit models on the market, the UTE73BT, CDE172BT and the CDE175BT have just 2 banks for Bluetooth devices.

Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing - Demonstrated on Alpine CDE172BT
Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing – Demonstrated on Alpine CDE172BT

Device 1 is for your main phone. This profile covers handsfree and audio streaming functions. The Device 2 bank is strictly for handsfree functions only. Additionally, unlike many Bluetooth devices on the market, this unit is not always ready to be paired with a new device.

Pairing a new device – first time powering up

If you’ve just powered your UTE-73BT up and this is the first time anyone has tried to pair a device to it, follow these instructions.

  • Press and hold the sleep button, which looks like a back arrow, below the volume knob. This puts the radio into a Standby mode.
  • Next you want to press and hold the music note which is also labeled “Setup”
  • The first option that pops up says “General” – turn the knob until you see “Bluetooth”
  • Select “Bluetooth” by pushing the knob in
  • Scroll the knob to “Pairing” then push the knob in to select “Pairing”
  • The first option that pops up should say “Device 1” – push the knob in again to select “Device 1”
  • Now the Bluetooth icon on the radio should start blinking and the radio model number should become visible in your list of devices on your phone.
  • Simply tap the radio model number on your phone and follow the prompts
  • Pairing should complete

When clients usually run into trouble

Usually I see clients run into trouble when they’ve already had a device paired to the radio and they’ve gotten a new phone or perhaps they’ve done a software update on their phone and now their Bluetooth connection is intermittent. When this occurs it’s important to clear the memory from both devices. In your phone, you want to forget the device and in the radio we need to clear Bluetooth memory.

Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing - Clearing Bluetooth Memory demonstrated on Alpine CDE172BT
Alpine UTE73BT Bluetooth Pairing – Clearing Bluetooth Memory demonstrated on Alpine CDE172BT

To clear Bluetooth memory from the radio, we have to go back into that same menu. So again you’ll put the radio in Standby.

  • Press and hold the sleep button, which looks like a back arrow, below the volume knob to put the radio in Standy or “Sleep” mode.
  • Press and hold the music note icon labeled “Setup”
  • Next, scroll the knob until you see “Bluetooth” and then push the knob in to select “Bluetooth”
  • Scroll the knob until you see “BT Initial”
  • Push the knob into select “BT Initial”
  • The default option that pops up says “No” – turn the knob until you see “Yes” then push the knob in
  • The radio will now clear Bluetooth memory and you can go back to pairing and set Device 1

What if you’re still experiencing streaming or connection issues after clearing memory?

If you’re still having trouble with your UTE73BT Bluetooth pairing, it’s possible you may need to do a software update on the radio or a software update on your phone. Make sure the operating system and all of your apps are up to date in your phone. Also, if you haven’t restarted your phone in a while, it’s a good idea to simply restart your phone. Lastly, if you’re having trouble with one particular app where it crashes whenever you try to stream it, try deleting the app and reinstalling it. This usually resolves any app specific streaming issues that pop up.

Pairing a new phone to your Alpine radio shouldn’t be too difficult, but sometimes the instructions you find in the owner’s manual leave a bit to be desired. Hopefully these instructions fill in any gaps and help you with your UTE73BT Bluetooth pairing.

Kenwood vs Kenwood eXcelon

Kenwood vs Kenwood eXcelon Sub Pre-amp Voltage Distortion Test - Max Volume - Sub Level at Max

When I was 17 years old I started working in this business and it was at that time I was introduced to the Kenwood eXcelon line. It always bothered me that the X was capitilized. To this day, I don’t know why that is. What I do know, is I’ve always been partial to the Kenwood eXcelon line up because of its strong focus on sound quality. My KDC-X890 and subsequent KDC-X991 were incredibly difficult for most of our clients to use. While navigating the maze of menu’s, inevitably you would tap the multi-directional knob the wrong way and have to start all over again. But it sure sounded great.

Kenwood eXcelon KDC-X991 – image courtesy of Crutchfield

I would spend hours in my car setting up all of my settings like digital time alignment, the multi-band EQ and testing the various audio effects like “TruBass” or “Focus”. Not only did my Kenwood eXcelon stereo sound great, it looked pretty sharp. I can recall one of the earlier models I owned featuring awesome graphics such as dancing dolphins on the display. It would even wish me a happy birthday. Or maybe that was an older Alpine model? Either way, I have very fond memories of these older single din units. To someone just getting into the car stereo scene, eXcelon was the stuff of legends.

Oddly enough, I think my original attraction to Kenwood had to do with their single din radio esthetics. The blue and red illumination matched my 6-speed VW Jetta GLI dash lights perfectly and it also sounded pretty freaking awesome with my Rockford Punch 360.2. Thus began my love affair with Kenwood eXcelon products.

Historically speaking, Kenwood eXcelon models were reserved for select dealers and select clients that could be viewed as car audio connoisseurs These premium models came with a few added features that you couldn’t get in the mainstream Kenwood line up available at the big box stores. Probably the most popular of features was their gold plated 5 volt pre-amp available exclusively in the Kenwood eXcelon series only. This is still true to this day, although the gold plating is now gone – perhaps due to shrinkflation.

Is there really a difference between the 5 volt and 4 volt pre-amp?

Years ago, I recall an industry rep telling me, very matter of factly, that the pre-amp was the same between Kenwood and Kenwood eXcelon. He told me that they were both 4.5 volts, it was simply all just a marketing ploy. This stuck with me. I had never tested a 5 volt model against a 4 volt model, but I did know my 4 volt Kenwood models on my display board always had more kick than my 4 volt Alpine models so I just always assumed this was probably the case. I had never actually measured it!

Well, I recently invested in a Fluke Scopemeter 123B and have been measuring a lot of stuff lately and decided to find out once and for all. I decided to test the Kenwood DMX7706s against the Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR. This would be a battle between a classic Kenwood 4 volt model and a Kenwood eXcelon 5 volt model. I was also curious to find out at what point the pre-amp distorted and at one point the internal amp distorted. I learned a lot.

Testing a Kenwood DMX7706s against a Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR using a Fluke 123B Scopemeter

For those unfamiliar with this tool, a Scopemeter – also known as an Oscilloscope – is a tool that is used to test a wide variety of electronic and industrial equipment. It has its uses in a variety of fields such as automotive diagnosis and troubleshooting plus testing and diagnosing all kinds of electronic equipment used in the technology and healthcare industry.

My use for this tool is pretty straightforward. And I’m still learning how to use it so this is like the blind leading the blind here, so bare with me. By attaching the positve and negative probes to the RCA pre-amp output and playing a test tone through each radio – 1 kHz and 40 Hz – we can see at what point the signal begins to distort. We can also measure the voltage. Additionally, we can attach the probes to the speaker wire output of the radio and measure at what point the amplifier in the radio begins to distort.

First up – Kenwood DMX7706s – Is it really 4 Volt?

I connected the Scopemeter to the front pre-amp output of the Kenwood DMX7706s. This is basically a newer version of the Kenwood I have in my own vehicle, a DMX7704s (which I think sounds flipping fantastic). I played the 1kHz test tone through my iPhone connected through the USB and cranked the volume all the way up and this is what I saw.

Kenwood DMX7706s Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test

Two things happening here – the signal is clean. But the voltage is only 3.25. Pay no mind the mV~, I still haven’t figured out how to change that part of the display, but what it’s telling us is we’re getting 3.25 volts – I checked it against my Fluke MD-88 to verify. So the bad news is it’s not quite 4 volts on the front pre-amp, but the good news is that signal is clean at max volume on the pre-amp. Next, I decided to check the sub pre-amp voltage with the sub level all the way up.

Kenwood DMX7706s Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Sub level all the way up

Additionally I will add that I made sure the EQ was set flat and crossovers were turned off for front, rear and subwoofer. The reason I tested it with the sub level all the way up is it’s pretty much guaranteed this is exactly what my clients will do. I don’t like clients coming back with busted up gear that is a direct result of distortion. For those that aren’t aware, it’s a distorted or clipped signal that will damage your speakers. When you hear the signal breaking up and getting distorted, that’s a bad thing. Distortion is like kryptonite for speakers and subs, avoid it at all costs.

What I found on the sub pre-amp surprised me a bit. With the volume all the way up, the sub level all the way up, and all audio enhancement features turned off like Supreme, Bass Boost, etc., the signal was totally distorted. Yet, we were getting 5.1 volts! But what good was it if the signal was clipping?

Kenwood DMX7706s Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Clean at 30 with sub level at 10 (max)

I started to lower the volume to figure out at what point it started to distort. Finally at volume 30, the signal was clean. Bummer! Why would the signal be clean up to 40 on the front pre-amp, but distort at 31 on the sub pre-amp? Also, we were only getting 3.54 volts at that volume level. For comparison, with the Alpine iLX-407, I had to turn the sub level all the way up to get any kind of reading and it was clean even at max volume so I was perplexed. Maybe Kenwood did things differently. I decided to test it again, but this time with the sub level at 0 and with 40 Hz. Here’s what I found.

Kenwood DMX7706s Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Clean at 40 with sub level at zero

With the sub level at zero, volume all the way up, we got a clean signal. No distortion there and not quite 4 volts, but close to it at 3.75. The below 4 volt reading was definitely a bit of a disappointment, but I did find it interesting that the sub pre-amp definitely has more kick than the front or rear pre-amp. Typically, this is where you really notice the extra voltage, in the bass, so it kind of makes sense that’s where they put the emphasis, but it’s also a bit misleading in the labeling of the product. Consumers see “4 volt” and they assume you mean all three pre-amps are 4 volt not just one out of three. Feeling a bit deflated, I was more anxious than ever to test the Kenwood eXcelon model. Was the DDX9907XR really 5 volt? Or would we see similar results?

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR – Is it really 5 Volt?

I wired up the Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR to my test bench power supply and got the Scopemeter probes secured. I opened the test tone on my phone, pressed play and cranked it up. Once again, I started with the front pre-amp and here’s what I found.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Clean at 40

Would you look at that? We’re getting 5.29 volts out of the front pre-amp with the volume all the way up and no distortion. Awesome! It really is 5 volts. I guess it’s not just a marketing ploy, there really is a measurable difference. How about on the sub pre-amp? Would we see similar results to the DMX7706s? I switched the probes to the sub pre-amp and turned the sub level all the way up to find out.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Sub level max, volume all the way up

Holy cow! We’re getting 8.32 volts out of this thing! But just like the DMX7706s, the signal is totally distorted so it’s not really usable voltage. I lowered the volume to see at what point it would be clean while keeping the sub level at max.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Sub Pre-amp Distortion Test – Supreme off – Pretty clean still at 32

With the Supreme audio setting turned off, the signal started looking clean at 32 and we were getting a whopping 6.36 volts! However, Supreme is a feature I really like using on all Kenwood models because it truly does enhance the sound in every vehicle. I decided to turn on Supreme and found it immediately distorted at volume 32. Stepping it down one notch to 31 cleaned it right up. Plus we were still getting 5.7 volts which is not too shabby.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Sub Pre-amp Test – Supreme on – Clean at 31

Now I wanted to see with the sub level at zero, would we still get 5 volts and would the signal be clean at max volume? I adjusted the sub level down, selected the 40 Hz test tone and cranked it up. Here’s what I found.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Sub Pre-amp Voltage and Distortion Test – Max volume, sub level at zero

With the sub level turned to zero and volume maxed, we finally had a clean signal through the sub pre-amp. However, it wasn’t quite 5 volts, but close at 4.78.

Kenwood vs Kenwood eXcelon Pre-amp Voltage Distortion Test Results

We can take away some important information from this testing.

  • Kenwood’s regular products featuring “4 volt” Pre-amp are not quite 4 volt unless you only count the sub which was 3.78 volts with clean signal. Front pre-amp only measured at 3.25 with fluctuations up to 3.54.
  • Kenwood’s eXcelon products definitely have a higher voltage pre-amp – truly 5 volt on the front/rear and almost 5 volt on the sub. This is with the sub level set to zero so the signal stayed clean all the way up to max volume.
  • With both head units, the signal stayed clean on the pre-amp at max volume with EQ flat, audio enhancements turned off and sub level set to zero.
  • With both head units, we got a ton of voltage out of the sub pre-amp when we turned sub level to the max, but signal started to distort on both around volume 30.

What about their internal amplifiers? When do those start to distort?

A lot of my clients like to build their audio system in phases often starting with the head unit, then maybe adding an amp/sub. For a while they may be powering the stock speakers off the radio with the crossovers turned on before they go ahead and upgrade speakers along with an aftermarket amplifier. Because of that, I wanted to know at what point the amp in each radio started to distort. This allows me to show and tell my clients don’t go past this volume level or you risk damaging your speakers.

Kenwood DMX7706s Internal Amp Distortion Test – with Supreme off

With Supreme turned off, I could turn the head unit up to 29 before the signal started to get a bit jagged. Distortion was clearly visible on the scopemeter at volume 30. With Supreme on, 28 was the max I could go and still have clean signal. This was still pretty good when compared against the Alpine iLX-407 which started to distort at 21 out of 35 or 3/5 the volume.

Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR Internal Amp Distortion Test – with Supreme on

I had the exact same result when testing the Kenwood eXcelon DDX9907XR’s internal amplifier. With Supreme and everything else in the audio menu turned off, the signal remained clean up to volume 29. With Supreme turned on, signal distorted at 29, but was clean at 28.

Kenwood eXcelon – is it worth it?

Clearly the Kenwood eXcelon model had the better performing pre-amp. It was truly higher voltage. In car audio, the higher the voltage on your pre-amp, the more sensitive it’s going to be to your amplifier. This means you don’t have to turn the gains up as high so your amp can work more efficiently and theoretically play cleaner because it’s being less taxed to perform. With a lower voltage pre-amp, you have to turn the gains up higher to get the same audio effect that you’d have when connected to a stereo with a higher voltage pre-amp. For the true audio connoisseurs out there, Kenwood eXcelon is the only choice there is.

Acura NSX Stereo Upgrade

1996 Acura NSX Stereo Upgrade

This week in the shop

It’s not every day a classic supercar arrives at our shop for a stereo upgrade, but it has definitely become a more regular occurrence. I guess this is what happens when you serve clients that are avid automotive enthusiasts with a seemingly endless rare vehicle collection. The owner of this 1996 Acura NSX is one such client. It’s always refreshing to work with this particular collector because we know whatever vehicle he brings in will prove to be rare, possibly quirky, always interesting and perhaps somewhat challenging.

1996 Acura NSX Stereo Upgrade

This Acura NSX stereo arrived equipped with an older style 30-pin iPod adapter, but no AUX Input and no Bluetooth. Additionally, there was an audio issue that needed to be dealt with. Buzzing and popping stock Bose speakers. The goal was to address the buzzing and popping speakers and add a way to stream music through the stereo.

Working on the Acura NSX Stereo Upgrade

The great thing about this supercar is when it comes to how it’s assembled, it’s basically a glorified Honda. Late model Honda’s and Acura’s are always easy to work on and pretty straightforward in their design. It’s not like trying to work on a hand built Ferrari where you want to strangle the designer of a door panel as you spend hours dissembling it due to its intricate and delicate assembly. The downside to working on this Acura NSX is this car is basically on the floor. It’s a bit of a back breaker just trying to get in and out of the driver’s seat so imagine what it’s like to actually work on it. Can I get some Advil please?

1996 Acura NSX Bose Stereo AM/FM Casette Player

The first thing John needed to do was figure out what was causing the audio issue – was it the speakers? The stereo? Or the stock Bose amplifiers (for which there are 3 of them)? After getting it all apart and testing the output, John confirmed the issue. It was both Driver and Passenger amplifiers plus both door speakers that were in need of repair or replacement. After 25 years, the components were a bit worn out.

Keeping the Stock Look in this Acura NSX Stereo Upgrade

In order to keep the interior esthetics as original as possible, we wanted to keep the stock stereo. Although the client was open to us modifying the dash to install an aftermarket stereo, we advised against this. We investigated sending the stock amplifiers out for repair. However, the cost to repair the amps exceeded the cost of an aftermarket amp.

1996 Acura NSX Bose Door Speaker Amplifiers

Using an aftermarket amp would open up more options for replacement speakers because we wouldn’t be limited to using a low impedance speaker. That would have been necessary if we wanted to retain the stock Bose amps. The other benefit of using aftermarket equipment is, theoretically, we’d have better sound quality. After testing the output of the factory radio, John found it had a 3 volt pre-amp level, left and right output. He simply attached RCA ends with Y adapters to that audio signal to go into our aftermarket 4 channel amp.

JL Audio MX280/4 – Compact 4-channel amplifier

The 1996 Acura NSX is only equipped with 4 speakers – a stock subwoofer in the passenger floor, an oversized tweeter between the two seats and 4″ speakers in the doors encased in Bose speaker enclosures. We used the JL Audio MX280/4 to power the new door speakers plus the stock tweeter and stock subwoofer which were still fully functional. We chose this JL Audio amp because of it’s super compact design. This car is tight – there is no room for a traditionally sized car audio amp inside the cabin. John was able to mount the new compact amp up behind the glove box where it is tucked away and out of sight.


To add Bluetooth audio, I planned for us to install an adapter to connect to the factory radio via the CD changer input. This would give us an analog AUX input. With that, we planned to use the JL Audio MBT-RX for high quality Bluetooth audio streaming.

USA Spec PA11-HON – Oldschool 30-pin iPod adapter PLUS AUX input

Alas, after taking it apart, John found the existing 30-pin USA Spec iPod adapter had exactly what we needed: an analog AUX input. Score!

What about the speakers?

The stock Bose enclosures are definitely a bit funky. Check it out.

1996 Acura NSX Bose Speaker Enclosure

I’m always anxious about upgrading speakers in a car with these types of enclosures. In terms of sound quality, they can make or break the stereo.

Acura NSX Stereo Bose Door Speaker

After trying a few different options, John found a set of Audison BMW specific speakers worked really well in the factory Bose enclosures. They had the same style mounting tabs and they performed well in the small ported enclosures. We’d finally found the right combination of products to upgrade this Acura NSX stereo and it sounded great!

Audison APBMW X4E 4″ coaxial speakers

The stock sub came to life with the new clean amplified signal plus the premium Audison speakers added a level of vibrancy and detail that had been missing previously. In addition, the client now had a super convenient way to listen to music using a high quality Bluetooth audio streaming interface.

1996 Acura NSX – Stereo has been upgraded, but looks all original.

The end result is a classic supercar car that looks stock by all appearances, but is equipped with modern day features and premium aftermarket sound. These are my favorite types of audio upgrades.

Never a Dull Moment at the Shop

Just when we thought we had this project all wrapped up, we quickly realized there was a problem. A seemingly big problem. As John tried to start the car to back it out of the garage, the car wouldn’t turn over. It wouldn’t even crank. It had been on the tender the whole time so we knew straight away it wasn’t a battery issue. We were perplexed, because the electrical and stereo wiring in this car is so straight forward. John quickly began retracing all of his steps and then he remembered the keyless entry module that fell out of the dash when he removed the stock subwoofer.

The factory keyless entry module had not been secured on a bracket like you’d expect in any modern day vehicle. It had flopped out of the dash when the stock subwoofer was removed. He double checked all the harnesses and connections going to it before tucking it back up under the dash. Apparently there had been one connector harness he didn’t see that had been lodged out of its place when the keyless module fell. That harness went directly from key and the clutch to the starter. Immediately upon reconnecting it, she fired right up. Nothing like a rare supercar in your garage failing to start up to get your adrenaline pumping. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure! As they say, all’s well that ends well and in the end, this client was super happy and so were we.

1996 Acura NSX – All set and ready to be picked up.

Maserati Apple CarPlay

2015 Maserati GranTurismo Sport – Apple CarPlay Installation

This week at the shop: Maserati Apple CarPlay installation. You might assume this Italian exotic would be appointed with all the modern luxuries one could find in any modern day vehicle. Well endowed with its Ferrari designed 454 horsepower V8, yet lacking in the standard features we’ve all grown accustomed to. Lest we forget, Apple CarPlay, reverse cameras and front park assists cameras were not standard features in 2015. For a low volume auto manufacturer like Maserati, it can take years to add such modern amenities to the production line. Although Apple CarPlay made its debut in 2014, Maserati didn’t start incorporating the feature into the GranTurismo model until 2018.

2015 Maserati GranTurismo Apple CarPlay
Maserati GranTurismo Apple CarPlay Added

Understandably, the client really enjoyed this vehicle, but desired a way to update the technology to make the ride even more enjoyable. So he sought us out to add Apple CarPlay to his 2015 Maserati GranTurismo Sport.

Adding Apple CarPlay is a great way to breathe new life into any used vehicle. With the new car shortage, this is becoming an increasingly more common upgrade request.

Reverse Camera and Front Park Camera

In addition to updating this vehicle’s in dash technology, we also installed a much needed reverse camera and front park assist camera. Convertibles are almost always tough for rear visibility when the top is up and this vehicle is no exception.

Maserati GranTurismo Reverse Camera Installation
Maserati GranTurismo Reverse Camera Installation

Exotic sports cars need help in the front end too. When you combine such a low stance with that signature proud and prominent Maserati front lip, it’s no wonder the client requested a front park assist camera. Drivers of the Maserati GranTurismo have to be extremely careful not to scrap the underside of their bumper just turning into a driveway.

Front Camera Installation Maserati GranTurismo Sport
Front Camera Installation Maserati GranTurismo Sport

Maserati Apple CarPlay – Parts Used

In order to upgrade this Maserati to Apple CarPlay, we needed a few parts. The main piece of hardware we used to accomplish this is from Naviks. This company specializes in these types of interfaces along with products for adding HDMI, reverse cameras and front cameras to various years, makes and models.

Naviks Interface - Maserati GranTurismo
Naviks Interface – Maserati GranTurismo

Naviks is an American based company that proudly manufactures 70% of their products in Brooklyn, NY. I tip my hat off to them. Not only is it incredibly difficult to manufacture any kind of electronics in the USA these days, but maintaining any kind of small business in Brooklyn right now is – how do I say it – an extremely tall order.

Maserati Apple CarPlay Installed
Maserati Apple CarPlay Installed

Not only do they produce reliable and desirable products, they have great customer service – both email and phone support. This is really important to me as a shop owner. No one has the time – client or technician alike – to sit around and wait on hold or hope you get an email reply back when you’re in the middle of an installation with a car apart.

New Touch Screen Overlay for Apple CarPlay - 2015 Maserati GranTurismo
New Touch Screen Overlay for Apple CarPlay – 2015 Maserati GranTurismo

Their kit consists of a couple modules plus a new touch screen overlay for the factory radio. This installation is not for the faint of heart. There is quite a bit that needs to be disassembled including the factory radio display. This install is for seasoned pros or the most fastidious and patient do-it-yourselfer.

Maserati Apple CarPlay – How it Works

The way this interface works is quite seamless. Like most Apple CarPlay add-on kits, you have to select the factory radio’s AUX input as your source. Once you are on the AUX input, you simply press and hold the telephone button on the steering wheel. That activates the factory screen to switch over to the new Apple CarPlay interface. The connection is wireless with optional charging.

USB flush mounted Maserati Apple CarPlay Installation
USB flush mounted Maserati Apple CarPlay Installation

The reverse camera is like most reverse cameras – it’s activated as soon as the vehicle is put into reverse. The front camera similarly is activated as soon as you shift from reverse to drive.

Maserati Reverse Camera Installed
Maserati Reverse Camera Installed

There is also a way to activate the front camera on the fly. Simply press and hold the button again to switch the front camera on. To exit Apple CarPlay and select another factory source like AM/FM radio? Simply press and hold that phone button again.

Maserati Front Camera Installation
Maserati Front Camera Installation

Adding Apple CarPlay to your vehicle is a great way to enhance your driving experience without the expense of trading up for a newer vehicle. The technology does have its limitations.


You do have to be on the AUX input source to use any of the features of CarPlay. Audio for notifications, phone calls and GPS navigation directions are only available when you are actively using the CarPlay input. Additionally, unlike a factory CarPlay set up, there is just one volume control for music, text message notifications, phone calls and GPS directions. This means you will find yourself manually adjusting volume between calls to music to compensate.

To learn more about adding Apple CarPlay to your vehicle, contact our shop or find a local Naviks dealer in your area.

Maserati Apple CarPlay
Maserati Apple CarPlay

Porsche Taycan Radar Detector plus Dash Cam Install

Porsche Taycan Radar Detector Dash Cam Install

This week in the shop

Our crew tackled a 2021 Porsche Taycan radar detector installation plus a front and rear dash camera.

2021 Porsche Taycan 4s K40 plus Blackvue Installation
2021 Porsche Taycan 4s

The Porsche Taycan 4s is a fast car. A very fast car. Like scary fast as in 0-60 in 3.8 seconds with an impressive 472 lb-ft torque. It’s no surprise the owner of this vehicle wanted to invest in a radar detector.

2021 Porsche Taycan 4s – K40 Platinum 100 plus Blackvue Dash Cam Install

Unlike some other electric vehicles on the market, the Porsche Taycan does not come equipped with sentry mode or any type of camera surveillance set up. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to add a dash camera system aftermarket.

Gear Used

For this installation we used the K40 Platinum 100 dash mounted radar detector along with a BlendMount. As much as I would have loved to install laser shifters in this vehicle, that was not on the agenda. This Porsche Taycan 4s is not the client’s daily driver so they didn’t see the immediate need for it.

K40 Platinum 100 Radar Detector
K40 Platinum 100 Radar Detector

Although the K40 Platinum 100 is windshield mounted style detector, it’s completely expandable. Out of the box it will detect radar and laser – although with laser it may be too late. But if the client’s driving situation ever changes, they can always have us add the laser shifters later on.

Porsche Taycan 4s Radar Detector with Blendmount
Porsche Taycan 4s Radar Detector with BlendMount

Rather than use the standard included windshield mount, we opted to use a BlendMount. This bracket helps us provide a clean installation plus it frees up some of the real estate on the windshield for the BlackVue dash cam.

Porsche Taycan Dash Camera Installation
Porsche Taycan Dash Camera Installation

The dash camera used for this Porsche Taycan is the BlackVue DR750X-2CH Plus with 64 gig SD card. It features a front and rear HD camera with optional park mode functionality.

Dash Camera Settings and Park Mode Functionality

Whenever I have a client interested in a dash cam with park mode functionality, I encourage them to use a separate battery pack for consistent park mode recording. This is especially true for newer vehicles with proximity keys. For park mode to work consistently – where the camera wakes up and starts recording if it detects motion or impact – the camera needs to see 12.5 volts or higher.

Porsche Taycan Dash Camera Install - Rear Window
Porsche Taycan Dash Camera Install – Rear Window

In many newer vehicles we see that there can be wild voltage fluctuations simply when locking your car and walking away. The courtesy headlights may come on momentarily dropping voltage below 12 volts only to come right back up as soon as the headlights turn off. This isn’t the case for every vehicle.

Porsche Taycan Blackvue Dash Cam Settings
Porsche Taycan BlackVue Dash Cam Settings

Our Taycan 4s client was initially more focused on recording while driving vs while the car was parked. Most of the time it would be parked at a safe location so he opted out of the battery pack option. As luck would have it, right before the installation appointment there was an incident that piqued his interest in park mode.

K40 Platinum 100 Radar Detector with Dash Camera - 2021 Porsche Taycan
K40 Platinum 100 Radar Detector with Dash Camera – 2021 Porsche Taycan

After attending a Porsche meet, a group of club members went into a restaurant to dine. When they came back out they were horrified to see someone had backed into a member’s brand new Porsche and taken off. After this experience, park mode became a feature he was interested in after all. Since it will be used only periodically, I showed the client how to turn park mode on and off in the app.

12 Volt Accessories for Electric Vehicles

Although this is an electric vehicle, it still has a 12 volt battery and electronic system. This is how we can add aftermarket accessories such as a radar detector or dash camera to an electric vehicle like the Taycan. Skilled technicians like those at our shop use a multimeter and probe to investigate, test and find switched ignition power source.

2021 Porsche Taycan 4S
2021 Porsche Taycan 4S

With the installation complete, the client can drive with a little more piece of mind. If you’re interested in a radar detector or dash camera for your Porsche Taycan, contact our shop today for more information.

Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay

Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay

This week in the shop – 2016 Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay installation.

Recently a client reached out to us about a problematic radio in his Porsche Macan. He was experiencing issues with the factory PCM Bose radio. It was pretty much shot – continuously rebooting and shutting down. After being quoted an astronomical price from the dealer, he reached out to us to explore his options. We could have sent the PCM radio out to be repaired. However, he would still be stuck with dated technology. In this case the client preferred the option of fitting his Porsche Macan with a new Apple CarPlay/Android Auto radio.

Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay with aftermarket Alpine iLX-W650 radio.
Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay installed – Alpine iLX-W650

The radio in this vehicle is part of the whole operating system in the car. Even basic functions like warning chimes are on this data circuit. If you remove the radio, it’s like removing a computer in a network of computers. When the flow of information is broken features are often be lost. For that reason it’s important to use parts that can retain the flow of CAN information as well as various features on the MOST network.

Porsche Macan Alpine iLX-W650

Very specific parts required

In order to install Apple CarPlay in this Porsche Macan, we used the Metra 95-9616B. This installation kit included everything we needed to replace the radio in 2015-2016 Porsche Macan equipped with:

  • Bose amplifier
  • Park Sensors
  • Reverse Camera
  • Steering wheel controls
Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay installation kit Metra 95-9616B.
Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay radio upgrade – Metra 95-9616B installation kit

It is designed to retain the flow of data and various features that function through the factory radio. Yet, there is one component in this kit we don’t recommend using: the USB retention adapter.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto requires a massive data transfer between the radio and your phone. We have found in various installations that many OEM USB ports are not capable of high speed data transfer. Sometimes they get hung up transferring that data. When that happens Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can flake out. That is why we prefer to route a new high speed USB to the factory USB location.

In addition to the Metra 95-9606B installation kit, we also used:

What is lost – what is retained

Access to vehicle settings

Once the radio is replaced, you do lose access to any vehicle information that was previously accessible through the factory radio. In this particular installation, that didn’t really matter to the client because they had already lost that access due to a faulty radio.

Radio information in multifunction displayer

Some European vehicles have what is called a multifunction display which shows up in the instrument cluster. This MFD can display stereo information such as what source you are listening to. If your Macan is equipped with this feature and you install an aftermarket Apple CarPlay stereo, you will no longer see any type of stereo information displayed in this menu.

Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay - Bose amp retained, but fader control is lost.
Porsche Macan Apple CarPlay Installation – Bose amp retained, but fader control is lost.

Fader control

The stock Bose amplifier is digital. When that digital signal is retained it is converted to 2-channel analog. This means the aftermarket radio can support balance – left to right audio adjustment, but you will lose fader control – front to rear. All the speakers will play and the Bose amp and speakers are retained. You just lose the ability to fade between the front and rear speakers through the aftermarket head unit.

Porsche Macan aftermarket stereo installation - reverse camera retained.
Porsche Macan aftermarket stereo installation – reverse camera retained.

Reverse Camera

We were able to retain the stock reverse camera as well as the audio and visual from the park sensors. Both features are displayed through the aftermarket stereo reverse camera input. If an object is detected on the front sensors, the display will automatically switch over to the sensor display.

Porsche Macan - park sensors retained Alpine iLX-W650.
Park sensors retained – Porsche Macan Alpine iLX-W650 installed

Park sensors

If you are backing up and an object is detected on the rear sensors, you can switch the display on the radio from the reverse camera image to the park sensor display. Simply press and hold the scrolling steering wheel control button on the left of the steering wheel.

Fit and Finish

If we had laser etcher at the shop, I would have loved to have put the Porsche logo on the top panel of the kit. It seems like weird dead space. I imagine that would have added a significant cost for the manufacturer to an already quite costly installation kit. The matte black finish matches quite nicely. I’m glad this client chose the iLX-W650 out of the various options we provided. It has a very minimalistic, sleek look to it which closely compliments the interior vehicle esthetics.

Are you in the market to fit your Porsche Macan with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Contact our shop today to learn more.

Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma

Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma

Two cameras – one input

This week in the shop we installed an Alpine iLX-F411 in a 2017 Toyota Tacoma. The client did have one concern about the installation. Their vehicle was fitted with a front and rear camera. Why the concern?

Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma Install - with existing front rear camera
Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma Install – with existing front rear camera

This $1100 radio with a big, beautiful 11-inch screen has only has ONE camera input. Unless of course you buy the Alpine KCX-C2600B universal camera switcher. But who wants to do that? The KCX-C2600B includes a separate dash mounted button to allow you to switch between camera views since the radio does not have any on screen control over the non-existent additional camera inputs.

Pre-existing front rear camera switch

Thankfully, we have seen this before so we had an idea of what we would be dealing with. We had previously installed the 9-inch Halo in a Tacoma a couple years ago and that truck had a switch very similar to this. In that particular Tacoma, there was not only a front and rear camera, but also a third camera we tied into. Again with a radio equipped with just one camera input. Alpine – come on – people want more than one camera input. Just give it to them.

Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma Install - with existing front rear camera switch
Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma Install – with existing front rear camera switch

For that particular vehicle we made up our relay system to switch between the three cameras. There was a switch to go between front and rear and an additional switch to go between the two different rear cameras. Fun times with relays! However, for this Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma install, we weren’t sure if we’d really have to make anything until we opened it up and saw how it was interfaced with the factory screen.

Alpine iLX-F411 Install – 2017 Tacoma with front and rear camera integrated switch

After opening it up, we saw how it was connected to the factory radio and it was actually a super simple in and out style T-harness with standard video connections. Thankfully we were able to simply re-use the existing switch with the single reverse camera input on the Alpine iLX-F411. It was one of the rare moments during an installers life where the wiring worked out to be much easier than anticipated.

Maestro recommended!

For the Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma install, I recommend using the iDatalink Maestro. This interface will not only retain steering wheel controls and the OEM reverse camera, but it also retains access to vehicle settings. Some clients aren’t even aware of this menu because it’s on the second page of settings in their factory stereo, but check it out.

Toyota Tacoma - Retain access to vehicle settings menus with an aftermarket stereo using iDatalink Maestro
Toyota Tacoma – Retain access to vehicle settings menus with an aftermarket stereo using iDatalink Maestro

There are a whole bunch of personalization settings, door lock settings, lighting settings, park assist settings, etc. in this section of the factory radio. Unless you use an iDatalink Maestro module to retain those settings, they will be gone – no longer accessible once you replace the radio. Additionally, the Maestro module keeps data flowing through the factory radio so you don’t have to hear the dealer complain about any communication error codes stored in your computer because you installed an aftermarket radio. Use the right parts and keep all the features and data flowing.

Alpine iLX-F411 vehicle settings retained Toyota Tacoma
Alpine iLX-F411 vehicle settings retained Toyota Tacoma

Bigger is better

Isn’t there a saying, bigger isn’t always better? I think in this case, bigger is better. What do the readers think? Correct me if I’m wrong. In my opinion, the larger the screen is, the easier it is to see what you’re trying to do with it. Therefore the less distracted you might be as a driver. With a screen this big, you may even be able to see what podcast you’re trying to select using your peripheral vision while you stay focused on the road ahead.

Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma installed
Alpine iLX-F411 Toyota Tacoma installed

In terms of features you do get quite a bit for your money with the Alpine iLX-F411.

  • Wired Apple CarPlay
  • Wired Android Auto
  • SiriusXM Ready
  • Front, Rear and Subwoofer pre-amp rated at 4 Volt
  • AM/FM Radio (not HD)
  • 11-inch WGVA screen (wide graphics video array 480 x 800)
  • Single Din Chassis
  • 5 Band EQ
  • Built in crossovers HPF and LPF
  • Digital Time Alignment
  • 45 watts x 4 peak, 16 x 4 RMS per channel
  • Bluetooth
  • Single reverse camera input (compatible with KCX-C2600B switcher expansion module)
  • Customizable icons and display
  • HDMI input and output
  • 3.5MM AUX input
  • iDatalink Maestro Compatible

What’s missing?

I am disappointed with the 5 band EQ vs typical Alpine 9 band, but that appears to be what Alpine is using with most of their newer touch screen operating systems. For the less tech savvy/audiophile consumers, they may find the 5 band EQ much easier to use. The other major bone of contention is the connection for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is wired, not wireless. In fact Alpine hasn’t had a wireless model since the iLX-107 a few years back. Perhaps when the chip shortage, cost of raw materials and global shipping headaches settle – which I don’t think will be until late 2022 – they may introduce a new model with the feature.

Still, overall, the Alpine iLX-F411 does have a lot going for it. It’s quite versatile in how it can be mounted allowing it to fit in a lot of vehicles that wouldn’t normally accommodate such a large screen. The fit and finish of the edges of the screen are quite nice with a satin metallic trim. From a screen resolution and overall value stand point? If you can get your hands on one and you’ve got the double din chassis to fit it, I am more inclined to go with a Kenwood DMX1037s which features:

  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • High resolution display
  • 13 Band EQ
  • FOUR camera inputs

Although I’m a bit torn. I do love the volume knob on the Kenwood DMX1037s, but I think Alpine’s screen edges are softer and cleaner. The gloss black on the Kenwood DMX1037s can make it stick out a bit on certain dashes. Whereas the Alpine’s softer edges seem to blend in better on most vehicle dashes.

What features matter most?

Buying an aftermarket head unit always includes some kind of trade-off unfortunately. The trick is to consider what features are most important to you and base your decision off that. Is it sound quality? Screen quality? Ease of use? Audio control? Overall appearance? Camera inputs? What features are most important to you?

Local to Brookfield, CT? To learn more about what options we have available for your vehicle, contact me or visit our shop.

2021 F-150 Stereo upgrade

2021 Ford F-150 stereo upgrade

Beautiful truck with a sub par stock stereo

This week in the shop we performed a complete stereo upgrade in a client’s 2021 Ford F-150. This client’s truck came equipped with the factory “premium” stereo which features a gorgeous 12″ infotainment screen and Bang & Olufsen stereo system.

2021 Ford F-150 stereo upgrade - 12" Infotainment with B & O stereo
2021 Ford F-150 stereo upgrade – 12″ Infotainment with B&O stereo

Nearly everything about this truck is absolutely stunning. Ford did a phenomenal job with the overall design and functionality. The detailed cabin touches manage to exude luxury and practicality at the same time which is not an easy feat to pull off.

2021 F-150 Stereo Upgrade – Tailgate illumination

One of my favorite features about the truck is the bed. From the super bright light by the reverse camera, to the built-in phone holder, convenient inlaid ruler and discreet bottle opener – the back of this truck is like a swiss army knife on steroids. Yet, despite all of it’s luxuries, the B&O stereo still leaves much to be desired.

How to upgrade the stereo in your 2021 F-150 without looking like you upgraded the stereo

When our client reached out to us about upgrading the sound, I immediately thought of using a pre-amp adapter – either from PAC Audio, NAV-TV, Maestro or Mobridge. Pre-amp adapters are a growing category of parts that enable us to install complete aftermarket audio systems that are integrated with factory infotainment systems. We can install aftermarket amps, speakers and subs, without sacrificing sound quality through a line output converter.

Most newer vehicles are equipped with the kind of radio that you realy can’t just replace even if you wanted to. But look at that screen, why would you want to change that? The radio is essentially part of the computer network in the vehicle.

Digital Pre-amp adapter

This is how it works – there is a digital signal coming from the factory radio. You plug in your smart phone. It reads the data and sends all that data as one’s and zero’s to the stock amp. At that stock amp is where the sound is actually converted from digital to analog. It’s then fed to the stock speakers.

Ford F-150 stereo upgrade - B&O has got to go
Ford F-150 stereo upgrade – B&O has got to go

And that stock amp is unlike any typical aftermarket amplifier. It has numerous channels on it to power each individual speaker. Each channel has a very specific frequency range designated for its corresponding speaker. If you wanted to tack on an amp after it, you’d first have to sum all of the frequencies and then use a DSP to clean up the signal. Even still, you’d be double processing at that point which is far from ideal.

What’s the weak link?

That stock amp is the weak link in the chain. So how do you bypass it? A pre-amp adapter can interrupt that signal from the factory radio while it’s still digital, before it’s been processed by the stock amp. By interrupting it before it’s been processed, it takes that digital signal and converts it into a clean RCA pre-amp output that can then be fed to aftermarket amps and speakers. The end result is an aftermarket stereo that integrates with the OEM operating system and by all appearances retains the stock esthetics. All warning chimes, vehicle information and audio controls are retained seamlessly. In this application the stock amp is removed completely and the pre-amp adapter and aftermarket amps take its place.


Quality components

Initially, I wanted to use the Mobridge Pro A2B because it offers some additional fine tune control. Unfortunately we experienced a few compatibility issues with that module in this car. For this particular install we used the Nav-TV NTV-KIT889 which worked flawlessly.

2021 F-150 stereo upgrade - JL Audio amps
2021 F-150 stereo upgrade – JL Audio amps

With a clean pre-amp level signal to work with, we installed higher quality aftermarket Focal Flax series speakers, two JL Audio amplifiers and two JL Audio 10″ subwoofers. In order to maximize the clients usable space, we installed the amps behind the existing under seat storage tray area. Behind the rear seats, we installed an MTI double 10″ subwoofer enclosure.

2021 F-150 stereo upgrade - MTI double 10" enclosure behind the rear seats
2021 F-150 stereo upgrade – MTI double 10″ enclosure behind the rear seats

It’s definitely a tight fit for the two JL Audio 10″ TW3 subwoofers. It did require some modification to the existing carpet behind the rear seat. In fact, it’s such a tight fit, we couldn’t even use speaker grilles with this enclosure. Yet, as you can see, it’s fully functional. With the rear seats in their upright position, you’d never know there were two amps and two 10″ subs in there – that is until you cranked up the stereo of course.

2021 F-150 stereo upgrade - stealth install - hidden amps and 10" subs.
2021 F-150 stereo upgrade – stealth install – hidden amps and 10″ subs.

Hear your music like you’ve never heard it before

The end result is the client is now experiencing their music in an entirely new way – as if hearing it for the first time. Details and nuances previously unnoticed are now present in songs they’ve listened to countless times before. Great sound doesn’t have to be complicated. The key is to use the right parts for the application, execute the installation properly followed by a professional tuning. If you’re interested in upgrading the stereo in your truck, call/text, email or visit our showroom today.

Attempting yourself? Here are the components used in this build.

Remote Bass Knob - 2021 Ford F-150 stereo upgrade
Remote Bass Knob – 2021 Ford F-150 stereo upgrade

For the do-it-yourselfers out there, here’s a handy list of components used in this build:

As technology on the OEM side progresses, our industry is staying on top of it with state of the art components designed to integrate with a vehicles advanced electronic system. The end result is clear, vibrant, detailed and punchy aftermarket sound all while retaining the OEM appearance and functionality. Have you upgraded the stereo in your Ford F-150? What components did you use?

2021 Ford F-150 Stereo Upgrade
2021 Ford F-150 Stereo Upgrade

LED Third Brake Light Install Jeep Wrangler JK

LED third brake light

Installing an LED third brake light behind the spare tire on your Wrangler is a super quick and easy upgrade. This LED third brake light kit from LED Factory Mart has an attractive concentric design accented by additional lines of LED’s that spiral out from the center as the brake is fully depressed. Not only is the illumination pattern unique, but the plug and play design of the kit makes install a breeze.

Smoked 14″ Cyclone Series 3rd Spare Tire LED Third Brake Light For 07-18 Jeep Wrangler JK -Factory LED Mart

With 150 LED’s rated at IP67 and 50,000 hour lifespan, this product appears to be built to last. Only time will tell. The winters in New England are pretty brutal. Just take a look at the rusted out housing on my reverse camera which is due to be replaced soon. Thankfully, this LED third brake light does include a 1 year warranty.

Installation video – LED Factory Mart LED third brake light

This is such a super straight forward installation making it a great accessory for do-it-yourselfers. The only difficult part may be removing the spare tire. You may need a second person to help you with that. Additionally – this kit assumes you still have the factory 3rd brake light in tact. If you have an aftermarket spare tire carrier like I do, then you may end up having to cut and splice.

Step 1 – remove the spare tire

Using a 9 MM socket – carefully remove the spare tire. Use caution! It’s heavier than you think. You may need a helping hand.

Carefully remove your spare prior to installing your LED third brake light

Step 2 – remove the 4 T20 Torx screws holding in the factory third brake light.

This allows you to gain access to the factory third brake light wire connector. This is how you will connect the aftermarket LED third brake light.

Remove the four T20 Torx screws

Step 3 – Place the LED third brake light on the spare tire carrier.

Make sure to mount it with the wire side facing away from you and on top. If you have an aftermarket reverse camera, you may need to adjust your camera mount to accommodate the LED third brake light.

Route wiring – ignore the rusted out EchoMaster reverse camera housing due to be replaced on another day and time.

Step 4 – Connect the included T-harness

Use the included T-harness to connect to your existing third brake light wiring. This is just a simple in and out connection. Route the wiring down under the cover and re-attach.

Included plug and play T-harness

Step 5 – Test it out

Make sure everything is working properly before re-attaching your spare tire.

Testing the LED third brake light in my 2014 Wrangler JK

What if you don’t have the OEM Third Brake Light?

I have an aftermarket spare tire carrier on my Jeep that already included an alternate LED third brake light. The existing aftermarket third brake light I had was pretty small and dainty. I’d always wanted something a bit more robust and attractive which is why I was super excited when LED Factory Mart reached out to me about reviewing this kit. It was a perfect excuse to finally schedule some work on my own Jeep which is often neglected just because we’re always so busy at the shop working on client’s vehicles.

Cutting and splicing

After taking everything apart, we realized, I no longer had my OEM third brake light connector. I think we had to cut and splice when installed the SmittyBilt spare tire carrier. Using a test light, we opened it up and checked for brake positive and ground. Once we had the wiring identified, we cut and spliced the harness that came with the LED Factory Mart kit.


Overall, I’m really happy with the end result. It’s just such a quick and easy way to enhance your Jeep’s appearance while also adding a bit of safety. This third brake light is much more visible than the factory brake light. For most Wrangler owners out there this will be a 10-15 minute install. Just keep in mind – if you don’t have the factory third brake light, it will be a bit more work to make those connections. Have you installed this LED third brake light from LED Factory Mart? What has your experience been?