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Chaos in the cockpit: retrofit infotainment for 250 euros

Chaos in the cockpit
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F ür what has he not already had to serve, poor BMW. Plush orgies in the interior, glued on fake exhaust covers and lots of other cheap junk from China. You might think that my E39 was hardly spared anything, but far from it. This project really gets to his guts - namely to those who are responsible for on-board entertainment. What is meant is the infotainment system, because here too the large online retailers from the Far East deliver hot goods to Germany. You can find out how to install it step by step in the article below.

Useful innovations

Anyone who drives a youngtimer may know the problem: You are actually very satisfied with your slightly aged one Car, driving is worlds more casual than in such a faceless new car. After all, it's a car with character. One who has already experienced something. But somehow there are one or two innovations of modern times that would not be entirely impractical. A sensible navigation system, for example, instead of attaching the mobile phone to the window with a suction cup, from where it says goodbye after every second bump. In addition, the sound of such a cassette with a view to the 'signal-to-noise ratio' is not the ultimate wisdom and the musical experience on top of that is linear the day before yesterday.

Patrick Lang
It has already done a bit in the past few years. Shown here using the example of the BMW 5 Series cockpit.

Now, of course, there should still be no wildly flashing DIN radio sprouting out of the dashboard, its look stands in stark contrast to the dignified interior ambience. You could stick Kenwood, Alpine or whatever on the rear window over a large area. To solve the dilemma, it is worth taking a trip to the Reichthe middle - so virtually. Internet mail order companies such as Aliexpress or Gearbest offer infotainment systems based on Android, the design of which is based on the manufacturer's original parts with a striking similarity. For 250 euros, we ordered one there that fits seamlessly into the E39 cockpit, but also includes all modern connectivity functions.

Installation of the infotainment system

As sweet as the idea is, the way there is more rocky than you might think - and BMW is to blame. Because anyone who drives a 5 Series from 2001, proudly emblazoned with the original 16: 9 sat nav, will quickly curse the faded glory. The monitor in the cockpit is just a screen, while the individual modules for radio, video signal and navigation are in the rear left of the trunk. In other words: If you retrofit a modern system, in this case you have to fumble a separately available cable harness across the car.

First of all, of course, all the old clutter in the trunk is thrown out. This operation is limited to disconnecting the battery, loosening a few screws and pulling out all existing connectors. The navigation module remains in its place (without being connected), otherwise a hole in the side panel would gape.

Patrick Lang
All modules are thrown out. Except for the navigation part, because otherwise there would be a hole in the paneling later.

So let's make our way to at the front of the radio slot. To do this, some vehicle parts must first give way. Back seat? Out! Door sills? Out! Inner lining of the B-pillar? Out! Driver's seat? Out! In principle, we use the same route as BMW, whose wiring harness already runs through the car. There are few screws, most of the parts are clipped, which is why a clip lifter set can be used so as not to shoot the plastic rivets. And why does the driver's seat have to give way? Simply because otherwise the B-pillar trim cannot be removed. Fortunately, you can remove the seat by loosening four 50 mm Torx screwseasy.

And it doesn't fit ...

When you arrive in the driver's footwell, some trim parts have to be removed before you can find a way in the direction of the radio slot. There it says for the old head unit: Departure! Not in the trash, of course, but well kept in a box. Only the frame in which the screen was placed is thrown into the trash. The new infotainment system comes with two metal rails that are then screwed into the existing holes. Incidentally, if you thought that you didn't have to do anything on the passenger side, you're wrong, because that's where the GPS antenna is packed into the headliner. The cable winds down under the side airbag in the A-pillar, along under the glove compartment and then from the footwell also into the center console.

The big moment is finally the sinking of the new unit in the old shaft - and look there: it doesn't fit. Why? Because the radio plug is too big and the whole thing sits on the left side. But there is also a solution for this problem. That reads: Angled FAKRA plug. After six hours of tinkering, the BMW is back in one piece and the China infotainment is finally where it should be. In principle, it is an Android tablet in the form of infotainment.

Patrick Lang
After six hours of work, the navigation system is ready placed and screwed the car back together. Luckily this part works!

The sound from the original BMW boxes is great, the navigation system locates the position within seconds. I can now charge my smartphone while I'm driving and stream music at the same time. But I don't have to, because Spotify can be installed directly as an application via Playstore and put on the start screen. It is better that way, because while radio, CD and MP3 files sound good, the sound quality of Bluetooth streaming is more than poor. Tinny, with overdriven peaks and missing bass. This is where the low price is reflected - a high-quality Bluetooth module is not in the China navigation system.

And there is another problem. Precisely because in principle this is aAndroid tablet, the installed apps can also be operated like on such a tablet. So no reduced display with enlarged control elements as in Android Auto or Apple Carplay. While driving, the operation is correspondingly too detailed and should be avoided. After all, thanks to the Can-Bus included, basic commands such as “Loud /Quiet” and “Track forward /back” work directly via the original buttons on the steering wheel. You can take a look at the whole installation step by step in our picture gallery.

5 Comments

Vickey

2022-08-23 13:36:55

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