I have a complicated relationship with my automobiles. The vast majority of the time, I’m very happy with them. They’ve been very reliable overall, and I feel like I got good deals on both of them. I owe much of that to my dad, who has been an excellent resource when I’ve shopped for cars. He’s very knowledgeable about cars and has worked in dealerships for over a quarter century, so he’s taught me a lot about what to look for when buying and how to maintain and fix things.
However, then there are times when I create huge, freaking messes that I have to get out of. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a snazzy new car stereo. I listen to a lot of music, and the radio drives me crazy, so I decided it was time to upgrade to a CD player. I shopped around and found something that I liked—it plays MP3 CDs and even has a USB port so I can play files off of a flash drive or hard drive.
I had installed the stereo on my other car with the help of a roommate, and it was easy enough that I decided that I could tackle this one by myself. However, I knew it would be slightly more complicated, because the factory stereo in this car was apparently designed by monkeys—instead of being a single unit in the dash, it was in two pieces, and my dad informed me that those two pieces actually connected to a third piece located somewhere inside the dash.
No problem, I thought. I even found searched online and found some instructions especially for my car. Apparently the control unit was not just inside the dash but under the glove box, about two feet away from the two other pieces. This meant that instead of simply pulling the the old stereo out and wiring up the new one, I had to extend each wire by about two feet so that they’d reach. Well, that didn’t sound so hard, so I bought some wire and some wire strippers and set to work.
Of course, I should note that even though I have successfully completed many other car repairs, I know next to nothing about electronics, so I didn’t think to unplug the negative battery terminal to prevent short-outs. And because I’m really dumb, I decided to plug the wiring harness (with bare wire ends dangling) into the connector inside the dash (which has one wire that has constant power, even when the car’s off) so I could see how long the wire extensions would have to be.
If you, unlike me, know something about electronics, then you can probably figure that I shorted something out. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that something was wrong until a few hours later, when I finally had it all wired up and installed and couldn’t get the darn thing to turn on. I wasn’t even sure where to begin looking for the problem. The fuses all looked okay, but it easily could have been a lose connection, or—heaven forbid—I could have fried my brand-new stereo.
So for an entire week I drove around with the underside of my dash taken apart, wires hanging out, and tools strewn about all over my car—and with a dead stereo. Now I didn’t even have radio as I drove to work. And as much as I wanted to come home after work and fix it, I simply didn’t have the time and energy to tackle a project like that on a week night. Instead I waited until today, drove down to my parents’ house, and proceeded to unwire it, rewire it, and then pinpoint the problem.
Once I had located the bad wire (the constant power wire, which I had apparently shorted out), my dad told me how to splice it into another constant power wire by using this little fuse adapter thingy. Voila—after several hours of work and several trips to Wal-Mart and Autozone over two weekends, I finally had my stereo working. I had triumphed over my car once again—with the help of my dad, of course.