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Wednesday
May042011

Custom iPhone or iPod Install in '99-'01 Miata

In 2007 I detailed a custom iPod install using an earlier model of the Dension iPod Cradle.  Unfortunately, the earlier model only supports the 12-volt charging pin on the iPod dock connector.  In 2008 Apple dropped support for the 12-volt charging pin on new models of the iPhone and iPod.  That meant the latest iPhones and iPods couldn't be charged by the original Dension Cradle.  Subsequently, Dension released an updated model of their Cradle that supports the (now standard) 5-volt charging pin on the iPhone/iPod dock connector.  This article details the installation of the latest Dension iPod Cradle in a 2001 Mazda Miata using the factory radio.

DISCLAIMER:  These instructions are supplied for informational purposes only.  Installation should only be attempted by someone with the necessary technical knowledge and skill.  I cannot be held responsible if you don't know what you are doing and you screw up your iPod, iPhone or your Mazda factory radio.

Follow these instructions at your own risk!

I do not make or sell the necessary home-brew wiring harness so please don't ask me to make you one.

Applicable Mazda Miata Models

This article applies to the following Miata factory radios.

  • 1999 - 2000 Miatas with Single-DIN non-Bose factory radio
  • 1999 - 2001 Miatas with Single-DIN Bose factory radio

Note: This installation might be compatible with certain 1996 - 1997 Miata factory radios.  I do not have any personal experience with these radios.  See Stephen Foskett's Miata Audio Pinouts site for more information about the various factory radios Mazda has used in Miatas.

Why This Custom Install is Possible 

The above Miata models have a 16-pin connector located on the rear of their factory radio.  This connector is normally used to add the cassette player option to the sound system.  Present on this 16-pin connector are direct (line-level) inputs for audio right, audio left, and audio ground.  The 16-pin connector also has a pin that — when +12-volts is applied — turns off the AM/FM circuitry and turns on the direct (line-in) circuitry.  This allows the direct connection of external audio devices, such as the iPhone, iPod or other mp3 player.

Note: If you already have a cassette player in your 1999 - 2001 Miata, you will have to either remove it or figure out a way to tap into the cassette player's wiring harness.

Why So Few Models?

Miata factory radios prior to the mid-1996 model year can also have a direct (line-level) input added.  Those earlier radios have a round connector on the back, which is not being detailed in this article.  However, the information I am providing in this article could be used in conjunction with the 1990 - 1996 factory radio audio pinout designations to fashion a similar home-brew harness for those early models.

Starting in 2002, Mazda switched to a different design for their Miata factory radios.  These later models require a different approach to adding a direct (line-in) input.  Commercial solutions are available from various vendors for 2002+ model years.

Not Every Step is Covered

These instructions assume the installer is already knowledgeable about the disassembly of the Miata's center console and removal of the factory radio.  Lots of helpful information regarding wrenching on a Miata can be found in both the forums and the garage section of Miata.net.

Parts Needed For This Project 

Tools Needed 

  • Soldering Iron
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper
  • Multimeter, Test Light, or other method to check continuity
  • Screwdrivers, Wrenches, etc. 

Home-brew Wiring Harness Description 

  • Pin #1 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Right) goes to Pin #1 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
  • Pin #2 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Ground) goes to Pin #2 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
  • Pin #3 on the 16-pin connector (Audio Left) goes to Pin #3 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket
  • Pin #6 on the 16-pin connector (Line-In Trigger) goes to the SPST Rocker Switch
  • Pin #9 on the 16-pin connector (+12-volts) passes through the In-Line Fuse and the 1K-Ohm Resistor and goes to the SPST Rocker Switch
  • Pin #4 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket (+5-volts) goes to the positive lead of the Cigarette Lighter Adapter
  • Pin #7 on the 9-pin miniDIN socket (Electrical Ground) goes to the negative lead of the Cigarette Lighter Adapter

Installation Photos and Descriptions

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  The following photos should help explain the assembly and installation of the necessary home-brew wiring harness.

Factory Radio

Rear of 2001 Miata Factory Bose Radio (click image to expand)

Note that the 16-pin connector is numbered right to left with odd pin numbers across the top and even pin numbers across the bottom.

Closeup of the 16-pin Connector (click image to expand)

Dension iPod Cradle

Dension iPod Cradle (click image to expand)The Male 9-pin miniDIN Pinouts (click image to expand)

Home-brew Harness

Assembled Home-brew Wiring Harness (click image to expand)

The Female 9-pin miniDIN socket Pinouts (click image to expand)

The SPST rocker switch is installed into passenger-side dash trim cover.  A notch is cut in the corner of the dash trim cover to allow the Dension iPod Cradle's cable to pass through.

Passenger-side Dash Trim Cover (click image to expand)

Home-brew 16-pin Connector

To fashion a 16-pin connector that will fit the 16-pin socket on the back of the factory radio, the two Molex connectors are attached together (stacked) using a piece of the 3M double-sided foam tape.

Home-brew 16-pin Connector (click image to expand)

Home-brew 16-pin Connector Attached to Radio (click image to expand)Routing the Home-brew Harness

The harness is fed through the opening where the dash trim panel was removed.  The 16-pin connector end is fed to the area behind the factory radio.  (Remove the glove box door to gain easier access.)

The Harness Partially Installed (click image to expand)Opening in Dash for Factory Radio (click image to expand)Tapping the Fuse Box

The power to charge the iPhone or iPod is tapped at the factory fuse box using an Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter.  This clever device allows you to add a new circuit — complete with its own fuse — to an existing circuit.  I chose to install the Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter in the cigar fuse slot of the factory fuse box.

Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter (click image to expand)

The Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter is connected to the center terminal (+12-volts) of the cigarette lighter socket. The surround of the cigarette lighter socket is attached to any convenient screw that is attached to the Miata's chassis (ground).

Cigarette Lighter Socket (click image to expand)The Add-A-Circuit Adapter in Place in Factory Fuse Box (click image to expand)

Cigarette Lighter Adapter

I did not take photos of the cigarette lighter adapter.  The cigarette lighter adapter is used to convert the vehicle's +12-volts to the appropriate +5-volts needed to safely charge your iPhone or iPod.  Cut off the USB plug at the end of the cigarette lighter adapter's cable and strip the wires.  There should be just two wires.  Red is +5-volts and black is ground.  Use a DC voltage meter to double-check the output voltage and polarity of the cigarette lighter adapter BEFORE you connect it to the Dension Cradle.  It must read about 5 volts.  Do NOT connect higher voltage or you risk damaging your iPhone or iPod.

After installing the Add-A-Circuit Fuse Adapter and cigarette lighter socket, plug the cigarette lighter adapter into the socket and secure it in place with some electrical tape.  You want the adapter to stay nice and snug in the socket.  Tuck the cigarette lighter adapter and socket up under the dash near the factory fuse box and secure the package in place with some nylon wire ties.  Be sure none of the wires are rubbing against any sharp metal edges.

Finally, route the cigarette lighter adapter's cable over to the area behind the center console.  The cigarette lighter adapter's +5-volt and ground wires attach to the appropriate wires on the home-brew wiring harness.

Mounting The Dension Cradle

I mounted the Dension iPod Cradle using a Panavise In-Dash Mount.

Panavise In-Dash Mount (click image to expand)

Keeping Things Neat

I used a couple of black nylon cable clamps to secure the Dension Cradle's cable to the backside of the Panavise mount.

Cable Clamps to Keep Things Tidy (click image to expand)

Time to Listen to Some Tunes

Once everything is installed and hooked up, throwing the SPST rocker switch will put the radio into LINE mode ("LINE" will be displayed on the radio's LCD screen).  Press play on your iPod or iPhone and enjoy your favorite music or podcast!

iPhone Installed in 2001 Miata (click image to expand)

iPhone Installed in 2001 Miata (click image to expand)

Summary

Thanks to this new model Dension iPod Cradle it is finally possible to have an attractive iPod dock mounted in your car and charge the latest iPhone or iPod devices at the same time.  It is also worth noting that the sound quality from the audio pins on the iPhone or iPod dock connector is vastly superior to the sound quality from those devices' headphone jack.

Happy installing!

Tuesday
Apr192011

Sports cars are supposed to be red!

A story that my buddy VBob related to me back in the early '90s:  He was at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races and it was the first year that Mazda was making a big push to populate the infield with a bunch of their new sports car, the Miata.  It had been prearranged that all of the Miata owners would meet outside the gates to Laguna Seca Raceway, and then all drive to the infield in parade style.  VBob was standing on a hill inside the track as this long line of over 300 Miatas snaked into the infield.  Standing near VBob, also watching the long procession of jellybean-colored cars, were a couple of MG owners.  VBob overheard a bit of their conversation.  As best I remember VBob's telling, the conversation went something like this:  MG owner #1 said, "They supposedly don't leak oil or have electrical problems.  So what do you think the owners talk about?"  To which MG owner #2 replied, "The color of their car?"

Bingo!  Miata owners have been debating car color since the car was introduced.

Really, though, there's nothing to debate.  Sports cars are supposed to be red.  Sure, I'll take a Miata in almost any color versus some lesser car in red.  The Miata is too much fun to drive to let car color stop me from enjoying the experience.  But sports cars are supposed to be red.  This is a known fact.  Even those that choose to drive a yellow one or blue one are doing it just to be different.  They're making a statement that they are an individual.  That they make their own decisions, instead of following the herd.  But deep down inside, even they know sports cars are supposed to be red.  If they won the lottery tomorrow and found themselves shopping for a Ferrari, they'd buy a red one.

When Mazda introduced the Miata in 1989, it was available in just three colors.  Classic Red, Crystal White, and Mariner Blue.  For the first several years, over 70% of the Miatas sold were red. Granted, that had a lot to do with Mazda's production numbers.  Mazda made more red ones because they knew... sports cars are supposed to be red.   But Mazda's decision was also influenced by the demand.  The Miata-hungry public wanted red ones.  The public knew.

Fortunately, Mazda picked the correct shade of red from the start.  Classic Red is the perfect red for a sports car.  Not too purple and not too orange.  A nice, deep, paint-is-two-inches-thick red.  Then, in 2004, Mazda got it right again with the Velocity Red on the Mazdaspeed Miata.  Velocity Red is, basically, an ever-so-slightly deeper Classic Red plus metal flake.  It's a gorgeous color for a sports car.  Both Classic Red and Velocity Red are true sports car colors.  Sadly, even Mazda eventually screwed up sports car red.

For 2006, when Mazda released the redesigned Miata, they replaced Classic Red with True Red.  True Red is a sad example of sports car red.  True Red is too orange.  Next to Classic Red or Velocity Red, a True Red Miata looks like a pumpkin.  The True Red models apparently don''t sell all that well, either.  I see very few of them on the road.  The much darker Copper Red is more popular.  You'd think Mazda would figure it out and bring back Classic Red.

There are many owners of early Miatas that might be swayed to upgrade to a newer model if Mazda was offering a proper shade of red for their uber-popular sports car.  Some of these older models are getting long in the tooth.  It seems to me that Mazda is missing out on some sales.  Yet, Mazda keeps going completely in the wrong direction by offering different shades of blue.  That's certainly not the answer.  As we all know, sports cars are supposed to be red!