Electrical Issues,  RV Live with Nerds on the Road

Bring the Noise

radio Life in the RV was going to be quiet and dull without any music.  When we bought the Brougham, there was a busted old Pioneer stereo mounted in the dash with various buttons and pieces of plastic missing.  And of course it did not turn on.

After pulling the existing stereo and looking around behind the dash, it was no surprise it didn’t turn on – wires once held together with electrical tape had long since fallen apart.  This included the positive power cable, which, for some reason, had been connected carelessly to part of the cigarette lighter wiring – despite the fact that there was an ‘accessory’ wiring connection 2 inches away.  When this cable’s electrical tape harness has fallen off, the cigarette lighter’s positive wiring had just been rattling around inside the dash, shorting out and blowing the fuse every time we replaced it.

To replace the stereo we picked up a Clarion unit at Frys – nothing fancy, but it sounds great, and, most importantly, has an aux input on the front for our mp3 players.  Installing the stereo was no work at all really, the only difficulty being slowly working through the speaker wires which ran to the dash from who knows where.  The factory stereo installed in the van back in ’73 was in fact a ‘mono’ – with a single speaker in the center of the dash.  A previous owner had installed a couple of small speakers – one on the ceiling between the seats in the cab, and one towards the back of the RV.  Somehow though, despite there being only 3 speakers I could find, enough wires for 5 speakers popped up behind the dash.  Hidden speakers in the shower?  Maybe.  And if not, I might just install some.

Aiwa SpeakersGiven that Katya and I both like our music loud enough to cause small earthquakes, these little speakers weren’t going to be enough.  Our budget was limited though – not enough to go all out and get amps, crossovers, subs and all the rest of the usual car audio stuff.  Instead we took a trip to our usual destination for picking up cheap things we need – Goodwill.  Conveniently, there were a couple of Aiwa home-stereo speakers recently divorced from their lifelong partner, and looking for a new one.  We plugged them into a random stereo, grabbed a Poison tape from Goodwill’s excellent tape selection, and turned it up.  They sounded pretty great.

After peeling back the rubber flooring in the cab, inhaling a significant amount of whatever weird insulation material is under there, and running new wires, our speakers were installed out of the way behind the seats.  I also wired up the smaller speaker on the ceiling of the cab to provide a little fill.  For now this works.  If I was incredibly anal about it all, I’d probably be bothered by the fact that these speakers don’t really match the output impedance of the stereo’s amp, their current position means a lot of the higher frequencies a dampened by the seats…  I just realized that apparently I am incredibly anal about all of this, and it does bother me.  Silly thing about that is – it really does sound great the way it is.

My next project will be to install a power switch for the stereo so we can run it off either the starter battery, the house battery, or the converter box (the box that allows us to plug into external power sources, like at RV parks).  As well as the power switch, I’ll be running some wiring from the cab over to the living area of the RV so we can connect our laptops to the main stereo and enjoy music and movies through something other than feeble little laptop speakers.  Conveniently, the stereo came with a little remote control, so we won’t even need to get up to change the volume.

And after all that work, while I’m still back in Portland, working through selling the rest of my belongings and re-homing my cats, I’m stuck listening to music through my computer’s speakers.  Guess that’s what I get for not having sorted all this out sooner.

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