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Free iPod Input for Your Volvo Radio

Overview

Fix: Plug any audio source into your old Volvo stereo for free.

Problem

There is no auxiliary audio input for Volvo factory stereos, so no way to listen to iPods or other MP3 players without buying a CD changer or using the low quality “cassette with cables” thing, those tape adapters with hanging wires for car stereos that lack an auxiliary audio input. I hate hanging wires, and you lose a generation of audio quality using them.

Since the CD button on most Volvo car stereos will only activate when tricked into believing they have a CD changer available, I dug around for a free solution to this problem, and eventually found it is relatively easy. Follow the steps below to connect an audio (headphone style) input jack directly to almost any Volvo stereo without any additional kit or spending any money. The solution is to solder an audio cable to the connector card between the tape pre-amp and the head unit’s main amp. This is much easier than it sounds, and once you have the cable soldered in, you will get a clean signal on the line anytime an empty (or “dummy”) audio tape is inserted.

Requirements

  • Any Volvo “double height” car stereo with a tape deck… mine is factory from a 1996 850
  • Familiarity with simple soldering
  • Understanding that you are doing this at your own risk

Procedure

  • Remove the radio head unit as described elsewhere (push slot releases on front of unit, pull out, unplug cabling on back)
  • Unscrew the four screws on the top of the head unit and remove the top cover
  • The tape unit will be visible – it is connected to the lower unit via a thin card with slip-on slip-off connectors. Remove the four screws holding the tape unit chassis to the lower deck, and lift out the tape unit.
  • Where the tape unit connected towards the back of the head unit is a little circuit card which connects the tape unit to the amplifier/controller. It is seated into the lower unit via a slip-on slip-off connector. Reach under the edge of this little connector card, which sticks straight up, and ease it out of its seat and out of the unit. This card is just a connector, and has no electronics on it. The card is labeled on one side, and labeled pins 3 – 5 should be, reading from the bottom of the card, GROUND, L, R.
  • Cut the cable from an old pair of shagged out headphones, or any other scrap device with a 1/8 audio jack. Cut the cable as long as possible from the jack. Strip the wires, and solder the sleeve wire to the GROUND connector on the little card, the center audio jack wire to “R” on the card, and the tip connector to “L” on the card. I use a little bit of double sided tape to run the wires neatly along the card. Now check for continuity between the headphone (audio) connector jack and the pins on the card.
  • When all is clear, reseat the card in the base of the head unit running the wires out of the top opening of the holder.
  • Carefully reseat the tape unit, pressing firmly, and replace the four screws that hold it in.
  • Run the cable from the unit through one of the open spaces in the case – I routed mine in the rear right corner where there is a small gap. Replace the top cover of the head unit allowing a LITTLE slack cable to remain in the unit to keep the wires from becoming stressed.
  • Replace the radio running the new audio cable to wherever your audio source will be (I connected it to a GPS/MP3 player in the glove box by drilling a small hole in the glove box and running the line in there).
  • Take an old home recorded style cassette tape (type does not matter as long as it has a screw housing). Unscrew the tape housing, and carefully remove all of the tape, cutting it from the two little hubs. Throw the actual tape away, and reassemble the cassette housing with the screws – this creates a “dummy” tape that will give no signal to the tape head when used.
  • Insert the dummy tape, plug in the audio cable to any audio source, and you get high quality sound from any source (inserting the dummy cassette is necessary to get the radio to amplify the tape audio channel we have jumpered into). Be sure to adjust the audio on your input device to roughly match the volume of the regular radio to avoid distortion. Do not use a regular audio tape, as it will add noise and may cause distortion of the signal – only use an empty (dummy) cassette.
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25 Responses to Free iPod Input for Your Volvo Radio

  1. frank says:

    great idea, and I followed the direcetions upto and including the removal of the tapehead. I just do not see this card with the three wires connected to it. Is there a picture for those of us less experienced with PC cards in these radios?

  2. OJ says:

    if your card doesn’t look like what is described here, follow these instructions: http://volvoforums.com/forum/showthread.php?t=32765

    This worked great for me. Although for the tape I had to use one of those input adapters (stereo 1/8 plug to tape), i just got rid of all the guts and left the gears to not trip an error that would spit the tape back out.

    Also, it sounds great. MUCH better than an iTrip, and better than the tape adapter I had been using.

  3. mll97850 says:

    I have a 1997 850 GLT.
    So, I haven’t taken the radio out yet to see what is on the back. I have a CD changer button, but no CD changer.
    I was hoping that there would be an input in the back for CD changer that i could just plug some kind of adapter from the headphone jack into. No?

  4. Simon says:

    ‘Unscrew the four screws on the top of the head unit’

    For the life of me I cannot understand which four screws to undo? What is the head unit? The top the bottom the back or the facia?

  5. Rod says:

    Hi does anyone know is this will work on 605 radio from 2000 REG V40.

  6. Rod says:

    Sorry trigger happy, did not finish last post, the 605 radio is a double height radio but is the later model than in Matts picture. Notably it does not have the 1-6 buttons on the front , though It does have a din socket at the back. Thanks for any help

  7. Matt says:

    WARNING: I did this and in the process managed to lose sound to all left speakers.

    I am sure this is some sort of common ground fault or something (no way three speakers would simultaneously either disintegrate or even lose contact…two of them would likely still be up in the event one speaker did fail…so I know it’s not that), but just be warned.

    What I think I did wrong was this: I have a 2000 Volvo V70 (station wagon). It has the CD and tape sections (I think the orignal poster perhaps only had tape…comment #2 above is an accurate picture of what my unit looks like…WITH the CD player removed).

    I took too many parts and assemblies apart. All you need to do is this: put the unit upright (should be CD side UP).

    Remove that top panel.

    CD player assembly will now be exposed. With a MAGNETIC screwdriver (philips), remove the four screws that hold the CD player in place (two of them are deep down in holes on the CD player unit). Set those screws aside.

    Now the tape unit’s pads are exposed down there.

    So proper PCB soldering would dictate:

    15watt (NOT 30 watt) iron. I solder all the time but used a 30 watt “in a pinch” and it liquefies the joints and toasts the silicon too quickly. You know the rule of thumb, if the solder fumes last one second or less, your iron is too hot (too high a wattage).

    The superior way is to flow new solder on the pads individually, then use solder braid or a soldapult to remove ALL solder. You now have a nice place you can stick your cable wires and get a proper mechanical connection, instead of just shoving it down into a solder mound.

    Insert and reflow solder onto joint.

    Yeah, I think my problem happened when I was (unnecessarily) pulling the back (the thicker metal assembly that has the connectors that the car’s wiring plugs into) off. There are pin connectors there (you slide it up, in case you want to take it off, but I didn’t realize this until after I’d done a fair bit of rocking and stuff…I wonder if a pin isn’t loose or something).

    Anyhow, be careful. For this particular double-height radio vintage, while poster 2 was extraordinarily helpful, I do not believe he or she posted every step if you have the CD player in there.

    Tread carefully. I am in troubleshooting mode here but I suspect not many people would be likely to do the same.

  8. Ryan says:

    Just made this conversion on a 1991 Volvo 940. Though it’s not the double decker system, these instructions were clear enough to make it happen. The GND, LCH, and RCH locations have a ribbon coming into one side of the board and solder on the other side. I removed the ribbon from those three spots and pushed my wires through the original holes which made soldering much easier.

    Thanks so much for a wonderful writeup!

  9. Ryan says:

    As it turns out the audio is working great with this modification for me, but my tape deck keeps switching the tape from side A to side B. Anyone have any idea how to disable that?

  10. Mike Breeze says:

    Followed this procedure today on my 1995 850 and it worked beautifully – a very elegant hack.

    It took a while to find the connector card you were talking about and I really should have taken a photo to help replace your lost flickr ones. For anyone else reading this, the car in question is about 80mm high by 50mm across and is left sitting vertically at the rear right of the radio cabinet (running parallel to the facia of the radio unit) once you remove the cassette head.

    For the record I also wired a headphone jack to an 8 pin mini din and tried that in the CD Changer input this morning. As you say above, the stereo unit will not allow you to change to CD input with just this mod. Clearly some electronics are required to make the unit believe it is talking to a CD player.

    Thanks for a great post – driving to Sydney (from Melbourne) on Monday and we’ll now have crystal clear sound to help drown out the sound of the locusts slapping into the windscreen:)

  11. Guido (Germany) says:

    That works fine,did it on a Sc-901 with 3 Cd Changer,only problem is that it does not accept the Dummy Tape,it will be ejected after seconds,it works only with a complete tape with no music recorded.Think about a pice of metal as replacement for the tape?!Any other ideas??
    Best regards!

  12. simon says:

    this is great i did it a year ago and it worked pretty well in my 96 850.
    but after all that i just found that it is much better to just get a cheap head unit from a car audio shop and install it yourself.
    a bit more hands on but the end result is alot better (iPod integration and better eq)

  13. ALAN says:

    Thanks. I just did this to the radio in my 1995 850 and it worked great. Now I sort of want to add one to my s70, but it’s a different head unit with a CD player on top and the cassette on the bottom. I may take it apart and eyeball it anyway. Although different, it’s probably a somewhat similar setup.

  14. John H says:

    I am going to try this, I’m hoping to make the mod work without a dummy tape. It seems like there should be a simple way to electronically fool the radio into thinking there’s a tape inserted. Right now, I’ve been using one of those crappy cassette to 1/8′ adaptors and it runs my battery down if I forget to eject it before I shut the car off.

  15. Jesper Andersen, Denmark says:

    I have a SC901 and is keen to attempt this hack. However, I have yet failed to read anybody actually having success with SC901! Please advise, thanks.

    Guido (Germany), did you manage to solve your “dummy tape non-acceptance”-issue?

  16. Alex says:

    I’m trying to do this on my 840 Wagon. I can’t find the card- it seems to be hidden beneath a strip of metal. So, I found the audio wires leading from the cassette player to beneath the metal strip, unplugged them from the tape deck, and just soldered a hookup onto them. Unfortunately, whenever I connect more than one wire, the signal become muddy and full of static. If I connect just the left or right channel wire to the cassette wires, the signal is clear- but more than one and it’s awful. The same happens if I connect one channel and the ground. Any help please?!

  17. Brent(South Africa) says:

    Very helpfull forum and this is an awesome AUX out hack for tape radios. I have a SC-802 and successfully made the AUX out thingy.
    Some advise:
    1.Use RCA leads to connect to the tape deck board(looks much more neater).
    2.The 10uF capacitors worked like a charm. 470uF killed my audio out and I didn’t even bother with the resistor config from previous posts.
    I have not mastered the tape dummy, without the tape, and won’t bother. Still using a blank tape.
    I am feeding this AUX connection from my Radio to an AUX in of a FM Transmitter(cheap one). I then extended the USB connection(of the FM Transmitter) to my front ashtray and the IR remote receiver(of the FM Transmitter) to my Radio. Now I listen to MP3s via USB and control it via the FM Transmitter remote. It sounds great. Props to Matthews Volvo site and the other Volvo forums.

  18. Mihaela says:

    What if my tape deck isnt working? for the longest time its been messed up. just keeps turning the tape over every few seconds. I would have been happy even with the tape adapter, but since that doesnt work, I need to find another way to hook up my phone or mp3 player for music.

  19. Robert says:

    Hello. Im pretty new to all this, but I was just wondering where this card is exactly. I cant find anything with the description. I have a standard stereo from a 1996 850.

  20. Luke says:

    I am trying to install a direct aux input on my Sc 901 head unit as well. Please send information if anyone has the know how.
    thanks

  21. Don Go says:

    Has anybody tried this on an HU-613? (That’s the model in my ’04 V70)
    thanks!

  22. Seb says:

    Thanks so much for the directions to do this. I was able to successfully connect my iPhone4 to my V40′s HU-615… A little different to the switchboard here described but with a little bit of common sense and “maybe” luck it worked just great the first time I was soldering the jack to the board… Cheers

  23. Stephan says:

    I wanted to try this on my 901 with 3-cd changer, but I cannot even find all the screws to release the cd changer. Guido said he did it on a 901, but does anybody know how?

  24. Walter Edstrom says:

    Tried this on my ’97 850 station wagon. The stereo is a SC-710, and now there doesn’t seem to be any power any speakers, the CD changer in my trunk, or the tape player. (Basically the only thing that works is the display for the radio). I’m not sure if I accidentally unplugged something when I was putting it all back together or if the pin connector in the back have been damaged.

    If anyone has insight on what might be going on here that would be great. It’s kind of our family car and my dad will fry me if he finds out I broke the stereo trying to mod it for an aux input.

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