by Jeremy Schrag
As technology progresses, we expect more and more from the entertainment systems in our vehicles. Where once we might have been satisfied to play 8-track tapes in our vehicles, now we're seldom satisfied until we can play CDs, DVDs, MP3s, and satellite radio content. And we'd like all this to be supported by one single hub, please.
Chrysler has tried to keep up with this demand by equipping increasingly more complex head units in their vehicles. Today, I'm taking a good long look at one of these newer, more complicated decks, the REQ. Also called the Media Center 230, this is a deck that features a six disc DVD changer and MP3 playback right inside the unit.
There are several versions of this deck. You can get them for low speed CANBUS or high speed, with Sirius satellite tuners or without. All of them come with uConnect functionality, though in this model the uConnect stuff happens in a module external to the unit.
This particular REQ unit came out of the dash of a 2009 Journey, and it is a non-Sirius high speed CANBUS model. It will only work in a high speed CANBUS equipped vehicle. Should it be installed in a low-speed CANBUS vehicle, nothing apocalyptically bad will happen - the bus will go down and the vehicle will complain about it until the deck is removed. If you end up with a Sirius equipped model, you may be looking at a trip to the dealer to get that part of it set up through their scanner.
Here's the label on the unit. Supplier code 26777L indicates Alpine as the maker of this deck.
A look at the backside of the unit. All three connectors are employed by the unit, allowing connectivity to the uConnect module, video screens, and other things the vehicle may be equipped with. The connector on the far right in the picture is the main one - the one that connects to the speakers, main power, and CANBUS.
The left side panel. Yellow arrows indicate two of the four mounting screws for the faceplate. Any servicing inside the deck requires removing that faceplate.
Green arrows indicate which of the heat sink screws are longer than the others. These screws clamp the chips inside to the heat sink to insure they stay cool. Do not over tighten them if you remove them. This model even has a little fan to help it cool off.
The other side. Again, yellow indicates faceplate screws. Of the green arrowed screws, the one closest to the faceplate is another long one, while the other is short. Remember where they go - you will need to remove both of these if you plan to do any work on the electronics in this unit.
I've removed the unit's faceplate in this shot, after pulling the front knobs straight forward and off (they are friction fit to the shafts). The faceplate is clipped on, top and bottom. It is very easy to remove once all four screws have been removed.
Red arrows show you two of the four screws holding the top on. The other two are found on the back panel. Yellow arrows indicate two of the many screws that hold the changer and electronics assembly inside the outer case of the unit. You will need to remove these to service the electronics. Blue arrows indicate the seven screws that must be removed to pull the faceplate circuit board. But before we can do that, the auxiliary input ribbon cable must be disconnected.
A close-up of the aux connector ribbon cable. The yellow arrows point to where you need to gently pop the sides of the catch up, so you can pull the ribbon cable up and out of the connector.
The front of the faceplate PCB shows the dot matrix display, and two large silicon contact strips. From here, you can clean up the strips and/or the PCB side with a damp (not wet) cloth if they have gotten sticky.
The back side of one of the contact strips. Each button uses two contacts.
A close-up of the faceplate PCB. Surface mount LEDs are used for backlighting - there are no bulbs to replace.
Time to get further into the unit. Remove the four screws holding the top cover on, and you should see this view.
With the top cover off, it is very, very easy to clean the laser lens. Observe the red arrow - it's pointing right at the laser lens through that rectangular hole. A quick gentle dab of a cotton swab moistened with isopropyl alcohol should do it.
Now, because this is a very complicated changer deck, it is beyond the scope of this article to tell you how to get in there far enough to adjust laser power. For that matter, un-jamming the mechanism is also quite complicated. Neither job is for the weekend warrior type - you must get this deck to a qualified technician to do it if you've never done anything like this before. I'd say disassembling the changer is about a 10 out of 10 for degree of difficulty. Sometimes you can get them to un-jam by gently swatting the side of the unit while trying to eject.
Should you desire to go ahead anyway and take the changer apart, I wish you luck. I'll show you how to get it apart far enough to pull the changer mechanism out, and there I will have to stop.
But first, we need to get the changer, main PCB, and middle plate out of the shell. Observe the red screws - these are for the heat sink. You will have to remove them. The blue screws hold the middle plate in the unit - take them out, too.
In fact, we pretty much have to remove all the screws around the outside of the unit. Note where the longer ones go.
When removing the heat sink, make sure you unplug the fan from its connector.
The yellow arrow points at the fan connector. Don't forget to reconnect it when you put this back together — the fan has no RPM monitor lead, so the deck won't be able to tell if it's unplugged. The deck will shut down if it gets too hot, but it's best to make sure the fan is connected regardless.
Once all screws around the outside are out, you can now remove the inner workings. Be VERY careful doing this. The changer mechanism relies on a big ring gear on top that drives the platform gears. If you pull up hard enough on the top panel of the changer to deform it (via those two big round holes), you will damage the changer loading mechanism by bending that ring gear. We don't want that. If the inner part of the deck won't come out of there yet, look for the screws you missed.
Above, you see the inner tray removed from the unit, changer side down to show the main PCB. If your deck is flaky, there's a chance all the heat producing parts in here need to be re-soldered. To do that, remove the main PCB. This is relatively easy from here. Red arrows point at the latches for the changer ribbon cable. Release them, grab the white plastic square ring around the connector, and pull the ribbon cable out (the ring is glued to the cable to help you with that).
Remove the blue screws, and the board will come right off.
Red arrows indicate some of the heat sinked components. As you can see, this deck has gotten hot enough to make the thermal grease go all runny. It's not a bad idea to apply new thermal compound while you're in here.
The solder side of the main PCB. I've pointed out in red all the places where you'd be likely to find bad solder joints.
This is the middle plate without the main PCB in place. Red arrows show you the mounting screws for the changer assembly. Should you wish (against my recommendations) to get that far into the unit, remove them. They're even numbered for you.
I can't show you how to get the changer apart, but I can show you some details of its operation. I've loaded it with six discs. The mechanism slides them through the laser assembly back to a series of six plastic semi-circular trays, seen above. When a disc is requested by the unit for playing, or ejecting, or loading; the laser assembly moves to the front of the deck to get out of the way first.
Then, the big circular ring gear I mentioned earlier drives the four platform worm gears up or down to move the correct disc into position. The deck has enough room both above and below the laser assembly to hold all discs required to do this. There are two spindles, one on the changer assembly's top panel and one on the bottom panel, to assist the trays in holding the discs in place.
Red arrows here indicate the four platform gears. On the left side of the picture, you can see the three motors that drive the mechanism. That it needs so many motors gives you some idea on how complicated the mechanism is. Servicing it is not for the faint of heart.
Because this is a CANBUS deck, I cannot operate it normally without an emulator, or a vehicle that can run it. Since have neither, I'll show you all I can. The deck will load and unload discs without a CANBUS signal, and that's all.
To load a disc, press the load button. You will see the above prompt. Hit the number corresponding to the disc you want to load. It will then show you this message:
The deck needs to move the correct tray into place before it can accept the disc. Once it has, it'll show you this message:
Slide the disc into the slot, and it will pull it in.
Ejecting works much the same way. Hit the eject button, and it will show you this:
In this picture, only tray #2 has a disc in it. I'll press that button.
Presto, the disc is ejected.
This concludes my brief look at one of the most complicated Chrysler decks I've ever had my hands on. Next time, I'll look at a four disc in dash changer that promises to be just as exciting.
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