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by Jeremy Schrag
Back in the nineties, customers had only two options when it came to playing compact discs in their cars: the single-disc in-dash player, and the multi-disc changer in the trunk. These trunk mounted changers were originally pretty limited, with space for a mere six discs. Later, capacity increased to the point that in the aftermarket, you could daisy-chain multiple 12 disc changers together for hours of entertainment. Pioneer went even further, releasing a 51-disc changer that would prove popular for a while in the late nineties.
There was always one simple problem with those trunk mounted changers - one had to leave the comfort of their car to load or unload any of the discs in them.
Enter the in-dash CD changer. Starting in the late nineties, manufacturers finally figured out how to make these small enough to fit in the dashboards of vehicles. These new changers could store fewer discs than their trunk mounted brethren, but companies reasoned that this would be outweighed by sheer convenience. In practice, making such changers came at the price of reliability issues that never really went away.
Chrysler saw what aftermarket companies like Alpine were doing with these in-dash changers, and thought it sounded like a good idea. Mitsubishi Electronics was asked to bring the idea into being, and so they did. For cars like the Sebring, sufficient space was available to allow for a car stereo with a four disc changer built right into the radio... we’ve already had a look at that unit here. But even before that challenge was met, the idea was tried for the first time on the late nineties LH body vehicles.
It is this first attempt at the in dash changer that we are looking at today. As is often the case with being the first of anything, these early four disc in dash changers were the worst when it came to reliability. It got so bad for a while that Chrysler even issued a TSB on the problem, with dealers frequently replacing them. In case you have one of these, I’m going to show you how get these apart so you can rescue your trapped compact discs. Note that this guide only applies to the early four disc model, not the six disc CD and DVD models found in later vehicles.
Unlike the later in-dash models that were built into the radio itself, the second generation LH body cars did not have the space behind the radio bezel to accommodate the extra-long mechanism of the changer. Instead, a compromise was reached; the mechanism was moved into a separate module underneath the radio. Here’s an image of mine from above - at eight and a quarter inches from the bezel to the back of the protrusion where the interface connector is, you can see just how long this housing is.
Red arrows indicate the top cover screws. We’ll get into this unit shortly.
Each side of the unit holds very few screws. On each side, the two brass colored screws hold the front face on. The single silver colored screw facing the camera holds the clamp on for the front suspension clamps.
On the back panel, there is a single eight pin connector designed to interface the changer with the radio. Power, data, and audio information... it’s all provided for on this connector. There is a pinout diagram on the label of the unit. In terms of electrical compatibility, this unit may possibly be interfaced with any of Chrysler’s round faced decks from the early 2000s. However, they are not compatible with earlier Chrysler CD changer control decks... I’ve tried.
There are three screws facing the camera. The two vertical ones on the left hold the interface box to the chassis, while the single screw on the right connects a ground wire from the changer body itself to the chassis.
This is the bottom of the unit. We need not concern ourselves with any of these screws just yet. In fact, the two bottom ones do not need to be removed, ever.
Removing the top cover, we find the changer mechanism itself floating on a system of springs and rubber suspension bushings. If this view looks familiar, it may be because you’ve read my article on the four disc Sebring in dash changer unit. That’s right, folks - this is very nearly the same mechanism with minor electronics differences.
There are red arrows pointing to the four springs that help to hold the changer mechanism in place. Make note of their locations - to get this unit apart, these springs will need to be removed.
But before the mechanism can be removed, we need to get the faceplate off. Remove all four screws, unclip the faceplate from the sides and bottom of the chassis, and pull it straight off.
You can remove the faceplate circuit board if desired, but there really isn’t much that can be serviced. To do so, remove the three red arrowed screws. Then, pry gently on one side of the board as you release the tiny clips arrowed in blue. It will pop right off.
This is the front side of the faceplate board. All illumination is provided by surface mount micro-lamps with blue filters, while the indicator lamps are LEDs in black housings.
We’ll start the process of removing the mechanism now. Holding on to the top of the mechanism, turn the whole unit over. Remove the blue arrowed ground screw, as I have already done. Then, remove the two red arrowed screws.
We are about to remove the black rubber bushings that secure the mechanism to the chassis, so from this point on you must take care to hold the mechanism whenever you turn the unit over. This is to prevent the mechanism from falling right out on you.
Unclip each of the rear bushing retainers, like this, and pull the bushings off the shafts on each side. These clamps are completely removable, should you desire.
This is a close-up of one of these bushings. I find that these have often come off already, just from the mechanism being bounced around in a car for years. This unit was no exception - one of the three had come off.
When you go to re-install these, you will find yourself having to stretch out the hole a little bit to get them to go back on their shafts.
The clamps for the front bushings are installed a bit differently, but work in the same way. Remove their screws, and pry them out where you see my screwdriver.
Making sure all four springs are disconnected, you should now be able to separate the mechanism from the chassis. There will be a long ribbon cable joining the mechanism to the mainboard, so proceed slowly.
Our next step is to disconnect the mainboard ribbon cable. This can be done at either end of the cable, but I’ve chosen to do it here so I can give you a better look.
All but one of the ribbon cables in this changer use the connector style you see here, in the inset. The inset shows the connector with its black clip in the released position. Just pop the clip towards the cable on each side, and pull the cable out of the connector.
Being nearly identical to the changer in the Sebring deck I mentioned earlier, this mechanism shares the exact same basic flaw. See the red arrow? At times, that little gear has the habit of working itself right up and off the motor shaft it is attached to. Because this is the platter drive motor, it can then no longer move the four disc platters up and down for loading or unloading. This is the number one reason this mechanism fails, locking your discs inside.
There is a small metal tab next to the blue arrowed gear, which holds the shaft of said gear. If the red gear has come off, and is found rolling around inside the chassis, it is possible to gently bend that metal tab to the right, move the blue gear away from the motor shaft, and reinstall the red gear where it’s supposed to go. This should bring the whole mechanism back to full working order, when the electronics realize that the platters can move again.
That said, it is possible for the mechanism to jam up more spectacularly than this, requiring access to the gears that drive the laser arm and disc loading mechanism. To gain access to these, the circuit board must be removed. De-solder and unbend the yellow indicated twist tabs. De-solder the three solder joints found inside the purple arrowed white box. De-solder the yellow and gray wires you see on the bottom left... these run to the platter motor. Finally, disconnect the black arrowed ribbon cables.
For curiosity’s sake, here’s a shot of the mechanism without the circuit board. There is nothing to service on the board itself - it’s all surface mount technology, requiring access to a very fine tipped soldering iron or a hot air rework station to do any work on the soldering.
Let’s rescue some CDs now. Before we go much further, refer back to the previous picture of the underside of the mechanism.
What we need to do first is move all the platters up to the top of the mechanism so we can get your discs out. To do this, manually drive that blue arrowed gear in the direction of the circuit board. Do this gently, so that none of these gears break. It will take a little time to move all of the platters to the top, but keep at it.
Now, turn the mechanism over, facing up.
In these two pictures, you see a set of blue arrows and a set of red ones. Using a Phillips #0 screwdriver, remove only the red ones. If your deck is beyond all hope of repair you may go ahead and remove the blue ones as well, however that section of the top cover has parts bolted to it that will fight you, and the mechanism will go out of alignment. I’m choosing not to go any further into this one, as my unit is fully working.
Once you’ve removed the red screws, flip that front section of the top cover up and back along the tape.
Here’s how it’s done. With the platters all the way at the top, you should now be able to remove your discs. I’ve placed one of mine in there for demonstration.
Now that we’ve looked at the changer mechanism, we’ll go back to the chassis for a look at the mainboard.
Again, all components are surface mount, so there is really no need to remove this board. There are no solder joints at all on the bottom. It can be removed, however. Simply de-solder and/or twist loose the locking tabs arrowed in red. Pull back the clear film over the blue arrowed connector, then disconnect its ribbon cable. This is the cable joining the mainboard to the little interface box on the back.
The mainboard pries out from here.
Moving on to the interface box, we’ll get inside this part of the deck as well. The entire box comes off the chassis, but before we do that we’ll remove the upper circuit board.
Unplug the blue arrowed ribbon cable. Unlike all other ribbon cables in the unit, this one is merely friction fit. Just pull it straight up and out. De-solder and untwist the tabs arrowed in yellow, then pull that top board straight up.
Here’s what’s found on that upper board... a transformer, a coil, and the interface connector itself.
To get the rest of the interface electronics out of the housing, remove the red arrowed screw. De-solder the blue arrowed twist tabs and bend them in line with the housing.
The business side of the board holds two 16 volt, 1000 microfarad capacitors and a 2SD1273 transistor.
This concludes my look at Chrysler’s very first in dash CD changer. Next time, we'll turn the clock back even further and have a look at the first cassette deck ever offered in a Mopar.
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