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by Jeremy Schrag
Once upon a time, Chrysler decided to get a leg up on the competition by offering a more advanced option when it came to audio head units: they asked Mitsubishi to take a CD player and a cassette deck and cram them both into a single unit. The result was, I believe, the first CD/cassette combination deck to be offered by one of the big three. I've already given you a look inside that particular deck, and it remains even now a highly sought after unit for older vehicles that take the old rectangular style Chrysler head units.
As time passed, things changed. With the new millenium looming on the horizon, Chrysler went to a more rounded face style of head unit. Naturally, the electronics inside evolved as well, even though the company still utilized the old dual black/gray connectors for much of their decks up to 2001.
At first, not a lot changed for the CD/cassette combo deck. It received better support for CD recordables, but for the most part it was still the same technology with a new face. Then, 2002 hit. Sirius satellite radio launched, and Chrysler wanted in on that action early. This meant updating audio system technology once again, and we're going to have a look at the result here today. Pictured below is a 2002 combo deck, sales code RAZ.
This is not the first unit to be bestowed with this sales code. Earlier models look a lot like this one, with a few key changes. This model supports Sirius - the earlier units did not. This model features RDS (Radio Data System) support - earlier units did not. This model has a two band equalizer compared to the three band from years past, perhaps the easiest way to tell them apart.
Editor’s note: I had an RAZ in a 2006 Town & Country and found the bass to be overemphasized, resulting in a muddy sound, overall. I swapped in an identical-looking RBU, and the sound improved. See the RAZ-to-RBU swap, with RAZ removal instructions (from 2002-07 minivans).
Some of you may be wondering what RDS is all about, especially if you currently have a head unit like this but live in an area where no radio stations are equipped with the system. Basically, it's an old idea that took an eternity to gain traction here in North America. First standardized in Europe way back in 1984, it finally materialized on this continent in the late 90s, and was renamed the Radio Broadcast Data System, or RBDS. But when Chrysler decided to adopt support for it, the European name stuck. So, when we talk about RDS and RBDS, we're pretty much talking about the same thing.
RDS provides a way to transmit data over the FM band. This allows things like song titles, station IDs, and even traffic reports to be sent to a compatible radio where they will flash up on the display. And sadly, even in 2011 support for it is still sketchy. Big city radio stations are almost always equipped to transmit this data, while smaller centers' FM stations don't have the equipment to do it. Combined with the fact that you have to be relatively close to the station to receive RDS data, it is entirely possible that a lot of you reading this article have never seen it in action where you live. I am one such person, so I cannot show you the RDS stuff working. But I can and will explain how it works in regards to this particular head unit later in this article.
Here's a shot of the topside of the unit, which gives us a good look at the label. Note the supplier code of 28046 - this indicates that Mitsubishi is the manufacturer of the unit, if I'm going by my past history of units with this supplier code. Note the presence of the two screws at the top of the picture - we will need to remove these to access the CD module. The label also provides a useful pinout diagram of the connectors on the back, which I'll zoom in on now:
Of the two connectors, the small one connects to the in dash changer your vehicle may be equipped with. The larger one handles the bulk of the deck's functions, including communications with the vehicle's computer system for diagnostic info and premium amplifier turn-on.
Let's get into the action now and have a look at the CD module. I'll show you how to get at the laser lens, as well as adjust laser power as I have in my previous articles. Remove the two screws holding on the top panel and remove the top panel. You will then see this view:
Cleaning the laser lens can already be done at this point. The left lower red arrow is located directly below some fairly large slots in the mechansim through which the lens can be seen. The slots are large enough to pass a cotton swab moistened with isopropyl alcohol. Just give the lens a quick brush with it, and it should be good to go. But if you're still getting read errors, and you want to try a laser power adjustment, you're going to have to work a bit harder for it.
The red arrows point to all four mounting screws for the CD module. Remove them, and the module will lift straight up out of there. It is attached to the mainboard of the unit by a single ribbon cable, just like the older Chrysler combo decks made by Mitsubishi. Here's a view of the back panel, with a better look at the two rear screws:
Here, I've lifted the module out to show you how to disconnect the ribbon cable. There is a small plastic latch on the connector that holds the cable in place. Simply take a small screwdriver or even your fingernail and push lightly against the parts circled in yellow in the direction of the red arrows. The cable will likely now fall right out of the connector, and you can set the module aside. Remember how this connector works - the deck is full of them and you will need to remove two more to get at the laser power adjustment.
This is where things get a bit squirrely on the CD module. Mitsubishi loves to use metal twist tabs to hold circuit boards in place, and this unit is no exception. The five red arrows point to these. Fortunately, it is not hard to discern how to unlatch these. Unfortunately, if you do this procedure too often, the tabs will break off. You should be ok for two to three disassembly procedures before this happens, however. Disconnect those two ribbon cables before you forget to do it, like I always do. They work the same way as the ribbon cable connector for the module itself.
Before the CD board can be removed, that metal shield on the top right needs to be removed so that you can access the solder joints for the loading motor. Remove the screw denoted by the blue arrow and snap that shield off. It is clipped in place.
With all five twist tabs released and the metal shield gone, all that remains is to desolder the loading motor. You have to do this before the circuit board will come up and give you access to the laser sled. The red arrows point to all three solder joints that need to be desoldered. I use my trusty old Soldapullt to do this.
Now, you should be able to gently pry the board off. Try not to flex it too much - there are a lot of surface mount electronics that won't like having their solder joints broken. The laser sled can be easily identified by the presence of the long worm gear.
Now, you can get at the laser power adjustment potentiometer, indicated by the red arrow. As always, adjust up or down in very small increments. Reassemble and test the module after each adjustment. This won't help you if the laser itself is toast, but it's something to try for cheap if the player errors out all the time.
I'm not going to stop here, though. This deck also has a cassette section. Maybe you're like me and you have a ton of rare 80s stuff on cassette that was never released on CD. Maybe your RAZ's tape deck snapped the belt, and you want to replace it.
Well, there's no easy way to say this - prepare for a fight. The CD module is easy to access and service. The cassette module is buried deep within the unit.
The first thing we'll do is remove the faceplate and its circuit board. They both come off as an assembly, making things a bit easier. While I'm at it, I'll give you a look at the faceplate circuitry.
This is the left side of the unit, where the amplifier and power modules reside. The red arrows point to screws you will eventually need to remove to get the amp module out, so remember where they are. It's the yellow screws we want to remove for now.
Likewise, the opposite side has some screws to remove as well, also pointed out in yellow.
With all four faceplate screws removed, there are only a few plastic clips holding the faceplate on. I've pointed out the two on the bottom in red, here. There are two on top and one on each side between the screw holes, as well. You may need the assistance of a small flat blade screwdriver. Don't pry so hard that the clips break, though. I find it easier to unclip one side at a time, keeping pressure on the faceplate so that the clips don't pop back into place while I'm wrestling with the others.
Once the faceplate's off, there are three screws and some more plastic clips holding the faceplate circuit board in. I'll just remove the board and show you what it looks like underneath.
But first, an extreme close-up of the circuit board near the connector that joins it to the unit's mainboard. That's right - Mitsubishi has given us a printed description of what each pin does. This will assist those of you who are electronics techs in more advanced diagnostic procedures on this unit. As such a tech, I'm glad to see such a thoughtful detail.
This is the business side of the faceplate circuit board. As you can see, there are a number of lamps used for illumination. And heaven help you should one of these be burned out. Take a look at this picture:
Yes, folks, these are surface mount lamps with a blue light filter on them. To replace these, assuming you can even locate the parts, you need to have a very steady soldering hand as well as an iron with a small tip.
Before we get further into the unit to gain access to the cassette module, here's a peek at the vacuum florescent display (VFD) of this unit. Interestingly, there is a headphone symbol in there. This same display is used on a Chrysler deck that features rear audio support, bearing the sales code RBU. I'll be looking at that unit before too long.
In order to get at the tape deck, we need to literally pull out everything else. The tuner module is held in with the two screws pointed at in red. Remove these, and it snaps right out of there.
As you can see, the tuner module joins the mainboard via a single connector. Just like the older Mitsubishi built combo decks. You can already see two of the screws for the tape module in this shot.
Now, we'll finally take the left side panel off, which doubles as a heatsink for the amplifier. Remove all the screws being pointed at. Note that the red arrows indicate screws that are longer than the others. Remember where these go - these hold the amp chip to the heatsink. Without them, the amp chip will burn up when driven hard.
The amp module with the heatsink off. There are no less than three connectors holding this one in, joining the module to the power module below and the mainboard above. There's one more screw to remove before this will unplug and pull out:
This one, right here. The main connector assembly comes out with the amp module.
With the amp module removed, we can see the power module hiding below the mainboard. We will not be removing this, unless you are a tech looking to repair it. In that case, you have another screw on the back and a number of irritating twist tabs to deal with.
Right now, however, we need to remove the mainboard to access the tape module.
The first thing we need to do is remove the rotary encoder (aka volume control). You can see it on the left in the above picture. Remove the nut on the shaft, and then unplug it from the mainboard and pull it out. It's pretty easy to do.
Now, disconnect the cassette module ribbon cable, pointed at in black. This cable is friction fitted into the connector - there are no catches to loosen on it. Just gently pull the cable out of the socket. Be very careful when re-inserting it... although there is a plastic stiffener glued to the cable, I have had these cables buckle while trying to get them back in place just by pushing on them too hard. That makes them infinitely less fun to deal with.
With that done, you now have four more twist tabs to mess with. Red arrows. I've zoomed in on one in the bottom right corner for you. In this case, Mitsubishi not only twisted them far enough to make it hard to tell what direction to twist in, the slots these go through are tight. You may need a stout needle nose pliers for this, but be very careful not to damage any of the components on the mainboard while you're doing this. Once you have the tabs as straight in line with the slots as you can get them, carefully pry up the mainboard and lift it out.
Again, try not to flex the board too much. Surface mount components, and all that.
At long last, we can now access the four mounting screws (red arrows) that hold the cassette module in place. Remove them, and remove the module.
Before I give you a look at the tape belt, here's a couple of adjustments you may find useful. Located on the right side of the module, they adjust the left and right channel output levels. Useful if one channel is louder than the other, but only when you're playing a tape.
Here's the cassette belt. Mitsubishi is rewarding us for our tireless disassembly efforts by making this belt immensely easy to replace. Pop it off, pop the new one on. Easy peasy, until you realize you now have to put everything back together again.
There's no point to removing the cassette module and putting it back in without doing some cleaning. Above, I've indicated the two capstans in the tape deck. These are the parts that press against the pinch rollers to drag the tape through the mechanism. If they get too dirty, the tape wraps around them and you get a big mess - this is what usually happens when a deck "eats tapes." Clean them to a metallic shine... I find it easiest to hold isopropyl alcohol moistened cotton swabs against them while turning the big black capstan reels below by hand. Clean the playback head as well, while you're in there.
All done? Good. Now put it all back together in reverse order. Hope you kept track of all the screws, though much of them are interchangeable in this unit.
To close this article, I thought I would give you a few pictures of the unit being operated. Above, you see it playing a cassette. Cassette mode is selectable by pressing the "tape" button, as you might surmise. Hit "AM/FM" to get the tuner, and "mode" to switch between CD, changer, and Sirius modes (if the vehicle is so equipped).
The tape deck is auto reverse, as you might have guessed by the shot of the dual capstans. To reverse the play direction, hit the "PTY" button. There is also a music search function, accessed by pressing the "seek" buttons one or more times.
Playing a CD. Operation in this mode is pretty self explanitory - you have your seek buttons, the scan button to preview tracks, and the track randomizer which shares the preset 4 button.
One useful feature of the unit is visual feedback of all control operations. Move the balance control, and it shows you how far you're moving it. The same goes for bass, treble, volume, and fader.
Now, as promised, a quick description of the RDS stuff. If you're listening to an RDS capable station (FM band only), and are close enough for the deck to decode it, the information will scroll through the display where it says "Adlt Hit" in the above picture. This deck can scan for RDS capable stations in general, or genre specific RDS stations if desired. That's where the "PTY" button gets its name - it stands for "program type."
RAZ removal instructions (from 2002-07 minivans).
To look for RDS stations in general, hit the "PTY" button once and then the "scan" button. It works like a normal scan, only it will ignore FM stations not transmitting RDS data. To look for those broadcasting genre information, keep hitting "PTY" until you see your preferred genre type come up in the display. Like adult hits, as you can see above. Then hit the scan button. Now it will exclude not only non-RDS stations, but all stations not telling the unit they match your selected genre. You can also use the seek buttons in conjunction with the program type button, if desired.
Remember, though, that not every RDS capable station will be using the full abilities of the system. Some stations will transmit their call letters and nothing else, which I find infuriating. If you're going to support RDS, why not use it to its full capabilities?
One last note before I go - those of you who have just bought a vehicle with this deck that is equipped with Sirius might want to check the Sirius ID number so that you can activate and use the factory Sirius gear. You can check that number with this deck. Put the key into the accessory position and turn the unit off. Now, press the CD eject and time buttons simultaneously for three seconds - the front panel will show you all twelve numbers. After five minutes, or a key is pressed, the unit will go dark again. Now, you can get Sirius with this unit. Or so I presume - being broke, I'm not a satellite radio kind of guy.
This concludes my look at the 2002 RAZ head unit. Next time, I'll delve into the wonders presented by the RBU, an Alpine built model that looks exactly like this one with a few minor cosmetic differences and a few major operational and circuitry differences.
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