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The first Chrysler-Huntsville CD player for Dodge and Plymouth cars and trucks

by Jeremy Schrag

In the mid-1990s, Chrysler was in a quandary. Cassette tapes were on their way out, and all people wanted was the ability to play compact discs. Unfortunately, they no longer wanted to spend a pile of money to get a CD player. That ruled out most of Chrysler's older compact disc options from the likes of Mitsubishi and Alpine.

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Any time Chrysler had to outsource to get a CD player, that meant having to pass extra cost along to the customer. By the time the Neon came along, Chrysler realized that to remain competitive and bring more CD players to the masses, they would need a cheaper CD-playing head unit for their economy cars, without taking the limelight away from the Chrysler/Infinity CD playing head units in the more upscale vehicles.

Huntsville Electronics was the answer to Chrysler's dilemma. Finally, Chrysler was able to produce a CD player mostly in house, which meant not having to pay Alpine and Mitsubishi to build them. All Mitsubishi had available at the time was the CD/cassette combo deck, which was not a cheap deck by any means; Alpine had a few single CD models with no tape decks, but they were also not that affordable by the time they got stuck in a Chrysler dashboard.

Today, I am looking at that very first Huntsville-produced CD player. As you can see above, it is a very basic design. You have a tuner, a CD player, and a clock. Not much else. This one came out of a late 1990s Neon, and was apparently well loved, if the faceplate sticker is any indication. [Editor's note: the same unit was used on the Ram trucks, with different audio tuning and green backlighting instead of the Neon's amber; it was probably used on most of Chrysler's product line.]

This particular unit has some trouble loading and ejecting discs, and I'm anxious to get inside to find out why.

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Here's the top of the unit. Supplier code 7910 indicates Huntsville as the manufacturer. I was not able to track down a definitive sales code for this unit. [Editor's note: the "PL" on the sticker is the Neon's body code. I've circled, in teal, the possible sales code and body code.]

Note the screw indicated in red - that is the faceplate ground wire. You must remove this screw to remove the faceplate. More on that later.

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The back panel, with arrows showing all the important screws.
This is also the first Chrysler head unit I know of to have a cooling fan, as can be seen on the right.

Of the screws, the red ones hold in the CD tray. Cyan arrows indicate the bottom panel screws. These are the ones that come out first for any servicing. Yellow indicates the screw that clamps the amplifier chips to the housing for heatsinking. You will need Torx T-15, T-10, and T-8 screwdrivers to get this deck all the way apart. The ground strap bolt can be left in place for all servicing of the unit.

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On the right side panel, green arrows show you two of the faceplate mounting screws.

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This is the left side panel. Once again, green indicates the faceplate screws. Blue indicates the third screw holding the CD tray in - more on that later. Red arrows point at the two clamp screws for the voltage regulator components. We'll get to them later, too.

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Finally, the bottom panel. This is the panel that comes off first for any servicing.

Once you remove the two T-15 screws on the back I showed you a few pictures back, the panel just pulls up and off.

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Like so. Now, we're going to remove the faceplate. Unplug the ribbon cable arrowed in red. It's friction fit, so just pull it straight up out of the connector.

Remove all four screws on the sides that hold the faceplate on. Remove the screw on the top panel that holds the faceplate ground on. Then, just slide the faceplate right off the front.

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Now that the faceplate is off, we can have a look at the faceplate components. There are two circuit boards joined by ribbon cable that will need to be removed as a unit. Pull all knobs off the front of the faceplate; including the bass and treble controls, volume, and tuning controls. Then, remove the screws arrowed in blue.

Finally, gently pry the larger circuit board out, noting the two clips arrowed in red that hold it in place.

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Here's the business side of the faceplate circuit boards. Clean the potentiometers and bass/treble sliders as needed. The button switches in this deck are fully self contained, and cannot be cleaned.

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A close-up of the button switches and illumination bulbs.

This deck uses 12V 3mm grain-of-wheat bulbs, but they are mounted in non-reusable housings. That said, they are through-hole mounted, so they can be replaced without re-using the housings. Just solder the new bulbs in, stand them up into position as best you can, and install new color filter socks. Why new ones? Well, if you look at the picture really closely, you'll see that the ones used on these bulbs are only shallow enough to go down to those brown housings. They will not cover a new bulb that doesn't have the housing.

Fear not, you can obtain new color filters in the right size. They are often available from the same places that sell the bulbs, and are easiest to find on eBay from model train suppliers. In fact, some of these people sell bulbs already colored that don't need the filter socks.

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Now, we're going to remove the CD tray. This connector must be undone first, by unsnapping the keeper and pulling the ribbon cable up and out. See the inset for a look at how the connector looks with the keeper unsnapped.

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Remove these three red arrowed screws to release the CD tray. Set aside the little rubber roller that came tumbling out of the case at you. Whoops. I guess we know now why mine won't load and unload discs properly.

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With the screws out we can now flip the CD tray up like so, to disconnect the fan power cable at the connector arrowed in red. It is friction fit, and only goes on one way.

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Before we get into the CD module itself, I'll show you how to remove the mainboard. De-solder all tabs indicated here. There are two on each side that must be pushed in flush with the housing using some needle nose pliers. Let me show you.


With these pushed in like so, the board can come out of the housing. There are holes behind through which you can stick a small screwdriver to bend them back.

Before we pull the board out, loosen or remove the two screws I showed you on the left side panel that clamp the voltage regulator components in.

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Now, we need to remove the black and gray connectors. They are just clipped in where you see the red arrows, and pull right out once you unclip them. Never fear - you cannot re-install these in any place other than where they came from. Just in case, though, I've placed them below their respective holes. As you can see, these connectors just plug into other connectors in the deck itself. Don't forget to remove the blue arrowed screw - the one clamping the amp chips to the housing.

The board should come right out at this point with some wiggling around.

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Here's the mainboard now. On the right are the voltage regulator components, both of which bear Chrysler proprietary part numbers.

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The Philips amplifier chips also bear proprietary numbers. This isn't the first time I've seen this in a Huntsville built head unit. However, I do have a non-Chrysler part number for these: TDA1553. These are good for about 15-17 watts or so per channel each with acceptable distortion. They are only rated to four ohms, so I would try not to present lower impedances to this unit. Like, say, adding another four ohm speaker in parallel to a dash speaker to stick in the doors.

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It's time to have a look at the CD module. There is no laser power adjustment realistically possible on this module, but I'll show you the insides anyway. Remove all four red arrowed screws using your Torx T-8. Be careful with it, as it is very easy to strip out Torx head screws this small. Take the module off the tray.

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Why, lookie here... we just found the place where my orphaned roller used to be. There is a black plastic piece in there that is supposed to have two rollers on it with a pivot between the rollers. That black plastic piece has broken on mine, and is unable to be repaired. The way this mechanism works is, the loading roller presses up from underneath the disc. These two upper rollers then provide the pressure needed on the loading roller to move the disc into place. With only the one upper roller in there, it will load discs as long as you're pushing on them, but won't eject them unless you're ready to pull the disc out with tweezers.

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This is the top of the CD module from another angle. To clean the laser lens, work a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol through the slot arrowed in blue.

I've pointed out something interesting in red - the logo for Philips. Apparently, the whole CD mechanism came from them, along with the amp chips and one of the voltage regulators.

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In order to access the working parts, unplug the three connectors in red. They are friction fit, but the keys on those connectors are a touch on the fragile side. Be careful not to damage them or the small wires coming out of them. It is probably best to make notes as to what wires go where, just in case.

Remove the four screws holding the circuit board on with the T-8. Note that two are different from the other two - remember where they go.

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Flip up the circuit board up and back like this. You don't have to remove the orange ribbon cable, but it can be done by popping the latch on the connector upwards toward the cable to release it.

I've arrowed the pickup assembly in red. Unlike most CD players where the laser is on a sled between rails, this one is in a housing that pivots. There is a laser power adjustment in that black housing, but it's all but impossible to get to. I strongly suggest writing off the deck instead should you not be able to stop the CD errors with a simple lens cleaning. These decks are on the cheaper side of things, and you may find it more preferable to upgrade to one of the Alpine built decks (supplier code 26777) instead, which will end up sounding better anyway.

Time to put the deck back together. It's not difficult, just take your time.

General Chrysler-related radio and stereo articles at Allpar:
CD and DVD systems (stereos have a three-letter code on the face plate)
Tape and tape/CD systems
From here to Infinity
CD changers
Classic systems (before tape decks)

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