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Step-by-Step GPS Navigation Installation

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by: Gary Brikowski

With GPS navigation installed in your vehicle, you will no longer find yourself lost on the road or fumbling through confusing maps. Of course, installing GPS navigation can be a challenging task, so you will want to read this step by step GPS navigation installation guide before you start.

Plug-and-Play Portable Navigation Systems

Plug-and-play models can be mounted on the dash with adhesive or to the windshield with suction cups. To power these portable navigation units, use the cigarette adapter. After that, you’re ready to use GPS navigation in the car.

In-Dash and Remote-Mount Systems

In-dash and remote-mount GPS navigation units are a little more difficult to install. In-dash systems are designed to fit in your dashboard opening to replace your existing car stereo. Make sure you purchase a head-unit with built-in GPS navigation. Head units that are "GPS Navigation ready" require additional purchases and wiring. For single DIN GPS navigation units, the monitors are usually motorized and pop out from the dash. For DOUBLE DIN units, the screen is built-in to the in-dash head unit. Check our fit guide to see if your vehicle is ready for a regular DIN or DOUBLE DIN model. If you insist on installing a DOUBLE DIN, keep in mind that your vehicle may require a custom install, include cutting at the dash board.

In-dash navigation systems play music like regular car stereos in addition to providing navigation. You will need to mount a GPS antenna on your vehicle and connect a few wires to ensure the device operates correctly.

Required Tools:
•    Screwdrivers (Flathead, Phillips)
•    Panel Remover
•    Wire Cutter and Stripper
•    Ratchet

You may also need one or more of the following:  Screwdrivers (Flat, Phillips) and Screws, Drill, Pliers, Knife, Flashlight

Installation Obstacles

Throughout the wiring process you will need to remove panels and other objects that conceal your vehicle’s wiring. To access the wiring, remove any screws or plastic pegs and then carefully pry the panels off with a panel remover tool. You may need to remove a combination of door panels, window panels, as well as the passenger and driver side kick panels. Remove any seat belts that are in the way of the panels. You can pry these off after removing any screw or bolt that is in place. Likewise with the door’s running board. It can be pried loose if you remove any screws or pegs that may be holding it in place. As always, when you have finished pulling the wire through to your units, use wire ties to keep the wires organized and out of the way. Be sure to test the connection before replacing panels.

VSS Wire Connection

The GPS navigation device needs to be connected to the electronic components of the engine in order to determine your vehicle’s relative position to the global positioning satellite. One of the most important wires to connect to is the Vehicle Speed Sensor (VSS) wire. The VSS wire is an essential element in a vehicle’s electronic engine controls. The Variable Assist Power Steering system sends signal through the VSS wire to facilitate easier power steering at low speeds. The Anti-Lock Brake system also uses the VSS to lower any pressure build-up in your wheels. This prevents your wheels from locking. Transmissions use the VSS signal to determine the proper gear to engage in and to relay speed information to the speedometer. The VSS also enables your vehicle to operate on cruise control. The GPS navigation system uses the VSS wire to gather speed information to enable it to calculate the remaining distance and time left on your trip. This is why you connect your navigation system to the VSS wire.

Most Vehicle Speed Sensors are mounted in the engine computer management area and can be reached from below the hood or the dash. It is not in the same place for each vehicle. After you locate the correct VSS wire, connect the navigation’s speed sensor input to it using a wire-tap. Use a male disconnect to connect the lead wire of the navigation system to the VSS wire. For a permanent connection, use a wire stripper to remove the insulation at the ends of the VSS wire, and then solder it with the navigation’s lead wire. We recommend using heat-shrink tubing to preserve the connection throughout long term usage.

The VSS is either underneath the dash or below the hood. If it is underneath the dash, pull the lead through the carpeting up to your navigation unit. If the VSS is below the hood, you will have to pull it through a hole in your vehicle’s firewall. It will likely have a hole that will hold any existing wiring that has been pulled through. If not, you need to drill one, being careful to avoid hitting the gas line or any other wiring. Finally, you will pull the VSS wire through the hole and make a connection. Also, connect the leads from the VSS to the DVD-ROM drive.

Reverse Light Wire Connection

In order to understand reverse vehicle motion, the GPS navigation device needs to be connected to your vehicle’s reverse light wire. You can use wire-taps or a wire stripper to remove the insulation and solder the reverse light wire to the GPs navigation wire. You will also run the leads from the reverse light wire to the DVD-ROM drive.

DVD-ROM drive
   
Most people install this box underneath passenger seat. You can install it in a discrete location because you will not need to access it often. One thing to keep in mind is that the box should be mounted horizontally to avoid skewing the gyroscope. The gyroscope helps relay directional info to the navigation unit, so you don't want to confuse the signal by mounting the box awkardly.

In order to screw the drive in, you will need to drill holes in the board to hold the screws. Be careful to avoid drilling through to any engine components such as the fuel or brake lines. Run the speed sensor and reverse light leads to the DVD-ROM drive, and ground the box.

Final Configuration

From the DVD-ROM drive, connect the GPS navigation to a constant and switched 12-V power source. For in-dash monitors, run a video wire from the navigation system to the corresponding video input on the in-dash head unit. If you are using an external monitor, connect the video wire from the navigation system to the monitor’s video input. To generate audio, use RCA cables to connect the navigation system to your in-dash receiver or an external monitor. All of these wires and cables should run from the DVD-ROM drive along with the other unit connections mentioned above.

Summary

To repeat, there are four major steps. You will need to connect to the VSS wire (vehicle speed sensor) and to the reverse light. You will also install the DVD-ROM drive, which carries the maps that guide your journey. Finally, connect the power and audio/video cables. After you test the connections and replace the panels, you are ready to enjoy the convenience of in-dash or remote mount GPS navigation in your vehicle.

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About the Author

Written by Gary Brikowski