Friday, May 21, 2010

Sounds of Silence... More Like Sounds of Static

No post yet for today. I'll explain...

I spent part of yesterday taking a giant step into the 1990s. I put a new head unit, with a CD player, in my BMW. Yes, for the past 15 years I've been driving with the stock AM / FM / Cassette deck. I can explain that... I don't often listen to music in my car. For all of my adult life I've made my living in the music industry. When I leave work I don't want to hear music. I hear it all day. I want a Red Sox game, NPR, Clark Howard, anything but music.

The stock BMW unit wasn't too bad, but it was starting to fail. The lights were out on it and more recently it started changing stations on its own. (Which lead to amusing moment about a week ago... I was out with a friend and she started to complain about listening to a Red Sox game. "Can't we listen to something else?", she asked. At the same time she said that, the radio switched to a classic rock station on its own. I just looked at her, smiled, and said "I bet your car can't do that".)

I put in a nice Sony head unit. I bought the wiring harness adapter so I didn't have to slash any of the car's wiring and I bought the antenna adapter so the European style antenna lead would fit into the back of the Sony unit.

It's that antenna lead that's my problem... BMW uses what's called a "diversity antenna". A diversity antenna system uses two antennae mounted at different locations on the vehicle and automatically chooses one that provides the better FM radio signal.(VW / Audi, Toyota, Nissan and maybe others, use a similar system.)

BMW uses the rear defroster wires as the antenna. Apparently, they have split it into two separate antenna grids. (That's all I can figure out - If anyone knows anything different, chime in here) It has two antenna leads running to the radio. One is a standard co-ax line, the other is a smaller fiber-optic looking line. With the adapter, the co-ax line hooks up perfectly, but there is no provision for the fiber-optic line. Without the smaller fiber-optic line running to the radio, my FM reception now sucks. Big time.

Anyway, I spent a good portion of last night, the time I should have been looking for a car to post today, looking up ways to cure this. So far, I've had no luck. (Installing a standard mast antenna or shark fin is not the way I want to go... That's waaaay too much work.)

European Auto Source makes an adapter for later BMWs, but not for the E36.

So, while I look for a car to write about today, I'm throwing this dilemma out to you. Have any of you run into this with your car? Were you able to cure it? Shoot me an e-mail or leave your answers in the blog's comment section. Thanks!

I swiped the top photo of a radio smashed on some railroad tracks from a site tilted My Road Photos. By the end of yesterday I would have done the same to my radio had there been any train tracks near where I live. Check out the site. It has a lot of cool pictures.


m4ff3w said...

Just A Car Geek said...

Hi -

Thanks, but that the same one I saw last night. It's application is for a later E46 BMW. I sent an e-mail to EAS. Maybe they know if it fits the earlier E36.


Jon said...

I started to sniff around the net, and then I found a site... I was about to send you the link until I saw a posting from "Rootewhatever" at the bottom of the page! From what I have read, there are quite a few posting on the diversity issue.

I guess you'll have to suffer with listening to Rush and Dr. Laura until you get the correct adapter.

Jon said...

This still cracks me up as I bet you are counting on getting one of those "newfangled VHS things" for Christmas.

Just A Car Geek said...

Nah. I'm way past VHS tapes...

I heard those Laser Disc players are pretty cool, though. They look like shiny albums...