Ford Remote Control Conversion for Pioneer Head Unit – Stage 1 Dissection

A while back, I decided I’d had enough of my factory fitted Ford stereo… no aux input, only a single CD (changing discs at motorway speeds is not a good idea) and an analogue radio. I’d had enough of my earbuds falling out when I was listening to my iPod in lieu of a decent stereo and I was sick and tired of stuffing an ear piece in to get hands free for my phone. So I took the plunge and treated myself to a Pioneer DEH-X8500DAB. Bluetooth, digital and analogue radio, CD (with MP3 capabilities), two USB ports, SD card slot and proper iPod integration. Only one problem… no easy direct remote integration with the steering column stalk. Well… not yet anyway. Turns out Pioneer use a resistive remote system… as do Ford (at least on the model I have in my Mondeo). Now there are boxes that can sit between them and do the conversion, but these are really quite costly. So, this is going to be the start of a little series of articles about converting a standard Ford stalk to control my Pioneer head unit. This is stage 1, removing and opening the Ford remote.

My advice is remove your old one and keep it safe and then pick up another one from eBay. I managed to pick up a couple for about £15.

Why two? Well, when I tried to open the one I took out of my car it became clear that the buttons were preventing me from pulling the outer case off, so they are fitted after the body was slid over the internals which means they have to come off first. So I bought two so I could literally just cut the outer case off to get a clear view of the innards so I could work out the steps to open it without damaging it.

This series relates specifically to the remote control illustrated below.

Ford Remote Stalk

Step 1 – Removal
To remove the stalk from the car, it’s really quite simple. It is actually spring loaded and requires only an thin screwdriver to release the retaining clip. There are three holes on the rear of the unit. Two serve as retainers for the inner carrier whilst the central hole gives you access to the retaining clip. Simply insert a flat bladed screwdriver into that hole and you should be able to push the retaining clip in. At which point the stalk should pop off. Then all you need to do is disconnect the control cable.

Step 2 – Button Removal
The next step is to remove the buttons. This will be done in the following order:-

  1. Seek button – Removing this will grant access to the retaining clip for the middle Mode button
  2. Mode button – Removing this makes it easier to deal with the volume up and down buttons
  3. Volume Down button
  4. Volume Up button

The tools you’ll need are:-

  • A thin flat bladed screwdriver (about 2-3mm wide tip, 100mm long shaft)
  • A torch to illuminate the insides of the unit
  • An engineers multitool – For the uninitiated this is a standard paper clip, straightened out a little

The seek button is held on by two clips that allow it to rock back and forth. This are illustrated by the red arrows in the image below.

Step1-Seek

In these images, the red arrows show where the retainers are whilst the blue arrows indicate the direction in which you’ll have to push them to release the button. All images are clickable to open a much larger version. You’ll notice in this case, there is only one blue arrow. The seek button can be removed without manipulating the second retainer by pushing it away from the steering column end of the stalk. I gained access to the retainer through the front of the unit between the seek button and the main case body. Providing the screwdriver is nice and thin you should be able to release this button without damaging it or the case.

Before anyone asks, yes I dismantled the second unit using this process so I know 100% it can be done. I’m not saying it went entirely smoothly as I did inflict damage on a couple of items (more on that later) but I’ve got the benefit of replacement parts from the unit I cut open.

The mode button is retained by a clip that must be pushed towards the driver. This can be accessed once the seek button is removed.

Step2-MiddleButton

Once the clip itself is released, great care should be taken when removing this button. The switch actuator is actually a ‘spring’ molded from plastic. Goof 1 – I managed to break the one from the keeper unit because as I pulled at the button, it twisted in my fingers and snapped the spring. This next picture shows the unit and the resulting break.

ModeButton

This occurred because this button ‘caught’ on something. What I’m not quite sure, but it can be tricky to remove (I have tried a couple of times to try and work out what causes the problem, but I’ve been unable to figure it out) so take great care with it.

With the mode button removed, it’s the turn of the volume buttons. The majority of these retainers can be removed by accessing them through the connector orifice.

ConnectorOpening

This opening, whilst not exactly large does grant enough access to allow you to manipulate both retainers of the volume up button and the inner retainer of the volume down button. Let’s start with the volume up button.

Step3-VolumeUp

Here you can see the two retainers, both of which can be accessed through the connector orifice. Simply use a screwdriver to release them and pull the button away from the unit. If you struggle to release them both, I found the engineers multitool useful. I released one side and then slide it into the gap between the button and the body to stop the button slipping back onto the retainer whilst I release the other side. Worked a treat.

And finally, the volume down button.

Step4-VolumeDown

To do this, you will need to manipulate the outer retainer (the one furthest away from the mode button first as releasing the inner one prevents access to it as the angle of the button completely closes the gaps you can use to get at the outer one). I gained access to the retainer from the rear of the button. Since these operate by pulling them towards the driver a gap opens at the back. Once the outer retainer is released, slide the engineering multitool between that side of the button and the case to prevent the button falling back onto the retainer. Goof 2 – Do NOT try and release this retainer through the side. You may think it can be done, but I managed to break the button by attempting it. The plastic is very thin in places.

With the outer retainer released, use the connector orifice again, release the inner retainer and pull the button away.

Step 3 – Casing Removal

Now with all the buttons removed, the casing can be removed. It’s retained by four plastic spikes and little tabs. Two you can’t see or get at as the front (the side facing the driver) has no access but the two on the rear can be seen. You could try and push these back into the case to release it, but they are very stiff and I suspect they would break more readily than they would flex so I released mine by gently levering the case outwards away from them. A gentle tug on the stalk mount and the innards should pop out.

Step 4 – Board Removal

Unfortunately before we can modify this unit we need to remove the board as the components we’ll be changing are on the rear of the unit. So one final clip to release.

RemovingBoard

So to do this, release the clip as shown and gently lever the board out in the direction shown by the yellow arrows. If you’re particularly dexterous you can do this on your own, if not get some assistance as the board can be stuck in there quite well.

Care should be taken with all the clips and retainers. They are only plastic and I know from personal experience with Ford plastics that it’s all too easy to overstretch them and break the clips. Currently these units are readily available on eBay, but that’s not always going to be the case.

And that as they say is that. You should have a collection of pieces that look like this:-

AllPieces

So that’s it, you have your Ford remote control stalk in pieces. The next stage is to change some components on the board to bring it inline with what the Pioneer head units expect in terms of resistance values. I say Pioneer only because that’s what I’m interested in. If your head unit also uses resistive remote control you should be able to modify the board to deal with it correctly. More on that in the next article.

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