Hands-Free Navigation: Installing A Double DIN Receiver In An XJ

Something needed to change. I’d just about had it navigating trails with my phone’s GPS. It was constantly falling off my flimsy holder. My 1999 Jeep Cherokee was in need of a modern and more reliable solution for hands-free navigation.

Naturally, I started on YouTube to see what fixes people came up with. That’s where I saw an amateur install of a double DIN touchscreen stereo that allows drivers to use Apple Car Play or Android Auto. This was exactly the kind of upgrade I wanted to tackle next on my 21-year-old XJ.

Eventually, I came across Jeepcables.com. Their site offered a double DIN console bezel for 1997-2001 Jeep Cherokees that clips in the factory mounts, allowing us XJ fans a factory-looking upgrade. For the head unit, I purchased a seven-inch Pioneer touchscreen that also can utilize a rear backup camera. With my Amazon cart full, I clicked Buy Now, and got ready to modernize the Cherokee’s interior.

Old with the old, in with the new – this double DIN bezel and touchscreen head unit will make off-road navigating much easier.

Installation

The previous owner’s cheap upgrade.

The installation is pretty straightforward if you have ever installed a radio into a vehicle, but it does require some cutting. I made sure to be prepared and have the right tools.

First, you remove the center bezel. The easiest way is to put your shifter down to first gear – make sure you chocked your rear wheels! – and gently pull back on the bottom of the bezel.

The shifter gets put in first gear to make room for the console bezel’s removal. I made sure to chock the wheels out back.

Next, carefully remove and save the clips and air vents (they will be repurposed on the new console). All that’s left now is the old stereo. Your mileage may vary on what you find here. In my case, the wiring harness was a nightmare, so I had to buy a new one to make things work.

After that, you should clear room for the larger head unit by cutting into your air ducts. Follow the instructions and cut only as much as you need. Once you have clearance, use the included foil tape to seal off the holes.

With the bezel removed, it's easy access to remove the stereo. From there, I made cuts to the plastic mount to fit the new double DIN head unit, and then placed foil tape down to seal off the holes.

The new console includes brackets to mount your head unit, utilizing three existing holes. You will be required to drill a new hole into your air conditioning duct.

Afterwards, wire in your upgraded head unit, and mount it with the provided hardware. Then you can swap over your clips and air vents to the new bezel and snap back into place. And just like that, it’s finished.

Using a provided set of brackets, the Pioneer unit installed into place. Over it went the new bezel, and the job was done.

Final Thoughts

The following day, I planned on conquering the Bloody Basin Trail in Arizona, so I was excited to put the new Pioneer head unit to the test.

The dash immediately felt more modern and factory. Using the Apple Car Play maps allowed for a lot easier navigation, and once I lost cell service, I switched over to Sygic Car Navigation for offline maps. The interface was intuitive and allowed me to focus more on driving to the desired destination than how I was going to get there.

Hands-free navigation is great to have both on and off-road. Not to mention, the backup camera makes it easy to see what's going on behind the Cherokee.

All told, this was worthwhile upgrade. Not only did I gain hands-free navigation, but I also reaped the benefits of hands-free calling and text messaging, an option to install a rear backup camera, and safer in-vehicle operation. I can now focus more on the trail, keep my hands on the wheel, and know where I’m going.

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About the author

Dimitri Lazaris

Dimitri keeps it traditional: he shoots 35mm film and races a ’58 dragster.
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