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      06-22-2014, 06:07 PM   #1
AlwynMike
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AutoDAB fitting

There's plenty of threads on here and on BMWLand about DAB - but it seems not many people have taken the plunge, and those that have, have either had it done professionally (I nearly said "properly" there) or have gone the whole retrofit hog.

So, here it is. My experience fitting AutoDAB - purchased secondhand from a Forum member. Thanks Gary.

This is the same unit that BMW dealers fit for 299, only the BMW one has a nasty remote control to operate it rather than use the steering wheel controls.

I'll start by saying that the AutoDAB instructions are really not worth either the paper they are printed on, or even the ink or toner used on the paper - and certainly not at all relevant for a car with iDrive. Or Bluetooth. Or Connected Drive. I have to say, against my impression, their e-mailed replies to my query were reasonably prompt, although I'd been in contact with makkan00 who gave me the correct answer almost immediately!

Lots of tools required: Star screwdriver, small Torx driver, Paint scraper with some tape on. That's it.

Lets have a look at what we need to remove:


Now, this looks easy, but it's a photographic trick!
You HAVE to remove the upper trim panel
You HAVE to remove the heater panel
In both cases, it's an "only just", and with a bit of forethought in design, the fascia panel for the audio module (or radio, if you want) could be removed without need to take the other parts off - just because of small tabs on the plastic. However, that's another debate!

The first thing, if you have an Automatic, is to put the gear lever fully rearwards i.e in D. Otherwise, when you get to the stage of pulling the audio module out, you get this:

And it will come no further out!

It is prudent at this point to disconnect the battery.

Remove the upper trim panel. Take care, take extreme care if you have wood (wood trim panel I mean ), as from previous experience, this chips very easily. Metal effect trim is more hardy. Put your tape covered paint scraper (or plastic trim tool if you're being flash about it) into the gap by the steering column and gently lever the trim up. Do this along the length of the trim, a little at a time - it's only clipped in and they tend not to break easily.

You now need small hands with long fingers!
The preferred method if to try and remove the hazard switch and start button and then disconnect them. The switches are clipped in, but access isn't great
It is possible to disconnect the switches in situ, which is what I did. The plugs do have clips, but they are good natured and will come out reasonably easily with the aforementioned long fingers.

This is the ribbon cable to the Start button. The plug has "ears" that you can squeeze in to release the plug.


This is all of the plugs released and the trim panel safely on the back seat.
I hadn't realised how dirty my interior looked!! The Hazard switch plugs can only be accessed from under the trim because of the vent tubes, hence, if you can get the switch out, it's a lot easier!


This is the heater panel out. BMW TIS says you need special tool blah blah to release this. Nope. Fingers in the top, where the Hazard switch plugs are in the previous picture, and just push the panel out. No real need to disconnect the plugs on this, as it can go almost straight back in.

The fascia panel is removed in a similar way, just eased out with the fingers.

Four star screws and the audio module is loose, so just pull it out.


Note the oily rag protecting the centre trim.

The top, black, connector is the FM/AM antenna, the bottom, blue one is for the GPS (this was the question asked of AutoDAB and makkan00).
The big connector at the bottom is where most of the other stuff goes in or comes out. This needs to be removed, it is a lift and separate connector.


This is the antenna connector. The AutoDAB has a male & female wire for this, with colour coded plugs to go into the unit, so disconnect the antenna, plug one AutoDAB wire into it, and put the other AutoDAB wire into the Audio module. Male/female, Red/black, can't go wrong.


This is the main connector off, with the AutoDAB extension next to it.
So, AutoDAB extension into the back of the audio module, other end of extension to the car's plug just released.


Much like this - with the antenna wires connected too.

WAIT. STOP. It's not straightforward. Or at least it's not if you have Connected Drive and/or Bluetooth. Leave it as above, and you're missing Bluetooth and Connected Drive. Don't ask me how I found this one out


Note the extra cables top right of the top plug. The extension doesn't have these in. They are together in a small integrated plug which slips out so you can easily fit them to the extension plug that goes into the back of the Audio module.

Now comes the most difficult part of the procedure. Trying to find a place for all the extra cable and plug that the extension consists of. It is possible to squeeze it to the left of the audio module inner frame, so it's between that and the trim panel at the side of the transmission tunnel. It's a tight fit between the inner frame and the bodywork though.

With the lack of space and length of the wires, there is only really one place to mount the unit - under the glove box.
Remove the 2 torx screws and drop the panel:

Connect up the AutoDAB box. The lone black wire is a live feed to an active antenna.


This is with the antenna connected (the gold connector on the left)

The unit nestles nicely between the air con pipes and the heater ducting.

Back to the antenna.
There are various options - I wanted a non damaging one. I didn't fancy a side window mount and I didn't know if it would work satisfactorily with the drug dealer glass in the back. Mag mounts are generally only safe to 100mph, and the extra strong one to 120mph, but with my wrapped roof, I thought it may damage the vinyl. So ugly windscreen mount for me!

I didn't want cable showing, so the A pillar trim came off.
Pull off the rubber door seal strip. Lift the plastic "AIRBAG" sign and undo the torx screw revealed. Then just tug it off.


Airbag revealed.

The theory now was to stick the antenna to the screen, but the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed the dirty great crack above the tax disc holder. Autoglass came with screen. Wrong screen. Still waiting.

So from here, the antenna is still in it's box. Lying on the top of the dashboard.

With everything put back into some semblance of order, the radio was tuned to the default of 87.8 and the AutoDAB switched on.

Even though I live in an area with poor reception on all bands due to the high valley sides either side of the house, I managed to get 28 stations. This with a less than ideal DAB antenna.

Selecting the station, it displays on iDrive the station


Leave it a while, and the track information scrolls, albeit quite slowly


And so, on to a test drive. Or a test couple of drives.
More stations. Clear. Some loss of signal, but I expected that because of the coiled up antenna. It tells you that there is "Poor Signal", but you can guess that because of the silence!

You have to have AutoDAB switched off to receive other AM/FM signals, which means that you don't get Traffic information.

Having done this job, which took me a total of around 4 hours, having to retrace my steps, and re-do the connectors for Bluetooth etc., I reckon that it could be done in an hour, maybe less by an experienced tech. It really is that simple - it's just the odd things that threw me a curve ball, and I've now passed that on to you.

Am I pleased with it though?
Yes and no. Yes, I like it. With a proper aerial mount I'd get good DAB signal with no dropouts for most of the country. It's not particularly intuitive to use, but I can live with that, and it's something you do get used to.

What I can't forgive about the unit is that it does attenuate the normal FM signals. As it uses the FM feed to get DAB signal to the audio module, there must be a little extra resistance in there somewhere. I would suggest that it wouldn't bother normal people, living in a normal area. My radio station of choice is currently Planet Rock, and I am on the fringe area of reception at the best of times. 10 miles north and I lose it. 50 miles East (at the M1 junction at Kegworth!) I lose it. With the AutoDAB fitted, but off, I struggle to get a decent signal at home, and the signal goes off around 40 miles East.
So at the moment, I am in two minds whether to stick with it and see what I get with a decent DAB antenna mount, or just to stick the unit back on eBay!! You can see that if you wanted FM around more urban areas than I frequent, it wouldn't be an issue, as there would be better signal around the more populous areas. Rural Shropshire is not populous!

Usual disclaimers apply: E&OE. Do this at your own risk. Don't blame me for either your or my f-ups.

Mike
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      06-23-2014, 04:52 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlwynMike View Post
WAIT. STOP. It's not straightforward. Or at least it's not if you have Connected Drive and/or Bluetooth. Leave it as above, and you're missing Bluetooth and Connected Drive. Don't ask me how I found this one out
Don't feel bad... I did the same thing with my audio install! pesky thing!


I have a question about how you choose DAB stations? You have to have your idrive unit tuned into the default FM 87.8, how would you then move from PlanetRock to another DAB station? do they list somewhere? can you use your steering wheel controls? idrive rotary controller?

I really want to get DAB as it drives me mad listening to FM radio with a decent sound system... I am getting by with bluetoothed internet services, but if there is an affordable alternative
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      06-23-2014, 05:53 AM   #3
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The unit is controlled entirely by the steering controls - CD change & Track change up/down.

The radio is tuned to the AutoDAB frequency - which is adjustable if required.

AutoDAB is switched on by holding down the CD change button (remembering to tune the radio accordingly. The up/down buttons are then used to scroll through the available stations.

You can set presets for your favourites (not done this)
You can scan for new stations as you travel.

Don't forget that a lot of DAB stations are not even FM quality to start with, so if you're fussy about quality, you may not want DAB at all!! I can't tell the difference - and I'm quite colour blind too!

Mike
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      06-23-2014, 06:47 AM   #4
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Mike
Excellent thread and detailed description. Thanks for taking time and to write it for others to benefit.

I have OEM DAB CIC with OEM antenna with MS-8 (better than BMW logic 7 system) and I can feel the difference on few stations. There is much more definition only if you have upgraded sound system.

With the base system, it is very hard to differentiate it.
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      06-23-2014, 07:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by makkan00 View Post
Mike
Excellent thread and detailed description. Thanks for taking time and to write it for others to benefit.

I have OEM DAB CIC with OEM antenna with MS-8 (better than BMW logic 7 system) and I can feel the difference on few stations. There is much more definition only if you have upgraded sound system.

With the base system, it is very hard to differentiate it.
Mak, I already have a harness that is daisy chained in, can you continue to add these in series?


EG:
HU -> DAB Harness - > Gladen 2ch Quadlock

I struggled to find space for one of these in the rear of the HU, so a second might be a challenge, but other than space is there any limit?
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      06-23-2014, 07:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoondogUK View Post
Mak, I already have a harness that is daisy chained in, can you continue to add these in series?


EG:
HU -> DAB Harness - > Gladen 2ch Quadlock

I struggled to find space for one of these in the rear of the HU, so a second might be a challenge, but other than space is there any limit?
Never tried two mate. I always modify the extension and add the bits onto that.
For example my Gladne harness is modified to have
-CIC emulator
-NBT emulator

And all PNP.
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      06-23-2014, 07:33 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoondogUK View Post
Mak, I already have a harness that is daisy chained in, can you continue to add these in series?


EG:
HU -> DAB Harness - > Gladen 2ch Quadlock

I struggled to find space for one of these in the rear of the HU, so a second might be a challenge, but other than space is there any limit?
I am running a CIC Emulator PnP harness and a Gladen 2ch PnP harness in daisy chain configuration and it all works fine. You just need to remember to transfer you fibre optic cables/Video FBAS cable to the plug in the chain that plugs into the Radio/CIC unit.

If you drop you glovebox, you should be able to pull the extra wiring through to give you enough space to push the radio/CIC unit back into place.
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      06-23-2014, 05:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cage911 View Post
I am running a CIC Emulator PnP harness and a Gladen 2ch PnP harness in daisy chain configuration and it all works fine. You just need to remember to transfer you fibre optic cables/Video FBAS cable to the plug in the chain that plugs into the Radio/CIC unit.

If you drop you glovebox, you should be able to pull the extra wiring through to give you enough space to push the radio/CIC unit back into place.
Cheers... Thanks for that
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      08-11-2017, 02:54 AM   #9
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Apologies for resurrecting but I'm intending to have a go at this in the near future and can't see the pics.

Mike, is there any chance you can repost with pics or PM me a link or something?

Cheers,

Simon
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      08-15-2017, 06:23 AM   #10
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Don't you love Photobucket now??

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