Jun 11, 2018

Toyota Sienna aftermarket stereo with Apple Carplay

Giving the Toyota Sienna a usable infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, better sound, Bluetooth, backup camera.

Since getting our 2013 Toyota Sienna LE years ago, we've had to make do with the standard stereo. If you've come looking for assistance in getting rid of your 2011-2014 Sienna stereo, I sympathize. The Bluetooth is so poor as to be unusable, the backup camera screen is postage-stamp in size, and the stock stereo puts out so much bass that even on the lowest bass setting the booming, low-quality bass ruins a lot of music.

Thankfully, for about $550 and several hours of your time you can have:

  • Apple CarPlay
  • Proper Bluetooth integration (with Bluetooth streaming audio)
  • SiriusXM
  • CD / DVD player
  • HD Radio
  • Superior USB integration
  • Individual tire-pressure readout
  • Check-engine codes
  • OEM Backup camera displayed on a large monitor

Others have upgraded the stereos in these cars, but I found some of the information online lacking. This ought to cover all the details, particularly the matter of maintaining the OEM backup camera in your Sienna on an aftermarket stereo.

After a good bit of research I opted to purchase the following for this project, from Crutchfield (the SiriusXM tuner came from Amazon. The various Crutchfield items are discovered by simply adding the vehicle to Crutchfield and it recommends the various components. When purchasing a receiver there is a discount on install gear.

If not opting for the iDatalink Maestro unit, over $100 could be saved, but that unit taps into the ODBII sensor on the car to read engine codes and, more importantly, finally allows individual tire pressure read-outs on the car. Steering wheel controls are not only maintained, but enhanced: for example, holding down the Volume + brings to the tire-pressure screen. Holding Volume - mutes. And instead of the stock voice recognition system (which is so poor as to be completely unusable), now it calls Siri. iDatalink lets you select your car and the stereo you'll be using and shows exactly what functionality you can maintain for a given vehicle.

Complete Parts list

Installation took me a number of hours total. The main thing that slowed me down was getting the Sienna OEM factory camera to work on the aftermarket system. First step is removing three pieces of dash trim. Crutchfield will email instructions with the purchase that covers this, and it went quickly without issue--and no snapped tabs! The real time will be spent on wiring. iDatalink's website has a PDF you can download an the key diagram is this one. I added the Ignore, because that wiring assumes you're adding an aftermarket camera, but I wasn't; I wanted to tap into the OEM camera's feed, but duplicate it on the larger screen.

Installation process

  • Remove trim pieces per Crutchfield guide
  • Remove the old stereo per Crutchfield guide
  • Attach car's connectors to the connectors from the HRN-RR-T01 kit
  • Follow the wiring diagram above and butt splice the wires from the HRN-RR-T01 harness into the harness that is provided with the new stereo
  • Connect the OEM factory backup camera to the new radio
  • Install the new SiriusXM antenna on the roof and run the wires back into the cabin and connect to the new radio
  • Install the new MIC
  • Route the USB cable for the new Stereo so that it is readily available in the cabin for Apple CarPlay
  • Attach new radio to the dash trim kit
  • Install back into Dash
  • Replace trim

The trickiest part of the install was hooking the system up to the Sienna's OEM backup camera. To do it, some wires need to be spliced into. First, remove the center screen that is above the small climate control / backup camera monitor. Then unhook the black harness from the back of that unit.

Steps to wire in the OEM factory backup camera

  • Detach the existing harness
  • Locate on the bottom row, second pin in, the white wire. This is video negative.
  • Locate on the bottom row, thirdpin in, the black wire. This is video positive.
  • Strip away some insulation from each one. I used a lighter to soften the plastic and a knife to scrape it away carefully.
  • Find a yellow RCA cable (I had some in a junk bin and just cut one up) and strip it away
  • Connect the RCA cable's interior white insulated wire to the black on the Sienna's camera plug. Yes, white RCA is + and connects to the black + on the Sienna.
  • Connect the RCA cable's negative (all the loose copper strands) to the white negative on the Sienna.
  • To connect them best approach is a solder joint, but alternatively since each wire on the Sienna is braided, a sharp knife will let you split the wire down the middle, then you can put the RCA cable's wires into that, wrap around a couple times, and tighten everything up with electrical tape.
  • Now you have a camera plug! You did this because you won't be using (nor will it work--I tried these steps with it and received no camera image) the camera plug that came with the kits.

Run the SiriusXM antenna and plug it into the new radio. The existing Sienna stereo had SiriusXM, but the tuner was built-in, and that's why a new tuner needs to be purchased. Unfortunately the existing antenna in the car is not compatible, hence the need to run a new one. If you don't want to run a new antenna, you can pay $60 for an adapter. This adapts the OEM antenna to fit with a SiriusXM tuner.

Attach the MIC somewhere. I attached it here. I have to say this is a bad location. Works fine when the car is stopped and quiet, but with driving noise, air, etc. it's no good. I plan on moving the MIC immediately in front of the steering wheel or similar.

For USB the unit has a rear USB, so a cable needs to be routed to the front. A clean option is to create a new face plate for the small cubby above the left-most 12V, but I simply drilled a hole into the top of the larger beige cubby (first removed the smaller 12V one to get access to it) and ran the USB through that. The USB cable you see plugged into a 12V socket is what I use to power a dash cam. The left one is attached to the new radio.

Here is all wiring completed (the yellow RCA in this pic newly created for the backup camera).

A number of wires were unused. The main connector on the left of this pic is if your primary harness from the older factory radio is 28 pin (a 28 and 20 pin are provided and you attach which one fits).

Some additional connections unused.

Finally, these connections from the original radio are unused. The blue one is the SiriusXM antenna, as mentioned above, and the white one...well, I have no idea what it's for.

And that's that. This system has wired CarPlay. Currently wireless CarPlay is only available in the Alpine and Pioneer units that start at $699. As of this writing, the only Toyota you can buy from the factory with CarPlay, at any price at all, is the 2019 Avalon.

Some final notes

  • The backup camera will engage when the car is in reverse, like the normal one. You'll need to go into the radio's options and under camera simply enable camera, then it will display when you put the car in reverse. Even without hooking up the camera, if you put the car in reverse and the screen blacks out, it's trying to pull from a camera feed. That may be useful while trouble-shooting initially.
  • Many options on this radio are only usable with the emergency brake on. At least some of the options (I believe DVD watching, for example) requires you to put it on then off, then on again (not kidding). In practice once you've setup Bluetooth connections you ought not to need this, but if you find it annoying this bypass will let you use any function at any time.
  • Although the stock USB port works, the stock AUX input doesn't. It shows as active, and the radio thinks it is, but I couldn't get it to work. No big deal. Also of note, the stock USB port still works to charge and play music from. However, the new USB port added works much better: not only does it alone support CarPlay, but when playing music from USB the options/menu system works a ton better in the new USB port instead of the older USB port.
  • I mentioned earlier the heavy bass from this vehicle's 6 speakers. It's very boomy, not punchy, and it's way overdone even with the bass turned down low (I listen to a lot of Trance music, and I do enjoy bass, btw!). The better EQ controls in this stereo (or any aftermarket one) allow some of those ultra low frequencies to be turned way down, and it's now possible for me to have the volume high without drowning everything out from the stock speakers.

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