I'm bringing an '03 TC to the 21st century with regard to in dash infotainment. Does anyone want .pdf documentation of the process?

Hey, y'all.

I have a 2003 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series in great condition. It's an old grandma car having been through three owners, none of whom did anything remotely like average mileage. I bought it in April 2020 @ 125k miles. Fingernail scratches behind the door handles and behind the pull strap inside, a seat that looked like no rear end over 150 lbs ever sat in it, dry rotted tires and a service history I could track through Carfax. That car had made the circuit through three grandmotherly retirees.

Thing is, it has the Alpine stereo in it - AM/FM CD/Cassette - and it is has all the symptoms of a standard, known issue failure of that unit. It needs to be replaced.

No big deal. One of the reasons I insisted on a 2003-2011 was the redesigned dash which allowed for a double din head unit. That meant I could "easily" replace the stock system, gain backup cam, Bluetooth, android audio, satellite radio, and all the rest for relatively cheap at the outset of my ownership, increasing the enjoyment I get from the vehicle over the time that I own it.

So that's what I aim to do.

Someone mentioned in another thread that there are some folks who would be appreciative of the effort if I documented the process. I intend to - photos & all. I do a bit of technical writing at work so I hope to make it a simple, easy to understand and follow, .pdf file....or a group of .pdf files. format to be determined.

Here's the thing. I've never done this kind of work before. I understand basic home theater wiring. I work in IT in a fairly advanced AV environment so I understand networking and various type of connectors and standards. The last time I replaced a stock car stereo was back in the late 1980s when I pulled the stereo out of a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and put an AM/FM/CD into it. I could probably use the help of some experts to get me over the hump on some of it.

Basically, I'm your average idiot who is going to try to upgrade his Town Cars audio/video/safety/security.

So, is anyone interested in helping this along/seeing it completed? I'd like to think it'd be helpful to some.
 

TownToTown

New member
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South Florida
Hi there TS,
It is most interesting upgrade, which you are about to undertake. One important time saver and a trick to remember is the "Back to Front-jump". On the task of wiring the speakers, you do NOT have to run any new wires to the head unit but instead, make use of the factory wiring. It is not even an issue at certain applications but I had to do it. This is applicable IF you soup up the amplifier(s) and they are re-located to the trunk (=back).
Looking forward to your documentation, since I might do the same someday, perhaps.
 
I fully intend to make use of the factory wiring as far as I can.

Near as I understand it at this point what I have in the car is a malfunctioning head unit/receiver which powers the speakers in the door and in the deck as well as sends a signal to an amplifier in the trunk which powers a subwoofer.

The Alpine unit I have has a malfunctioning AM/FM system which is a common thing for that unit, as I understand things. So, my intention is to replace and modernize the head unit, install a backup camera, install a satellite radio tuner. I plan to use the existing wiring harness/speakers for now. The unit in the car has a functioning CD player and the stock speakers didn't sound bad. Still, once the head unit/inputs are modernized I plan to evaluate the speakers/sub/amplification to see if I want to upgrade that. I hope not. That can get kind of expensive and I'm already several hundred dollars in.

Stuff I could use - if anyone has this information (all of the following is for a 2003 model TC):

  • A manual detailing disassembly/assembly or an exploded view of the back license plate assembly
  • A manual detailing disassembly/assembly of the passenger side door trim along the floor (front & rear)
  • Information on the trim covering the A pillar on the passenger side. I might be able to just tuck a wire behind there, not sure, but it would be good to know how that comes apart if it's more involved than that.
  • Information on how to drop the overhead console. I plan to hang a microphone which came with the system overhead for hands-free calling.

If anyone has any of that information, I would surely appreciate it.
 
There are at least a few members here who have done this, but no one has documented the process. Here are a couple of threads you might find useful. Maybe you can get pointers from some of the parties. A search on “stereo” should get some more as well.

It would probably be a good idea to get your hands on a factory repair manual. The 2003 model also has a secondary wiring diagram manual that should be helpful too.



Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

My 2003 Cartier
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There are at least a few members here who have done this, but no one has documented the process. Here are a couple of threads you might find useful. Maybe you can get pointers from some of the parties. A search on “stereo” should get some more as well.

It would probably be a good idea to get your hands on a factory repair manual. The 2003 model also has a secondary wiring diagram manual that should be helpful too.



Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

My 2003 Cartier
Yeah - seems logical. Any suggestions on sourcing the manual? I've never bought a factory manual for any car - let along a TC.

I have some time because I just found out that I don't have enough posi-taps to tie the backup camera into the reverse lights. I ordered the harness creation service and they were supposed to send me enough to do the whole job, but I only got two. Those two make connections from the back of the head unit to the wiring harness (reverse light and parking break). I will need four. Thankfully the sat receiver is plug & play.

A pity, too. This was a perfect morning to do the work. I am not fond of working in an apartment complex parking lot. A cool morning in the shade helps.
 

raiderfan247365

Active member
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Western Oregon
I can say that I could have really used a detailed write up when I did my installs last summer. I learned a lot, made my share of mistakes and I try and share my experience on here so folks don't have some of the same frustrations I did lol.

I have attached some service manual pages, maybe they help you out.
 

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I got mine on ebay.



Are you saying your new double-din unit just plugs into the factory wiring harness?

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

My 2003 Cartier
No. The satellite receiver plugs into the head unit. That's straight up plug & play. With the satellite receiver all I have to do is run the antenna to the roof and connect it to the head.

When I ordered I paid for the Crutchfield ReadyHarness service - which handles most of the connections between the head unit and the wiring harness of the car. Essentially, they build a harness for you. For the most part, the head unit should be plug & play. This is a service I hope to highly recommend once I am done with the installation.

The thing is, if I plan on installing a backup camera or playing any video on the head unit I will need to make a couple of connections to the head unit that the ReadyHarness can't do for me - the backup light and the parking brake. The head unit won't play DVDs/video unless the parking brake is set (for obvious reasons) and it needs to be connected to the reverse light to trigger the head unit to switch to the backup camera when you put the car in reverse.

Pure supposition: The backup light wire and the parking brake aren't routed anywhere near the spot in the dash where the head unit will reside so it was really impossible for Crutchfield to handle that for me ahead of time. No choice but to route a couple of wires and tap into the existing harness elsewhere - probably over by the fuse panel somewhere.
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I can say that I could have really used a detailed write up when I did my installs last summer. I learned a lot, made my share of mistakes and I try and share my experience on here so folks don't have some of the same frustrations I did lol.

I have attached some service manual pages, maybe they help you out.
Good deal - thank you! That interior trim one is very helpful indeed. Looks to me like the door sills just connect via some clips. Pretty sure I can just pull them up, but don't know if I'm going to have to in order to string the RCA cable. I might be able to get away with just slipping them under the trim through the cabin to the head unit.

The A-Pillar is interesting. Again, I don't know if I can just tuck a wire under the edge of it, and then do the same across the headliner. The intent is to hang a microphone from the overhead console for that clear conversation should someone call me - also to use the hands free Android Auto features.

I don't think I'm going to need to monkey around under the bumper cover anywhere. I sure hope not, anyway.

I will have to pull the license plate bracket, drill a hole through it and then string the cable from the camera through that hole into the trunk. I don't know if I'm going to have to drill into the trunk lid or if I can just use an existing space/hole to route through into the trunk. Then I will need to tap into the hot and the ground wire on the reverse lights, zip tie to the existing harness strung across the underside of the trunk lid, and route into the cabin with the rest of the cabling to the trunk.
 
Wow, that Ready Harness sounds pretty cool. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Are you going to be using outboard amps?

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

My 2003 Cartier
Honestly, if not for that service I wouldn't be attempting this. The sheer number of wires I would need to sort though, not knowing how much slack exists behind the radio, my old colorblind eyes trying to discern dozens of cables dozens of times......

I am getting frustrated just thinking about how frustrated I would get! If that was the option, I'd be paying an installer to put this thing together for me. With the service it should be as simple as unplug the existing radio from all the connections to the harness/antenna. Plug in the ReadyHarness to the wiring harness of the car, plug the other end into the radio and Bobs your uncle.

Theoretically. Aside from the aforementioned connections to brake/reverse.

With regard to amplification, I'm looking at this as a bit of a long term project. The current install is part one for sure. I hope it's the only part.

Phase 1: bring the inputs to the modern times. New head unit, sat capability, backup cam, all that rot.

Then evaluate. I want to check out the existing sound system. I'm not looking for audiophile anything. I just want it to sound good and have options of what I want to listen to as well as have Waze in dash. If the existing speakers, amplifier & sub work OK for my old not-so-discerning ears, I'll call it a day. If I find something annoying I'll look at upgrading. That would be Phase 2.
 

04TC

Junior Member
204
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28
Tampa, FL
Phase 1: bring the inputs to the modern times. New head unit, sat capability, backup cam, all that rot.

Then evaluate. I want to check out the existing sound system. I'm not looking for audiophile anything. I just want it to sound good and have options of what I want to listen to as well as have Waze in dash. If the existing speakers, amplifier & sub work OK for my old not-so-discerning ears, I'll call it a day. If I find something annoying I'll look at upgrading. That would be Phase 2.
Good luck! I have the base 4 speakers without amplifier and even that system sounds great to my ears (after having messed around with the equalizer a bit).
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youngmick

New member
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1
Hey, y'all.

I have a 2003 Lincoln Town Car Signature Series in great condition. It's an old grandma car having been through three owners, none of whom did anything remotely like average mileage. I bought it in April 2020 @ 125k miles. Fingernail scratches behind the door handles and behind the pull strap inside, a seat that looked like no rear end over 150 lbs ever sat in it, dry rotted tires and a service history I could track through Carfax. That car had made the circuit through three grandmotherly retirees.

Thing is, it has the Alpine stereo in it - AM/FM CD/Cassette - and it is has all the symptoms of a standard, known issue failure of that unit. It needs to be replaced.

No big deal. One of the reasons I insisted on a 2003-2011 was the redesigned dash which allowed for a double din head unit. That meant I could "easily" replace the stock system, gain backup cam, Bluetooth, android audio, satellite radio, and all the rest for relatively cheap at the outset of my ownership, increasing the enjoyment I get from the vehicle over the time that I own it.

So that's what I aim to do.

Someone mentioned in another thread that there are some folks who would be appreciative of the effort if I documented the process. I intend to - photos & all. I do a bit of technical writing at work so I hope to make it a simple, easy to understand and follow, .pdf file....or a group of .pdf files. format to be determined.

Here's the thing. I've never done this kind of work before. I understand basic home theater wiring. I work in IT in a fairly advanced AV environment so I understand networking and various type of connectors and standards. The last time I replaced a stock car stereo was back in the late 1980s when I pulled the stereo out of a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and put an AM/FM/CD into it. I could probably use the help of some experts to get me over the hump on some of it.

Basically, I'm your average idiot who is going to try to upgrade his Town Cars audio/video/safety/security.

So, is anyone interested in helping this along/seeing it completed? I'd like to think it'd be helpful to some.
 

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Kev7770

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To be honest, your best bet is to buy your new head unit from best buy. They do free installs if you buy the product from them.
 
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