Car Head Units

Factory fitted car head units come in all sorts of quality, shapes and sizes. Some even came out of the factory missing any kind of car radio or sound playing system.

In the early days

Cars that are still around today often have (or have the space for) a single DIN car radio or the possibility of a Double DIN car stereo. The double DIN is twice the height of a single DIN but the exact same width. It is a rectangular shape with 90 degree corners.

Later years

As time progressed the theft of car stereos became endemic. The universal and standard fitting of these single DIN are radios with standard ISO connectors made it easy to swap stereos between cars. A stereo bought for one car could easily be stolen and sold on to people that didn’t ask the right questions and it would fit their car. The single DIN and ISO connectors would just slot straight in.


Security included a removable front panel that made the radio non-functional without it. The idea was you could slip the front panel in your pocket and leave the bulk of the stereo in the car. This made the car stereo less appealing to a thief because without the removable face plate they couldn’t sell it on as a working car stereo.

Some manufacturers, notably Ford produced a custom fit head unit. This looks similar to a double DIN, but with some major difference in shape and connectors to make it virtually impossible to fit into a different make of car. This made it less appealing to theft because it didn’t fit most cars.


To prevent theft of a custom car stereo and placing in a make make and model ‘coding’ was introduced. A secret code was programmed into the car stereo at the factory. Only the purchaser of the car was given the code. Any tine the car battery was disconnected or more importantly, the radio was disconnected from the car, the stereo would need the code entered into the display.

A stereo that was locked by code could only be unlocked by the code and without the code the car stereo became worthless. This made is unappealing to theft because it had no value as soon as it was removed from the car.

Other coding systems matched the vehicle VIN number stored in the body control computer with that stored in the factory fitted car stereo. They would match from the factory but would fail if a same model radio was fitted into a different car.

Newer Cars

The original ideas of custom shapes, custom connectors and computer integration is still in use today on the newer cars on the garage forecourts.

Upgrade options

Car stereo upgrade options are limited to the physical shape and size available to the car stereo. It may be possible to remove some underutilised controls or use a greater area of the plastic surround than the factory stereo used. The custom connectors are now well covered by aftermarket products. You can find nay converter you need, but all the custom fit android headunits come with the right connectors. it wouldn’t be a custom fit if it didn’t have the right plugs.

If you still wanted a Double DIN with ISO connectors, then there are cable adaptors for those too. Virtually every make and model of car audio connector is available as a conversion to the universal ISO connector.

If you have a modern car that doesn’t have a double DIN, then look for a custom fit. This will apply to most modern cars with their custom fits shapes and special manufacturer connectors.

Older cars may well have a Double DIN, or possibly a Single DIN space and even some ISO connectors. Having a car with these features means a standard double DIN android headunit will fit. A single din will fit but be careful that the screen overhang won’t obscure some useful features of the car. Vents and controls are often casualties of the bigger screens.

Android HeadUnit
Android HeadUnit
An android headunit enthusiast with years of experience with in car entertainment installation and design. Encouraging everyone who wants a change to try a different car launcher :)

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