Tacoma Update: Tweaking the Sound System & Lighting

I keep finding things I feel I must tweak because Toyota just didn’t get it quite right; it’s about as bad as buying a Harley-Davidson!  Seriously, I’m reminded of what I’ve done to  most of my motorcycles and the 2006 Tundra, which is to say changing out seats or seat covers, wheels and tires, suspension parts, the sound system, etc. because they just didn’t seem quite up to par and, well, because I could.  It’s probably not a fiscally responsible thing to do, but as they say… there’s a reason you don’t see a hearse pulling a U-Haul: you can’t take it with you.

Anyway, having taken care of seats, wheels & tires and suspension, I’m not getting to the non-critical, things we sometimes take for granted like sub-par sound systems and marginal interior & back-up lighting.

Sound System Upgrade, Phase 1

Up and until last Spring when I decided the Harley-Davidson Road Glide needed to have a serious sound system upgrade, I’ve pretty much left all of the sound systems in our cars and trucks untouched since the 70’s when I hooked up an equalizer to the stereo in my Cosworth Vega.

With the 2017 Road Glide, I quickly realized the stock sound system needed a lot to be desired and headed down a path to make it better with minimal cost.  Phase 1 was adding four new speakers that improved the sound, but still fell a bit short.  Phase 2 added an amplifier and line equalizers that gave me a really great sounding system for about 35% – 50% of what most folks spend on a full, integrated system upgrade.

Having now lived with the Tacoma’s sound system for six weeks — yes, we’ve only owned the Tacoma for six weeks — I came to realize while the sound system “seemed” able to deliver a lot of sound and bass, the quality of that sound wasn’t all that great.  I surfed the Tacoma owner’s forums to see what other folks had done to remedy the shortcomings of the stock Toyota sound systems and got a good idea of what could be done for under $200.

Six Speaker Upgrade: Similar to the 2017 Harley, I am going in with a phased approach with a goal of stopping at Phase 1, the speaker upgrade without an amplifier.  There are a total of six speakers in the truck, all of which are good but not great in terms of their quality and sound reproduction. The hot ticket for replacing them is buying new speakers through Crutchfield, the outfit where I found the speakers for the Harley. They always have everything on sale for some reason, and so it was with the speakers I needed for the Tacoma.  The risk with this particular upgrade and the 4 ohm speakers is they require twice as much power as the 2 ohm stock speakers they are replacing.  Because of that difference I’ll lose about 1/2 of the available volume from the system, but since I rarely have the volume above a 1/4 it’s no big deal and we should gain a lot more clarity and sound quality from the upgrade.

My original plan was to wait to install the speakers while I had the interior removed for the sound insulation installation, as they’re very complimentary in terms of the work needed to disassemble the interior and what they do for the interior cab environment.  However, given that the adhesive I need for the sound insulation was just reported as having been lost in shipment, I decided to go ahead and install the speakers this past week.

[​IMG]I started out swapping the dash-mounted OEM tweeters for a set of Subaru / Kicker tweeters. It was a relatively easy, direct swap installation and the new tweeters are definitely a better quality speaker.  However, for as light and simple as the factory speakers were, they worked quite well.  These new, speakers sound quite a bit more clear.

Of course, having installed the better tweeters I was now anxious to replace the other four speakers instead of waiting until the weekend of the 19th/20th when I think I’ll finally have all of the material I need to sound insulate the truck cab.  Fortunately, removing the door panels turned out to be a rather quick and easy process, as was changing out the speakers once I understood how to prepare the speaker adapter rings and secure them to the speakers.  I made a point of checking each speaker after they were installed and also did an old to new speaker sound comparison at each step along the way.  I will say, while the new speakers were an improvement over the old ones, to get the full range of performance out of the newer speakers would require the addition of an amplifier.  I don’t think I’ll mess with that, at least at the moment.

Amplifier, Phase II:  If, after doing the sound insulation the acoustic quality of the truck cab is so improved that I can clearly detect shortcomings in the sound system I’ll investigate the addition of a small amplifier like the Cerwin Vega I put in the Harley or perhaps the Kicker Key amplifier, both are relatively inexpensive and will fit behind the dash.  In the mean time, we’ll just enjoy the fuller, higher-quality sound from the new speakers.  By the way, as you look at that exposed door shell you can see why the Tacoma is a very noisy vehicle. The doors are empty, metal boxes with almost no vibration or sound deadening materials: that will all change dramatically in a week or two.

Lighting Upgrades:

Interior Lighting: As I was sitting at the Toyota dealership attempting to fill-out the night-drop work order request form in the cab of my truck I realized that the overhead map lighting was pretty poor; a dim yellowish glow is how I would describe it.

I’ve since remedied that by replacing the halogen bulbs with a pair of aftermarket LEDs that provide a very bright, white light.  My original plan was to replace all of the halogen bulbs in the cab with LEDs but was somewhat thwarted when I discovered that just about every different light in the cab — dome, map and vanity — are different. So, I’m now awaiting the delivery of those other bulbs.  Hopefully they won’t prove to be too bright.

Back-Up Lighting: While I was doing my research on interior LEDs I stumbled across some recommendations for upgrading back-up lights to LEDs as well.  Yes, that would be a good idea, far better than adding a second set of lights as I did on my last five trucks.  Yup, every truck since the ’89 Toyota has had at least one auxiliary spot light slaved off the back-up light to help with rear-view, night-time back-up vision.  The pair of Auxito 15 chipset, 6000k white lights really works well.

Head & Fog Lights:  I’m tempted to do something with the headlights and fog lights as they’re pretty awful in low-light / rainy conditions but don’t want to be one of those less than considerate motorists who outfit their vehicles with super-bright lights that blind other drivers under the mis-perception that they’re providing them with better nighttime vision… which in most cases they’re not.  It’s complicated.

Oops, Didn’t Mean To:

As I backed out of the garage the night after upgrading the speakers to run an errand the interior dash and exterior head lights didn’t come on, noting I have them set to the “Auto” position that runs the DRL’s during daylight, and uses a light sensor to trigger the headlights/taillights.

Yeah, well… that little sensor had to be disconnected when I replaced the right-front tweeter in the dash and guess what sensor never got plugged-back in? Whoops. Thankfully, it’s a 5-minute fix to pull off and re-install the A-pillar garnish, pull out the speaker / vent grille.



About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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