Recently my 2012 Ford Escape With Sync And Voice Activated Navigation Head Unit was damaged by a faulty disc (when it processed partially through disc 2 the update software couldn’t continue and got ‘stuck’). I do want to say, however, that the Here support team and my local Ford dealer service team were excellent. The Here team went out of their way to refund the map update that I couldn’t use and the refund was given promptly. The Ford dealer service team did try as best they could to recover my head unit (damaged by a bad install disc). To repair the damage, Ford wanted $1500 dollars for a refurbished head unit and my old head unit for a core charge. The OEM Ford head unit was designed in 2006, tested and fielded in 2007, had a minor hardware update in 2008, and a couple minor software updates since then. Think about it, would you pay $1500 to replace your 10 year old cell phone with a refurbished unit? NO, technology moves to fast!
What settled it for me was when I pressed the call button on my daughter’s car with an iPhone 6S connected to a Pioneer AVH-X4800BS. I simply said “Call Sam” and Siri replied “Calling Sam”. The newer wideband BlueTooth versus that old Sync rigamarole couldn’t compare!
I purchased a Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX because I wanted capacitive touch screen and built-in navigation. After studying the instructions I found out a little more about Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Knowing what I know now, I would have purchased the Pioneer AVH-4200NEX. The AVH-4200NEX does not have built in nav (you can add it however), but I now prefer Apple Carplay and the Apple maps I get from my iPhone (with IOS 10+) and my daughter prefers Android Auto with Google Maps from her Samsung Galaxy. The AVH-4200NEX has a resistive touch screen. I tried two different units on display at Best Buy and the resistive touch screen worked just fine. I sold my Ford OEM radio part number CL8T-18K931AA for parts ($300) not working (there are two companies online that will buy them) and I received a $160 refund for the maps. If you were to sell a working Ford head unit and counted NOT spending $160 on a new Ford map update (you’ll be getting them free from your smartphone) you can just about pay for installation of a current technology head unit like the AVH-4200NEX that will be updated every time Apple or Google does an update.
With my new head unit I get a 13% bigger, brighter screen, HD radio, SIRI or GOOGLE or S Audio WIDEBAND Bluetooth that works and sounds so much better, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, GAUGES, tire pressures, door open alerts, and engine OBD II codes. My steering wheel controls still work and I can customize them using an iDatalink Maestro. I get Apple or Google map updates FREE! I still get my satellite radio, AM/FM, DVD/CD, and audio in.
Overall I am quite happy with the new Pioneer versus the old OEM unit.
A few random notes:
Disconnect the battery while you are installing the new unit. After you hook everything up and are testing things out DO NOT let the battery run down if you don’t have the engine running. I did and the car didn’t like it. Everything started acting weird and I thought I killed the car ECM. You could hook a 2 amp float charger to the battery or something to prevent this. When you restart the Escape after having the battery disconnected for so long, leave your foot off the gas and don’t drive it for 5-10 minutes so it can relearn the idle throttle trim. Then when you do drive it, drive gently for a while so it can relearn how to shift.
Parts List (purchased from Crutchfield):
• Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX (The AVH-4200NEX without nav may be a better option if you plan on using Apple Carplay or Android Auto)
• iDatalink Maestro ADS-MRR Interface Module (To retain factory steering wheel controls etc.)
• Metra 99-5814HG Dash Kit High-gloss Black (Looks OEM.)
• Metra 40-CR10 Antenna Adapter (Needed to adapt the AM/FM Ford antenna connector to the Pioneer)
• iDatalink Connect HRN-RR-FO1 Factory Integration Adapter (The Pioneer to Ford cable harness. You still need to make some connections yourself between the Pioneer harness and the Ford harness but it is easy)
• SiriusXM SXV300V1 Tuner (I didn’t know there was an adapter available to go between the Ford satellite connector and the Sirius, so I used a pair of wire cutters to nibble the OEM plastic yellow connector off, and plugged the metal connector into the Sirius and put a couple of wraps of electrical tape around it to hold it in. It works perfect and has better performance than the Ford Escape OEM unit had and my 2013 Nissan Pathfinder has now.)(This is free after a $70 rebate AND 3 free months of satellite radio so even if you aren’t a Sirius fan you may want to wire this in for free in case you sell the car.)
• Bojo Trim Panel Tools (Invaluable to get the dash trim off)
• Posi-Products Car Stereo Wiring Harness Connectors (these made secure, fast and easy connections without soldering)
Parts List purchased from Ebay
• Rerii 1M / 3ft Dual USB Extension Panel Flush Mount Cable For Car,Truck,Boat (See the picture. I replaced the OEM USB port with this. As I set it up, the left USB connector runs to Pioneer USB1 for Apple Carplay, and the right USB connector runs to Pioneer USB2 for Android Auto. I used a Harbor Freight step drill to drill out the square hole made by removing the OEM USB connector. Rerii also makes a square dual USB version that may look better to you, but I have not tried it.)
After some experimentation, I programmed my iDatalink Maestro without Ford Sync and without vehicle sources. The Pioneer wideband Bluetooth and Siri (and Google Voice and S Voice) are so much better than Sync 2 or whatever the Escape had. The available vehicle sources (USB and audio in) are better provided by the Pioneer. If I ever wanted to re-enable Sync I still can. I have the iDatalink Maestro RR Sync audio running to my glove box. The Pioneer audio in (actually AV in) is accessible on the dash. I would run a patch cord from the glove box to the dash and I would have Sync voice running to the Pioneer. For the OEM USB input, I disconnected the USB on the dash, hooked up a USB extension and ran that to the glove box. Finally, I plugged in a longer USB programming cable to the iDatalink Maestro and ran that to the glove box. I can reprogram the Maestro from a laptop right in the vehicle. I have those three cables just bundled together and stuffed in a corner of the glove box. I also have an HDMI cable running from the Pioneer to the glove box but have not used it yet. I have all those wires bundled together and nestled next to my Escape user’s manual. After initializing my Maestro RR, I went to the Maestro settings on the head unit and turned on Accessory During Crank. This keeps the radio on if you have it on and then start the car.
I was able to use my Windows 10 PC to program my Maestro RR using iDatalink Weblink. The old Internet Explorer was still available (Start, All Apps, Windows Accessories, Internet Explorer). I had to enable all the Active X settings in options. That left a Windows warning on my screen. After I finished programming the Maestro RR I closed Internet Explorer.
The Ford audio in jack also originally just plugged into the lower dash trim next to the OEM USB. When I pulled it out I found that the Pioneer AV in cable was a nice friction fit. I did put a drop of super glue on it just to be sure.
The Ford backup camera used a two wire square connector that plugged into the back of the OEM head unit. I cut that off and wired on a 6 inch length of yellow RCA male cable end I cut off an old DVD player cable. The white wire went to the center wire of the RCA cable and the dark wire went to the RCA cable shield. Works perfect.
You must install the Pioneer microphone to use voice activated commands and make phone calls. The Pioneer mic works much better than the OEM mic. I clipped it just above my rear view mirror, routed the cable along the head liner (there was actually a gap there I could push it in), pulled off my A pillar trim which was easy and ran the wire behind that, popped off the side of the dash (easy) then through the dash to the unit. I bent a coat hanger straight and taped the end of the cable to that and fished it all the way behind the dash to the radio in one try. Works perfect.
The OBD II connector plugs right into the OEM OBD II connector. There is a small connector close to the cable harness bundle you can unplug to make it easy to fish through the dash.
I did install a parking brake micro-bypass I bought on Ebay for the parking brake rigmarole so I don’t know how things worked without it.
Since I had the Ford premium sound system, I did NOT have to cut off my cable harness RCA connectors like the instructions show. I was able to plug the RCA connectors together for both the front and rear AND the subwoofer. You must go to sound settings in the head unit and turn the Subwoofer setting ON. I think the Pioneer drives it better than the OEM unit did. I told iDatalink support that the instructions need updated for the OEM configuration I have and also that the Pioneer microphone must be installed, so maybe the next revision of the instructions will be updated.
Initially I could not get the OEM GPS antenna to work (the purple connector I think, I nibbled it off also). It may be a fit issue. I used the Pioneer GPS antenna sitting on the dash for 6 weeks and it worked perfect. It was not too noticeable sitting on the dash. Even sitting in the garage I had plenty of GPS satellites with a strong signal shown on the Pioneer Nav Info. I ran it out between the top console trim and the dash and put it close to the other Ford sensor there (the sun load sensor I think). I finally did order a couple of AVIC connectors for $4 each from Ebay, I cut off the OEM connector and wired on the AVIC. Order several because it took me two tries to get it right. In the end I just crimped it on (both the center conductor and the shield) and it works PERFECT. I still receive multiple GPS satellites sitting in the garage.
There was another OEM unused connector (brown) similar to the Traction Control System connector (black) in there. It looked like it was for the automatic parking assist (where the car parks into a parallel spot for you). I don’t think this car has the other parts needed so I just left it in there undisturbed.
There are YouTube videos on how to snap the dash apart. On the top you need to use the tools and pull straight out toward you. The bottom pulls straight out also but is the hardest. On the left side put your finger in the 12V socket and pull hard while pulling on a piece of duct tape you have already stuck to the bottom of the right side. The middle console pops out after removing a couple of screws. Put a swipe (just a thin film) of bulb grease or silicon grease on the pins before you put those parts back in and they will still be secure but MUCH easier to pull out if you want to change anything.
I found both the iDatalink support line and the Crutchfield support line very helpful! The install took me about 8 hours and the experimentation another 2 or so. If I were to do it again it would probably be less than three hours for a carefull install. When you first look at all the wires it looks like a daunting task, but by researching and studying and connecting this to that you get to the point where they are all hooked up.
I am very happy with the outcome. In addition to the audio/visual/technology improvements I have some great gauges (unfortunately no transmission temperature), tire pressures, door open alerts, battery voltage, and engine codes if one pops up.
I found a cool Ford splash screen on the internet that makes the install look OEM. That’s the one in the picture.
Remember don’t let the battery run down and good luck if you decide to do this!