Any electronics gurus here? Building a CD changer emulator for Fords. | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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Any electronics gurus here? Building a CD changer emulator for Fords.


Well-Known Member
November 10, 2008
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City, State
Weiser, ID
Year, Model & Trim Level
1998 Mountaineer
What I want to do is make a changer emulator that plays MP3 files from an SD card. The control protocol is Ford ACP, based on RS-485 serial. Audio is fed to the head unit as stereo analog. Ford ACP was used circa 1996-2004 or later. Some people have made things to plug in which control their smartphone's music app, or have an analog line-in. Then there's Yampp3 but those usually get done over complicated with an additional display.

I just want a gizmo that does nothing but pretend to be a disc changer, reading MP3 files from six folders on an SD card or USB flash drive, with up to 99 files in each folder. That's 594 songs, and nobody would know by looking through the windows that an Explorer, Taurus or other mid 90's to 00's Ford has anything fancy for audio gear. Would also get back a ton of room in the console.

The various bits needed have been done by various people. What's needed is to put the right pieces together, design a PCB to have made with a group buy of boards and components.

The goal is to NOT give in to feature creep. Make it do what the stock changer does and that's all, to keep the complexity and cost down. Adding things like Bluetooth, smartphone control, outputs for displays for track info etc would just make it cost more.

These days it can be amazingly inexpensive to get a run of 50 or 100 boards made, some Chinese shops will even solder on the tricky surface mount parts, or all the parts. One person who had a Ford ACP to Bluetooth/iPhone controller had a batch of boards made to sell - but his device only does that. It's not an MP3 player.

Want to put it in a fancy, custom case? I can design and 3D print a master, make a silicone mold from that then cast cases in resin. Could even have words molded into it, like the URL for this forum.

I'd want at least two, one for my Mountaineer and one for my Taurus. I have a kit to stuff a DIN size radio into the dash but I don't feel like taking apart the heater controls and half the interior to run lots of wires back to the RCU in the trunk. Plugging a little extra box into the RCU would be much easier. Problem with the Taurus and Sable is Ford didn't simply use the same plug connector on the RCU as is on the disc changers. Noooo. They had to use a different connector, even though the signals are the same on both. So for Taurus/Sable the changer emulator would either need a different connector or a special patch cable would be needed.

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Sounds good. How is that intended to connect with the head unit, and stock HU only, or how's it work for an aftermarket HU?

I have a hardware version of that for my stock Mach radio, using the CD changer connector. It's simply a hard drive device that uses the CD changer cable going to it. I forgot the name of it, it's about a 10gb version, 30gb was the largest IIRC.

Connects through the stock CD changer plug on the various things people have made. If using an aftermarket unit, just get one that plays MP3 off a CD-R or USB flash drive.

This isn't exactly what you are talking about, but I keep thinking I should buy one of these:
Ford Lincoln auxiliary audio input interface adapters PIE FRDW-AUX

It replaces your center console cd player and turns it in to an aux in. From there, its easy to add whatever you want, including a bluetooth unit for pairing to your phone, or whatever.

That works, but you still have a phone or other device you're verboten to touch while driving in most States. That's why a standalone device, controlled by the head unit CD changer controls, would be so nice.