By: Austin_Ranger

Just got done installing a low-budget cd / mp3 player in my 1988 Ranger. It was a bit of a struggle just getting the dash apart, so I thought I’d document my experience as a resource others might use.

For starters, this head unit isn’t great. It’s kind of a piece of crap. But with the economy, etc. it’s what I can afford right now (~$60) and my previous aftermarket head unit was overdue for retirement. It plays mp3s off cdrs and has an aux input on the face, which is a huge technological step up from my previous head unit which was sold before the mp3 format had been invented. The Clarion DB185MP has outputs for an amp, which is kind of an oxymoron in that anybody buying this unit isn’t going to really be so into car audio that they’d have an amp…. but I digress.

The dash removal on the 1988 Ranger is actually pretty easy. Your goal is to get the silver faceplate off the dash, which is held on by four screws along the top and then four more underneath the horizontal trim strips. The trim strips are easy to just pop off with a screw driver. They’ve got spring clips that will allow them to pull straight off towards the seats. My Ranger repair manual said to also remove the steering column covers, but I’m not sure that’s necessary.

If your Ranger already has an aftermarket stereo like mine, you might be tempted to use the wiring harness in place. It’s a dodgy approach, though, because you won’t have the wiring diagram which you’ll need to match to the wiring of the new stereo wiring harness. It’s safer to get a new one so you’ll know for sure what the wire assignments are. I bought a no-name harness for $7 that said it was for ‘FORD’ vehicles and the part number is ‘AT-WHFD2′ (wiring assignments). If you’re replacing the factory radio, you’ll also need a trim kit that will make your stereo fit in the dash. If you’ve got an aftermarket head unit installed, the trim kit will likely fit the replacement. Trim kits are available for ~$10 at auto parts stores, Walmart, and car stereo dealers.

As you’ll see, the head unit you’ve purchased has a plug with some bare wires hanging off it. You’ll need to consult the stereo’s installation documentation to reference what each color wire does and then match those assignments to the colors listed on the wiring harness’ documentation (Clarion DB185MP wiring assignments). Most of them are going to match color-for-color, but you do need to pay attention to discrepancies.

The 1988 Ford Ranger has two wiring harness plugs. One provides the power for the stereo as well as control over illumination, etc. The other plug is for sound-out to each of the four speakers. The wiring harness will likely offer a black wire for the ground, but you should disregard this. You’ll need to fasten the stereo’s black ground wire directly to the bracket that surrounds the stereo. I drilled a screw into that bracket to fasten the ground wire.

It will help if you know how to strip and solder wires. An electronics store will offer crimps that will connect wires, and those could work instead of soldering, but I don’t have experience with them. Don’t try to just twist the wires and wrap with electrical tape. Your dash is a hot, dry environment that will undoubtedly cause that tape to unwrap and leave your wires bare to short out. I prefer to twist, solder, and then cover with heat-shrink tubing because I don’t ever want to have to reopen the dash to mess with those wires again.

(don’t forget to slide your heat shrink tubing on the wire before twisting & soldering!)

Once you’ve got all the wires matched up between the two wiring harnesses, you’ll want to install the head unit sleeve in the dash faceplate. Bend the tabs up to hold it steady in place. Consult your trim kit’s instructions for any unique installation required.

Now you can re-mount the dash faceplate and pull the dash wiring out through the opening to connect to your newly-fashioned wiring harness. Don’t forget to fasten the ground wire to that metal bracket inside the opening. Now you can plug the wiring harness into the back of the head unit as well as the thick cable that runs to your antennae.

(note the black wire on far left that bypasses wiring harness and connects directly to the bracket as a ground)

Slide the head unit in place and test. If it doesn’t work, you’ll probably need to use those little metal keys that likely came with your stereo to slide between the head unit and the sleeve on each side to release it so it can slide back out again and you can verify your wiring connections.

EDIT: The trim ring is a Metra Part – P/N 89-30-0500 (Link)

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