When it comes to video/navigation head units, there are so many more options with a double-DIN than there are with flip-outs. With better fit and finish, not to mention better controls, and a cheaper price, double-DIN is where it’s at, but what if your car does not have the option for a double-DIN head unit? If you have an adventurous spirit, and are willing put the blade to the dash, make it fit! Recently, I had a late ‘90s Chevy Tahoe in the shop to get a new video screen. The owner had a larger-face single-DIN DVD head unit that was giving him fits, so we upgraded to a new Pioneer AVIC double-DIN DVD head unit.
The main issue with this conversion is the HVAC controls. The factory CD player is located below the HVAC controls, but we need this space to make room. You have to completely hack up the dash bezel to do this job, so it is not for the faint of heart. If you haven’t done any custom work, this might not be the best place to start, unless you just gotta do it.
Another hurdle you will have to overcome is the mounting of the head unit. In the Tahoe, there is not a dash kit to make it easy. I bent a piece of 22-gauge steel to create a cradle for the head unit and used the plastic slider clips from the dash kit to lock into the stock dash. The HVAC relocation required cutting a fair amount of the stock dash plastic structure.
The entire project took less than 2 days to complete and does not require a lot of specialized tools. I used air tools for speed, but if you are careful, you can do the entire job with basic hand tools. The results speak for themselves, a double-DIN head unit in the dash that looks factory. Your friends will be asking you to do their car next.
01. The stock dash has a few issues, the empty switch pods to start. You can use a flip-out screen here, but they cost more and the gear shifter is in the way. The solution comes by way of surgery.
02. A Pioneer AVIC double-DIN was selected for the Tahoe and placed on the dash bezel. I marked it using a silver pencil.
03. Then a cut-off wheel was used to cut out the HVAC section of the dash. Be careful not to cut into this section, just remove it. You can use a hacksaw or jigsaw here, but extreme care is needed.
04. Then I cut out the original CD pod section to fit the HVAC trim. I sanded the HVAC trim to fit as well.
05. The upper section was cut way so that all we had left is a large opening.
06. Then I cut a piece of ABS plastic to fit the dash bezel. You could fill the entire thing, but that is not necessary.
07. The AVIC head unit was placed onto the ABS plastic and marked to fit flush with the small recess.
08. Then I cut to (not on) the line using a bandsaw. You need to cut as straight as possible here.
09. Using some CA (superglue) glue and accelerator, the new trim ring was glued back together, where I cut it on the bandsaw.
10. With the trim ring and HVAC trim in place in the bezel, the parts were glued with more CA. You need to hit all of the spots where the plastic touches, but there will be some gaps. No stress, those get filled later. I like to use medium thickness CA; it flows better and is strong.
11. Then I sprayed on some accelerator. CA dries pretty slow, so you need to use accelerator.
12. The backside was glued and a few pieces of extra plastic added to fill a couple of larger gaps.
13. I hacked out a bunch of the factory dash with a sawzall to get the HVAC to fit in place. This is necessary, so get it done.
14. Next, the bezel was installed in the truck along with the slider clips in the original positions for the dash kit. The locations of the sliders were marked on the bezel. This gives us the position we needed to make the mount for the deck.
15. I transferred those marks to the backside of the bezel. This will be important later.
16. I used the bench vise and a body hammer to bend a piece of 22-gauge steel into a U shape. This will support the bottom of the head unit.
17. The head unit was placed into the bezel and the metal cradle flush with the bottom of the head unit. Then I transferred the alignment marks to the cradle.
18. The slider brackets were lined up to the marks on the cradle, then I marked the screw holes on the steel and drilled the steel.
The sliders were bolted to the steel cradle and slid into the dash for a test fit, just right.
20. Before moving on, the bezel was treated to a layer of Duraglass, which is fiberglass-reinforced bondo. The owner, Toby Ramsey of the Tahoe runs Ramsey Autobody in Stillwater, Ok, so I let him handle the finish work.
21. Here Toby sands the dash smooth, this doesn’t take long at all.
22. Once smooth, the bezel was ready for some paint. Toby used auto paint, which he is set up for, but you can use rattle-can paint. Make sure to keep it to about 3 light coats, letting it cure in between.
23. In primer, the bezel was installed and the deck was set flush to the bezel. Once positioned, carefully remove the bezel, working hard to not move the head unit. Once the bezel is off, the head unit to cradle sides was measured so spacer mounts could be made.
24. I made some spacers from 1\2” MDF and a piece of ABS plastic. The mounting screws were set flush by drilling the spacers with a paddle bit.
25. The spacers were installed to the head unit, then the cradle was secured to the spacers with a couple of screws on each side. The head unit needs to be secure and not move around.
26. The final assembly with the custom-painted bezel. The HVAC controls were mounted with a single screw and spacer on each side to hold it in place. It looks factory and performs flawlessly.
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).