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DND Services Ltd :: Black Museum

Black Museum

The Black Museum

Over the past few years, we have been amazed by some of the stories that we have heard and so stunned by some of the installations that we have witnessed, that we have now started taking pictures of the potentially lethal vehicles that we have seen our customers driving from day to day. We do not intend this as a hall of shame, but show them in the hope that people will learn how not to do it. If you are ever in doubt, please ask us, our advice is always free !!

Always use a Fuse #1

You should always use a fuse on an installation of anything electrical. Think of a fuse as your insurance against too much damage when things go wrong. But also be aware that a fuse that is too large in value, is just as bad as not having any protection at all. A fuse must always be placed as close to the battery as possible, and always before the main power cable passes through any bulkheads or panels. This is so that if anything fails that is connected, the fuse will blow and prevent any further damage, and if the cable rubs or gets pinched where it shouldn`t, then the fuse will blow and prevent further damage and the risk of fire.

The picture below shows a Vauxhall Astra MK2, with an Amplifier mounted under the seat. There was no fuse fitted and a problem with the amplifier arose, but instead of the fuse blowing, the cable overheated and caught fire. This happened whilst the car was traveling at speed. Luckily, the occupants escaped, before the car caught fire.

A decent fuse and fuseholder is under a tenner. It nearly cost someone their life!

Always use a Fuse #2

And for the owner of this Jeep Cherokee there really is no excuse !

Take a close look at the fusebox and the fuses, and you will see that not one, but two fuses have been hardwired and linked out to stop the fuses from blowing. The customer said that the 60A fuse on the right kept blowing for no reason, and he had never had a problem since he put in the wire link. What you can`t see very well from the picture is the discoloration where the red outer layer had got so hot it has gone burnt brown and is starting to bubble. A 20A piece of cable and a couple of crimps are no substitute for a fuse, and yes, I would have put serious money on this car catching fire very soon had we not fixed the problem with the starter solenoid.

Routing the Cables #1

The Vauxhall Astra shown below is featured in many examples of the Black Museum, as it is one of the worst examples that we have ever seen. Ok, it may not appear at first to be as bad as some, but now take into consideration that this was a chargeable installation by a so called Autoelectrician. It would not be professional of us to name the outfit that worked at the rear of a Pizza restaurant in Stevenage High Street, but needless to say that the authorities caught up with them and thankfully they are no longer trading. There is no such thing as a "Free" or "Cheap" installation, as it will inevitably involve cutting all the corners possible, as time is money. Remember if you are not paying your installer any money, then how can you be sure that they will take full care of your vehicle. When arranging an installation, you will only ever get what you pay for!

Look into the wheelarch and you will see that there is an obvious danger of the wheel catching the cable when on full lock, but the situation has been made far more serious, as there are no grommets used where the cable passes through the metal panels. And yes, you guessed, the installer was cutting so many corners that the budget for the installation was too tight to allow a fuse to be put in line.

Unbelievably, when questioned about the fuse, the dealer rejected the need for an additional fuse, and said said that the one built into the side of the amplifier was sufficient. (What protected that cable though?) This is just plain Dangerous, and this type of install by a dealer gives the trade a very bad name.

Routing the Cables #2

Have a look at the cable on this Mark III Ford Escort. How many times do you think the accelerator pedal can be pressed before the cable wears through? Lets just hope he has a fuse in line !

Routing the Cables #3

In most vehicles, the main power feed will have to pass from the battery under the bonnet, into the cabin. Virtually every car has several grommets that can be used, and if you can`t find a suitable access point, then a few minutes with a drill, a grommet and some silicone sealant should overcome your problem. The owner of this Honda Integra thought to take what he thought was the easy route, and simply pass the cable around the bottom of the 'A' post and into the car. Apart from looking unsightly, it`s damn dangerous!! Every time that door shuts, there is a risk of squashing the cable and shorting it out against the bodywork, which would almost certainly result in combustion. (That`s Fire to you!) If you can`t find an existing grommet to use, please do not be afraid to ask us for a solution.

Routing the Cables #4

And the same goes for the owner of this Ford Escort MkIV. It would have actually taken longer to route the cable this way, than to poke the cable through the existing large grommet on the bulkhead.

Routing the Cables #5

The owner of this Ford Fiesta had read the installation manual that came with his Alpine stereo that said because the stereo was so powerful, a direct connection to the battery had to be made. The routing of a heavy piece of 8 AWG cable through the car with no fuses or grommets was not ideal, but when the end of the heavy cable was joined to a very thin yellow head unit cable by nothing more than twisting the cables together and covering them with tape, this made it incredibly dangerous indeed.

Routing the Cables #6

If you have a look at the red power cable as it passes through the bulkhead of this Vauxhall Omega, you will see that the sharp edges of the metal are literally slicing through the outer sheath. All it needs is for the car to go over a bump and the metal to touch the inner core of the cable, and when that happens, the car will catch fire and it is also quite possible that the battery will explode in a shower of acid. All for the sake of a rubber grommet costing a few pence.

Keep it Neat and Tidy #1

It doesn`t cost anything to tidy things up as you go along. Far too often people are in so much of a hurry to install their equipment, that they forget some good housekeeping rules. This is often very expensive and delicate equipment that you are fitting, so don`t think that by lashing it in quickly, that it is going to perform as well as it ought to. Every signal cable that is too long and coiled up is now going to act as an antenna for every electrical noise generated in your car, and every power cable that is coiled up will not only generate its own interference but more importantly, heat. An electric heater is nothing more than several coils of wire. Any bits of hardware, amplifiers etc, must always be bolted down, to prevent them from moving and pulling and breaking any cables. Under no circumstances should amplifiers simply be stuffed under the carpet.

So with all that said, if you were the Car Audio Dealer that charged a lot of money to fit this system into a Toyota Celica, you should be very, very ashamed.

Keep it Neat and Tidy #2

The same goes for the Installation of the equipment on this Chrysler Voyager, it needs to be much neater. The Customer wondered why it only worked intermittently, and although we knew from the start that it was going to be something simple like a loose terminal, it took a very long time to trace the wires. Had the installation been a little neater, the problem of the loose terminal would never have arisen in the first place!!

Keep it Neat and Tidy #3

Dealers up and down the country will identify immediately with this installation, as like us, you will probably see one like it at least once a day. The conversation with the customer will almost be the same as well. It will start off with the customer asking you to have a look at their system as it has a problem, generally an interference or thumping fault, and it has probably just been fitted by a mate, or more likely, quickly lashed together just to see if it works. The solution to this problem is very simple, fit it like this and it won`t work, and the remedy is often very simple. Install it properly! A good 99% of system faults are down to poor installation and nothing else. If you have a problem, and it looks like this, tidy it up first before coming to see us.

Keep it Neat and Tidy #4

Back to the Vauxhall Astra you saw earlier with the professional installation. The amplifier is rated at 400 Watts, and should have a heavier power cable than the 10 Awg that was used. More amazingly though, was the use of the very heavy silver earth cable. The fitter obviously had this piece lying around in his workshop, but as this was a Free Fitting, he didn`t bother to use a terminal and simply wrapped the earth cable around the top of the suspension bolt. There was no attempt to hide or tidy these power cables, and they were masked by the long cables from the amplifier going to the shelf speakers and were literally draped across the boot. Being tidy costs nothing. This type of install by a dealer gives the trade a very bad name.

Secure That Amplifier

Installing an Amplifier under a seat is not an ideal location, but more often than not, there is simply nowhere else to put it. But there is no excuse for not securing it down to the floor, or making some form of bracket to bolt it to. The cable ties used here allow the amplifier to swing back and forth, and in doing so, the main power feed is being cut through by the seat runners. Remember the earlier picture of the amplifier that had caught fire, this one will do the same very soon.

Use the Correct Fittings #1

And yet again, back to the Vauxhall Astra. When fitting aftermarket speakers and tweeters, there are nearly always some fitting rings or brackets available off the shelf, and in the instances when there are not, a good Car Audio dealer should be able to fabricate some for you. I was speechless to hear how much the dealer charged to secure these tweeters with insulation tape, and could not believe that this installation could get any worse. But it did! The reason that some many cars need speaker ring adapter plates is to make them stand proud of the doors and allow the windows to open fully. When I tried to open the windows and they stopped a few inches from being fully open, I knew what had happened. The window had literally hit the rear of the speaker magnet!! Easily cured by the fitment of a speaker ring.

Use the Correct Fittings #2

This is where Speaker rings have the opposite effect. The Dealer that fitted these speakers into a Mitsubishi Evolution VIII obviously knew at the time, that the speakers as standard in the Evo are of very shallow draught, and to fit non standard speakers would need some form of spacer rings. Here it can be seen that Vauxhall Cavalier rings have been used. The only problem is that in standing the speakers so far forward, that they have fouled the inside edge of the door cards. The door card was refitted, with a bit of force needed to get the poppers to line up. When the Customer came to us complaining of a rattle he had been left with by a Dealer he was no longer happy with, we investigated it for him. If you look closely at the rubber ring on the speakers, you can see where they have been crushed and perforated. These £600 Focal Utopia speakers are now scrap, and the Dealer that fitted them has hopefully learnt that if a panel doesn`t fit properly, then there may be something very expensive in its way. We fabricated some specialist MDF rings for this car.

Use the Correct Fittings #3

There are some occasions where harness adapter plugs are not readily available, and what people do is to chop off the original plug and convert the car harness to what has now become an Industry Standard of ISO style connectors. This has been done using red crimp connectors, and terminated in the two 8 pin blocks - nothing wrong with that, its an acceptable conversion. But if your next stereo is not an ISO format one, most would spend a couple of quid on a Male ISO connector to plug on the end, or at least a few pence on another set of crimps to change the wiring completely. But No, what this person has done is to wedge some pins into the ISO block for the power feeds (at least they used fuses) tape them up, and then finish it off with a cable tie to prevent the loose wires from falling out. This would actually have taken far more effort than if they had done it properly.

Use the Correct Fittings #4

This picture of tow bar electrics as fitted to a Vauxhall Omega was sent over to me by one of our customers, and I do have a bit of an issue with this. It is generally accepted throughout the land that Scotchlock type connectors can cause more problems than they solve, with poor connectivity and in some extreme cases combustion. When you look at this bunch of untidy connectors you do not have to be a genius to realise why the tow bar electrics are not functioning as they should. But my real gripe about this picture is because this is how the tow bar companies supply these kits, and this is exactly how they suggest you fit them!! Maybe they should ask us to redesign the instructions to something that is both safe and functional.

Removing of a Head Unit

Car Audio Dealers are always expected to do work for nothing, and the simple truth is that we can`t. We, like many other dealers do charge a small token fee for removing a head unit from a car. The owner of this Hyundai wanted to cut costs and remove it himself. 9 times out of ten you will wish that you had left it to the professionals, because mistakes are often expensive! In trying to prise out the stereo from the dashboard, the front of the radio was destroyed in the process. The cost of buying a new stereo proved to be far more expensive than asking us to remove the four screws that were bolting it in! And guess what, the customer even contemplated fitting the new one himself! Will people never learn?

Removing of a Head Unit #2

The owner of this Ford CD Player did not want to spend out on the specialist removal keys to remove this stereo, so instead set about levering it out with a screwdriver. You can see the damage done to the brackets bottom left where they have been forced and bent. What may not be so obvious is the curve on the circuit board on the front fascia, and is has been bent at such an angle that is has now cracked internally. The repair costs for this unit are far in excess of the cost of the specialist removal tool required, (which was actually under a fiver).

Anti Theft Measures

I have to admit, I was quite tickled by this one. In an attempt to prevent theft of his unit, the customer decided to block the four removal tool holes by inserting pop rivets in them. And it remained very effective at holding the stereo in the dash. When I first saw this, the customer assured me that he could remove the glovebox and push the stereo out from behind (although why a thief could not work that out is beyond me). However, many months later, when the guy had lost his code and needed to remove his stereo, he found the major drawback of using very long pop rivets, as they had gone so far inside the stereo that they had locked the side spring clips absolutely solid and prevented the unit from being pushed from the rear. In fact it nearly prevented the stereo from being crowbarred and drilled from the front, and although the customer finally got it out, a new centre console had to be ordered as the dash and console had been cracked in the process.

And Yes! The damage to the console came to more than the cost of a new cassette player. . . . .

Speaker Woes

The owner of this 1996 GMC Safari said that his speakers really didn`t sound as good as they should, and asked us to upgrade them. We have never been fans of the cheap and nasty paper cone speakers that are usually fitted by the manufacturers, because they biodegrade and split over time. This one really took our breath away though, as we have never seen one as bad as this that was still working.

The Customer was so lucky not to have blown his head unit.

More surprising though, was to see a similar problem on a set of high end Kenwood Component Speakers. These came from a Chevrolet Camaro that had been in storage for around ten years, and they had certainly deteriorated during that time.

Some Stereo`s Just Won`t Fit !

I Guarantee that everyday we will have a conversation that goes along the lines of, my stereo doesn`t fit properly, its loose, or I need a fascia adaptor. This is because many of the car manufacturers have made their dashboards in various shapes in the hope that you will buy their non standard shape stereo equipment. We carry a full range of fascia adaptors and generally claim that we can put a stereo in just about any car. However, the guy that bought this car was told by the salesman that the stereo had just been quickly slung in to sell it, and all he needed was a fascia adaptor. As you can see, there is no way that an adaptor will be found to put a Peugeot 106 dedicated fitment stereo into a Vauxhall Corsa.

If you are gullible enough to beleive this from somebody trying to sell you a vehicle, come and see me, as I would love to sell you one of my cars !!

Really? I cannot fathom on what planet this would ever be considered as acceptable. The owner of this Chevrolet Camaro tried to tell us that the adaptor panels were not available, so he had to do this instead. Well, they may not be instantly available "off the shelf" in the UK, but we managed to obtain the correct panel from the USA in order to put this right for him. He had been driving with it like this for several years. It only took us a few days to have one flown in !!

Mail Order Problems

With the vast majority of our decoding and repair work being done via Mail Order, we do see a lot of badly packaged items that arrive each day. We all know that the couriers and postal workers don`t ever kick boxes around their warehouses (!) and we would never suggest such things (!!). However, we were somewhat bemused when this box came in the other day from a reputable Car Audio Dealer ( who should really have known better ! ) containing two very expensive stereos and no packaging inside the box whatsoever. These two stereos had smashed against each other in transit and caused an awfull lot of damage to the front fascia`s.

If sending anything to us, carefully wrap up any items individually with a couple of good layers of bubble packaging and then place in a cardboard box. Any extra room in the box can be filled with crumpled up newspaper just to be certain.

Please do not fill up the box with shredded paper though. Apart from weighing more than the stereo, the paper shreds can actually cause a lot of damage with the amount of dust that they generate. That dust can cover an optical laser, or turn to a nasty paste if if comes into contact with any grease, and considerably shorten the lifespan of any internal mechanisms as a result.

Please do not wrap the parcels up too tightly, because bubble wrap also needs a little bit of "give" in order to cushion any blows, or you may find that any sharp edges will start to pop through the protective layers and ultimately get damaged, as can be seen here in the examples shown below.

Car stereos are quite expensive, and I am surprised at how little thought is taken in wrapping them up to send to us. I mean, if your stereo can puncture this much cardboard, you really should be using a bigger box.

And it was amazing that this radio wrapped in nothing but a thin plastic bag, arrived here in one piece at all. It doesn`t matter how many times your write "Fragile" on the outside, it needs layers of bubble wrap or similar to absorb any knocks or bumps whilst in transit.

Because if care is not taken when sending your parcels, then damage like this can occur. Fragile edges need to be protected from knocks or bumps. Plenty of Bubble Wrap, a good sturdy box, and this would never have happened.

Radio Problems

A very common story here. The Customer said that the battery on their car was draining overnight and that the car had been into a local garage for diagnostics, where the mechanic had identified the radio as being the problem and had subsequently referred them over to us. Our first question is always met with a puzzled look, and that is simply "Do you have children?"

Those of you with children are always encouraging them to put their money in a Piggy Bank, but you really should teach them that the CD Slot on the front of a Car Stereo is not the correct place to post their coins. When the radio was removed, we knew the problem from the tell tale rattle inside, and that a replacement radio was now required. If a coin drops into a radio, the metal will short out every electronic component it touches inside and do untold internal damage to the microchips on the circuit boards. Any repair will prove to be unreliable due to the amount of damage now caused, but at least you now have a few coins towards that new stereo.

You can just about see the edge of the Two Pence Piece that is now magnetically stuck to the laser inside this CD player. What you cannot see it the dirty great big scratch across the plastic lens as the coin came to rest there. New laser required here.

And its not just coins we have to deal with either, as children are also known to post anything resembling a card, receipt or ticket into what they also think is a postal slot. Paper and card can jam up very easily causing untold damage to the small plastic gears, or, as in this case, a labour bill for a good few hours whilst we strip the unit down in order to recover every shred of it and remove any fibers that may have been caught in the mechanism..

If you are going to lay up your Classic Car for a few months in the garage, then make sure that no-one has taken up residence inside there first, unlike the owner of the Jaguar XJS who found that a Mouse had eaten through the wiring loom of his CD Changer causing major damage to the stereo when the battery was reconnected.

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1st May 2019
Services Resumed

Following some essential communications work behind the scenes, we are now back up and running again. Apologies for any inconvenience.


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