I recently got a really good deal on a 2010 Chevy Impala from a rental company. Unfortunately it didn’t come with Bluetooth or the upgraded radio that is mp3 and XM satellite radio capable. I wanted to add an iPod hookup that displayed the song info on the screen, charged the iPod, and allowed for iPod control from the steering wheels. There are plenty of iPod modules for GM vehicles that can do this but they require the US8 GM radio that has Radio Data System (RDS) – to display the song information. Also, the only way to install add on modules to extend the radio’s capability, you need a XM wiring harness port. The easiest way to tell the difference is the right-most button on the programmable button line says CAT instead of a picture of a speaker (see below).
RDS General Motors radio with LCD that goes along entire radio and clock is always small in top-right corner – you can also tell this radio apart because it has “CAT” for category in right-most button of programmable buttons. Mine had part # 20756285. This radio is XM compatible and includes an extra plug in the back for the XM wiring harness:
Basic GM radio without RDS. LCD is large and in the middle with large clock – also, the right-most button has a speaker icon:
So the first project was to buy a US8 radio on eBay. Not just any radio that looks like the one above will work. You need to make sure it is pulled from a compatible vehicle. If you need help finding what GM RPO (like US8) option codes mean, you can reference this PDF: RPO Codes PDF
Reprogramming GM Radio – 2006+
Since 2006, GM has required the radio programming to match the VIN of the vehicle (as opposed to just needing an unlock code). To reprogram any electronic component on a GM vehicle you need a device called a Tech II programmer. These are expensive and so the only people that have them are dealerships, other repair shops, or your friend that is a GM mechanic.
If you want to know how to navigate your car’s computer with the Tech II, you can find all the possible settings on GM’s TIS website: http://tis2web.service.gm.com
After the radio is programmed to your VIN it *should* work like normal. However, with mine it seemed to work normally at first, but the music wasn’t very loud at 50% volume, door chimes were very soft, and the equalizer only gave the options of Talk and Custom. From the TIS webiste, I found that there are two ways to program the equalizer setting with the Tech II:
25865971 > 25909886 Part Number 25865971 “For use only in 4-door vehicles with Enhanced Audio system (RPO UQ3)”
25865972 > 25909887 Part Number 25865972 “For use only in 4-door vehicles with standard 6-speaker system (RPO UW6)”
Controller: RAD Radio
Audio System: MP3 Radio (RPO US8/US9)
After my dealership changed the Equalizer programming to the only other option, the radio volume and door chimes worked normally.
How to Get Factory Bluetooth + A2DP Music Streaming + iPod
Because my Impala was a rental, it had the option of “Delete Onstar”. That means the rental company saved money by removing Onstar. Unfortunately, the Onstar VCIM module contains the bluetooth component as well. The Onstar module is installed in the trunk on the driver’s side brake light. If Onstar was never installed in the vehicle, there is no wiring harness that runs to the top center of the back window for the Onstar GPS antenna or to the radio and computer components in the dash. Also, there is no microphone that is normally located in the roof, just above the rearview mirror. That means there is no way to put Onstar back in the vehicle. You can see a wiring diagram and other GM vehicle wiring diagrams here:
If the Impala had Onstar, but not bluetooth, getting factory bluetooth is possible with 2 options:
(1) Get a Costar Bluestar and replace the Onstar module in the trunk. Since Onstar is removed, you will no longer have it.
(2) Get a Onstar module (or VCIM) on eBay or use car-part.com to locate a salvage yard – my part # was 25974806. eBay is more expensive and you can get lucky on pricing from salvage yards for around $50. When searching on car-part.com, look for “Computer box not engine > Communication, (Onstar, opt UE1) voice recognition (opt UPF)”. If you replace your Onstar module with a salvage yard one, the VIN that is programmed to it won’t match. That means Onstar won’t work, but your bluetooth should. If you REALLY want your Onstar to work, it is possible, but a long road. You can visit this GMInsideNews.com forum for examples of people that had success. You’ll also need to buy a bluetooth antenna if it didn’t come still attached. Its very short and just plugs in and is AC DELCO part # 15938939.
So if you’re looking for bluetooth that mimics factory controls and you never had Onstar, your search just got very limited. I found 2 acceptable ways to do this:
(1) A Parrot handsfree device. This integration requires some extra work to get it to work with the steering wheel controls and the controls aren’t very intuitive. You need to mount their small control panel on your dash. You can stream music through your phone’s bluetooth A2DP. You’ll also need to buy a separate wiring harness. This doesn’t help with iPod charging or RDS music display.
(2) The route I chose was a iSimple ISGM571 module that allows for 2 types of hookups: an iPod/iPhone cord and a separate iSimple Bluetooth iPhone module. This way, I can charge and display iPod song information on the radio. The iPod is also controlled through the steering wheel controls. The bluetooth module works with all types of phones, not just iPhones – this includes A2DP streaming, however, A2DP streaming does not display song information. It works flawlessly with my Evo 4G and Galaxy S2. The microphone quality is probably a 7/10 if Onstar factory bluetooth is 10/10. The only time people have trouble hearing me is 80mph on the highway. To see it in action, watch this video:
Overall, I’m very happy with the performance of the new radio, bluetooth, and iPod control. It keeps everything as close to factory controls as possible. The only exterior item that you see is the bluetooth microphone that is mounted on the ceiling by the mirror, but I’m the only one that notices that. Being able to answer calls and control the whole system from the steering wheel controls is what I was looking for. The bluetooth reconnects automatically when I get in the car and if I’m listening to my iPod and place or receive a call, the music is paused during the call as the call comes over the speakers and automatically resumes when I hang up from the steering wheel or phone itself. The only weakness of the bluetooth is that voice commands only sometimes work because it relies on the phone’s capability. I prefer to dial directly from the phone and everything integrates automatically.
I hope you found this post helpful. It took me about a month to learn all this piecing together information about which radio to get, how Onstar works, and which aftermarket system integrates the best.