Modding the Daily Driver, Part IV: Sound, Security, Shoes and a Summer Fling

Our 2011 Kia Carens has been pretty much the daily for the past five years. While still feeling stolid, 97-plus thousand km’s on the clock is no joke. However, the suspension is starting to squeak and the driver’s side seat foam is sagging a tad. Otherwise it’s running like a champ.

We still are enamored on its almost Teutonic looks. The Carens still bowls us over with its practicality, reliability, ease of usage, interior space, cushy ride, and it even engages the driver a bit.

Admittedly, a short tryst with its newer, more feature-packed replacement, a 2014 Kia Carens EX, made us consider getting rid of this car for a time. But we got rid of the EX instead. It was hard to get used to the new designer leather oxford that the EX was. We felt comfortable in the old creased gray canvas sneaker that is the 2011. It still works, why get rid of it?

As an aside, the 2013-up Carens EX is truly an underrated, luxurious vehicle. You should be considering one as a great used car purchase.

For several months we had this 2014 Kia Carens around. Great car, really.

Some heavy maintenance work is in the cards for the remaining Carens. We’ve already changed most of the fluids already, and replaced the timing belt. We want to change the clutch and inspect the suspension for wear, but will queue that within a couple of months.

Given the capacity constraints at the shop, it has been hard to schedule the Carens into the workflow. Except when your ignition switch decides to pull a bad case of captivus on your key. Then you fix it as fast as possible.

We immediately sourced a replacement key set for the car. A new ignition lock, door locks and trunk lock was included in the box we ordered, and installed it as soon as it arrived. Prior to their arrival, we hot-wired the car so that we can drive it around.

The replacement key design (right) is quite different to the standard key (left). We couldn’t order a replacement like the originals that was both fast to acquire and affordable. But the various locks are an exact fit – they are OEM for the Carens, after all, just a match for earlier year models.

Segue to Sound System

We also continued upgrading the sound system since the last update. We’re still running the subwoofer setup we made at the last installment, albeit with a (probably counterfeit) 12″ JBL subwoofer instead of the Targa. These are the rest of our aural ensemble.

The head unit is an Alpine CDA-9855. It was used and cheap. It plays MP3 CDs and AM/FM. No Bluetooth, but we found an aux cable kit and a remote control for it.But most importantly, it has audiophile features like time correction, 3-way active crossover control, and a graphic equalizer built in.

Alpine CDA-9855 single DIN head unit

Two amplifiers boost the low level RCA output of the 9855. A tiny Kenwood mono amp fires the subwoofer. (We had a Lightning Lab mono do the same thing, but it crapped out all of a sudden.) A cheap V12 amp handles the rest of the frequencies.

We concocted our own custom 3-way component system from a set of Daytona 2-ways from Coral and a Dominations Srikandi midrange. The 6.5″ woofer was mounted in the stock door location, while the midrange and tweeter were mounted on planks of wood screwed to the A-pillars.

The Coral silk dome tweeter was more sensitive than the Srikandi, so we attenuated it with a resistor mounted in parallel. The 9855 directly controls the Coral woofer, while the mids and tweeters are wired through a passive crossover box from an unknown Sony component set.

With the exception of the wiring kit, all ICE parts we installed were second hand. When you account for the other stuff we bought that either broke or were replaced, the cost exceeds a typical beginner audio setup. It still is reasonable though, considering the items were assembled over a span of two years.

Does it sound good? More or less. A revision of the mids/tweeter aim is a must, as the sound waves are bouncing off the windshield, shrilling us to deafness at high volume. At reasonable dBs, live recordings and rock albums sound excellent. Hip hop music doesn’t play as well for some reason.

New shoes

Project Daily Driver has gone through several sets of wheels and tires. Most never lasted long with the car (i.e. we sold them). We finally found a set that we think are keepers. The stock steel rims and tires will be plopped in one corner as reserve. In case the new wheels suddenly find new owners all of a sudden. *wink*

We acquired the OEM Hyundai Sonata 17″ wheels around a year ago. Wheel specs are 17×6.5, PCD 5×114.3 with a +46 offset.  Wheels fit pretty well. They weren’t too inboard unlike the OEM 2013-up Carens EX wheels we had a long time back.

Tires are half-worn Westlakes in a 225/45R17 size.The Westlakes are noisy and we know they won’t grip very well. Also they look pinched in the narrow wheels we have – at least there’s less chance of guttermarks. The tires might last a year or less, then we will look for new toroids with thicker sidewalls and quieter tread patterns.

Next time

Aside from maintenance work, there are a few more things we’d like to do to our Daily Driver. Continue tweaking with the audio setup. Maybe improve the vehicle’s stance further. But we’d like to address one thing you can’t be surfeit of: POWER. Stay tuned for this.

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