Car Doctor Q&A: $2,000 To Replace a Busted CD Player?

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CD players are becoming an endangered species in new cars, but in cars from the 2000s, CD players were the primary source of music. What happens whens yours eventually goes on the fritz? AAA’s Car Doctor John Paul has a solution.

Q. I love my 2003 Toyota Highlander, it has 168,000 miles and still runs like a finely tuned watch. The problem is the 6 CD disc player is on the blink and I sure miss my music. The radio works fine it just won’t play any CDs. The dealer tells me that I could spend $2,000 for a new radio/CD player plus installation. How do I get this repaired without emptying my piggybank?

Find a Toyota Highlander with a WORKING CD player at


A. There are plenty of alternatives. a quick look on eBay and you can find a used replacement radio/multi disc CD changer for $150 and up. Our friends at Crutchfield offer about 200 car stereos that will fit your 2003 Toyota Highlander. Prices for a head unit that plays CDs start at just $59.

If you’re handy at all, Crutchfield provides a free, easy to understand Master Sheet of instructions for every car, detailing exactly what you need to do to replace the head unit (see the sample below). Along with the stereo you buy, Crutchfield also supplies the correct wiring harness and installation kit for your car.


If you can follow instructions and crimp a few wire connectors, you can install a stereo yourself. It’s a pretty simple, straightforward job.

The other alternative is a interface with a iPod or iPhone. You can buy a kit that plugs into an empty port in the back of the radio and then you can hook up your iPod and can have access to hundreds of hours of music.

In either case the radio needs to come out, which is a simple procedure with your Highlander and takes less than one hour.

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.