Repairing and Adding Bluetooth to an 80’s – 90’s AC Delco Radio
Topics: Audio, Circuits, DIY, tech
AC Delco Model 16131355

This post details the repair of a early 1991 AC Delco stereo. AC Delco made many variants of this stereo for both Chevrolet and GM cars, trucks, and vans from the early 80’s to the mid-90’s. While many of the stereos have more or less features (cassette players, radio presets, etc), the amplifier section of the radio is fairly standard and unchanged.

Internal Pinout and Schematic

There isn’t much material online about these stereos, so I had to reverse-engineer the boards to determine these pinouts.

Capacitor Replacements

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Replaced capacitors

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There were three issues with my stereo:

  • No left channel output
  • Crackling when changing volume or FM/AM tuning
  • Fade/balance don’t work correctly

This page has an excellent write up on diagnosing and repairing AC Delco stereos. However, it claims that if you don’t have audio output in a channel, it is likely due to an amplifier IC failure.

For me, it was a capacitor failure. The caps on this board are very close to the amplifier ICs and get hot, accelerating failure rates. Because the caps are much easier to source and replace, I’d recommend replacing them before bothering with the IC’s.

The image above lists the capacitors that I replaced. C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, C8, and C9 are the most likely to fail and cause an issue, but I recommend replacing all of the caps.

The table below lists suitable replacement caps.

Component
(all capacitors are aluminum electrolytic)
Digikey NumberMfn. NumberQuantityReferenceNotes
1µF 20% 50V Radial493-16046-NDUSW1H010MDD3C1, C2, C3Must be audio grade capacitors
100µF 20% 25V Axial1572-1048-ND 107TTA025M 5C4, C5, C6, C7, C8Must have co-axial leads
4.7µF 20% 50V Radial493-6100-1-NDUVR1H4R7MDD1TA3C9, C12, C13
1µF 20% 50V Radial493-6031-NDUSR1H010MDD5C10, C11, C15, C16, C17
470µF 20% 16V Radial493-1043-NDUVR1C471MPD1C14
22µF 20% 50V Radial4493-12572-1-NDUVK1H220MDD1TD1C18
270µF 20% 16V Radial493-5020-1-NDUPJ1C271MPD6TD2C19, C20

Board-to-Board Connections

Added JST-XH connectors
(I later re-did these connections on the backs of the PCBs)

These stereos are a real bastard to assemble and disassemble. The PCBs are part of the structure of radio. All the parts have to come together at once when assembling, which is challenging.

All the boards are hard-wired to each other, which makes it impossible to lay them all flat on a table. Additionally, the connecting wires are short, stiff, and lack stress relief, which puts a lot of stress on the solder joints. A few of the joints broke while I was reassembling the stereo, requiring me to resolder every connection wire.

I added JST-XH connectors and a few extra inches of wire to all the board-to-board connections. This made debugging and determining pinouts much easier. It also allows me to easily inject a bluetooth audio signal into the radio.

Adding Bluetooth

I wanted to add bluetooth to this stereo without losing any functionality of the stereo and without adding a completely second amplifier.

I bought this TP Link bluetooth audio receiver. I like this adapter for automotive applications because it doesn’t require you to press reset/pairing buttons, so it can be hidden and never be seen by the user. Also, it doesn’t have any bright LEDs on it.

12V to 5V converter

To power the bluetooth receiver, I made a simple 12V to 5V adapter with a LM7805 that outputs to a micro USB connector. This lives in a little 3D printed box to keep it from shorting out.

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The bluetooth outputs line-level audio into the audio IC’s input on the amplifier board. This is where the AM/FM audio signal is normally received. I had to add a DPDT switch to switch between AM/FM and bluetooth.

This chain of bluetooth components sneaks in between the main stereo board and the amplifier board, at connector F.

This stereo lacks a cassette player, so there is a cavity of open space. The bluetooth parts sit comfortably here. It makes it’s easy to install the stereo, since all the components are self-contained.

I couldn’t think of an easy solution that wouldn’t require a switch on the front of the stereo to switch between AM/FM and bluetooth. I tried to make this switch as discrete as possible. You can see it in the image above, in the bottom right corner.

Conclusion

This was an enjoyable and successful project. Most of the work was reverse-engineering and adding JST-XH connectors. It’s fun to work on older equipment, because the failures are easy to troubleshoot and the components are spread out.

The stereo works great – it has the look and sound of an old stereo, the convenience of bluetooth, and no loss of functionality.

12 thoughts on “Repairing and Adding Bluetooth to an 80’s – 90’s AC Delco Radio

  1. i drive a 1988 nova with the same radio. it has a short and is draining the battery. I would like to keep the radio. delco model #16131355.i think it may be one of the capacitors. what are your thoughts?

    1. I agree, a faulty capacitor would be a likely culprit. If the battery is draining even when the radio is switched off, then it is likely one of the capacitors connected to the 12V input has failed and has shorted.

      I can’t quite remember which capacitors are connected to the 12V input. I think it is C19, C20, and the large capacitor on the circuit board with Connector D. Those would be good caps to replace first.

      You could test by hooking up your stereo to a 12V source on your workbench. Hook up a multimeter in series and measure the amps. Then remove those capacitors and see if the current draw has dropped to an acceptable level (less than ~10mA).

      I wouldn’t run the stereo in your nova with those 3 missing caps, but it’s fine on the bench with a stable power source.

  2. Hello looking to do this to my 1985 gmc s15 cassette unit. My cassette player works and wanting to keep the cassette player and radio.I’m looking at picking up a pretty good Bluetooth board from eBay. Is there any circuit diagrams out there and parts list I could use to build this and make this work? Where if my Bluetooth is connected to my phone that it will automatically go into Bluetooth mode, and if I disconnected my phone it would go back to cassette mode?

    Would you be able help out on how and what is needed? Really trying to keep it all stock without drilling anything as the AC Delco unit is in perfect condition. I know I will most likely need to put a button somewhere to pair the Bluetooth.

    Let me know I really appreciate it

    -Tayler

    1. Switching automatically between cassette and bluetooth is a tough problem. I’m not sure of a good way to do that. Perhaps, you could just tie in the Bluetooth’s audio output to the cassette’s audio output.

      If the cassette and bluetooth were playing at the same time, then you would hear both at once. So, you’d just have to pause one before playing the other.

      Also, you can use that TP-Link bluetooth receiver without needing access to a pairing butoon. In fact, I don’t think it has a button. I have that model hidden away in 2 of my cars. Multiple phones can connect to it fine.

      1. If all the other components on the radio are the same but with the cassette module, can you give any advice which pin would be the audio output to split into?

        1. If you have good pictures of the circuit boards (birds eye view of front and back of each board), I could try to help.

          In an ideal world, you’d splice into the same AM/FM audio lines, but I can’t give better advice without pictures.

    1. Sorry Enrico, but for now I won’t be adding bluetooth to other people’s stereos.

      Primarily, it’s because I don’t have replacement parts on hand. I’m talking about the specialty parts, like the ICs, knobs, faders, etc.

      The chances that a specialty part would need to be replaced is low. It’s fine to take the risk on my own stereo, but I’m not comfortable taking the risk of having no replacement parts when someone is paying money and expecting good service.

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