Monday, December 28, 2015

2016 Subaru WRX - Replacing the Starlink Head Unit

I've spent a lot of time and WAY too much money on this project, so I figured I might be able to help someone else out with their 2016+ WRX Premium or Limited trim vehicle in replacing the head unit with an aftermarket one.

With the 2015 and previous year models of the WRX, it's extremely simple to replace the factory 2DIN radio that's in the car. Couple of harnesses from Metra, crimp everything together, and screw the new 2DIN aftermarket unit right into the dash. Pop the trim piece back in place, and you're all set.

With the 2016's, the Starlink unit changes EVERYTHING.

Before I begin the instructions, I'm going to provide a parts list of everything you'll need to provide the various functions.


  1. Any aftermarket 2DIN radio / navigation unit of your choosing.
    1. I chose the Kenwood DDX9902S. It supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I have an iPhone 6S Plus, so I wanted to take advantage of the cool CarPlay features.
      CRUTCHFIELD: DDX9902S (Click Here)
  2. For factory harness integration, use the Metra 70-1761 harness.
    1. This is just a standard issue integration harness. Contains 2 separate ones, for whatever reason, Subaru and Toyota do it this goofy way. They work well though.
      CRUTCHFIELD: Metra 70-1761 (Click Here)
  3. For the 28-pin advanced feature harness, use the AutoHarnessHouse 28-pin.
    1. This harness integrates the advanced functions, which includes the reverse camera power, the reverse trigger (when you put the car in reverse), the reverse camera signal, and the steering wheel button integration. You'll only use about 8 of the pins, but you'll want to invest in this harness.
      AUTOHARNESSHOUSE: 28-Pin Integration Harness (Click Here)
  4. For the steering wheel controls, I used the iDataLink Maestro SW.
    1. This module is flashable with different software. You can use the utility on their website to flash it with your car's specific parameters. It takes about 5 minutes to flash the module, and you wire it in with the 28-pin integration harness and the head unit of your choice to retain the steering wheel controls.
      CRUTCHFIELD: iDataLink Maestro SW (Click Here)
  5. To retain the reverse camera, you need to provide 6 volts DC to it.
    1. The Subaru reverse camera accepts 6v DC to power it. Without some sort of wizardry, you're only going to find 12v DC from the car. In order to step-down convert 12v DC to 6v DC, you'll need an adapter. This one is small, and works well.
      AMAZON: 12v DC to 6v DC Step-Down Converter (Click Here)
  6. To mount the aftermarket 2DIN head unit, you need a mounting kit.
    1. I used the Metra 99-8905B. It's a 1 or 2 DIN mounting kit, and will fit most aftermarket head units for use in a Subaru WRX. Worked great for me, mounts exactly as expected.
      AMAZON: Metra 99-8905B Mounting Kit (Click Here)
  7. You'll need a powered antenna adapter in order for your AM/FM radio to work on your aftermarket unit.
    1. I used the Metra 40-LX11 to integrate the factory powered antenna.
      AMAZON: Metra 40-LX11 (Click Here)
  8. If you want to retain the factory USB port in the center console, you'll need an adapter.
    1. I used the Metra AXSUBUSB. It's basically a Subaru factory USB integration piece. It's plug-and-play, very simple.
      AMAZON: Metra AX-SUBUSB (Click Here)
  9. You're going to need a few genuine Subaru parts in order to make your aftermarket 2DIN radio fit correctly.
    1. Once you remove the 2DIN Starlink unit, you won't have a dash trim piece. The factory plastic trim around the radio is actually mounted directly to the Starlink head unit. You cannot separate the plastic trim from the radio itself, so be prepared to order a replacement. Call your nearest Subaru dealership and have them get the following parts for you:
      WRX Carbon Fiber Trim / Dash Cover
      SUBARU: Stock Code 66065VA000, Figure # 66065O, Model Year 2015

      WRX Center Console Vent Cover
      SUBARU: Stock Code 66065VA000, Figure # 66065U, Model Year 2015

      WRX Plastic Tapping Steel Screws, ONLY if needed (if you lose screws)
      SUBARU: Stock Code 66065VA000, Figure # Q500013


This one's a bit of a challenge, I'll be honest with you. You're going to need:
10mm socket
3/8" Drive Ratchet
3/8" Drive Extender (at least 12")
Wedge Tool to pop plastic out

The procedure:
1. Remove the center console vent cover underneath the engine display and the climate control display. This can be done by wedging in between it and the flat level plastic under the display and pulling back towards you. Be gentle and take your time, because there are harnesses connected to the hazard switch and the multi function button for the engine display. Disconnect them, and remove the vent cover.

2. Once the vent cover is removed, it exposes 2 10mm bolts that mount the radio from the front into the center console. Remove those 2 10mm bolts and set them aside.

3. You will need to drop the glove box out of the passenger side, which exposes the glove box frame. To do this, press firmly on the sides of the glovebox section that lowers down, which will push in the stoppers from keeping it going down all the way. At this point, it will swing down in full motion. Be careful though, because on the right hand side, there is a "fake hydraulic pump" that causes the glovebox to drop slowly (preventing dropping on your passenger's knees) - this pump also need to be unclipped. Set the glove box aside.

4. On the left hand side of the glove box frame, there is a roughly square shaped hole. If you peek up in there, you can see the right hand side 10mm bolt on the back of the radio that mounts it to the center console from the back side. Magnetize your 3/8" 10mm socket, and use the extension to reach the 10mm socket into the hole and remove the 10mm bolt. This is bolt 3 of 4. If you do not magnetize the socket, you risk dropping the 10mm bolt into the dash cavity.

5. On the driver's side, peek up under the steering column where there is a gap between the steering column and the knee guard plastic. You'll see the same 10mm bolt on the left hand side of the radio. It'll take a little longer to get it out, but just inserting the extension with the 10mm socket on there will get the bolt out. Be patient, it'll probably take you 5 minutes to get it done, but this one is bolt 4/4, so you're almost finished. Make sure this one is also magnetized, because you'll risk dropping this one in the dash cavity too.

6. Now that you have all 4 10mm bolts removed, it's just plastic clips between you and removing the radio. On the top of the radio on each side, there is a clip that goes into the plastic center console frame. Popping those out will break it loose, and from that point forward, just use any plastic wedge tools that you have to work your way around the radio, freeing it from all of the plastic clip mounting points around it.

Photo Credit: NASIOC, User DJFRED

7. Once you break the Starlink radio free, you have to worry about the following items on the back of it before you go yanking it out of there. Be gentle, take your time.
-Radio harness #1 - has power, accessory, 2 speakers, illumination, etc.
-Radio harness #2 - has 2 more speakers on it.
-28-pin advanced feature harness - has reverse cam, steering wheel controls, bluetooth mic, etc.
-Factory ground for the radio
-Sirius XM antenna
-AM/FM Antenna
-USB Port Harness
-Climate Control Harness

Photo Credit: NASIOC, User DJFRED

8. Remove the climate control pod from the 2016 Starlink trim. There are 4 screws on the back of it (these are the plastic tapping screws part # Q500013 from Subaru if you drop / lose / break any).

Now you have the Starlink radio all as one unit (plastic trim, buttons, touchscreen, head unit, etc.) - set this aside for a rainy day, or if you want to sell it so some poor person. My personal opinion, the Starlink unit is AWFUL and should never be used again.

Photo Credit: NASIOC, User DJFRED

At this point, you can begin connecting your wiring harnesses, etc. and reassembling your radio. You're going to take the climate control pod and mount it to the 2015 WRX trim piece 66065O mentioned earlier in this article the exact same way it was mounted to the 2016 Starlink trim piece. See example:
Note: I am missing 2 screws in this image. Those are the Q500013 screws.

Once your aftermarket radio is assembled and mounted in the car, it should look like the following picture. There are 4 screws, they're exactly like the 2015's. Please note that there are 2 screws in this picture that are NOT visible, but they are at the bottom of the radio where the plastic meets up with the guide bar.

The basic harnesses (Metra 70-1761, Metra 40-LX11) will get you up and running with USB, AM/FM Radio, and Bluetooth connectivity to your phone. Don't forget to run the bluetooth microphone in order to place and receive calls.

Now, on to the advanced features...

Before I get started with that, we have to establish the pinout on the 28-pin factory harness in order to understand what each pin does, and where you need to connect your aftermarket equipment.

Photo Credit: NASIOC, User DJFRED

HUGE thank you to DJFRED for putting this together. It's accurate, and it saved my life, made everything a LOT easier. Match up your pinout on the 28-pin integration harness from AUTOHARNESSHOUSE to this one, and everything should be pretty easy.


For the reverse camera, there are 3 components that you need to be concerned about.
1. Reverse trigger (lets the head unit know when the car is in reverse)
Connect pin # 2 on the 28-pin harness to your reverse trigger wire on your head unit. On the Kenwood DDX9902S, it's actually a standalone wire coming out of the back of the head unit.

2. Reverse camera power.
For the reverse camera power, I used the accessory wire on the Metra 70-1761 harness for 12v DC positive to the input side of the SMAKN 12v DC > 6v DC converter. This ensures that the reverse cam only gets power when the car is running.

For the reverse camera ground, I just tapped the 12v DC ground / black wire into the ground for the Metra 70-1761 harness. With these two wires, you have power to the reverse camera at all times when the car is on or in accessory mode. You can actually trigger power to the reverse camera differently, and I can research that for you, but be warned that there will be a delay when putting the car in reverse and waiting for the reverse cam to come to life.

The 6v DC positive wire connects to pin # 11 in the diagram, and the 6v DC ground / negative wire connects to pin # 20 in the diagram.

3. Reverse camera signal
I actually trimmed down a standard RCA cable, and used the positive lead from it, and connected it to the back of the Kenwood unit. Be warned here though, I did not ground the video RCA, I only used the positive lead, which actually creates interference on the video. I'll re-wire this when it's a little warmer outside, but for now, it works pretty good. See below for an example:

The Kenwood DDX9902S has customizable guide lines (yellow, orange, red, green).


Steering wheel controls are actually pretty straightforward, and they're quick and responsive. I'd even say it's quicker than the factory unit at responding to input.

To integrate steering wheel controls...

1. Flash your iDataLink Maestro SW with the 2016 WRX > Head Unit combination software.
Go to and install the ActiveX Plugin.
Go to and create your account.
Go to and login, and flash your Maestro SW with the correct firmware.

This requires Windows 7 and Internet Explorer. Newer OS's are not supported. Takes about 5 mins on a Win7 machine.

2. Wire up the iDataLink Maestro SW to the 28-pin integration harness and your aftermarket radio.
For mine, it was as follows:
This is the black 7-pin harness on the SW.

The blue harness on the SW only connects 1 wire to the blue/yellow remote wire on Kenwood.

After you get those bits wired up, and you've flashed the Maestro SW with the correct firmware, everything works fine, with ONE EXCEPTION.

On the current flash on mine, which was 2016 WRX > Kenwood DDX9902S, there is ONE function that does not work. Audio volume DOWN actually does Audio volume UP. So I have both of my volume keys going UP right now. Kind of frustrating, but I'm sure they'll fix it and I'll be able to reflash the SW. Everything else (mute, next track, previous track, Siri, bluetooth call, bluetooth hangup, etc.) works fine and they are quick to respond.

Once you've connected all your harnesses and secured everything, you should be in a fully functional state. I didn't attempt to retain the factory microphone, because it has an amplifier, and I'll probably tear my eyes out long before I get it working smoothly. I'm just sticking with the Kenwood microphone for now. I'll mount it in my gauge cluster.

Any questions, send me an email or ask on this post.

Good luck!


  1. I stumbled on to this blog. This is going to be perfect once I get my 2016 wrx premium that's on order. I won't get it until Feb 2016. I'll be using the Pioneer AVIC 8100 NEX but thank you so much for this write up. BTW, I am also a Citrix Administrator.

    1. Very cool - I've actually moved on from the 2016 WRX and the Citrix job :) - although I still have a lot of involvement in Citrix.

  2. Hi. I'm embarking on this. In the UK we have DAB (digital radio). Does the wiring work with the digital antenna? Also, how did you find the voice activation wheel control work?

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. The Maestro RR (instead of the Maestro SW) provides the 6V stepdown required for the rearview camera. Yes a little more expensive but one less potential point of failure, and some extra features.

    1. Nice! Didn't know that, thanks for the feedback. Sad to say, this 2016 WRX that I wrote the article for is long gone.

  5. I have installed a DAB unit on my Levorg and it works just fine. Steering wheel controls including push and talk work .

  6. Nice work dude...goddam OEM systems making life harder to DIY. I have put together $6-7k systems...but I straight out can't be bothered going through all this hassle just to put a cheap head unit in...? Serious guys you want to swap it out with a quality head unit...not one hat is barely better than what your taking out. Nice write up though man...good on you!

  7. Do you take the vents out of the 2016 Vent panel and put it in the 2015 piece?

  8. Just realized i forgot to order the 28 pin harness, is it necessary? Or can i just splice the wires where they need to go?


2016 Subaru WRX - Replacing the Starlink Head Unit

I've spent a lot of time and WAY too much money on this project, so I figured I might be able to help someone else out with their 2016+ ...