Roadtrek

Roadtrek

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Eclipse II Dashboard Radio

I recently wrote about the Eclipse radio that came in my Roadtrek and I thought that I would expand on this.

The one thing that I have not been happy with in the Roadtrek is the dashboard radio. It is not just a radio and when you hear what is in it, you will wonder why it is not simply wonderful. The Roadtrek does not come with a stock Chevy radio. Starting with the 2010 models, Roadtrek started installing the Eclipse II AVN 4430 radio in the Roadtrek Chevy models. I am not sure abut the Sprinter models, as I have heard that another radio may have been installed in those. With the 2010 models the Eclipse was what Roadtrek called a "forced option", meaning you could not order the Roadtrek without this radio and the price for this "option" that was not an option at all was over $800.00. That is a lot of money to pay for a dashboard radio. In 2011, this was no longer a "forced option". It was then standard equipment, with a Roadtrek price increase that included the $800 + cost of the radio.

The Eclipse II is not just a radio. It has built into it besides AM/FM reception, a GPS (Tom Tom), a CD player, SIRUS satellite radio, a DVD video player, an IPOD connection for both audio and video, a USB connection, and a rear view backup camera. Wow, you will exclaim! This unit was the top electronic pick at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2009! How can that be bad? Well...

For starters, Tom Tom is not the best of GPS companies. There is no way to purchase a subscription for "Lifetime" maps as there is with Garmin. You can purchase a one year subscription for new maps, though that will cost you what the Garmin lifetime map subscription costs at list price. I have owned a Tom Tom GPS in the past. I stopped using it when it routed me in one end of a parking lot and then back out the other end back onto the street that I was driving on to start with. That, and when it told me to turn right and make a U-turn to go to a location where it was legal and simple to make a left turn from that same corner. I replaced it with a Garmin. This Tom Tom unit is also no longer supported by Tom Tom for any firmware updates. There is supposed to be, according to the manual, FM traffic reception to show traffic along your route without paying for a subscription for traffic service. It does not work on the Tom Tom in the Eclipse and I have been told my Tom Tom that this feature is no longer supported - nor available. Since my Garmin receives these traffic alerts on the same radio band as built into the Tom Tom, this reply from Tom Tom does not make any sense. If the circuits are there in the GPS to receive the FM RDS signals, and the signals are being transmitted in the area, then the GPS - as detailed in its manual - should receive those signals. It does not. The Tom Tom in the Eclipse II will connect with a cell phone by Bluetooth and it does that well including allowing hands-free calling and transferring your contact list to the GPS from your phone, however, it is also supposed to connect with the cell phone by Bluetooth for data connections - getting traffic reports, updates, etc.. This requires a cellphone compatible with this model's firmware and the list of phones are all outdated, circa 2009 and are all on the AT&T network. Newer phones - as they are not on the list - and any phone not on the list will not connect. So much for the Tom Tom.

The display screen on the Eclipse displays all of the audio functions, is the GPS screen, and displays videos and DVDs. It is set toward the top middle of the dash. The display screen can be angled up or down until flat against the radio. It cannot be angled right or left so that the driver or the passenger can actually see the display. To look at the GPS display while driving requires taking your eyes off the road to glance down. In bright sunlight, if the display is flat, it can barely be seen at all. I have the screen angled up three stops so that it sits at about 70 degrees pointing up. This does help with sun glare.

The radio display is dimly lit on the controls and buttons and can be set to red or blue in color. It is barely visible. The controls are extremely confusing and hard to operate, even if you are certain you know what to press to get what you want the Eclipse to do. The controls require a short press to do one thing or a more than one second press to do something else. Lots of luck.

The rear-view camera is the best thing on the unit. The camera is located outside above the two rear doors in the middle. It can be manually directed up or down to get the best view that you want to see behind you. The camera and screen engage whenever you put the Roadtrek into reverse. The screen shows what is behind you and with the lack of a good view from the rear view mirror, you will rely on this camera display a lot when backing up. At night, the image is a little washed out, but still clear enough to see if there is something behind you.

AM/FM reception is fine, but finding a station just using the unit's own display is almost impossible. You need to push a button to turn off the GPS and this puts on the display for the radio/audio/video functions. You can set in favorite channels or try to find the right button while driving to change and scroll through local stations.

CD play is fine. You can select tracks, scroll through folders, and the selection playing will stop when the CD mode is changed to any other mode and resume when you come back to play the CD - even when shutting down the Roadtrek. If you eject the CD, you lose the track it was playing when you reinsert the CD. Controls, like everything else here, are terrible. If you are stopped and can find the buttons and select what you want to hear, you are OK, but don't try this while moving. And since the passenger can't easily see the screen, it is not easy to have your passenger do this for you.

You can watch DVD's on the display screen. Why would you want to? It will not play DVDs when the Roadtrek in in gear to drive, of course - this is not legal in most states, if not all. There is no rear display for the kids. Meryl asked me recently - would one sit there with the engine running or run the vehicle battery down sitting watching a DVD on this radio? There is a full size television and DVD player in the rear of the Roadtrek if you are stopped and want to watch a movie.

There is SIRIUS satellite radio reception. This requires an annual subscription to purchase to use this. Unlike some vehicles that come with SIRIUS, we got no free three month trial when we got the Roadtrek. It happened that I stumbled across a free week - and found this on the last night of the free week, so I got to try it. Nice, but certainly not something that I want to pay for. It happened that there was another free trial period of SIRIUS while we were on a recent trip. I was changing audio sources and pausing on SIRIUS while pushing the button, sound suddenly came through, and not the usual silence with a notice on the screen to call a telephone number and pay for a subscription. Hmm. OK - we decided to hear what we are missing. I went through the channels and found a channel with old Country music - "Willie's Roadhouse". The sound was no clearer than AM or FM radio but we left it on while we were driving. We were in Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Philadelphia. As we drove, the signal would drop and then a message would come up on the screen that said "Acquiring". The lock on the satellite was not very good. The Eclipse does have a special satellite radio antenna and I know that it is connected to the radio, as the SIRIUS box is visible under the dashboard (unlike the radio itself). Well, we got tired of hearing the music start and stop and start and stop. I tried a different channel and the same thing happened. If you were not moving it seemed fine. If you were driving, well, the signal would come and go - often more distracting than anything else. I tried again driving home on the PA Turnpike and the NJ Turnpike. Surely, there had to be a strong signal there - no, there wasn't. Again, we saw "Acquiring" more than we heard music. If this trial was to entice me to buy a subscription it did not work - it let me know that SIRIUS is not worth anything that one would be asked to pay for it. We had nice solid FM reception and there are two good country stations where we were and along the way home.

The USB connection is in the glove compartment with the Ipod dock connection. This works with a USB memory stick drive. Any audio file installed on that drive will play on the radio. Like a CD you can scroll through the folders and make your selection of where to start listening. When you plug the USB drive in, the system looks to recognize the drive. When it is ready, it displays USB as a selection and you can start to listen. If you shut off the Roadtrek engine - or unplug the USB drive, it has to re-recognize the drive and will not hold any place that you had been listening to. For music this is fine. For audiobooks it is inadequate unless you like to start listening to the book from the beginning each time.

The Ipod connection requires an Ipod and I am told will work with all versions of Ipod players or Iphone up to the most recent. I am told that it will play audio and video from any app on the Iphone or Ipod Touch. This could be a fine feature if you own an Ipod or an Iphone. I do not. As you read in my article on April 4, 2012, you can use a DockBoss to connect any audio source with a standard headphone jack (3.5mm) to the Ipod dock connector.

As I explained in that first article, the AUX setting will not work on the Eclipse II unless you can find one of the discontinued cables and then connect that to where the SIRIUS connection is in the back of the unit behind the dashboard. If you want SIRIUS, you cannot have AUX.

As you can tell - both of us - do not like the Eclipse II. There are other in-dash units from other companies that do all of this and much better. I can understand in 2009 why Roadtrek would pick what was the "best in-dash unit of 2009", but this unit was a flash in the pan. You cannot buy this unit in any car stereo shop. It is exclusively now Original Manufacturer's Equipment (OEM) from Roadtrek and Toyota. Yes, if you get the fancy in-dash radio from Toyota - at least at some point if not presently still, you get the Eclipse. The Eclipse is currently made by a company in Japan called Fujitsu Ten. It is sold only by a distribution company, Mito, Inc., which is where Roadtrek is getting it. There is no customer support at all from Fujitsu Ten. There is some customer support from Mito, Inc. though I had little success by phone, and better success by customer support email and the gentleman who responded to me was very knowledgeable, though the short comings of the Eclipse II could, of course, not be resolved. I was told this:

"As for the product life, the AVN4430 is a current model and scheduled to continue through the end of calendar year 2012 by Eclipse. Fujitsu Ten, the manufacture of Eclipse brand products, will continue to maintain a supply of parts and exchange units for warranty repairs through the end of calendar year 2016. Out of warranty repair will be available at least through 2019."
Not good. Of course, out of warranty repair means paying someone to pull the dashboard off, pull out the radio, you ship it back to whoever, and when repaired you pay someone to pull the dashboard off again, install the radio, and fill the big hole that has been there since the radio came out to go off for repairs. I suppose this would be true with any company's radio, but the options are a little broader with a radio that someone has actually heard of.

For those buying a new Roadtrek after 2012, hopefully, Roadtrek will have change the radio they install. It is those of us who bought from 2009 to 2012/13. That are stuck with the Eclipse.

Now, some quirks about the Eclipse or how it has been installed. It never really seems to be off. There is a long press of the power button to shut this radio's power down, but leave the Roadtrek, come back and open the door, and the Eclipse screen comes on and displays the GPS. There have been times when we have shut down for the night and we are inside the Roadtrek, watching TV or we open the side door for one of us to go out, and we hear the Eclipse screen suddenly come to life and move to its angled position. A minute or so later - it goes flat again. And this happens sometimes and not others. Gremlins? For those of you old enough, you will understand what I mean by that. Another problem with no real power off control is that when you turn off the ignition while the radio is playing, it continues to play and will continue to play until you open the driver's door. This is truly a pain. If there is any drain on the Roadtrek's engine battery it is this radio.

As I finish writing this, I am starting to wonder if I am doing a disservice to those considering a new Roadtrek. This radio is not a reason to not buy a Roadtrek, but it sure would have been nice if it had a different radio. I have yet to see a forum comment from anyone with this radio that is pleased. I have heard of some who have had it replaced with other units with similar features - any, what are called, Double DIN radios should fit.

14 comments:

  1. Right on! We just acquired a 2012 210 Popular and we absolutely HATE the Eclipse. The TomTom does not work for Canadian addresses (seems to require a subscription, no freebie), the power is always on with the screen coming alive whenever a door is opened, etc. Yes, it IS a disappointment but it shouldn't turn anyone off buying a Roadtrek. It should, however, encourage Roadtrek to find a system that is better and that does not act as a battery drain.

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    1. I also just a choir 2012 Roadtrek popular 210 andI have the same gremlins in my Eclipse radio,coming on for about 15 seconds every time I open the door. Did you try to submit a warranty claim for this? I plan to do that. I'm also right on the Canadian border and plan to travel north, and concerned about the GPS. Have you found this problem to be consistent all over Canada?

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  2. I agree also. I am happy to read that I am not the only one discovering these problems! I just keep my CD's going and that keeps me happy!

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  3. I hate the Eclipse,No problem with Sirius, hard to function,, by the way Robert , we stored our rear table and support post after our first trip ,, totally useless table.. we have it in our shed and it will stay there ... Thanks for yor input
    Mike Long

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  4. The Eclipse II in my 2012 RS is the biggest bust of a product that I have ever seen. The IPOD controls only allow you to see the first 5 or 6 items in the various categories. If you have more playlist that that or more albums in a play list than that you cannot navigate to the ones not displayed. Th

    The full GPS controls are not avaliable when the GPS is installed in the Eclipse, and some of the controls periodically disappear and require a reset of the GPS to get them back. And heaven forbid if you want to stop the navigation while enroute. There is no way to do it and the voice keeps nagging you. If you decide to change the route it will insist you turn around. If you want to enter routes or destinations, you better attach it to a computer or you will get very frustrated.

    As an experienced Software Engineer I can confidently say this is the poorest job of microcode design, implementation, and testing I have ever seen.

    A total bust, well not quite, the rearview camera is good. Roadtrek should fire the person who selected this.

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  5. We've got a 2012 190 Versatile. The Eclipse is awkward to say the least. We found the Sirius service drops out all of the time. I inquired with RoadTrek and found out the antenna is mounted under the dash. The manufacturer says it was designed to be mounted outside of the vehicle. Relocating it to the roof helped significantly. (Poor engineering decision.) Changing channels is very frustrating while driving. Anyway, this is not the best navigation / radio system for an expensive vehicle. Save up for a decent product replacement.

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  6. I just bought a used Roadtrek 2012 Popular 210 and running into the same problems with the radio. Especially the gremlins, where the radio comes on when you open up the door and stays on for about 15 seconds.did you ever solve this problem? I see where the previous owner also documented and maintenance records but never scheduled for repair. I still have 2 years warranty left, is this covered?

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    1. Part of the problem is the way the Chevy is wired to leave the dash radio powered for a time after shutting off the engine. The only way to cut this off is to open and close the driver's door. Unlike radios with actual knob that will turn it off, the Eclipse even when pushing and holding the PWR button to shut it off, comes back on when the engine is started again. I still have the problem of the Eclipse coming on for no known reason and then shutting itself off - I have the angle of the screen set so that it is slightly pointing up when it is on and we will be in the Roadtrek maybe an hour or so after going into it for the night and then suddenly we hear the mechanism for the radio that lifts it to the angle activate, the radio rises up, the screen comes on - remains silent and then shortly later it closes down flat and goes off. Strangest thing. We have tried to link it to certain activities. It has done this if we have opened the side door but not right after the door has been opened and closed but not always. It may be triggered by something in the Chevy wiring but that would make more sense if it happened right as the door was opened and the dome light went on but it doesn't. As to warranty - I am not sure if this would be Chevy or Roadtrek and if Roadtrek since they installed the radio, if it is the radio itself, that is through the company that distributes Eclipse and you would have to check to see how long that warranty is good for. We just live with the gremlins and it has become a joke between us when it happens.

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  7. A Note on SIRIUS - The problem with Sirius in the Roadtrek with this radio is not the fault of Sirius but with the radio or the location of the Sirius antenna from the radio which is under the dash coiled up on the floor. We traveled the same roads in PA and NJ in a car with Sirius radio and the reception was perfect. On a free Sirius weekend we were on those roads again with the Roadtrek and AGAIN - reception was spotty and more off than on. The antenna needs to be in a much better location if that is even possible. I really am not sure how that could be achieved.
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  8. Another 210 owner has written about the same problem with the radio coming on when it shouldn't. I accepted the comment to be published but for some reason it is not showing up. Here is the comment -

    I also just a choir 2012 Roadtrek popular 210 andI have the same gremlins in my Eclipse radio,coming on for about 15 seconds every time I open the door. Did you try to submit a warranty claim for this? I plan to do that. I'm also right on the Canadian border and plan to travel north, and concerned about the GPS. Have you found this problem to be consistent all over Canada?

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    1. I have never submitted a warranty claim on this - I am not sure who that claim would be submitted to as I stated in the comment reply two above. If this is an issue with the Chevy wiring it would have to go to Chevy who I am guessing will say go to Roadtrek because they installed the radio - and if it is the radio then the warranty needs to go to Eclipse who will likely ask to have the radio taken out of the dash and shipped to them by the Roadtrek service center which could mean a lengthy wait to get it back (or maybe not). I have never taken the Roadtrek into Canada but if you are concerned about routing with the GPS as it is, there is no problem in that regard. The Tom Tom routes as well as a Tom Tom routes. It will pretty much get you from point A to B - maybe not the way you might go but all GPS units have their own way of calculating routes and this one is no different. The Eclipse coming on and going off when the Roadtrek is not being driven is more of an annoyance and a nuisance than anything else. I have often wondered if it does this when we are not inside and it is parked. I have no way to know if it is unless I put a video camera in there and have it record several hours - but that is really taking it too far to find out. I have not noticed any problem with the engine battery holding its charge so there does not seem to be a concern that this behavior is draining the battery. It is important to understand that this is not a GPS that routes specifically for RVs - it is a calculating car routes. It can take you on roads with too low a clearance allowance for overpasses or on roads that do not allow propane. You need to keep watching signs for this as you get on and off limited access roads. Whenever we leave home in the Roadtrek the Tom Tom wants to put me on a parkway that the Roadtrek is not permitted to travel on - and there is nothing that I can do about it. I know the sign at the entrance says no vehicles over 7'10" but a car GPS does not know that. Just be alert for restrictions on road signs about height and propane.

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    2. That is there is nothing I can do about being routed on these roads by the Tom Tom other than NOT to get on the road it is sending me on. It gets the idea when I go another way but if there is another entrance further along to that same road it will tell me again to get on. Any GPS intended for a car will do the same thing. You must have an RV specific GPS unit to have it route correctly for restrictions like this.

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  9. It's Dec. 2016, two years since the last post. Seems that the most reliable thing would be to buy a radio/music player, GPS and backup camera as separate units. Messy maybe, but at least will work. And maybe a GPS that's up on the dash is safer to glance at anyway. Any suggestions on newer after-market solutions for a 2003 190 Versatile? (Don't care about satellite radio).

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    1. Any Double Din sized radio should fit in the Chevy Express 3500. There are advantages to separate units as if one goes bad you are not replacing everything. A stand alone GPS enables an RVer to get an RV specific GPS unit that will route around low overpasses and RV restricted roads and some will connect to a backup camera. A very new Garmin GPS (NOT RV specific)is just out that has a built in dash camera that incorporates this into directing as one drives plus has alert warnings for getting too close to the vehicle in front, lane assistance, and more. Not cheap but worth looking into. Too bad it does not have RV routing.

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