T9 Head Unit Review and Setup Install on 4Runner

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner

New Product – Upgraded T10 Android Post: T10 Android Head Unit Install and Review

When I got my new 4Runner in 2018, I was excited about the possibilities (and for the fun!) I’d have in it.

However, as any 4Runner owner knows, there are a few areas where Toyota has held back in terms of technology and ease of use.

For me, the biggest lackluster feature was the stereo head unit which ultimately led me to the T9 Head Unit from CarTrim Home

Toyota’s Lackluster Feature in Tech + Ease Of Use

While the OEM unit has Bluetooth connectivity, GPS, and other (basic) functions, I had several issues with it, both functionally and aesthetically.  I never liked or got used to the Entune system.  The album artwork it finds for music or audiobooks is strange and sometimes completely inaccurate.

More importantly, Bluetooth often failed to connect when I started the vehicle, and I’d have to manually force the connection which happened several times per week. And when taking or making a call, Bluetooth would drop the connection and I’d be left scrambling to grab my phone to talk using my phone’s speaker to continue the call.

Navigation felt cumbersome and outdated to me, so I never used it.  The screen itself was small and dull.

I found myself feeling a twinge of jealousy when riding in friends’ Tacoma’s, which at least have a more updated looking and larger screen, even if it’s still running the same Entune system I disliked on my own vehicle.

Where to buy? 

You can also check out their other accessories for the 5th Gen 4Runner. CarTrim makes a few other common upgrades like a TRD Grillemarker lights, and even the now common Arc-Light (look-a-like) LED Interior Lighting Upgrade.

Upgrading the 4Runner’s OEM Audio Head Unit

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner: OEM Head Unit

So I started looking into alternatives a few months ago, and unsurprisingly, there are a lot of options out there for double din head units to replace the OEM one in the 4Runner.

I found that they all have pros and cons, and ultimately I had to decide what my priorities were for the replacement.  For me, an upgrade to the look and feel was important, and I wanted it to have Apple CarPlay (many available options do these days).

Because I’d be using CarPlay for 80-90% of my time in the vehicle, the native software and navigation weren’t too important to me.

I searched options from many of the usual suspects, like Alpine, Pioneer, and the Kenwood Headunit most of which had prices ranging from $500 to $1500, and mostly had screens similar in size to the OEM unit.

Also required would be a number of cables, most importantly a Maestro device to connect the head unit to the car’s steering wheel controls, speakers, and other vehicle information, which alone costs around $100, in addition to the other cables I’d need to purchase.

With a new trim kit (another additional cost, though not as much as the Maestro) to replace the OEM buttons and knobs, the new look would be clean, and the functionality improved.

Why Did I Choose Car Trim Home’s T9 Head Unit?

While searching, I came across the T9 Head Unit from a Chinese company called Car Trim Home.

After watching and reading other reviews on the previous T8 model, many of which were mixed, I weighed my own priorities and ultimately decided to go with the T9 over the other brands I was considering.

The T9 runs on Android software, and in my opinion, looks like the OEM unit should have in the first place.  The stereo and screen come fully integrated into the trim kit that replaces the OEM unit (you just swap a few pieces from OEM to the T9, namely the emergency flasher button, the vents, and their knobs).  You don’t have to buy a Maestro, it has all the cabling you need to keep your steering wheel functionality and other data you need going between the car and the unit.

The glossy 9” screen is flanked by a few integrated shortcut touch buttons (Home, Back, Menu, Phone) and two knobs.  That’s it.  No obnoxious branding or superfluous buttons.  The price is $575, which I thought was reasonable, especially compared to the $1000+ you can easily drop on a new head unit.  And the installation videos I watched made it look like a breeze to install, and it pretty much is.  More details on that below.

So, Why All The Mixed Reviews On the T9?

To me, it seemed like a no-brainer.  A great looking unit that could do all I wanted it to and more, easily installed and plug and play in terms of wiring.  So why the mixed reviews I was reading on the T9 (or its predecessor, the T8)?

Thankfully I did my homework and knew what I was getting myself into before committing to the T9.

I’m still happy with my choice, even though it hasn’t been pain-free. The reason for the mixed, love it or hate it reviews out there is that the T9 has some… quirks.  It requires some troubleshooting from time to time. In the case of my unit, that has been for both the hardware as well as the software. More details on that to come.

As I said, for me there are no perfect options out there, they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

I’ve detailed my decision-making process because I think for anyone considering a change, and especially if they get the T9, it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Install Guide For the T9 Head Unit Setup

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner: Setup Installation Guide

The T9 came pretty much ready for installation right out of the box, after plugging in several of the provided wires and antennas into the back of the unit.

There are several videos online with instructions for how to install the unit, so I won’t go into much detail on that here.  There are also tools included to help remove the panels around the OEM head unit, though I didn’t need any of them.

How To Install The Head Unit on Your 4Runner

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner: Installation - Reinstall OEM Vents + Emergency Flasher Button Onto T9's Trim

Step-By-Step Installation Breakdown:

  • Remove All Panels Surrounding Air Temperature + Fan Control Knobs
  • Pull Out The Air Control Panel
  • Remove The Bolts Holding the OEM Head Unit In Place. Then, Detach All Wiring.
  • Reinstall OEM Vents + Emergency Flasher Button Onto T9’s Trim
  • Replace All Wiring On the Plug-N-Play Harness
  • Reconnect the Backup Camera Feature On T9 (Optional)

To begin, I simply grabbed each of the panels that surround the air temperature and fan control knobs, and firmly pulled until they came out.  Next, you remove the air control panel, which also pops out without much difficulty.

Lastly, there are a few bolts to remove that hold the stock unit in place, and you’re ready to pull the unit out.  Once it’s loosened and pulled forward, detach all the wires in the back until the unit is free.

Next, you’ll swap the OEM vents, their adjusters, and the emergency flasher button, and install them into the T9’s trim.  All the wiring in the back is plug and play, and since no plug is the same, you can’t mess it up.  Just match each plug to the corresponding receptacle.

Important To Note During Install

The only thing I had to pause to review was the few extra receptacles on the T9’s harness of wires that go unused, which is normal it turns out, and also the how-to on connecting the backup camera.

Note: There are two male yellow RCAs in the T9’s harness that could fit the one yellow female from the car’s wiring, the easiest thing is to have power on the unit, and try each to see which has the signal.

Per instructions from other T9 users, I didn’t move the brackets that are used to bolt it in from the original unit over to the T9.

The fitment isn’t quite right, and because the T9 is quite a bit lighter in weight than the OEM unit, the clips at the top hold it in place nicely.

Some Things To Note When Installing The T9 Head Unit

With the unit installed and ready, I put the air control panel back on but left the two pillar panels off the front so I could remove the unit to get access to the back again if need be.

In fact, I left it this way for a few days and did indeed need to do few adjustments to things on the back of the T9.

Before getting into the changes/fixes I needed to do, it’s important to mention the customer service from CTH, and also the help from T9 community. Both are best accessed through Facebook and Facebook Messenger.  I’ve been in direct contact with the folks at CTH using Messenger, and they’ve been quick to respond and eager to help for the most part.  Then there is the 4Runner group on Facebook for T9 Head Unit owners, with hundreds of users, who share tips and tricks for setting up and ideas for apps to install, and most importantly, help each other troubleshoot issues as they arise. A couple of users are administrators of the group, and really go the extra mile in helping anyone with known or new issues to get them resolved.

In my case, several things needed improvement. There’s probably little chance I would have kept my T9 if it weren’t for the customer service at CTH and the 4Runner T9 owners’ group on Facebook.

The issues I dealt with certainly don’t happen to everyone, and there are others that have dealt with problems I haven’t. While the installation of the unit took an hour or less, I’ve spent quite a few additional hours looking for answers, troubleshooting, and working on the fixes. Here are the issues I had to address:

Wifi Connectivity

The Wifi wasn’t working well at all.

It connected to my phone’s hotspot, but not to my home network, despite the relatively strong signal in the garage.  It turns out that the Wifi antenna, which I put onto one of the 4G ports was much more effective on the TV port, which was unused.

Note: The unit comes with a TV antenna for over-the-air signal, which I haven’t used or even set up. And now, I can easily connect to my home network.

To seal the deal on good Wifi, I purchased a pair of antennas (only one is needed but the recommended antennas are sold as a pair) that are better than the one that came with the unit, for around $10 on Amazon. One of the group admins on Facebook helped me sort this one out.

Constant Whining Noise

With power going to the unit, the T9 emitted a high pitched whining noise.

While driving, the road noise drowns it out, but while stopped or parked, it was definitely not something I could live with forever.

Thankfully there is a fix, figured out by a T9 user that provided the solution to others, and CTH let anyone attempting the fix do so without risk of voiding the warranty.

I opened up the back of the unit to get access to the back of the LCD panel and turned slightly with a screwdriver the potentiometer.  A half-turn counter-clockwise did the trick, just as promised, and my T9 was whine-free.

Cold Boot Problem

Rather than coming out of sleep quickly when the car was turned on, which takes just a few seconds for the unit to be ready, the unit did a cold boot every time.

This is closer to 30 seconds and annoying to wait for every time you turn the car on.  A software update was required to solve this one.  I downloaded a zip file, unpacked it to a thumb drive, and plugged it into the unit for install.

After the update, the cold boot problem was solved.  CTH customer service, as well as the FB group, were helpful for me on this one.

EQ App Needed For Equalizer

The stereo comes with a good equalizer for better sound, even with the stock speakers. Lots of users on the group raved about it.

The only problem was mine didn’t have an equalizer.  The same software update I needed for the cold boot solved this one as well.

As promised, the EQ app showed up after the update and is indeed a great tool to improve the sound.

Wireless CarPlay Takes A While

This one isn’t necessarily a problem that had to fix, just a preference.

The T9 can do CarPlay via Bluetooth, and while I liked not dealing with plugging in my iPhone, I tried it out for several days and decided I didn’t want to wait each time I started the car for 30+ seconds for my phone to connect.

Wireless Connection Skipped Songs

The other downside is that music sometimes ‘skips’.

Not terribly but it does happen once every few minutes in my experience.  The alternative is to buy a dongle ($60 on Amazon or from CTH) which plugs in via USB to the back of the unit and then gives you CarPlay via a wired connection.

It’s a lot quicker to connect, and no more ‘skipping’.  The dongle hasn’t been flawless.  There have been times when, for some reason, it fails to connect.

The handful of times it’s happened I’ve just unplugged and plugged it back in.

Note: I plugged it into the back of the unit and ran it behind the panels to the very bottom of the left panel so that it emerges near the footwell. I then routed it under the plastic where the center console trim meets the carpet coming up from the floor, far enough towards the driver’s seat so that it comes up easily to where I have my phone mounted.  Plenty of different ways to do this, but this worked for me and kept things looking mostly cable-free.

Life (So Far) with the T9 Head Unit…

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner: End Results

T9 is fun for the whole family!

I’ve had the T9 installed now for a few weeks and have wondered a few times (and been asked by my wife) why I’ve put up with all these issues.

Not only have I had to troubleshoot issues to get the T9 working the way I want, but judging by what I’ve read on the Facebook group, there’s no guarantee it’ll be forever stable.

For me, even with the problems, it’s still preferable to the OEM unit, and the price point and overall functionality of the unit make it preferable to me over other aftermarket options.  Others may differ with me on this.

As I mentioned, my OEM unit wasn’t free from problems either.

Upgrading to T9’s Smart Features

Car Trim Home T9 Head Unit Product Review and Setup Installation: A GPS + Audio Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner: Upgrading to T9's Smart Features

The USB port makes it easy to add media and photos, do system updates, and more.

So far I mostly use CarPlay, and it looks awesome on the T9’s screen.

If you’re not using CarPlay or Android Auto, the native software has a music player, radio, phone control, GPS, etc., all the things you’d expect it to, plus a number of others you don’t usually see, like a web browser.

I have downloaded a handful of other apps, like Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV, Amazon Prime, and a few others, and they work well.  These, of course, require an internet connection.  The T9 comes with a slot in the back of the unit for a SIM card, so anyone so inclined can have a data plan for their T9, making streaming video or music a breeze.

You can also use a hotspot from a connected device, or Wifi, for internet connection.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, I mostly use CarPlay, which of course uses the phone’s data for anything requiring the internet.

I’m not watching videos while driving, so the streaming apps are fun but not getting used daily. I’m looking forward to having the ability to stream or playback video for times when I have the family in the car for long drives or car trips.

When I do, as an alternative to streaming video, I’ve instead tried plugging a thumb drive loaded with videos into the USB slot, and the T9 will play anything I’ve thrown at it (I use VLC as a video player).

This is likely how I’ll keep the kiddos entertained while we’re heading to the grandparents’ house, or off to a remote campsite, where streaming video won’t be a viable option.

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Sarah Danzig
Sarah Danzig
1 month ago

Is it better than the
Dasaita 10.25 inch Android 10.0 Black Car Radio for Toyota 4Runner 2014-2019 Bluetooth 5.0 Stereo GPS Navigation Head Unit Multimedia Music Video Player 4G 64G PX6 DSP Android Auto Wireless Carplay. I’m looking at both

Bernard
Bernard
6 months ago

I have a 2019 toyota 4runner with a t9 android unit the radio got frozen on android logo boot screen i tried to mamy ways to reset it but nothing work the seller sent me the firmware to update i connect the usb to the radio but nothing work any idea olease thanksss

Jan dijkstra
Jan dijkstra
7 months ago

What model would i use on a 2011 4Runner. Would T9 fit?

Michael
Michael
8 months ago

I am interested in the t9 for Android auto.
I had it in a Sonata prior and it launched quickly, is just have to plug my phone in and press a button.

How does the wired Carplay/ AA situation with with the head unit?
Does it also take 30 seconds to launch? Is there a fix to make it launch quicker?

KingSev
KingSev
9 months ago

All, whoever is joining my groups, if you do not answer all the questions, I am not approving your join, so please make sure you join the group and answer all the questions. ESPECIALLY the order number that start with 160…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/t94runner/

AAJ
AAJ
11 months ago

hello,

I have the T9 for 1 year exactly and suddenly when i switched the car on the T9 is stuck on android loading boot page and no matter what i try there its not loading did any one face this issue, what makes it worse i am trying to contact cartrimhome and their number is disconnected and they are not responding to emails

KingSev
KingSev
9 months ago
Reply to  AAJ

Did you resolve your issue?

AAJ
AAJ
9 months ago
Reply to  KingSev

Hello,

yes the supplier shipped me a Replacment unit, 🙂

KingSev
KingSev
9 months ago
Reply to  AAJ

That’s great !

Mike
Mike
11 months ago

Has anyone heard if you can get a 2020 head unit an install it on prior year 5th gen?

KingSev
KingSev
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Not yet, I’m working on getting the 2020 out … harness is different, unit is the same
.

Steven Younger
Steven Younger
1 year ago

I’m curious who has run Android Auto and does it work better than Apple Carplay? I have a Galaxy S20 Ultra….

Brandon
Brandon
1 year ago
  1. Does the voice command button on the steering wheel control activate Siri if held down when using Apple CarPlay?
  2. Does wireless Apple CarPlay automatically connect when the car is turned on? I have a Kenwood in my Acura and it takes a second, but it’s nice that it auto connects.

I am really excited and looking forward to using a T9 on my 4Runner. Thanks for this review!

Alex Lee
Alex Lee
1 year ago

Hi! Man, I’m having a rough time with this head unit. Bought the 4Runner recently and the previous owner had an app called TLink for CarPlay. Worked great! But then I had the breaks changed, and TLink no longer streamed any sound. Somewhere else online said to do a hard reset, and now TLink has completely disappeared. I can’t even find it on google, let alone on the Headunit. I can’t join the Facebook group because I don’t have the purchase information. I also can’t use a dongle because I upgraded the sound system and the USB port is now in permanent use. Any help getting CarPlay back on this thing?? I refuse to buy an android phone!

AAJ
AAJ
11 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lee

i had the same issue when i contacted the supplier cartrimhome they sent me an update file which fixed the issue now mine is stuck at the android booting and cannot sort it out, send me a mail and i will send you the update file.

mark grande
mark grande
1 year ago

hey bro i need help iam trying to fix the buzzing noise thats coming from my t9 headunit i read your post about it i followed your steps but iam having trouble finding that potenshometer your saying to turn can u pls send me a picture of what it looks like thanks.

Todd
Todd
1 year ago

Derek,
Are you still pleased that you made this change t the T9? I am a techy guy, so I am not sweating dealing with the small issues.
The things that would bug me are those that can’t be fixed, or things that are recurring.
The last thing you want is to deal with an issue on a long road trip.

Derek
Derek
1 year ago
Reply to  Todd

I’ve been really happy with it. After a few initial hiccups (the ones documented above) I’ve basically had no issues at all. Hopefully that’s true for most or all T9 owners. If you’re tech savvy I don’t think you’ll have any problem overcoming obstacles if you have any. For me its been flawless almost 100%, aside from having to restart every once in a while because the CarPlay doesn’t take. Could be the unit or could be the dongle, either way a quick restart of the unit (30 seconds or so) and it’s solved. Happens maybe once every 100 starts or less. Overall it’s been one of my favorite upgrades to the 4Runner because I interact with it every time I’m in the car, and it continues to work great and look great.

Todd
Todd
11 months ago
Reply to  Derek

Thanks Derek – I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a T9. I am excited about installing it!

Kyle
Kyle
1 year ago

you mentioned that you purchased Wifi 📶 antennas from amazon but didn’t mention which ones for 10$? Any chance of sharing this info. I have looked at this unit for a while but scared for the reasons you mention. But now it comes wired as an option? for carplay etc. Or they include a dongle? Another question the camera option is for the reverse camera? Asking because I want to install a secondary front camera to see how close I am to things and hoping this unit will accommodate that? While I’m asking is their any article on trail4runner about a front camera install? Appreciate this article its tipping the scales for me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kyle
Derek
Derek
1 year ago
Reply to  Kyle

I’ll post a link to the antenna below. I’m not sure if they’re including a CarPlay dongle now, I bought mine separately because I prefer the wired option over the less reliable Bluetooth option for CarPlay. Front camera- yes it’s possible with this unit. There are how-tos and more info on that on the CTH T9 4Runner Owners Facebook group.

2 x 9dBi Dual Band 4G SMA Male Connector Antenna High Gain LTE Wireless WiFi Antenna Compatible with Mini Wireless Network Card/Routers/Repeat https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SY8K7DY/ref=cm_s

Alejandro
Alejandro
1 year ago

I have a 2012 limited 4runner and am interested in purchasing this stereo. But I have some doubts.
It is compatible with my 4runner, since mine does not have a screen and much less a backup camera

Derek
Derek
1 year ago
Reply to  Alejandro

Yes it is, cartrimhome makes a unit for 2010-2013 and anther for 2014-2019.

Gunnar
Gunnar
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek

Alejandro, could you post a link to the 2013 version?

Last edited 1 year ago by Gunnar
Gunnar
Gunnar
1 year ago
Reply to  Gunnar

Sorry, Derek. lol

Erica
Erica
1 year ago

Is this unit compatible with iPhones or just androids? Sorry, that may be a stupid question.

Kyle
Kyle
1 year ago
Reply to  Erica

Both. Not a dumb question.

Mick
Mick
1 year ago

How do you hook up sirrus/xm radio to the t9

Derek
Derek
1 year ago
Reply to  Mick

I believe that’ll require an add on… you can find satellite radio receivers online, at Best Buy etc, and then I think you’d use one of the ports in back of the unit. But I don’t have one so don’t have any experience on it unfortunately, but I know it’s doable.

jcrom
jcrom
1 year ago
Reply to  Mick

I have the same question. Let me know if you get answer. Saw on another thread that you need a module that costs $60 which is fine by me but can’t find where I can buy it…

Nate Moeder
Nate Moeder
1 year ago

Derek – good article. Question – how did you get netflix and itunes on there? I think you have OBD2 as an app as well (i saw in a different article). Did you have to jailbreak your phone to allow them on apple carplay?

Nate Moeder
Nate Moeder
1 year ago
Reply to  Nate Moeder

*not itunes, i meant youtube.

Derek
Derek
1 year ago
Reply to  Nate Moeder

Hi Nate, Netflix can be downloaded to the T9, if you go to the CTH T9 4Runner Owners forum on Facebook and search “Netflix” you’ll see the download link for the APK and instructions on setting it up. I don’t have OBD2 set up on mine, although recently Eric did a nice write up>> https://trail4runner.com/2020/01/28/obdlink-mx-bluetooth-obd2-scanner/
about getting a device that will communicate with the T9 and run on the T9’s native software (or your phone, but I don’t know about getting that app to show up on your headunit via CarPlay). The photos in his article was from Phil Pham (one of the admins of the Facebook group, if you search OBDLink on the forum you’ll find Phil’s comments about it). Hope that helps!

Kyle
Kyle
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek

I have an OBD/GPS/WIFI Hotspot from T miserable that powers through and plugs into OBD port on my truck. But for some reason caused my traction control light to come on and now won’t turn off? And Toyota said they would charge me 175$ to fix/reset it. 2019 4runner. Bless Toyota and their customer support.

Alejandro Saldarriaga
Alejandro Saldarriaga
1 year ago

Hello! the T9 unit is suitable for 4Runner model 2012? Tks!

Derek
Derek
1 year ago

Sorry for the late reply Alejandro, yes it is suitable for the 2012 model. There was an issue with getting the steering wheel controls to work, however, I know they were working on a fix for that but am not sure if it’s been fully resolved.

Devin
Devin
1 year ago

My entune head unit is all but dead. I must upgrade at this point. When just connected to Bluetooth A2DP playback do you experience the CarPlay skipping effect or is it localized to CarPlay ?

Derek Bleazard
Derek Bleazard
1 year ago
Reply to  Devin

Apologies for not seeing this sooner Devin… I never tried using any apps other than CarPlay via bluetooth, so I can’t speak to playback quality on those, I’d check with the T9 forum on Facebook to see what other users’ experience has been on that.

mark
mark
1 year ago

hi read your install notes very helpfull jst wanted to ask where did u download that update for the cold boot problem thanks and keep up the good work .mark

Derek Bleazard
Derek Bleazard
1 year ago
Reply to  mark

Hi Mark, an update may or may not be the right thing, depends on what you’re experiencing and what you’ve installed (could be installed software that’s causing it to crash/reboot at start)… hard to troubleshoot it here too. Is it cold booting every time you start?

James
James
1 year ago

The alternative is to buy a dongle ($60 on Amazon or from CTH) which plugs in via USB to the back of the unit and then gives you CarPlay via a wired connection. ?? Link to product on Amazon ?

I purchased a pair of antennas (only one is needed but the recommended antennas are sold as a pair) that are better than the one that came with the unit, for around $10 on Amazon. ?? Link to product on Amazon ?

Kyle
Kyle
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek

and those antennas worked? Reviews weren’t stellar.

Sevag
1 year ago

That’s the most, professional and honest review I’ve ever read! Good job!

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