If you live in or around Portland, Oregon, and want a great experience upgrading or fixing your car stereo, I recommend Sparks Garage–tell Jon that I sent you. You can go to the shop or Jon provides a mobile service and will come to you. I did both.
The factory radio and CD were moulded into the dash of our car. When we bought the car new a few years ago I worried that a dealer would hold us hostage if we ever had to repair or replace the radio. When it broke that was mostly true until I discovered there were other options. Complaining to a friend, he suggested looking into after-market dash kits.
I haven’t shopped new car stereos in years–prices have come way down and features have gone way up. For around $150 you can get a powerful unit with blue tooth connectivity, iPod playing capability, and a USB port for a jump drive. After-market dash kits vary in price depending on if there are electronics in it like climate controls.
I found Sparks Garage through Google as I searched for a local car stereo installation place that was not a big-box store and where people had left good reviews. I didn’t expect to find such reasonable prices or someone that was so helpful. Jon Sanker (sole proprietor of Sparks Garage) works at a very reasonable hourly rate and sources a number of car stereo units from different major manufactures. Jon provided a ton of information about different options without trying to push me in a particular direction or hard-sell me on a particular model. In fact, he was incredibly patient as it took me a couple of months–start to finish to make a decision, order the unit, find time on my calendar, and get it installed. Jon also didn’t care if I bought the unit from him or brought my own from somewhere else, though buying through him makes it easy to address any warranty issues.
Buying the radio/CD player through Sparks cost $30 more than I found on-line, but I’m so glad I bought it through Sparks. If you buy the unit through Sparks, follow-up labor is free if you encounter any problems with the unit and Jon will coordinate sending it back to the factory, etc. I took advantage of that far sooner than I thought I would.
At first I was a little leery of going with Sparks because the prices seemed too good to be true and I was having trouble finding a lot of reviews on the internet. Sparks is also a smaller operation so you have to pay for the unit up front to order it because they don’t carry any inventory. After visiting Jon’s shop and taking with him more I felt comfortable moving forward. If you are on the fence or sceptical, I recommend doing the same. There are two bays at his shop for working on cars and an office/waiting room with a small table and chairs to work at. I jumped on the wireless network and got some work done while Jon did the installation.
Jon had everything installed, including a fairly complicated dash-kit, in less than an hour. He walked me through all the settings on the unit and I drove away with a new stereo, streaming music over the blue tooth connection.
It wasn’t until a few days later when my wife tried to load a CD that we discovered that the CD player was broken. Jon was mortified to hear that it didn’t work and suggested I try different CDs. This didn’t solve the problem so Jon immediately ordered a new unit (and paid for it himself) so that he could the swap bad unit with a new one when I went back to his shop. He said in 13 years of doing this, it was only the second time a Pioneer unit had not worked out of the box.
After the replacement unit came in, it turned out Jon was passing by my area on his way from a mobile install so he stopped by my house, swapped the bad unit out, and in less than five minutes and was on his way. It couldn’t have been smoother and easier. I’ll definitely be going back to Sparks Garage for any future car stereo needs.