How to retrieve CDs from a broken car stereo?
December 2, 2008 7:29 AM   Subscribe

How can I retrieve my CDs from my broken car stereo? Better yet, how can I make it work?

I have a 2007 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. About a year ago I was driving and listening to a CD in the 6-disc changer and out of nowhere the music stopped. I looked at the display screen and it said "MECH ERROR". In the car's manual, the description for "MECH ERROR" reads something like "There is a mechanical error. See dealer".

Obviously, I would rather not "see dealer". I don't know if this is under my warranty or not, and frankly I don't really care. I just don't want to drive out to the dealership, leave my car there for two days, and have to hitch rides.

Is there ANY possible way to get my CDs out of my CD player? I have tried pressing eject and it just tells me there is an error and cannot eject the discs...

Of course, my six favorite CDs are in the player, including a Kinks album that I cannot find anywhere else, so I would really like to have them back.

Bonus points if you can tell me how to fix this problem without having to "see dealer".
posted by junipero to Technology (7 answers total)
It could be anything, really. Try a to blow some compressed air through it. There might be some dust or a pebble or something wedged somewhere, especially if it's mounted under a seat.
posted by Harald74 at 7:47 AM on December 2, 2008

If it's truly a mechanical error then something inside the changer is likely busted, out of place, or otherwise somehow wonky. To get the CDs out will most likely require disassembling the unit carefully until you can reach the CDs and extract them. Assuming this is in an in-dash player you'll have to pull it from the dash first.

Before I did all that, though, I'd try disconnecting the battery and leaving it for awhile, maybe half an hour or so. That might be enough to reset the unit allowing you to retrieve the CDs. Probably won't work but it's worth trying just in case.

Have fun! The process will be something of a PIA but it's certainly doable with care. But unless you want to do it as a learning experience try the dealer first in case it's still under warranty.
posted by 6550 at 7:53 AM on December 2, 2008

The mechanism that shuttles the discs back and forth is jammed. I WOULD NOT recommend compressed air. Unless you have access to a professional paint-type compressor set-up, there will be moisture in the lines, which will more than likely make matters worse.

A few good smacks may dislodge the mechanism.

Another thought is that maybe the top disc is just stuck. Try taking a toothpick and gently probing around into the center of the slot where the discs go in. Or possibly a very small screwdriver.

Other than that, you will probably need to have the unit professionally uninstalled in order to retrieve the discs.

FWIW, I am a mechanic, and those are not units I would recommend an amateur to try and remove, in fear of damaging something else in the process.

Good luck. I once lost an irreplaceable mix tape in a car stereo in a similar fashion back in the day. I'm still upset.
posted by peewinkle at 8:12 AM on December 2, 2008

Well, when it happened a year ago, you were probably under warranty. Maybe not now. It may be a recall. Your best bet is to man up, and deal with a rental for a day or two. Or see if they can have you into the shop, look at it real quick for an assessment, and get parts to put in when you come back.
posted by notsnot at 8:40 AM on December 2, 2008

my 1998 12 disc changer stopped working on and off. Normally when I open the door to the changer, the magazine slides out but now nothing happends. SOMETIMES if I push in on the magazine several times and slide shut and open the door, it comes out normally (but it still don't read the discs reliably anymore.

doubt this helps but worth a shot.
posted by glenno86 at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2008

Amazingly, if it is a broken item and it is covered under the car warranty, they may just give you a loaner rental car while they fix it. For free. Did you call and ask? But I guess if it was a year ago it's probably not under warranty. Unless of course you purchased the extended warranty. Why did you let this go for a year? Seconding find out if it's a recall as well. Stuff breaks all the time and sometimes they replace it free, and it isn't like the manufacturers broadcast on all available channels that their stuff is probably broken when you buy it.

If you really don't care about the changed player, you can take all the screws out and pry open the glued-shut machinery and there will be the discs. Pull off the harness before doing this, obviously, steady hands, no sudden movements, and all.. You will likely destroy it with this approach, but you'll have your CDs back.
posted by ostranenie at 11:40 AM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: Clarifications:

My CD player is the kind that you have to load each disc into one at a time...not a magazine.

No extended warranty, no loaner cars from the dealer.

I have waited for a year because, quite simply, it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my list.

Its not a recall.

Finally, I kinda like to do things reason other than I think its fun. So, I will take it to the dealership if absolutely necessary, but I like the challenge. And, yes, I am one of those people who makes a total mess of plumbing and other home repairs before calling the professionals. I've been like this forever and don't really plan on fixing that flaw!
posted by junipero at 5:45 PM on December 2, 2008

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