Advice re: overhead video monitors in a Toyota Sienna
November 27, 2013 12:08 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in adding an roof-mounted video system to my 2005 Toyota Sienna. I have three kids and when we visit family it's a boring 9-hour drive. But I know nothing at all about car video systems.

Where are the best places to buy? Is it possible to buy a system for a good price one place and pay someone else to install it? (I've put in car stereos, but the video thing looks like more trouble than I want to mess with at my skill level.) Any advice about particular stores, products, or strategies is appreciated.

Also, a lot of our video is in the form of iTunes digital files, so being able to connect iphones/ipad to the video monitor for playback is a requirement.
posted by Pater Aletheias to Technology (6 answers total)
I used to have a Toyota Sienna (04). The first question I'd ask is how often would you use an overhead tv after this big drive? I'd also ask how old your kids are. My kids didn't all want to watch the same thing plus I had one who would watch and instantly get nauseous and throw up (sooo fun). You can buy a small portable DVD player pretty cheap (even 2) if you don't install it. Depending how kids sit in the van, a couple kids can watch the same thing and one can sleep or watch his/her own. You could also buy a cheap used ipod touch at Gamestop and load it with games etc.
posted by lasamana at 12:37 PM on November 27, 2013

Do you have an iPad by chance? You can buy iPad mounts for backseats (Google iPad car mount). At least that would serve other purposes when you weren't on a long trip.
posted by cecic at 12:51 PM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi, everyone: we've considered and are aware of other options. Please jump in if you have advice about overhead video systems. Please assume we already know there are other ways to watch video on trips.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:53 PM on November 27, 2013

Before you install a ceiling system, can you compare how much each screen obscures your view from the rear-view mirror? I have a '11 Sienna and we bought an aftermarket (but dealer installed) ceiling mounted DVD system. When it is being used, it obscures nearly all of the rear window, forcing me to rely almost entirely on my side mirrors to see behind me. It is, frankly, a little unsafe. I think less of the rear window would be obscured if we had opted for the factory-installed option because it would have been installed further up into the ceiling.

Also, the unit will not turn on when the ignition is in the accessory position. In the past, the kids have wanted to watch a movie while parked and waiting for something, but that requires us to leave the car idling, resulting in waste and pollution.
posted by hhc5 at 2:28 PM on November 27, 2013

Did the toyota Sienna come with factory video as an option? IF so the best bet is to get it installed as a post buy dealer installed option. This is done all the time for luxury options. A slightly cheaper way to do the same thing is scour junkyards/ebay for a system from a wrecked sienna. On a quick Ebay search i found these options for built in video.
I would take one of the ones off ebay to a good stereo/custom car shop in your city to get it installed. Installation shouldn't be too tough. Most cars are made with complete wiring harnesses for all options whether or not all the options are installed so you can just install the unit and plug it in and it should work.

a thing to be aware of is that the higher end sienna with all the bells and whistles probably have a bigger alternator installed to handle all the extra electrical load and if yours doesn't it could lead to premature alternator failure (this isn't a huge concern and one additional dvd and screen isn't likely to put you over the edge, but something to be aware of).
posted by bartonlong at 3:17 PM on November 27, 2013

We have a 2004 Sienna that had the factory video kit (we bought the car used). At one point replaced the player (bought and installed at Fry's - which is not an option for you) and at another time had the overhead screen unit replaced when it broke. The overhead unit was bought at Frys and was installed by a local car audio/window tint/etc. shop and they did a good job at a very reasonable price.

I would suggest looking at options at crutchfield, printing out the systems you are interested in and taking to a local installer (yelp might help you here) and ask about the price.

Here in Austin, I checked one of the chain car audio places (can't remember the name now) and it was EXPENSIVE - ($400 vs. $100 installation).

Also, our original overhead unit came with wireless headphones, which we never used because our kids were too small for them. Our second unit was wired through the car stereo and that has worked much better.

We did not get the biggest screen because of the worry about blocking the view out the back window. We got a 9" screen I think and it causes no problems.

Memail me if you have any questions.
posted by nightwood at 8:59 PM on November 27, 2013

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