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RNS-E retrofit for Dummies

137631 Views 92 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  1wheel_drive
I got quite a lot messages over the last couple of weeks asking questions which had already been answered or telling me that the Quick Links topic is way too technical. I hope this topic is easier to read and gives you the answers you are looking for. Feel free to post new questions here (or as new topic in one of the forums) if you are still not seeing the answer for the question you have in mind.

Again, this topic will only cover true plug and play solutions and it won't provide answers about creating custom harnesses, patching a DVD, loading new software, modifying faceplates or converting from single DIN to double DIN.

Can I plug and play retrofit the RNS-E in my car?

Yes, if you currently have a Symphony II head unit (with build-in 6 CD changer) which is usually the case in an A3/8P or A4/8E with Premium Sound package (North America only, Europe does not get any radio unless explicit ordered). Maybe, if you have an A6/C5 or Allroad (facelift models only) because this will require getting the speed signal from behind the instrument cluster. If you don't feel comfortable removing the instrument cluster or have someone do it for you it's a No, otherwise Yes. Maybe also if you have an A4 B6 with the older Navigation Plus RNS-D (CD based). In this case the upgrade requires to bridge some wires on the TMC unit which is somehwere well hidden in your car. No, if you have the Concert II head unit or any of the older OEM head units (including Symphony I, any of the single DIN head units or no head unit at all).

Which RNS-E part number do I need?

Check the parts numbers topic in the Quick Links, it lists all known RNS-E parts numbers and gets regularly updated:

Note that European units will not work in North America without modifications. The same is true with North American units in Europe, they will not work without modifications. Modifications require patching large files, creating new dual layer DVDs or loading new software on your RNS-E unit which requires certain skills and may render the unit unusable. While possible, I won't list those modifications here under plug and play retrofits but if you think you can do it, browse the Quick Links topic or use search to figure out how.

What else do I need?

You will need an RNS-E adapter which converts the current connector plugged in to your Symphony II head unit to fit in the RNS-E connector. When you order the adapter, specify that you need support for a CD changer and mobile phone hands free kit. This way you get all the wires you need. You will also need to specify whether or not your car has the Bose sound system, an all active sound system or passive front/active rear sound system. In most cases it is sufficient to specify Bose or not. Please clearly state which car and head unit you need the adapter for.

You will also need an antenna adapter from the old style 50 Ohm ISO plug to a Fakra connector. The adapter you order should have a receptacle for the diversity antenna connector already present in your car. Don't worry to much about all the terms here, if you get the adapter from a well known source they will send you the correct stuff if you just specify ISO to dual Fakra adapter.

The easiest way to get a GPS signal is to install a new GPS antenna behind the instrument cluster or above the glove box. GPS antennas are usually available from the same source as the RNS-E adapter, just make sure you get one with a Fakra connector (SMB would be the other type but this doesn't fit the RNS-E well).

Last but not least you will need a set of 4 of the radio removal keys and access to a VAG-COM or similar to do the coding once the RNS-E is installed.

Where do I get the required adapters?

This should not be a list of preferred vendors, browse the forum to determine who is good and who is not so good. It just gives you a point to start when looking for the RNS-E and other adapters. Replace the [at] with the @ sign in all email addresses. Send me a PM if you know another reliable source in North America, Europe or anywhere else.

Ralf Deventer: deventer.rum[at] (English OK)
Kufatec: info[at]
Navi-center: info[at] (English OK)


The actual install

The install is as easy as removing the Symphony II, plugging in the adapters, getting the GPS antenna behind the instrument cluster, plugging in the RNS-E and getting everything back in that little hole in your dash board. Of course there is a little more which makes it more or less challenging but these are the main steps. Once your car is put back together it's time to make some final configuration changes with VAG-COM or similar equipment. If you don't have access to a VAG-COM, your dealer may be willing to help you to finish this task.

What happens to my SAT radio (XM/Sirius - North America only)?

Well, if you are one of those who happens to have an OEM satelite receiver for XM or Sirius and are really using it, you will need to upgrade that receiver as well. The RNS-E does not talk to the first generation SAT receivers. The actual install is plug and play but to get to the SAT receiver is little tricky, therefore I'm not going into details here. Your Audi dealer will know which part number you need and will most likely do the install for you.

I may add links to successful installs here at a later date. Until then, simply check the Quick Links for pictures and more.

Good luck...
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Very simple indeed. I don't think you guys could simplify this process anymore than you already have.
Hello, I'm about to do an install with the RNS-E unit in my 2003 A4 with bose. I don't have Vag Com. Will this cause major issues?
Mike said:
Hello, I'm about to do an install with the RNS-E unit in my 2003 A4 with bose. I don't have Vag Com. Will this cause major issues?
It shouldn't cause any issue but you will most likely not see anything your instrument cluster, and it maybe coded for the wrong car. Can the person you get the unit from do the RNS-E coding? That would leave only the cluster coding to the dealer (or someone with a VAG-COM).
install question

Are you talking about the view in the dash between the mph and rpm?
Re: install question

Mike said:
Are you talking about the view in the dash between the mph and rpm?
Correct, that's your DIS which will show the navi instructions if coded properly...
correct (DIS = FIS = instrument cluster display)

Guys I'm totally new at any of this. I would like to have the display work there too, but I don't have the color DIS. Will it still work with the red display I have? Also will the radio selection still show there? I was also wondering about the steering wheel controls for the radio volume etc. thanks for the help!
Your red DIS will work, even though there is a little issue which may require you to briefly turn off/on the RNS-E to see the navi screen.

The radio information will continue to show up the same way they do today. And your steering wheel controls should continue to work as they are already CAN enabled in a 2003 A4.
How do you know all this? Thank you so much! I wish I had someone around here who could help out with some of your knowledge. How much of my car will I have to take apart? ANd where do you think I should mount the antenna? (I don't have sharkfin). What would be the easiest place, and still get good SAT. communication? Hey, another thing.....The unit I got is from a car with 18" wheels, I only have 17". Is this going to self-adjust?
You should really take a weekend and read through the Quick Links. Start at the top and read through the general section, then go down to the A4 B6 section and see what others did. It's really plug and play if you have the Symphony head unit and get the right adapters. However, in order to get the right adapter and even the right RNS-E you should know what you have installed right now.

Read the Quick Links and then post specific questions about things which you couldn't get answered...
Thank you. Actually I did check that out. I spent my free time last week reading all of it. I feel pretty well informed but I also see that there are so many different ways to do things, and also that some things seem to have worked for some people while they didn't for others. I was just looking to see what your opinion and take was on some of those things I had questions on like the placement of the nav antenna, and the wheel size self adjustment. Thak you for sharing your advise. You seem to know quite a bit on this.
Maybe I got the wrong first impression by too many general questions.

Many of us have installed the GPS behind the instrument cluster, easy to get to and finds usually 5-8 satellites which is plenty for the RNS-E. If you don't want to remove your instrument cluster you can remove the trim below your steering wheel and reach from there behind the instrument cluster. The GPS is magnetic and will snap to the steel piece there. It doesn't seem to even matter if you mount it horizontally or vertically. I did it this way after initially having the GPS on top of my dashboard, between windshield and A/C temp sensor. But I didn't like the look and didn't get more satellites that way.

I had first 17" Avus and then 18" RS4 wheels and did notice a difference. The RNS-E will adjust itself to the tire size, my 18" size wasn't even in the list of possible sizes. May take a couple of miles though.

And if you have never removed your Symphony head unit, try it with a friends first. It's much easier to get it removed if you have 4 hands...
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Thank you. I will be doing the install with a friend. I think I will go for the spot behind the cluster too. After reading some of those posts, I realize those two screws can be a bear too. Is there a good opening to run the cable from there to the unit? Thanks again.
RNS-E with Phatbox

I have a Audi A4 B6 2002 with a Symphony II Radio (Non-Bose) with a Phatbox unit connected to it. Is it possible to install a NAV unit along with the Phatbox? Thanks in advance.

-Jesse Amador
[email protected]
If you use the "search" on this forum you will find that a LOT of people use their phatbox with their RNS-E.
Hey, I have an 2003 Audi A4 Quattro 1.8 T

how do I add the nav, where does it go, how much does nav cost, how much does labor cost, can you DIY?

Let me know ASAP

I think i have to move the radio down to install nav? or does it replace the radio

i don't get what you guys are saying about the DIS and this and that
If you use the search button on th top of the forum you can find all these answers ASAP.
Hi - I am new to the Forum and this is fantasic. I bought an RNS-e unit from Lithuaina for my 2003 S6 and I all works well. Also bought a glovebox CD for an A4 and fitted that which works well BUT.....The Sat Nav does not show the disk details which it shows on the MP3 slots - any Ideas please. AND, I need a UK user manual - local Audi dealer is a prat and will not order me one.


No Audi head unit (including the RNS-E) supports text input from a CD changer/player. With all current CD player you get only track 1, track 2 and so on, no details about the song. The MP3 SD card reader is currently the only audio source that supports text.
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