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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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June 12, 2006

Replacement of front kick-panel drivers

Last week I decided to go ahead and install the Polk Audio 5510 5 1/4" woofers I had hanging around. I managed to get the drivers installed and started a listening session to check for rattles and the like. The drivers performed as I expected so I remounted the passenger side kick panel and fired up the stereo again just to be sure everything was still okay. Figures Murphy decided to pay me a visit. As I turned the volume up I heard a horrible raspy noise coming from the passenger side driver during bass peaks. The driver sounded like it was blown, but I just figured there was a clearance problem between the driver surround and the kick panel. Time to take the kick panel off again. Rats.

(Image: OEM vs. Polk 5510 Driver)Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple. Upon removal of the driver I figured out it wasn't fried in the traditional sense. Instead, the glue holding the dust shield / diaphragm to the speaker basket had dried out and given way, so when the cone went through its normal range of travel the diaphragm repeatedly hit the basket and produced a sound very similar to a blown driver. This really didn't surprise me, since the driver was manufactured 10 years ago and glue doesn't last forever.

At that point I resolved to remove both drivers and drive the car without them until I could find another solution. The pleasant surprise was that the stereo didn't sound all that bad with the 5 1/4" drivers removed -- if anything, it was a lot less muddy and easier on the ears. If that isn't a testament to how bad the OEM drivers are, I don't know what is.

The next day I called Polk Audio and told the friendly tech support guy of my plight. I let it slip that I've been a LONG time Polk customer (I still have a pair of the acclaimed 10B's in the basement) so the guy offered to provide replacement drivers in a 2 for 1 deal ($30 each) out of their remaining stock of roughly 150 units. The drivers came with a 1 year warranty, so I said "sold!".

The drivers arrived a couple days later and I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled them out of the packaging. They were indeed labeled "5510", but the baskets were a bit beefier and the cone was polypropylene instead of the reinforced paper composite of the original units. Apparently the drivers had gone through some reengineering over the years and this was the next step in their evolution.

I installed the drivers today and can only say that they are far superior to the OEM units. The muddiness is gone. And while they're certainly no subwoofer, they definitely add some bump to the soundstage that I can feel in my feet and in the steering wheel. Next step? New rear speakers...but those will have to wait until I recharge the toy budget.

A/C Compressor Sanity Check

On another note, it appears that my A/C compressor is starting to make a more consistent rattle than it has over the past several years. I've also noticed a more aggressive hit in vehicle performance when the compressor initially kicks in, and my technician told me that it could be due to the high pressure side not bleeding down fast enough, which is usually a sign that the unit is on its way out. Since I hate my car sounding like a coffee grinder I'd considered replacing the unit long ago, but I may get the opportunity to do that sooner rather than later. The A/C still works great, though, so I'm not in a rush to replace it. If it lasts through the season, great -- I'll do it next year after the other restoration work is complete.

Parts: $70, Labor: $0, Labor Savings: $50, Mileage: 128984