Car stereo installation can be a challenging task to the unskilled and clueless in electronics and components, where very few car owners would take it as a challenge and do it by themselves. Most car owners prefer having their systems installed or modified by trained and experienced car stereo installation technicians. This is a misconception amongst car owners that every audio system installation requires a technical expert to work around it.
I would recommend that car owners try to install the systems by themselves, hence saving on costs to hire a technician. Car audio buyers can explore a great, fun experience and exposure by installing car stereo systems. The following is a step-by-step installation guide for novices that would love to explore the intricacies of car stereo installation. It will be a great experience having to remove the factory car stereo system and replacing it with a new system of your taste and liking.
All that is required is a set of screwdrivers and electronics repair kits, electrical tape, panel removal tools, wire strippers, and socket tools, which can be sourced from any electronics shop worldwide. The process in this guide is simple, straightforward, and easy to follow where it has been standardized to suit various car stereo systems. The following are the steps for a successful car stereo installation:
Assessing the existing factory stereo system
A successful car stereo installation procedure requires the car owner to make keen assessments on how to work on it without any damages incurred. The car owner needs to assess all the systems to ensure he or she has the right tools for the job and hence come up with an installation strategy. The owner can also go through the car manual on the audio system part reference.
This will provide reading reference notes and schematic diagrams of the arrangement and wiring of the full audio system. This will facilitate sourcing the right audio system and car stereo installers near you. If this is a headache, you can search over the internet for car stereo installers near me or car stereo installations near me where you can find reputable workshops that do these types of jobs.
A car stereo installation can be complex depending on the type of system being installed and if new allowances to accommodate the audio components are required within the cabin space. The buyer can also shop for discounted audio parts from online or physical stores. The buyer can get great offers at a very affordable rate.
This can be done by searching the internet for car stereo installation near me or car stereo installer near me. The car owner should make an analysis of each individual audio component such as the head unit size, stereo speakers, tweeters, crossovers, and amplifiers. This will help in the determination of what is lacking in the current car stereo setup. This can be achieved by listening to every individual speaker at varying frequencies and volume hence pinpointing what really needs to be changed.
Preparation for car stereo installation
These steps need to be followed to avoid messing up at an early stage when doing a car stereo installation. Park the vehicle at a convenient place where it is level and well lit to the interior, preferably outdoors where there is enough daylight or in a well-lit workshop. Set the parking brake, open the bonnet and while using a socket or wrench tool, remove the negative terminal from the battery and stash it away so that it cannot reconnect itself accidentally. This makes the car safe from short-circuiting, fire, or sparking.
Factory car stereo removal
If you are using a certified car stereo installer, it will save the risks of doing it by yourself. If you feel enthusiastic to make the car stereo installation, you can purchase a car stereo installation manual.
Factory car stereo units come mounted in different ways:
- The systems come bolted to the dashboard by use of brackets.
- They can be mounted to a rail system in the dashboard.
- They can be secured in a metal mounting sleeve by spring sleeves.
We will cover the above three methods on how to remove car stereo systems mounted using the above three methods. This process should not be rushed and if possible the car owner can photograph each and every step because the installation is the reverse of the removal.
Car stereo systems mounted by use of brackets
The trim panels need to be removed which cover the dash and head unit area. Some are single pieced while others are two pieces. Once you remove the trim panel where some are attached either by pressure clips or just placed into place. The brackets will be revealed hence unscrew the bolts and using screwdrivers, unscrew the head unit from its mounting.
Car stereo systems mounted on a rail
Remove the trim panels of the car stereo system by use of panel removal tools. Apply less pressure to avoid breaking the plastic or making scratches to it. Automobile manufacturers sometimes design the systems to be mounted on rails where the spring clips and bolts need to be removed. Slide the head unit out of these rails where they normally pose a challenge in that new systems might not fit exactly or if the car stereo installer wants to reinstall the factory system again it might not fit well.
Car stereo systems mounted on a metal sleeve by spring clips
Whether the car stereo system head unit is double-DIN or single-DIN it can have spring clips installed during manufacturing. This makes it easier for car stereo installers to work around. The car stereo installer can just insert a DIN tool to the head unit and press them in until a click of the spring clips is heard. This will be then followed by sliding out the head unit from its mounting for replacement with a new one.
Disconnecting factory car stereo wiring
The wiring at the back of the car stereo might look complicated at the first look. Their wires are grouped and tied up into harnesses where the car stereo installer needs to unclip the harnesses in order to remove the radio antenna, speakers, and electrical systems. The old head unit will have already been removed completely.
After disconnecting all the wires, it is time to install the dash kit and stereo harness adapter. These units should be specifically for your car make, model, and year of manufacture. The dash kit functions to make the new system once installed to flush completely with the car’s dashboard. The new dash kit is installed by sliding the stereo through the face of the dash kit where it is screwed and secured.
The stereo harness adapter will be used to wire up the new stereo. The stereo harness has color codes, which need to be matched appropriately because each wire has a specific function. The red wire is for the 12V ignition, black for grounding, yellow for a 12v battery, blue for the antennae connection, orange for illumination, brown for mute, orange/white for dimmer, and blue/white wire is for the external amplifier for the subwoofer powering. The other eight wires remaining are for the speakers where each speaker has two, one positive and the other negative.
If the system has a touchscreen on it then you will have to connect the parking brake wire so that it can act as a switch to turn on the video monitor when the parking brake is engaged. Depending on the features available in the head unit, other cables should be connected such as the Bluetooth cable, steering cable, USB cable, auxiliary input cable, and microphone wire.
Soldering and heat shrinking is recommended for the best connections where it creates a permanent connection, which ensures maximum current transfer. Zip ties are used to secure all wires into place when they are installed at the back of the dashboard.
Installing the new car stereo system
Plug the wire harnesses and the antennae to the back of the unit, the ends to the car stereo system harnesses. This if correctly done, the brand new system should be functional and ready to be powered up. Depending on the type of mounting to the dashboard, the procedure to install a car stereo system should be followed accordingly.
Installing the amplifier
A good car stereo installation is complemented with a good amplifier where its function is to boost the audio to the speakers. For a great audio experience, the car owner should install a powerful amplifier, which will enhance the audio experience. A good amplifier should have a high RMS power output rating. Car stereo installer should fix the amplifier to a region with enough space and good circulation of air. This makes the amplifier cool down easily because it emits a lot of heat during operation.
The best location is at the boot of the car and it should be installed upright and not upside down. The power cable from the battery should run to the opposite side of the signal cables. The car stereo installer should ensure this in order to prevent signal noise, which is an audible noise in the background of music. Connect the amplifier to the head unit by use of the wire harnesses.
The next step is to ground the amplifier where you connect the grounding wire to the bare chassis of the car’s body, preferably a bolt. The bolt should be sand scraped off paint so that grounding can be effective.
Installing car stereo speakers
In a car stereo system, speakers are the most crucial components. The whole system is incomplete without speakers of various types and sizes. The typical speakers that each car stereo installation needs to have are tweeters, mid-range speakers, and subwoofers. Each speaker has to be installed strategically and correctly in order to derive the best audio experience from the car audio system.
If the car owner wants to replace all the car speakers, the car stereo installers doing the task will have to remove the interior door panels in order to gain access to the old speakers, mountings, and wiring.
The procedure of installation of all speakers is the same. Some subwoofers come preinstalled in an encasement box which protects the unit and boosts the overall base quality. Their installation is mostly done to the car boot. Each speaker has two wire connections that are the positive and negative terminals. All speakers should be connected to the amplifier. Crossovers can be used if required during the installation. Speaker wires should be routed together with the signal cables on one side and the lead turned on.
All speaker wirings should be well concealed to prevent them from being seen or open to the eye. Wiring tape should be used to tie up wire and wire tubes used to conceal the wires. The fuse should be installed before testing the car stereo system.
Testing the new car stereo system
Before the person tasked with car stereo installation does the final finishes to the newly installed car audio system, he or she needs to test it and check if it is fully functional and working correctly. The testing procedure will involve mainly listening where the ears will be the judge.
The car owner should test the new car audio both when the car is stopped and when it is being driven in on the highway. This will allow the car stereo installer to check for distortion of the system in various scenarios. The driver should test the car audio at a low, mid, and high volume. If no distortion is noted, this shows the technician or the car owner correctly installed the system.
The second thing to be tested are the functionalities of the car stereo such as touchscreen display if available, Bluetooth connectivity, CD/DVD drives, auxiliary ports, smartphone integration apps, and features, FM/AM radio also Satellite radio, and the microphone.
Lastly, the driver should check, while driving, if the head units or remote-controlled car stereo components are easy and intuitive to use. When all components are in working order, the expert tasked with car stereo installation should tidy up the car and fix the dashboard trims and the center console parts to the original state. This will create a good appealing finish to the newly installed car stereo system.