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2002-2004 Ford Explorer

2002 • 2003 • 2004

This article is an overview of your vehicle's audio system and its upgrade options. Looking for step-by-step instructions on installing a car stereo or speakers in your Explorer? We'll include a Crutchfield MasterSheet™ free with your Crutchfield order, or you can purchase one for $9.99.
Ford Explorer

2002 Ford Explorer (Crutchfield Research Photo)


One of the longest-running sport utility nameplates on the road, the Ford Explorer is a classic. These days it does way more than haul kids to soccer practice — over the years Ford has added all sorts of options, including several for the SUV's stereo system. This version of the Explorer was sold with two audio options:

  • the standard system — an AM/FM/CD/tape player with speakers in the front and rear doors;
  • the Mach system — adds a 6-disc in-dash CD changer with an upgraded set of speakers and a powered subwoofer tucked into the cargo area.

Both of these systems are easy to replace, or improve with simple add-ons to give you modern amenities like Bluetooth® and navigation.

Factory radio

Standard Ford AM/FM/CD/cassette radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Replacing your factory radio

The Explorer was available with a vast array of option packages, so it's no surprise that it was also available with two different factory stereo systems.

Standard system

The factory radio is easily removed, and you'll find adapters that'll make almost any stereo fit in its place. You'll need a mounting kit to trim out the new radio, along with a wiring harness that allows you to connect your new radio without having to cut the factory wiring Crutchfield includes these installation parts at a very nice discount with most orders, along with our free step-by-step instructions for your Explorer.

Tools Needed: Small Phillips screwdriver, 7mm driver, panel tool.

Ford Mach radio

Ford radio for the Mach system (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Mach system

The factory radio in the Mach system routes the proper signals to the Ford speakers and subwoofer. If you're keeping the Mach speaker system, then you'll want to buy a car stereo with a high-pass filter so you can remove the low bass from the factory speakers, and a dedicated subwoofer output that will allow you to control the factory sub. The wiring harness that helps you install a new stereo in this Explorer uses RCA connectors to connect to the Ford sub.

Tools Needed: Small Phillips screwdriver, 7mm driver, panel tool.

Aftermarket radio kit

Kit for a DIN-size radio, plus a storage pocket (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Steering wheel audio controls

Some Explorers also have steering wheel controls for the factory stereo system, and these are easy to retain with an adapter. Two companies (PAC and Axxess) make adapters that let you connect your Ford steering wheel audio controls to a new car stereo. The Explorer has a single-wire connection for the steering wheel controls, so both adapters are equally easy to install.

Replacing your factory speakers

Front door speaker in standard system

A front door speaker in the Explorer's standard system (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Standard 4-speaker system

Most Ford vehicles are equipped with 6"x8" speakers, and the Explorer is no exception. You'll find a full-range speaker in each front and rear door, and your options for aftermarket speakers are nearly unlimited. You'll find 6"x8" speakers that fit right into the factory speaker locations, and you can also drop 5-1/4" speakers in there with the help of adapter plates. It's a good idea to get speaker harnesses for your new speakers. They'll allow you to attach the new speakers to the plugs that connect to the Ford factory speakers, and they make it easier to reinstall the factory speakers if you ever sell your Explorer. Crutchfield includes adapter plates (if needed) and speaker wiring harnesses at a deep discount with every speaker order.

Rear door speaker

Rear door speaker (Crutchfield Research Photo)

You'll have to remove the door panels to access the speakers in both the front and rear locations, but it's a relatively simple procedure. A speaker upgrade is a quick and easy way to improve your sound.

Tools Needed: Flat blade and Phillips screwdrivers, panel tool, 7/32", 6mm drivers.

Front door speaker in Mach system

Front door speaker in Mach system (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Mach speaker system with sub

You'll find a plate-style speaker with a separate 1" tweeter and 5" midrange speaker in the front doors, and a full-range speaker in each rear door. Some manufacturers offer 6"x8" plate speakers that will make a nice replacement options up front, but just about any full-range 6"x8" will fit in those doors.

Tools Needed: Flat blade and Phillips screwdrivers, panel tool, 7/32", 6mm drivers.

Adding Bass to your Explorer

factory sub in Mach system

The 8" factory sub in the Mach system (Crutchfield Research Photo)

4-speaker system

Several manufacturers make enclosures that fit in the rear cargo area on the driver's side of the Explorer, so it's easy to add bass to the standard system. To make real noise, there's plenty of room in the cargo area of the Explorer, especially if you don't have a third-row seat, and several compartments in panels and underneath floorboards to tuck amps. Consider a custom-made subwoofer enclosure to get a perfect fit and save space — several companies make them, and they're available with or without subs and amps.

Factory sub and amp

Closeup of the Explorer's factory sub and amp (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Mach system

The Mach stereo system includes an 8" subwoofer and amplifier (60W + 60W to a 1.2-ohm dual voice coil sub) tucked into a special enclosure behind the trim in the rear passenger compartment. A couple of aftermarket subs will fit in the factory enclosure, and can be powered by the factory amp (like Kicker Comp, but it may need a spacer). Because of the low impedance of the factory sub, we really don't recommend this route without replacing the factory amp too. Again, you'll find plenty of options for enclosures designed to fit this Explorer without costing you cargo space, and there's also plenty of room in the back for custom-made enclosure.

JL Audio Stealthbox

The JL Audio Stealthbox is made to fit right into the Explorer.

Note: The Ford radio in the Mach system eliminates low bass from the main speakers so they sound better. If you're keeping your factory radio, you can't tap into the front and rear speaker wires to get a signal for your sub amp. You'll have to tap into the sub signal after the Ford's factory amp.

Tools needed: Panel tool, T47 Torx bit, 7mm and 10mm drivers.

More Options

With a vehicle like the Explorer, there are lots of ways to upgrade your entertainment.

Rear seat DVD system

If you have a factory DVD system in your Explorer, it will no longer work when the stereo is removed, because the DVD's power runs through the factory head unit.

It's not hard to re-route power to the rear DVD system should you want to keep it, but it's also very easy to add an aftermarket DVD system with everything from ceiling-mounted monitors to replacement headrests that include screens and built-in DVD players. These systems can be reasonably simple to install, and they make a nice addition to your Explorer.


The optional Mach system includes a small amplifier that powers the subwoofer in the Explorer's cargo area. The Ford amp is powerful enough to power some aftermarket subs (like the Kicker Comp), but it's a better idea to replace it if you want real power. You'll find plenty of great spots to mount amplifiers in the Explorer — consider the extra spaces under the floor in the rear of the SUV, under seats or behind interior panels. Remember to consider the size of the amp and that it will need air for efficient operation.

Satellite radio

Ford didn't offer satellite radio during these model years, so you won't be losing it if replacing your stereo. If you want it, it's a simple add-on, ranging from removable tuners that easily move between cars, to dedicated tuners that are controlled through compatible aftermarket stereos.


This wasn't an option from the factory, but you won't have a problem adding navigation to any Explorer. Plug-and-play systems offer the versatility to go from vehicle to vehicle, with plenty of mounting options in the Explorer. The dash is also big enough to accept a double-DIN stereo, which allows you to have a full screen and built-in navigation.


There's nothing unusual about this vehicle when it comes to installing security equipment. If you're doing a simple security system, you won't need an interface. The XK05 or FLCAN interfaces would both be good choices if you're installing a remote start system, as they both provide transponder bypass.

Outfitting your Explorer

Quick and easy
Due to the easy-to-remove factory system, your new stereo is really only limited by your budget. Anything fits, from a simple CD player with iPod controls to a top-of-the-line DVD receiver with navigation. A great first step is a double-DIN receiver to really fill out the dash. You'll be adding an aux input for more music choices (think "iPod"), as well as better sound controls and power. It's a great building-block for future add-ons like amps, subs, rear video monitors and more. Throw some new speakers in the doors, and you'll be amazed at the difference they make when fed the improved power from your new radio.

Space saver
If you're mostly using your Explorer to haul gear rather than kids, you don't need stereo equipment taking up valuable space. You can still have an amazing system without sacrificing square footage — look for amps with small footprints to fit in the out-of-the-way spaces in your cargo area. Several top brands also make subwoofer enclosures that were designed specifically for your SUV, and they tuck into the little recesses you probably aren't using, anyway. There's more room for your stuff, and your new stereo equipment is less likely to get banged around.

Kid hauler
As one of the original Kid Taxis, the Explorer now offers more space, an available third row of seats, and better safety features. Improving the A/V gear make it the perfect SUV to carry the family. Restore sanity to long trips with vehicle specific headrest DVD players — many include wireless headphones to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy grown-up music instead of singing cartoon characters. Adding an in-dash stereo with a monitor and an optional rear-view camera helps you stay safe and steer your SUV out of tight spots. Also look for a stereo with Bluetooth capability so you can keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

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