Component Speakers Installation Guide
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Component speaker systems use separate woofers, tweeters, and crossovers to send out detailed, dynamic sound. The crossovers send the low frequencies to the woofers and the highs to the tweeters, freeing up each driver to play with incredible clarity. Component speakers offer the listener greater imaging possibilities than full-range speakers via increased flexibility in placement, aim, and control. Getting the great sound that components have to offer does come with a price. Component speaker installations generally require more time and effort than coaxial speaker installations. Depending on your vehicle and where you choose to place your components, they may require drilling or cutting. But don't be intimidated; this installation guide can help even first-time installers find their way through the process.
What this guide provides
This installation guide will help you decide on the best location for your new components, as well as help you prepare for and complete the installation.
The dash, doors, and kick panels serve as the most common homes for woofers. In many cases, you'll be able to mount the woofers in the factory speaker locations with little to no adjustments — the "easy fit" option. At most, you'll have to drill extra screw holes, cut a small area of metal or pressboard, or file the door panel. "Modify fit" speakers require a greater degree of cutting and drilling. Before you begin, you must be sure that modifications will not interfere with any car mechanisms, and that the speakers will fit securely. Though you can relocate any speaker, whether it be "easy" or "modify" fit, be aware that the process can be complicated and time-consuming, especially for first-time installers.
Install your woofer in your door or in your kickpanel (shown here in a QLogic kickpanel pod).
Many people choose to install their tweeters on the doors, the sail or kick panels, or the dash. Tweeter installations require some panel modifications, as very few vehicles come with factory tweeter mounts. The degree of modification depends on the mounting method. Just as it sounds, surface-mounting places the tweeter on top of a surface, with little to no modifications necessary. Of course, this method will leave you with a more noticeable installation. A flush-mount, on the other hand, gives a smooth, customized look. It requires cutting a hole into the door panel for the tweeter so it sits level with the interior panel. Whichever method you choose, most manufacturers recommend that you mount your tweeters within 12" of the woofers. Otherwise, the high and low frequencies may reach your ears at different times, resulting in a sonic wave cancellation or "phase interference."
Place your tweeters in the door, the sail panel, even the dash (not pictured).
Though crossovers usually require little in the way of car adaptation, finding the right place to house them can be tricky. The crossovers need to be kept in a place where they won't interfere with any of the car's moving parts, and where they won't get wet or vibrate. While some people choose to permanently mount them under the seats or on display, it's often just as easy to find a convenient spot for them behind the mounting panel near the speakers. The closer the crossover is to the speakers, the better, as the proximity will cut down on noise. The doors and behind the kick panels serve as two good options for housing crossovers.
Crossover placement is just as important as speaker placement.
The following installation instructions will also apply if you are adding a set of speakers (midranges, tweeters) to your current aftermarket system.
Remember, as with any electronic installation, disconnect the negative cable on your battery before doing anything else. Also, make sure you have the necessary tools on hand (see the first page for details).
Disconnect your battery before any installation job.
Door mounting woofers
Most car manufacturers build the factory woofers into the door and, often, your new woofer will easily fit into that factory speaker hole. You may still have to dismantle part of your door to install it, however. Here's how:
Removing the grille
With a flathead screwdriver, gently pry off the grille of the existing speaker. Car manufacturers usually create a notch in the grille for this very purpose. Grilles secured to the door or attached by friction fittings will require unscrewing or more aggressive prying.
Popping off the speaker grille is easy.
Removing the door panel
You may need to remove the door panel to access the factory speaker, or to custom install your speakers. In this case, start by removing the window crank (if you have one). A screw at the pivot secures some cranks, but most come anchored by a spring clip. You can use a window-crank removal tool (available from Crutchfield) or a flathead screwdriver to remove this clip. To remove, depress the door panel until you can see behind the crank, turn the lever until you see the prongs of the clip, and gently push the crank off with the screwdriver. The clip will pop off, so be careful.
As the first step of removing the door panel, unscrew or unclip the window crank.
Remove armrest and rest of panel
Next, you'll have to remove the armrest by unscrewing a few phillips-head screws and some trim fittings around the handle. Once the armrest is unattached, you can remove the door panel. For most cars, you'll find the panel fastened by a few screws and friction fittings. With the screws removed, begin prying off the door panel at the bottom corner. Use a panel tool (available from Crutchfield) or, if you don't have one on hand, two putty knives can also do the trick. Once you loosen the bottom and sides, the panel should hang from some trim at the window well. Simply lift up on the trim, and the panel should come free.
The arm rest removes easily by taking out a few screws and some trim fittings.
Use a panel tool or a flathead screwdriver to pry off the door panel.
Remove the old speaker
Carefully lift out the old speaker and detach it from the wiring harness. Some manufacturers use a sealant foam when mounting the original speakers, so you may need to cut through that with a utility knife. Set the factory wiring harness aside. You'll need to wire the woofer to the crossover before routing it to the head unit. See Page 5 for more wiring instructions.
Take out the factory speaker and disconnect the wiring harness.
Make adjustments accordingly
Usually, you'll be able to fit the new speaker into the hole with no difficulty, but sometimes the hole can be too narrow or shallow to accommodate it. In this case, you may have to file or trim part of your door or speaker opening, or anchor your speaker basket to the mounting location.
You should surface-mount your tweeters if you want to minimize labor time and modifications, or if you don't have the depth to flush-mount. Surface-mounting may also offer greater angle range than flush-mounting. With a surface-mount, a cup secured to a surface with a screw holds the tweeter in place. You will need to drill a small hole in the panel to secure the mounting cup and run the speaker leads to the tweeter (see previous page for instructions on removing the door panel).
A surface-mount tweeter (shown here in door sail panel) is an easy way to add improved sound to your system. Inset shows tweeter cups with screw hole.
The advantage of a flush-mount lies in its sleek, factory-look, since the tweeter does not protrude from the panel. Many manufacturers also include angle-mounts that allow you to aim the tweeters slightly, even when they're mounted within the panel. When flush- or angle-mounting your tweeters, you'll need to drill or cut a hole in the panel to accommodate the entire tweeter.
Drilling and trimming a flush-mount tweeter hole is more laborious, but the end result is less protrusive than a surface-mount.
Installing flush-mount tweeters
First, trace the tweeter cup on the panel or dash. Use a drill with a serrated circular blade to cut the hole, and then trim it with a sharp knife. Mount the tweeter (your tweeter will come with specific instructions for this step).
Protecting the crossover
Make sure you house the crossover in a dry place, such as in a hollow space behind the plastic door panel. If you must mount it on the door metal, wrap the crossover in a plastic bag and tape the openings to keep it safe from moisture.
Find a safe place to stow your crossover.
The crossover should be secure against vibration. Merely placing the crossover in the door or kickpanel leaves it likely to be tossed around. Also, as with the speaker installation, you'll want to make sure the crossover does not interfere with any moving parts. Put the crossovers through the same rigorous tests as you did the speakers, specifically with respect to window and door mobility.
How your system should connect: receiver to crossovers, crossovers to speakers.
Since you'll most likely install the components in new, unwired locations, you'll have to spend some extra time wiring them. Component speakers also come with external crossovers, so the wires running from the receiver must first be routed to the crossover, and then to the individual woofers and tweeters. If connecting an amplifier as well, the amp should be wired between the receiver and the crossover.
If you're connecting an amp, make sure you connect the receiver to the amp first, and then connect to the crossovers.
Wiring through existing door boot
Once you've found the best location for your component system, you'll need to hook it up. Fortunately, most cars sport a rubber boot that connects between the door and the car body. Using this boot as a conduit, run your speaker wires off the door, underneath the kick panels, and to your receiver or external amplifier. You can easily do this by taping the wire to a straightened coat hanger and fishing everything through the interior panels.
The rubber boot that protects your door wires' journey to the dash is a great place to house your speaker wires.
Test-driving your system
At this point, you'll want to test your system before fully reassembling your doors. Loosely attach the door panel to the door, barring the window crank. If you chose to bottom-mount your speakers, mount your speakers in the door before hanging the panel. Holding the speaker in its new hole, mark the screw holes; then remove the speaker, and drill accordingly.
Pull the wires through the door and attach them to the speaker. As long as you're consistent, it does not matter which terminal you use as positive and negative. Next, hang the speaker in the door. You may need to use "speed" clips (often provided) to give the speaker screws extra support. With all speakers in place, you can listen to your stereo to make sure it works to your liking. Once you're satisfied, finish reattaching your door panel.
Cutting a wire hole
If your car doesn't have a rubber boot, you'll have to drill a 5/8" hole to string the wiring through. Before drilling, make sure the hole will have access to the desired speaker location, as structural steel sometimes blocks the edge of the door. Cover any sharp edges of the hole with a rubber grommet, several layers of electrical tape, or some flexible tubing. Make sure the door will stay open all the way, and that the wire will not get pinched by the hinges or door jamb. Once you finish drilling and cutting, vacuum all metal debris before finally installing the speakers to prevent rattling or shorts.
Custom woofer installation
Nothing competes with placing your speakers in the location that you determine emits the best possible sound. You may even end up locating your woofers in locations that don't already have speaker holes. In that case, you need to make some. Here's what you need to know.
Q-Logic custom kick panel pods provide a great way to install your components. The pods enable you to aim and position the speakers in a way that maximizes sound imaging — as close to equidistant from your ears as possible. Using a kick panel pod also eliminates the need to run wires through your door (some vehicles may require bending the parking break). Your Q-form comes with detailed installation instructions. If a Q-Form kick panel is available for your vehicle, you can mount both the woofer and tweeter in the custom-fit enclosure.
A kickpanel pod, like this model in a 1992-94 Chevrolet truck, positions your speakers for great stereo imaging. Plus, they match your interior!
Creating a custom speaker hole
First, remove the speaker template from the box and make sure that the surface you'll be cutting can accommodate the size of the woofer. Also check to make sure nothing behind the door panel will obstruct the speaker. For instance, will the window still move freely once the speaker's in place? Will the door open and swing out without interference? Is the locking mechanism unimpeded? You should double check before making any adjustments.
Top-mount vs. bottom-mount
Second, will you top-mount or bottom-mount your speakers? In a top-mount, the lip of the speaker rests over the edge of the hole. This method usually requires less mounting depth and a little less labor. A bottom-mount involves recessing the entire speaker into the hole so that no part protrudes — perfect if you need to create clean lines. If you plan on mounting your tweeter on the woofer, however, the tweeter may stick out slightly from the woofer plane. Since you will need to fit the grille over the speaker, make sure the speaker protrusion does not exceed the grille depth.
Top-mount your speakers for ease of installation. Bottom mount them for a sleek look.
Measure twice, cut once
Once you have decided on the location and mounting depth, use the template as a guide to cutting your hole. A bottom-mount hole may need to be larger than a top-mount hole. If bottom-mounting, check to see if you need a mounting ring and if the instructions suggest cutting a certain hole size. Trace your hole on the back side of the door panel, lay the panel on a flat, clean surface, and carefully cut the hole (a sharp utility knife works well on plastic).
Double check to make sure you're not interfering with a major door function (like window mobility) before you cut!
On cutting metal
You may be able to find a speaker location which already overlaps with an existing hole. If not, you'll need to drill a hole large enough in which to fit a jigsaw. Make sure your jigsaw has a metal-cutting blade. If cutting a small area, you may use a hacksaw instead. When drilling or cutting, always wear eye protection. Do not cut the door panel and the metal at the same time; you may rip the panel covering. Wrapping the base of the saw with electrical tape may prevent scratching of the surface metal as well. Keep the blade from touching the car's exterior panel, as it can cause pock marks.
If you're experiencing a rattle or buzz from your speakers, it may be due to some debris or a loose mount. Remove your speaker, shake it out, and reattach it, making sure to secure the screws. If you still hear a rattling, your speaker may have a loose part, or your driver might be blown.
Use speaker baffles or a Dynamat kit to cut down on extraneous noise.
For optimal noise dampening, try a speaker baffle or a Dynamat kit. For more on speaker baffles, see "Environmental damage" below. Dynamat's noise-reducing technology stifles speaker rattle, engine rumble, road noise, and any other noises that might emanate from a metal environment. Dynamat allows your bass to thunder boldly and your highs to soar clearly, while eliminating competition from extraneous sounds. You can purchase Dynamat kits for your door, trunk, speaker, license frame, or bulk matting.
Do you hear annoying distortion? If so, your speakers probably can't handle the pressure supplied by your amp or receiver. Check the RMS ratings given for your speakers and your amp or receiver. They should be close in power ratings — an amp with a power rating that's a little higher is fine. Regardless, backing off the power a little should clear up the distortion. First, try listening at a slightly lower volume. If that's not enough, try turning down the gain on the amp. For tips on properly setting the gain on your amplifier, check out this entry in our Car Amplifiers FAQ.
Bass blockers can help relieve strain on small speakers.
If necessary, you can also install a set of bass blockers to reduce strain on your component speakers. Bass blockers block the lowest frequencies from getting to the speakers, which is where most distortion enters the picture.
Out of phase
If your bass sounds weaker on one side of the car than another, you may have attached a set of speaker wires to the wrong set of terminals. Simply reverse the leads on one set of terminals of the weak speaker. As long as you're consistent, it does not matter which terminal you designate positive or negative.
Be consistent with how you attach wires to your speaker terminals to avoid phase distortions.
A vehicle endures all weather conditions — wet, dry, hot, and cold. That means your speakers must, too. Moisture causes speaker damage. If you find your speaker performs poorly in certain weather conditions, you may try a set of speaker baffles. These soft foam surrounds not only seal out moisture, they also protect the speaker against dust and dirt, and block road noise at the same time. If your speakers perform well, you can still use speaker baffles to prevent future environmental damage.
Speaker baffles are also a great way to minimize damage to a speaker resulting from dust or moisture.
Baffles can also prevent your speakers from shorting out. Mounting your speakers close to metal sometimes results in inadvertent contact between the speaker and the metal, causing a short. Speaker baffles create a barrier between the speaker and the metal, eliminating the problem. You can also prevent shorts by wrapping the speaker terminals with electrical tape.