How to install a car stereo
Learn about a typical car stereo installation
Robert Ferency-Viars is the managing editor for the Crutchfield car A/V learning content, and has been with the company since 1999. A Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he loves spending time with his wonderful wife and sons, listening to music, writing, and playing games with friends. Robert's love for car audio began at 16 when he installed his first car stereo.
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Watch this video for a step-by-step overview of a basic car stereo installation. The installation shown in this video is only one example — the actual steps involved vary from car to car.
The vehicle-specific Crutchfield MasterSheetsm included with your order will illustrate the specific installation steps required for your vehicle. Use our vehicle fit tool to see if we have a MasterSheet and installation gear for your car.
How to install a car stereo | Video Transcript
Today we're going to take you through a typical car stereo installation. Every vehicle is different, but with our help you can do this yourself. We've asked someone from our tech support department to help out today, so let's dive in and get started.
If you buy your stereo from us, we'll send you a set of instructions specific to your vehicle called a Mastersheet. These instructions walk you through the process of taking out the old stuff and putting in the new stuff. And with our database of over 25,000 vehicles, chances are we have a MasterSheet for your car.
You'll need some installation hardware also, including a wiring harness that connects your new stereo to your car's electrical system. Many installations also require a mounting kit which fills in any gaps between your new stereo and your vehicle's trim. Today, however, our stereo will fit into the dash without needing one of these. Wiring harnesses, trim kits and other installation gear are available at a deep discount when you buy your new stereo from Crutchfield.
Step #1: Connect the wiring harness
The first step is one that you can do before you even go out to your car, and that's connecting the two wiring harnesses. The first harness is the one that comes with the stereo, and the other is a vehicle-specific harness that connects to your car. The process is straightforward thanks to the color-coded wires, but you'll want to refer to your wiring diagrams to make sure you make the right connections.
There are several ways to connect all these wires. Crimping them is easy and fast, but soldering creates a more permanent and secure connection. For the best of both worlds, try Posi-Products wiring connectors. They're even easier than crimping and just as secure as soldering.
So now we've connected the car harness to the stereo harness using the Posi connectors. If your stereo plays videos or DVDs, then you'll also have a really long green wire that has to be connected to your parking brake. We'll show you how to connect that wire in a little while.
Step #2: Disconnect the car's negative battery terminal
Before you start disassembling the dash, make sure you disconnect your car's negative battery terminal. That'll prevent us from causing any accidental shorts once we're moving around inside the cavity.
Step #3: Disassemble the dash
In this car, we start the disassembly by removing a top trim panel first. In order to avoid gouging the vinyl, we recommend using a plastic trim panel tool like this one to gently pry the panels loose. Once you get started, you can usually remove the rest of the panel by slipping your fingers inside and feeling for the location of the clips. Once you find a clip, you can simply pop the panel loose. Your Mastersheet comes in handy here, telling you where the clips are and which panels to remove.
Step#4: Remove your factory radio
Next, remove your factory radio. Be sure to collect all of your screws somewhere safe. Your Mastersheet will let you know which electrical dash connections to unclip and which ones to leave alone.
Tip: Run needed cables after removing your factory radio
While your factory radio is out, you can run any extra cables you may need, like rear USBs, RCAs for connecting to an amp, or a Bluetooth microphone.
Our stereo plays DVDs, so we'll take this opportunity to connect that long green wire to our parking brake wire. Following the Mastersheet, we have disassembled our mid console to expose the parking brake wire. Using a Posi-Tap connector, connect the green wire from the harness to the wire here. Posi Products really make this connection simple.
Tip: Connect the antenna adapter
This particular car uses an antenna adapter to hook up the AM/FM radio, but again, all cars are different and your Mastersheet is your guide. A quick note about antenna adapters: if the adapter has a wire on it, usually blue, be sure to connect that to one of the blue wires on your harness. That wire turns on an antenna booster. If you don't connect, you won't have any FM reception.
Step #5: Connect and install the new stereo
Now it's time to put in the new stereo. Following the Mastersheet instructions, use the harness to connect your new stereo to your car's harness. Make sure to connect any rear-mounted cables.
One note before we reconnect the battery terminal: If you've disconnected any connectors relating to the airbag, make sure you reconnect them first. We don't want to trip an error light that would need resetting. Once you've confirmed the stereo is working great, now you can reassemble your dash.
Step #6: Reassemble the dash
Once everything's reassembled, re-connect your negative battery terminal and you're good to go. If you buy your stereo from Crutchfield, you'll have access to our expert tech support if you hit a snag. And while you're shopping, take advantage of our vehicle fit guide to make sure you only get the gear that'll fit your vehicle, and that you get everything you need.