car stereos & components?
1997-2002 Jeep Wrangler
1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002
Jeep Wrangler (Crutchfield Research Photo)
With the 1997-2002 iteration of the fabled Wrangler, Jeep continued to improve the legendary vehicle's around-town capabilities without compromising its off-road bona fides. They were as much fun on the road as they were on a rutted trail. The Quadra-coil suspension and antilock brakes improved everyday handling and safety, while well-chosen interior upgrades made the Jeep's cockpit more comfortable than in previous years. Of course, the iconic shape remained the same, retaining every bit of the "rough and ready" look that's always been a hallmark of the brand. Upgrading some parts of the stereo system in these off-roaders is relatively simple, while there are a couple of areas that require some good old American DIY ingenuity.
Factory stereo system
By its 1997 model year, the Wrangler boasted a reasonably useful factory radio, including an AM/FM/cassette receiver, and in subsequent model years, an optional CD player. The Jeep’s speaker array, on the other hand, had long been a weak point, mostly due to the limited amount of available space. Chrysler attempted to improve the situation by putting larger 5-1/4" speakers in the overhead "sound bar," and offered an upgrade option for an extended 7-speaker setup. This system consisted of separate woofers and tweeters in the front, rear speakers in the sound bar, and a 6-3/4" subwoofer in the center console.
The standard Jeep stereo (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing your factory stereo
The factory radio is a shade over 3" tall, a size common in Chrysler and GM vehicles of this era. With the help of a mounting kit, you can install a standard DIN-sized (2" tall) receiver in the Wrangler.
The upgraded CD stereo (Crutchfield Research Photo)
The receiver is pretty easy to remove and you'll only need a couple of tools (listed below). Start by prying up the top trim panel that stretches all the way across the top of the dash. Removing this will expose two screws securing the top of the center dash console. You'll need to remove a third screw located behind the ashtray. Starting at the bottom, pry out the center console with a panel tool to release the retaining clips. Do the same at the top, then pull the console free of the dash. Now you can get to the stereo and climate controls.
The next step isn't part of the "standard" installation procedure, but our installers and tech support crew recommend it. The FM antenna cable is pretty snug and has a connection behind the glovebox that can easily be pulled loose without you knowing it during the installation process. We suggest removing the glove box and disconnecting this antenna cable before taking out the radio. Then connect it again when you're finished.
Gaining access to this antenna connection is pretty easy. You just need to remove one Phillips screw holding the glove box in place. You'll find the anetenna connection behind the glove box. Disconnect it and then move back to taking out the radio. What you do next will depend on whether your Jeep was made in early 1999 or late 1999.
For 1997 through mid-1999 models, remove two screws securing the radio to the dash, pull out the radio, and remove a 3/8" screw fastening a ground strap to the rear of the radio. Then unplug the wiring harness and antenna cable.
Beginning with later 1999 models, Jeep added a rear support brace behind the stereo. You'll have to reach up behind the stereo with a wrench to remove the bolt. First, remove four screws from the climate control panel that's right below the radio, pull it out, and let it hang free. You should have enough room to reach behind the radio with a 3/8" wrench and unscrew the bolt that's right in the middle of the back of the radio. Once you're done, you can pull the radio out and disconnect the harness and antenna cable, as above.
If your new stereo requires more than six inches of depth, you'll have to remove this rear support bracket. To do so, remove two 10mm bolts at the top of the dash that hold the support bracket in place. Then just lift it out of the dash. If your new stereo is under six inches long, then you don't have to remove the bracket.
To install a new stereo in this Wrangler, you'll need a dash kit, a wiring harness, and an extension cable to extend the antenna cable to the radio location (these parts are included free with most car stereos ordered from Crutchfield). The Jeep's wiring harness does not have a ground connection, so be sure to connect your new receiver's ground wire to a grounding point inside the dash.
Tools needed: Small flat blade screwdriver, Phillips screw driver, panel tool, 3/8" wrench, ratchet & extension, 3/8" socket, (10mm after 1999)
Standard 4"x6" dash speaker (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing Your Speaker System
The Wrangler’s basic system features two 4"x6" full-range speakers, each mounted the lower portion of the under-dash. There was also an option for an overhead sound bar, which holds two 5-1/4" speakers. Getting into these speakers is quite easy, as you only have to take out 4 screws to remove the grille and speaker. In 2002, Jeep offered a 7-speaker system, which consists of a 4" woofer and 1" tweeter on each side of the underdash, the two 5-1/4" speakers in the sound bar, and a 6-3/4" powered sub in the center console.
Upgraded Wrangler factory speakers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
With either system, you can install aftermarket 4" or 4"x6" speakers in the dash locations. You'll need mounting brackets and speaker harnesses, of course, and they're free from Crutchfield with your speaker purchase. With a little bit of work, you can also get a 4" component system in the dash, but the speakers face down at a slight angle, so you won't get the full benefits of the separate tweeter unless you custom-mount it elsewhere.
There's plenty of room in the sound bar, so almost any aftermarket 5-1/4" speakers will drop right in. Since those speakers are right up near your head, it's truly worth spending a little extra for some nice speakers with high-quality tweeters. Textile tweeters are a good idea because they'll be a litle easier on your ears at higher volume levels. Speaker harnesses are available for that location too, making it easier to reinstall your old speakers when you sell your Wrangler.
Mod-Pod speaker enclosures (Photo courtesy of Select Increments)
If a set of 4" front speakers just doesn't seem like quite enought "oomph," there's another option. Select Increments makes Mod-Pods, unloaded enclosures that mount down under the doors in the Wrangler, and can hold 5-1/4" speakers.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, 3/8" socket, ratchet and extension
Bass options for your Jeep Wrangler
Rock-solid bass is crucial if you want to enjoy your music on the open road. Without it, your speakers can sound brash and tinny. With it, your system sounds full and warm, even when you turn it up to combat the road noise. Fortunately, you have a lot of options for adding bass.
In the 7-speaker system, you can replace the 6-3/4" sub in the center console to get more punch, but that process involves some work. You'll have to take the console apart, remove the factory sub, redrill your screw holes, and hope that your new woofer is a good match for the small enclosure. If you go to all this trouble, you'll want to power your new sub with a better amp. The factory amp is a perfect match for the dual voice coil factory sub, but it's just not going to have the juice to drive a high-performance aftermarket sub.
Rear cargo area in the Wrangler (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Otherwise, space is tight in your Jeep, so a powered subwoofer might be the way to go. Powered subs don't take up as much space as a subwoofer box, and most will look right at home in the back of your Wrangler.
There are also several custom-fit sub enclosures available, designed specifically to fit the Wrangler. In addition to the Mod-Pods above, Select Increments also makes the Stealth-Pod, a 10" sub enclosure that bolts onto the back gate. MTX makes a custom-fit ThunderForm enclosure that mounts behind the rear seat. It can be purchased empty or with two 10" MTX subs pre-installed.
Select Increments Stealth-Pod (Photo courtesy of Select Increments)
Security systems: Most security systems will work on a Wrangler. Most of Wranglers had non-power door locks, so if you want your alarm to control the door locks (i.e., keyless entry), you'll have to convert those manual locks to power locks with a power door lock kit. If you want to add a remote start system, newer Jeeps will need a transponder bypass module, like the FlashLogic FLCAN module. Adding security systems is a complex process and is best left to a professional installer. If you have any questions about choosing a security system and getting everything you need, contact our advisors.
iPod® adapters: If you're going to keep your factory radio, you can add an adapter that will let you play and control your iPod through the radio. You're really better off replacing your radio with a new stereo that has a USB input, but if you're a traditionalist and want to keep the stock stereo, at least there's a reliable option for adding iPod/iPhone® control.
Cell phone: You'll find adapters that tie your compatible phone into all Jeep factory radios from 1997 to 2002. These adapters will let you make calls through the stereo and hear your caller over the Jeep's speakers.
Good, better, best
Good: The Jeep’s speakers are pretty basic, so you’d do well to replace them. This is particularly true if you are thinking about keeping the factory radio. In this case, choose speakers with a high efficiency rating, preferably with superior tweeters. If you like running your Jeep topless or you're a hardcore off-roader, consider weatherproof marine-rated speakers.
Better: Replacing the factory radio will give you better sound, plus modern features like smartphone compatibility. You'll also get preamp outputs that will let you expand your system with a subwoofer. And then add some bass. It will make everything sound better.
Best: The crowning touch is power. An outboard amp will give you the wattage you need to keep the music clean when you turn up the volume. A factory radio will distort like crazy when you turn it up on the highway, because it's operating at the very top of its capabilities. With an outboard amp, you don't have to push your system hard to get the listening level you want.
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