How to install car speakers
Installing new speakers is the single most cost-effective improvement you can make to your vehicle's audio/video system. Not only are aftermarket speakers relatively inexpensive, they are typically not difficult to install.
You can install many of the speakers we sell with a few tools that you probably have around your house. The free brackets, wiring harnesses, and detailed instructions that Crutchfield will send you with the speakers you buy from us (when available for your specific vehicle) will save you time and effort.
What you'll need to complete the job
Each car presents its own specific type of installation issues, varying on factory speaker locations, mounting depth and height, and the vehicle's factory wiring. Many installations are straightforward — a screwdriver might be all that you require to complete the job. Other installations can be more involved, particularly if you're installing component speakers. Your MasterSheet? instructions from Crutchfield will specify the exact tools you need, and walk you through the process step-by-step.
The tools you'll need might include, but aren't limited to:
- a variety of screwdrivers (Phillips, stubby Phillips, flat-blade, and magnetic or offset screwdrivers)
- Torx drivers and bits
- drill (with screwdriver and bits)
- Allen wrenches
- socket wrench set
- wire cutter/stripper tool
- soldering iron and solder
- crimping tool and connectors
- panel removal tool
- retaining clip remover (or a screwdriver covered with a shop rag)
- a file
- electrical tape
- exacto knife
Every car is different, so you may encounter issues that differ from the ones described here. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind as you plan your speaker installation.
Types of installations
After you identify your vehicle on our Vehicle Selector and select the mounting location, you'll see which speakers fit your car. Speakers labelled "E-Z" will fit in the factory speaker openings and use the factory grilles and brackets. The magnet fits the available space and the tweeters won't interfere with your grilles.
Other sizes — labelled "P" — fit with the aid of a mounting bracket (free with speaker purchase), or with minor modifications (such as drilling new screw holes, cutting a small area of metal or pressboard, or filing cardboard or plastic to make room for a speaker that is larger than the factory opening).
Component speaker systems include separate woofers, tweeters, and crossovers. The component woofers will install in your factory speaker locations, but the tweeters usually require custom installation. This typically involves drilling holes in the door panels or dash, depending on where you choose to mount the tweeters.
If Q-Logic makes a Q-Form replacement kick panel for your vehicle, you can mount both the woofer and tweeter in the custom-fit enclosure. Depending on the vehicle, you may have to bend or relocate the parking brake pedal or other parts. Enter your vehicle in the Vehicle Selector and click on the Kick Panel Enclosures tab to see specific information on installation details for your vehicle.
When you install your new speakers, you'll have a set of free instructions specific to your vehicle, as well as free Crutchfield speaker wiring harnesses (when available), which eliminate the need for splicing.
Replacing dash speakers
Most dash speakers are easily replaced by removing the grilles, which are held down by screws or friction fittings. You might need to use a 90-degree (offset) screwdriver to get at the screws near the windshield.
If the grille is held in place by friction fittings, carefully pry it up. To avoid scratching or cracking the surrounding dash as you do this, it's a good idea to put something broad and flat (like a putty knife) underneath whatever you're using to pry up the grille.
If the application of slight pressure is not enough to remove the grille, proceed cautiously. In some cases the grille is secured from below by screws, or by plastic studs which can break with excessive force. In such cases, the entire dash panel may need to be removed.
Remove the old speakers, making sure to note the polarity of each terminal. (The speaker's positive terminal is the larger of the two, and usually is marked with a "+" or a colored dot.) Use your wiring harness to attach the new speaker, or solder or crimp the connections as your installation requires.
Don't use electrical tape to secure the connections. Because your dash is subject to more temperature and climate extremes than almost any other part of your vehicle's interior, the electrical tape will deteriorate in short order, and you'll run the risk of a loose connection.
Replacing door speakers
In many cars, door speakers are the easiest to replace. In many newer cars, manufacturers have notched a slot into the edge of the grille. All you have to do is take a screwdriver, pop out the grille, and unmount the factory speaker.
Some grilles are mounted by screws or friction fittings, and require you to remove the screws or pry the grille to remove the speaker. There are three basic steps to replacing a door speaker in a vehicle like this.
Step 1. Remove the grille and factory speaker. Be gentle with the speaker, since it probably is attached to a wiring harness and you might want to reinstall the factory speakers if you sell the car later. Some manufacturers also use a sealant or foam when they first mount the speaker — you might need to cut through that material with a utility knife.
For many speakers, Crutchfield supplies plug-in harnesses to simplify wiring.
Step 2. Unplug the factory wiring harness, and attach the Crutchfield wiring harness to your new speaker's terminals, again making sure that the polarity is correct. With the wiring harness connected to your new speaker, simply plug the other end of the harness into the factory wiring harness. If a wiring harness is unavailable, you will need to solder or crimp the connections. Test the speaker before you put it into place.
Step 3. Check one last time to be sure that all of your wiring is secure, then screw the new speaker into place in the factory mounting and re-attach the factory grille.
If you have to remove the door panel
In some cars, you'll have to remove the door panels to get the factory speakers out. As always, your Crutchfield instructions will walk you through this procedure step by step. Start with the window crank. Some are secured with a screw at the pivot, which is sometimes hidden by a piece of snap-on trim.
A panel tool can help you remove window cranks without damaging your vehicle's interior.
Most, however, are held in place by a spring clip. We carry an inexpensive retaining clip tool designed to remove this clip, but with a little more effort you can also do it using a small flat-head screwdriver. Depress the surrounding door panel, look behind the window crank, and rotate the handle until you see the spring clip. Then gently push it off with the screwdriver.
After removing the window crank, remove the armrest (usually secured with a few Phillips head screws) and any trim around the door handle. The only thing holding the door panel on now should be a half dozen friction fittings and possibly a few more screws.
With all the screws removed, start at a bottom corner and pull the panel straight out. Use our trim panel tool or a large flat head screwdriver. Once the corner is loose, work across the bottom of the door panel and up both sides, again being careful not to use too much force. With the bottom and sides loose, the panel should now be hanging by some trim that sticks down into the window well. Lift straight up and it should come free. Replace the speakers as described in the previous section.
Modifying your door to custom mount full-range speakers
Modifying your door to accept speakers requires ingenuity and labor, but allows you to position the speaker at a location you prefer. You also can usually choose whether to top-mount or bottom-mount your speaker. (Top mounting tends to be easier and requires less mounting depth.) This work involves cutting metal, plastic, and/or fabric. (Note: Component speaker installations typically make use of the factory speaker location to mount the woofer. The custom installation of the tweeter and crossover is covered on page 3).
To find the best location for your speakers, look at the template that comes with them. You'll find it with the instructions, or printed on the box. Place the template over the potential mounting areas and observe any obstructions behind the surface (such as interior door parts) or obstacles (such as an irregular mounting surface).
When you examine the surface you're about to cut, make sure that the installation won't affect other mechanisms. In particular, check to ensure that the speaker and grille will not interfere with the window and crank. Look at the clearance with the window rolled down. If it's close, roll the window up and down before you do anything permanent. Also, close the door. The mechanism that holds the door open can intrude into the speaker cavity.
Check behind the door panel to see how much metal you need to cut from the door frame. Locate the speaker mounting position on the back of the door panel. Tape the template on the exact spot and trace the inside edge with a pen. Lay the panel flat on a clean surface and cut out the circle with a sharp utility knife. Be patient. A dull blade or too much haste might rip the fabric.
Cut your metal using a jigsaw, but be careful here. You need to wear eye protection, and cut very carefully to make sure you don't mar or rip the surface. Don't cut through the door panel and metal at the same time. If you try to cut both layers at once, you might rip the panel covering. When cutting exposed metal or metal covered by a plastic panel, wrap the base of the saw with electrical tape to prevent marring. Also, keep the blade clear from the car's exterior, where it could cause pockmarks. Vacuum the debris when you are finished.
Connecting the full-range speaker in your modified door
You might need to do a little extra work to connect the speaker you've installed in a non-factory location in your door. Start the wiring process by using the factory rubber tubing between the door and the door jamb to run speaker wires from the door into the car body. (If needed, you can get some from the car dealer or a junkyard.)
If you don't see a factory boot or plug, use a drill to create a 5/8" hole. Make sure the hole gets you to the desired speaker location. Sometimes, structural steel supporting the hinges will isolate this edge of the door.
Protect the wiring from the sharp edges of the holes with a rubber grommet, several layers of electrical tape, or flexible tubing run between the two holes. This will keep the insulation from becoming cut or worn when you open the door. Also, position the wire where it won't be pinched by the hinge or a portion of the door jamb. Leave enough slack so the door can open all the way.
If your new speaker is designed to be top-mounted, you can replace the door panel after you run the wire through the jamb. (If you're using bottom-mount speakers, attach the speaker to the panel before you reassemble the door.)
When the door panel is properly positioned, push the friction fittings back into their seats and replace enough of the screws, armrest, etc., to hold the panel loosely in place. Do not clip on the window crank, since you might have to remove the panel again.
Hold the speaker in its new home, mark the screw holes and remove the speaker. Drill the holes. Crimp quick-slide terminals onto your speaker wire and connect the wire to the speaker, noting the proper polarity. If you can, use "speed clips" over the new screw holes. Speed clips are slotted pieces of metal through which you drive the screw. They give the screws something extra to hold on to, providing support when the door is slammed.
After you've attached both speakers to the panels, connect your wires to your receiver or amplifier and listen to some music. If they work properly, finish re-attaching the panels, window cranks, door handles, and trim pieces.
Installing rear speakers
Again, speakers labelled "E-Z" by our Vehicle Selector will fit in the factory speaker openings and use the factory grilles and brackets. Installing "E-Z" rear speakers is much like installing "E-Z" door speakers. You'll follow the same basic steps:
- remove the factory grilles
- unscrew the factory speakers
- unplug the factory speakers and plug in your new ones
- then reverse the procedure to mount your new speakers
Some rear speakers fit into specially molded speaker housings or wells. For example, many GM models include under-deck speaker hangers designed for factory 6"x9" speakers. Your Crutchfield MasterSheet instructions will detail how to install speakers in these locations.
Let's take a look at an example speaker installation to get an idea of what's involved. We'll be going step-by-step through a component speaker installation in the front doors of a Ford Ranger pickup.