2014-2022 BMW i3
How to install your new stereo and speakers
2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020 • 2021 • 2022
In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your i3's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. We'll tell you all about:
Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your vehicle.
Overview of the BMW i3
Some people look at the BMW i3 and see a boxy little electric car. Other people look at it and see a fascinating engineering exercise that’s chock-full of innovative features. Still others look at it and think, “That’s a BMW? Seriously?” All of these people have a point.
The i3 is a BMW — more specifically, it’s BMW’s idea of what a modern, premium city car can be. Compared to other small electrics designed to navigate the urban jungle, the i3 offers elegance you expect from a "Bimmer" along with efficiency you expect from an EV. It’s kind of like the difference between camping and “glamping.” A pup tent and a sleeping bag will do the job, but a bed, electricity, and plumbing are nice if you can get ‘em.
As with most electric cars, the audio upgrade options are limited in the i3. But you still have options, mostly when it comes to upgrading the speakers. In a car this whisper-quiet, better speakers will allow you to enjoy your music the way you want to, whether you’re zipping around town or slogging through rush hour. This article will show you what you can do and how to do it.
Calling this a radio is a bit of an insult, since it's way more than that. As such, you'll want to leave it in place (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Factory stereo system
The i3’s base system is pretty basic, but the optional 12-speaker Harman Kardon system brings a lot more sound to the party. Replacing the “receiver” (a quaint and outmoded way to describe the all-powerful thing in the center of the dash) isn’t possible in the i3, so we suggest upgrading your car’s speakers if you’re looking for better audio performance.
Upgrading the stereo gear can get complicated in an electric vehicle. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Electric vehicles contain very sensitive electronics. Be sure to only use a multi-meter when testing wires. NEVER test wires in this vehicle with a test light. Doing so could cause serious damage to the vehicle.
- An EV is not the car to choose if you want to build a massively powerful audio system. We do not recommend installing any amplifiers in electric vehicles due to the current draw that they will introduce to the system.
We don’t recommend installing aftermarket amps in electric cars like this one due to the increased current demands that will not do good things to the car. And that also eliminates the possibility of adding a big subwoofer, alas.
The thing in the center of the dash isn’t a radio, it’s more like a control panel. As such, you can't replace it because all sorts of other things will cease to be functional and that would be bad.
The tuner and amplifier are located under the rear seat. To get to them, should you need to, pull the rear seat bottom cushion up from the front edge to release the retaining clips, then remove the seat bottom cushion.
Speaker removal is the clearest path to better sound in your i3 (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing your i3's factory speakers
Okay, so you can't replace the "receiver" in your i3. That's not optimal, perhaps, but you can still upgrade your audio. If you want better sound, upgrading the speakers is the way to go. Enter your vehicle information to see what's available.
Your Crutchfield order will include our illustrated, step-by-step disassembly instructions, plus speaker brackets for some locations. If you have installation questions, your order also includes free tech support for the life of your gear.
This center dash grille covers two Harman Kardon speakers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the center dash speakers (Harman Kardon only)
If your i3 is equipped with the Harman Kardon audio system, there are two speakers in the center of the very cool (made from plant fiber and carbon!) dash — a 4" midrange and a 2.576" tweeter. These speakers are wired in parallel and they’re pretty easy to get to.
Use a panel tool to pry up the center dash grille to release four clips, then remove the grille. In typical BMW fashion, this clip is very tight, so be careful not to damage it when you’re prying it up.
Remove the three Torx T20 screws securing the midrange speaker to the dash, then disconnect the harnesses and remove the speaker. Next, remove the two Torx T20 screws securing the tweeter to the dash and remove it, too.
Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions
A wiring harness is not available for aftermarket midrange speakers, so unless you’re installing a BMW-specific speaker (we have them), you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new one. Similarly, if you’re not using a BMW-specific model here, you’ll need to fabricate your own mounting bracket or use hot glue, silicone, or our universal backstraps to secure the new speaker.
For the tweeters, there are no BMW-specific models, so proceed directly to the aforementioned splice/solder/Posi-Products and hot glue/silicone/universal backstrap protocols.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Torx T20 driver
The pillar speakers are attached to the trim panels, so be careful when you're prying them out (Cruchfield Research Photo)
Removing the front pillar tweeters (Harman Kardon only)
The Harman Kardon system also sports a pair of tweeters in the front pillars that are wired in parallel with the corresponding front door midranges. These tweeters measure 1.684" in diameter, so you’ll need to use hot glue, silicone, or our universal backstraps to install most aftermarket tweeters in this location.
To get to them, pry off the screw cover on the front pillar trim panel, then remove the exposed Torx T30 screw. Starting at the top edge, pry off the front pillar trim panel to release two clips, then pull up the trim panel, disconnect the harness, and remove the panel. Pry the tweeter out of the trim panel to release three tabs, then remove the tweeter.
A wiring harness is not available for these speakers either, so you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors here.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Torx T30 driver
You'll need to remove the front door panels to remove the 4" midrange speakers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the front door midrange speakers
All i3s have 4" midrange speakers in the front doors, and they’re pretty easy to deal with. In the Harman Kardon system, the mids are wired in parallel with the front pillar tweeters.
The removal process starts with prying out the screw cover behind the door release handle, then removing the exposed Torx T20 screw. Next, starting at the front edge, pry out the screw cover inside the door pull cup to release the retaining clips, then remove two exposed Torx T30 screws.
Starting at either lower corner, pry out all sides of the door panel to release ten clips, then pry off the harness clips, disconnect the harnesses and door release cable, then remove the door panel. Finally, remove the three Torx T20 screws securing the speaker to the door, and remove the speaker.
As with some of the other locations we’ve covered so far, installing BMW-specific speakers makes this upgrade a lot easier. If you want to go with something else, you’ll need to splice, solder, or use Posi-Products speaker connectors to connect the new speakers. And you’ll also need to fabricate your own mounting bracket or use hot glue, silicone, or our universal backstraps to secure the new speaker.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Torx T20 and T30 drivers
Removing and replacing the i3's kick panel speakers offers a few (surmountable) challenges (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the kick panel woofers
The largest speakers in the i3 are the 6"x9" models in the kick panels. They’re also the most challenging to deal with, but it’s still a do-able project if you’re patient and determined. You can choose from a nice selection of same-size, 6-1/2", or 5-1/4" aftermarket models. Depending on which speakers you choose, you may have to drill new screw holes or fabricate a speaker bracket. We’ll let you know during the shopping process.
To remove the stock speakers, start at the rear edge and pry up the door scuff plate to release twelve clips, then remove the scuff plate. Next, pull the door gasket away from the body along the dash.
Remove the two Torx T30 screws securing the kick panel grille, then pry out the kick panel to release one clip and remove the grille. You’ll be re-using these grilles, so use care when you’re prying on them.
The challenging part comes on the passenger’s side of the car, where you’ll need to remove the two Torx T30 screws securing the rear edge of the fuse box panel. Once you’ve done that (and it may take some time, because these screws are very hard to get to), lift the panel up to release it from the hinges, then swing it out of the way.
Next, remove the three Torx T30 screws securing the woofer enclosure, disconnect the harness, and remove the enclosure. Remove the four Torx T30 screws securing the top cover to the enclosure, then remove the top cover. From here, just pry the woofer out of the enclosure.
Tools needed: Panel tool, right-angle Torx T30 driver
Harman Kardon-equipped cars have tweeters and midrange speakers in the rear doors (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear door speakers (Harman Kardon only)
The Harman Kardon system also includes 4" midrange speakers and 1.687" tweeters (wired in parallel) in the very neat rear-opening rear doors. Aftermarket speakers are available, though the now-familiar (if not, see above) caveats regarding BMW-specific and not-BMW specific speakers apply here as well. You’ll need to remove the door panels to get to these speakers, which is a reasonably painless process.
Starting at the front edge, pry off the screw cover behind the door pull cup, then remove two exposed Torx T30 screws. Next, starting at either lower corner, pry off the door panel to release ten clips, then disconnect the harnesses, remove the door panel, and place it somewhere safe while you keep working.
With that panel out of the way, you can use your panel tool to pry the tweeter out of the door panel. Next, remove the three Torx T20 screws securing the midrange speaker to the door, then disconnect the harness and remove the speaker.
With some aftermarket mids, you may need to re-drill the mounting screw holes if you’re not installing BMW-specific speakers. This isn’t hard, but you are drilling into a BMW EV, so you don’t want to be sloppy here. Work carefully, know what’s around the area you’re drilling into, and definitely wear eye protection.
Tools needed: Panel tool, small flat blade screwdriver, Torx T20 and T30 drivers, (possibly) drill with 1/8" bit
Just because there's room for a sub enclosure back here doesn't mean it's a good idea to install one (Crutchfield Research Photo)
More bass in your i3
Is there space for a sub enclosure in the i3’s cargo area? Yes, a bit, but as noted above, we don’t recommend trying to install one. This just isn’t the car for a big, banging bass system. A compact powered subwoofer could work, so give us a call or chat with a Crutchfield Advisor to discuss your options.
A set of custom-fit floor liners will keep your carpets looking factory-fresh
Other options for your i3
There are plenty of other ways to give your i3 a personal touch. Here are some of the ways Crutchfield can help.
Protect your car's interior
Everyday life can be a bit much for factory floor mats. A set of custom floor liners from WeatherTech will help protect your car's carpeting from dirt and damage.
The i3 is a whisper-quiet car to begin with, but when it comes to audio, even quieter is better. Installing Dynamat in the doors and rear hatch area can help. This sound-deadening material will keep the noise out and allow you to really enjoy your music.
Find the audio gear that fits your car or truck
Visit our Outfit My Car page and enter your vehicle information to see stereos, speakers, subs, and other audio accessories that will work in your vehicle.