Car audio installation tips from Crutchfield tech support
A Q&A session with two of our star techs
In this article Shay and Evan from our tech support team share their top tips for installing car audio gear. From prep to running wires, these techs have ideas for making your big installation day go a little smoother.
If you've never purchased from us or haven't spent much time on our site, you may not know about one of the big benefits of shopping with Crutchfield — free lifetime tech support.
We know that setting up and tweaking your gear can get complicated. Sometimes it's the wiring that can feel daunting. Sometimes you just can't figure out how to turn the power on — yep, it has happened to the best of us. For those problems and every DIY snag in between, we have a team of tech support specialists on hand, seven days a week, to help you.
Meet two of our techs — specialists in car audio
Shay and Evan, two of our star tech support specialists, help customers with all sorts of questions about car audio gear and installations. They agree that it always helps to have some solid tips before diving into a DIY project. Here are some of the most common topics and problems they troubleshoot, and some of their best advice to help you get prepped for installation success.
Tips for easier car audio installations
Q: The tweeters of my component speaker set are going in my dash, so where should I put the crossovers?
Shay: "If the factory locations of your tweeters are in the dash, look for component speakers systems with inline crossovers on the tweeters. That makes life a lot easier. But if you have your heart set on a system with external crossover boxes, I recommend mounting them near or above the kick panels. That way, you can connect to the factory woofer wiring before it goes into the doors, then run wire straight up to the tweeters in the dash. If you need help identifying wires, you can always call us!"
Q: What should I expect when installing remote start or car security system?
Evan: "Set aside plenty of time. Some vehicles may be a breeze to get through, but in the case of the 2011 Ford Taurus I was recently working on, I had to remove the factory radio to access the ignition switch. That's where the T-harness needed to go for the iDatastart remote start system.
Another consideration is where to place any module that's part of the system. For the Taurus, I needed to fit it somewhere underneath the dash where it wouldn't interfere with any essential vehicle controls like the steering column or the brake pedal.
Oh, and FYI, before you test your new remote start system, the vehicle's hood and doors will need to be closed."
Q: Have any insider tips for installing a stereo and an iDatalink interface?
Evan: "iDatalink Maestro modules are awesome — they let you retain factory features when you install a new stereo. Be sure to program these things with a computer or mobile device before you install them to ensure they work with your exact vehicle. When you do, iDatalink makes a lot of essential info available to you, like wiring guides and custom settings cards. Some of that info becomes unavailable after 48 hours, so be sure to download everything you think you'll need long-term."
Check out our article and video highlighting the iDatalink Maestro.
Q: What's the best approach to installing a "floating screen" car stereo?
Shay: "The displays on these stereos are BIG, and not every dash is the same, so aftermarket manufacturers tend to make these as adjustable as possible to ensure universal fit. Some use a swivel-mount, while most allow for up/down and forward/back adjustment. Typically, you need to make your adjustments before you install the stereo, so whenever possible I recommend dry-fitting it. That will give you a sense of how to avoid blocking vents and buttons you use every day."
For more info, see my article about floating screen stereos.
Q: What are your pro tips for any installation?
Evan: "Cris, my trainer here at Crutchfield, gave me two standout tips that are so simple yet essential. Ready? Don't keep any sharp tools on your seat while you're working. It might be convenient, but if you rest anything heavy on them, there's a good chance you'll damage the upholstery, and that's a goof that's not fun to fix. The other tip I loved is if you don't have extra-large zip-ties, just daisy-chain two (or more) together and they work great!"
Or, you can add some cable ties to your Crutchfield order!
Q: What's the best way to prep for an installation?
Shay: "Read any directions we provide before you start. For stereos and speakers, we tell you everything you need to know, including which tools you'll need for a smoother install. For other installations, like backup cams and amplifiers, we have how-to overviews and videos."
Q: What's a discovery you'll never forget?
Evan: "Well, I had a speaker in my own car that I was sure had blown, because I kept hearing a buzzing sound. When I removed it for replacement, I discovered there was nothing wrong with the speaker. After some investigation, I discovered that the sound was being made by the car door's vapor seal — sound made it vibrate. That was an easy fix! So, the lesson there, I think, is to keep a cool head and don't always assume the worst first."
Q: Any tips for running USB cables?
Shay: "If you're installing a stereo, chances are good you'll want to run a USB cable to your phone to use features like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, charging, and more. A handy way to find a clean path inside your dash is to shine a light up from under the glove box toward the back of the stereo. Then, aim for the light and route your cable through. From there you have lots of options on where to stash that cable for easy connection."
Have more questions? Explore our articles and videos
If your first instinct isn't to call tech support for help, we totally get it — you're a tried and true DIYer. Check out our vast library of how-to guides, FAQs, videos, and more for the answers you need in your installation adventures.