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How to connect an amplifier to a factory stereo

Tips for using your car's factory wiring

Factory stereo speaker wires

Adding an amplifier to a factory stereo often requires running a lot of new speaker wire — from the stereo to the amplifier and then from the amp to the speakers. This can feel like an impossible nightmare. Fortunately, we have a way to make it a little easier. 

Note: This article explains how to connect an amplifier to a factory stereo system that does not include a factory amp. A Crutchfield article about connecting an amp to a factory-amplified system will become available soon.

If you have an aftermarket stereo, you'll use a set of RCA cables instead of one of the 9-wire cables below. Refer to our article about adding an amp to an aftermarket stereo for more details. 

Crutchfield 9-wire speaker cable

Multi-conductor cable to the rescue

Usually, you'll be installing a 4-channel amplifier with speaker-level inputs. The best way to connect it to a factory system is to tap into the stereo's speaker outputs for the amp's input signal. Then send the amp's outputs back to the stereo's harness, and on to the speakers through the factory wiring.

"All-in-one" Crutchfield 9-wire speaker cable makes this easier by including the wiring for four speakers and an amp turn-on lead all in one cable. Run two of these cables from the dash to your new amplifier. You'll need one for the amp's input and the other for its output. These cables will act like a "T-harness" to connect your amp to the factory system.

Remove the radio to get to the factory wiring

Behind the factory radio, you can access all of the speaker wires in one place. The radio's wiring harness delivers power to the radio and sends its output to the speakers. You'll need to identify which wire goes to which speaker. Positive leads are usually solid-colored wires, while their accompanying negative leads tend to be the same color with a stripe of a second color.

Please be aware that these wiring colors vary widely from one car to the next. If you purchase your new gear from Crutchfield, our Tech Support team can look up the wire colors for you. Give us a call before you tear apart your dash, so you'll know what to expect.

Connect the wires

Once you've identified each of the eight speaker wires, cut each one. Connect the end coming from the radio plug to a new wire going to the amp's input. Connect the end going to the speakers to the appropriate wire coming from the amp's output.

That means you'll use two of the 9-wire cables, one for the amp's input, the other for its output.  

Amp wiring with 9-wire cable

Amplifier in/out via 9-conductor cables go to the right, radio plugs in at top, and vehicle wiring goes left. (Even with my challenged eyesight and shaky hands it only took me about 40 minutes to wire this harness for illustration.)

Forget the turn-on lead

Amplifiers that have speaker-level inputs also feature "signal-sensing turn-on." The amp turns on when an input signal is present. This means you don't use the ninth wire (the blue wire) of either cable for this installation.

Something you may need

Sometimes after you cut the factory speaker wiring, the radio will shut down, because it can't detect any speakers connected to it. To solve this issue, you must install a load generating device on each output channel, so the radio will operate properly.

Expert installation tip

Before you run these two 9-wire cables through your car, mark both ends of one cable with a piece of electrical tape. That way, once the cables are in place, you'll know which of those cables is for the amp inputs and which is for the amp outputs.

Some products to help you do it

Our favorite option is the Crutchfield 9-wire cable shown above because each set of speaker wires is color coded. We also carry a selection of highly conductive, pure copper speaker wire, available by the foot, if you prefer that.

A multi-pack of Posi-Products Car Stereo Connectors could come in handy here. You can make all the speaker connections without having to solder or crimp anything. One package will cover this job and give you a few spares.

High power amps need bigger wires

For amps with more than 75 watts RMS of output per channel, it might be better to go ahead and run new 14- or 16-gauge speaker wires directly from the amplifier to each speaker.

Factory speaker wires are very thin, with high electrical resistance. They can cause noticeable power loss when higher wattages try to get through. But amplifiers of 75-watts or less aren't really affected by this. Running their output through factory wiring remains a practical and convenient solution.

Line output converters

Another popular way to connect an amplifier to a factory radio is to use something called a line output converter. It connects to the factory radio's speaker wires and converts the speaker-level signal to a preamp-level signal. This lets you use RCA cables to run that signal to your amplifier. 

AudioControl LC6iB line output converter

A line output converter offers some advantages, like the ability to sum and control signals of a multi-channel factory system. So if you're upgrading a complex system, using a line output converter might be your best option.  The speaker wire solution we've shared here is a simpler, less-expensive alternative that will work for most people. Read more about line output converters. 

Let us know what you need

This article focused on a way to simplify the speaker connections. For information about other aspects of amplifier installation, like power and ground wiring, check out our Amplifier Installation Guide.

If you have any questions about connecting a new amplifier to your speakers, contact our advisors via chat or phone. They'll take the time to answer your questions and explain the details, then get you set up with whatever you need.

  • Johnny King from MERIDIAN

    Posted on 1/11/2022

    Thanks for the read

  • Christian

    Posted on 1/10/2022

    Thank god. I watched hours of tutorials on youtube for a trivial information, namely where the output from the amp enters; in the head unit or towards the car. Thanks for the simple explanation given

  • Joe from Ewa Beach Hawaii

    Posted on 12/31/2021

    I have a 2002 Subaru Impreza and I splice my stock radio and speaker wire with the 9 wire harness without making the "t- harness" connecting it to the high input on my a6004 Jbl amp and it's working fine my question is do I really have to do the "t-harness" method instead of splicing it all together? I hope you understood that lol

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 1/3/2022

    Joe, The whole point of this wiring scenario is to send the radio output to the aftermarket amp's input, and the aftermarket amp's output to the speakers. If you connect two outputs together, as it seems you've done, one will eventually die as the two amps will be fighting each other by sending power to each other's outputs.
  • Jesse woodruff from Atwater

    Posted on 11/5/2021

    I put one in my 2916 Honda Fit it was going good for about 2 1/2 days then my radio stopped working. The red security light still blinks and the cd play ejects my cds but that's it. What can be the problem?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 11/8/2021

    Jesse, It sounds like you need to install load generating devices, so your radio won't shut down because speakers aren't directly connected to its outputs.
  • Wes from Gilbert

    Posted on 10/29/2021

    Excellent article. Thanks so much for putting this out there. I do have one question. I have a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the factory 6 speaker system and head unit. I'm looking to add an aftermarket amp and to upgrade the existing speakers (no sub). This article describes how to integrate the factory wiring with the amp, but I have read that would need to also need add load resistors between the positive and negative speaker connections to ensure that the head unit communicates properly with the speakers. Is this true for my car?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 10/29/2021

    Wes, In Crutchfield's Vehicle Guide Research for your Jeep, there's a note that reads, "When adding an aftermarket amplifier to the factory radio, you'll need to use load resistors to keep the radio operating properly." Give us a call and talk to one of our Advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.
  • Kailer Apilado from Lihue

    Posted on 9/29/2021

    Hello, I have a 2014 Honda Accord EXL that has a factory amp in it. I was curious as how I can wire and after market amp into the car too. I believe that I can't use a LOC because of the amp. If possible could someone guide me in wiring an after market amp to power a sub when my car already has a factory amp in it and I don't want to change the stock deck. Thank you so much!

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 9/29/2021

    Kailer, An LOC is exactly what you can use to connect high-level, amplified signals to an aftermarket amplifier's inputs. Check out the lower diagram in this article. If your sub amp can't take that high an input, use a 2-channel LOC.
  • Carlos flores from Chicago

    Posted on 9/23/2021

    I have a 2018 Cadillac XTS with the Bose system. I want to just add 1 amp for subs. Can I use the signal from the rear sub in the back with a signal converter or do I have to go the expensive why and get the NAVTV M650GM them branch off from there. I am trying to add a JL audio TWK-88, alpine M-1000 3- 12 3v3. 4 ohms

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 9/27/2021

    Carlos, Using the factory subwoofer signal for your aftermarket sub amp should work just fine.
  • Kathryn Yort

    Posted on 9/20/2021

    Can you please tell me the speaker wire output voltage of my stereo? Photos can be attached of the receiver model information. It's a Panasonic 39100-t0a-a520-m1. I'm trying to set my amp gain after watching the tutorial on installing amp and sub to factory stereo in a 2014 Honda CR-V LX. Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 9/21/2021

    Kathryn, Factory radios, like yours, rarely put out more than about 10 watts RMS per channel, which translates to around 6 volts RMS. Using the voltage markings on an amplifier to set gain doesn't always result in the best settings. For help with that, see How to set the gains on a 4-channel amplifier.
  • Josh from Saint John

    Posted on 9/19/2021

    I want to amplify my stock speakers in my '17 4Runner, add a sub, and do this with keeping the stock head unit. My amp that I bought from you guys has speaker level inputs. Can I use that instead of RCA/LOC to amplify my speakers? I'm a little lost when it comes to what needs to be done with connecting to the stock head unit.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 9/21/2021

    Josh, You can use your amp's speaker-level inputs instead of needing to use an LOC. This article should show you how to connect into your car's system using 9-conductor cable. If re-reading the article doesn't help, you should hire a professional installer.
  • Dalton Pierce from Lincoln

    Posted on 9/15/2021

    I have a 2020 Chevy Silverado 2500hd without boss what do I need to hook up a hideaway kicker to a factory radio

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 9/16/2021

    Dalton, Give us a call, so an Advisor can help you pick out the perfect gear for your system.

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