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How to install a powered subwoofer

Learn how to install a powered sub and boost your bass

Powered subwoofers include all the elements of a subwoofer system — subwoofer, amplifier, and enclosure — in one convenient package. Here's a look at how you install a typical powered subwoofer.

Please note: As with any amplifier installation, you'll also need an amplifier wiring kit. The proper size of kit will be listed in the accessories for each powered subwoofer. If you need any help or just have questions about adding a powered subwoofer, contact our advisors

How to install a powered subwoofer | Video Transcript

No matter what kind of music you love, adding bass makes it sound better. Let's take a look at what it takes to install a powered subwoofer in your vehicle with the help of one of our guys from tech support.

Find a place to mount your sub

Before you get started, find a suitable place in your vehicle to mount your sub. The sub’s built-in amplifier generates heat, so adequate ventilation is important. And you'll want to place it somewhere that's not too difficult to access.

Wiring kit and speaker wire

Your powered sub does not come with the necessary wiring, so be sure to purchase an amp wiring kit that includes the wiring and fuses you'll need.

Disconnect the battery

First, disconnect the negative battery terminal to protect you and your gear during installation.

Step #1: Running power wire

Next, run the power cable from the battery to the powered sub. Some kits have the fuse assembly already put together. But if not, cut a short piece of the power cable, enough to cover the distance from the battery to the fuse holder location, and strip the insulation off both ends. Crimp the terminal ring from your wiring kit to one end, and attach the fuse holder to the other end. Strip the insulation from the end of the wire that leads to your amp and attach it to the other end of your fuse holder. It’s important to keep the fuse close to the battery since the lead between the terminal and the fuse is unprotected.

In most vehicles, you can pass the power cable through the firewall that separates the engine compartment from the main cabin using an existing entry point. Once you're inside the cabin, tuck the power cable under trim panels or your carpet along one side of your vehicle until you reach your powered sub location.

Step #2: Running turn-on wire and signal cables

After running the power wire, the next thing to do is run the turn-on wire and signal cables. Both the turn-on wire and RCA signal cables need to be connected to your stereo. Run these cables behind the dash to your stereo. The turn-on wire connects to a remote turn-on wire in your stereo's wiring harness. It's usually blue, but confirm this with your owner's manual. Plug the RCA cables into the appropriate RCA outputs on your stereo.

Run these wires, the turn-on wire, and the RCA cable, down the opposite side of the car from the power wire. This will prevent electrical noise from entering your system and spoiling your music.

All of this assumes you have an aftermarket stereo with preamp outputs. If you have a factory stereo then you'll get the signal to your powered sub a different way. You’ll want to make sure your amp has speaker-level inputs and "signal sensing" turn-on capability. In this case, you can just tap into the speaker wires behind your stereo, or possibly the rear deck speakers. Either way, this will get signal to the powered sub’s built-in amp.

Step #3: Connect the ground wire

The third primary connection is the ground wire. This wire should be connected to the vehicle's chassis. Look for a nearby bolt that you can fasten the ground cable to. The ground wire terminal should be in contact with the vehicle's bare metal. Sand away any paint at the contact point for the best connection.

Step #4: Make your wiring connections

Now, mount your powered sub and make your connections. Try to use gentle curves with your wires and cables when possible to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Before you fire it up to test, turn the built-in amp's gains all the way down. And reconnect your vehicle's negative battery terminal. Verify that the sub turns on when you start the car. Then you can play some music and set your gains.

If you have any questions about powered subs, please give Crutchfield a call.

  • Mark from Southington

    Posted on 5/25/2022

    I had previously installed the Rockford Fosgate P300 powered sub by tapping into left and right front speakers using high-level since I'm still using my factory headunit. I made the connections at the doors to avoid splicing into the factory connectors at the headunit. Everything basically works properly except the sub seems to be overly loud and thus I have to keep the sub gain at the minimum and can only turn the remote sub-level knob to about 1/4. Today I decided to add the Kicker Key 200.4 amp and found that I can't use the HPF/crossover because my sub is effectively tapped into the output side of the speaker connection, and the crossover therefore gets applied to my sub as well. Surprisingly, the sub is not any louder (a good thing). My question is this, I know I will need to tap into the pre-amplified side of the front speaker connections to be able to use the crossover, but should I do something else to address the excessively high sensitivity/loudness of the sub? I thought maybe a simple LOC but I believe the P300 amp already has this built in. I appreciate any advice you could provide to help me and any others in a similar situation.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 5/27/2022

    Mark, It sounds like you may need to use an interface device, like a PAC AmpPro or APSUB, to add amplifiers to your vehicle's factory system with full-range capability.
  • Luke from CLOQUET

    Posted on 5/20/2022

    I purchased the kicker hideaway hs8 for my 2016 f150. What accessories would I need besides an amp wiring kit to install the powered sub to my factory head unit? Also note that I have already upgraded my 4 door speakers that are powered by a small amp installed behind the factory head unit.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 5/24/2022

    Luke, You'll need some way to get signal from your vehicle's system into the sub's inputs. That could e a line output converter or a vehicle-specific interface device for adding a sub. Give us a call so an Advisor can help you figure out what you need.
  • Nat

    Posted on 3/22/2022

    Can I connect a powered sub to an amp? Would that cause issues? I'm looking to upgrade my sound system in my 10th Gen Civic Sedan and have the speakers and amp picked out but I also want to add an MTX Road Thunder RT8PT Powered Sub in the trunk. I plan on using the Pioneer GM-DX975 5 channel amp. I should just be able to plug and play the powered sub to the amp right?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 3/23/2022

    Nat, If the powered subwoofer output of your 5-channel amplifier is the only signal source available for your new powered sub, you will have to use a line output converter to reduce the signal level so the powered sub can use it for its input without distorting or over-loading.

    Posted on 3/21/2022

    How to hook up a 12v Powered Sound Bar to a Powered 10'' Sub?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 3/22/2022

    Jesse, Not knowing exactly what gear you have make it impossible to give advice on how to wire them together.
  • AL Martinez from Chino Hills, CA

    Posted on 3/3/2022

    I have installed a subwoofer amp to my 2022 Accord Sport and disconnected the ANC under the glove compartment to stop subwoofer feedback. Now I can't hear Siri or phone calls in CarPlay. What is the fix?? Very frustrating. Thank you.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 3/4/2022

    Al, It sounds like your vehicle's ANC, Bluetooth phoning, and Siri systems all share microphones. I think your best option now, is to check out an online forum about your model Honda to see if anyone has come up with a working solution.
  • Eric

    Posted on 2/24/2022

    Should I tap into both rear deck speakers for my LOC? It's 2 channel and I'm currently tapped into only the right speakers.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 2/25/2022

    Eric, It's best to use two inputs, in order to get enough signal for the amp to produce full power.
  • Mike Espina from Ewa Beach

    Posted on 2/22/2022

    I'm still confused with the tapping into speaker wires if you have a factory stero. I just bought Fosgate's p500 12p powered sub (second hand). Separately got decent 8 guage wiring kit from TopStrongGear which has good reviews and done research about it, and posi tap wire thing. Onto the issue. So I understand I have to tap into my speaker wires, and I found the wiring diagram for my specific vehicle. Although I'm really confused with how to wire Fosgates harness cable, if you have a factory head unit then the cables would be spliced for "High Level Input". Well sure, but do I need speaker wires for this case as well as like an extension to fosgates harness cable when tapping into my rear speakers for example, and does it have to be tapped into both left and right speakers instead on just one side? Sorry, but I've watched multiple youtube vids, gone through many review articles and even found a forum that made a somewhat step by step installtion. The amp wiring was striaght foward, but many of these guys were not very specific with the tapping into speakers.

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 2/22/2022

    Mike, That powered sub has a limited speaker-level input capacity, and a line output converter (LOC) will work best when tapping into the factory system for signal - and then you'd use the sub's low-level inputs. The sub needs two channels of input to get enough signal-strength to produce top volume.
  • Jay from Tarboro

    Posted on 2/19/2022

    How would I wire 2 powered subs together so I can put one under each seat?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 2/21/2022

    Jay, Run one fused power cable from the battery to a distribution block, and then two power wires, one to each powered sub. The grounds can be wired the same way or separately to the car chassis. For signal, either use one sub's preamp output o feed the other sub's input, or use a Y-cord RCA adapter to feed signal to both subs.
  • Joshua Goodwin from Gulf Breeze

    Posted on 2/14/2022

    Do I use the SUB1 and SUB2 inputs on the back of my BOSS radio for the RCAS to my sound ordnance powered sub or do I use the FR FL OR RR RL inputs on the stereo?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 2/15/2022

    Joshua, I don't know what model radio you have, but it seems you're describing outputs, not inputs. FR means front right, FL front left, etc. And I can only assume that your powered sub's inputs should connect to the radio's sub outputs.
  • Sam

    Posted on 1/20/2022

    I have the JBL basspro sl and I want to install it in my car. It is an 8" underseat woofer but I'm not sure what gauge wires to use?

    Commenter image

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 1/21/2022

    Sam, The owner's manual for that sub calls for 12-gauge power and ground wires.

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