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How to install a car navigation system

Get better GPS performance from your in-dash stereo

Navigation receiver in dash

In a nutshell:  In this article, we'll cover some of the additional steps needed to install an in-dash navigation receiver beyond those required for a regular touchscreen/video receiver. We'll talk specifically about the GPS antenna and extra wire connections.

Get wired up properly so you don't get lost

For the most part, in-dash navigation receivers are quite similar to regular DVD/digital media touchscreen stereos with one additional wrinkle: a GPS antenna to transmit vehicle location and speed information to the receiver's mapping software. There are a couple of other minor considerations, which we'll also touch on. But you'll find most of what you'll need to know in our Car Stereo Installation Guide. After you've absorbed the info for making the requisite A/V and power connections there, come back to learn about GPS installation. 

At the end of the article we'll talk about add-on navigation modules.

Kenwood DNX893S navigation receiver

In-dash navigation systems, like the Kenwood DNX893S, provide you with large displays and easy touchscreen controls.

GPS antenna installation

There are a couple of simple rules guiding the external GPS antenna that comes with in-dash navigation receivers. The first is that you shouldn't ever cut or otherwise modify the antenna in any way, or it'll be much less effective. The other is that it needs to be in constant contact with the GPS satellites which orbit the earth, so it should be mounted in a way that there won't be a lot of interference with its signal.

In some cases, mounting the GPS antenna near the top of the underside of your dash (behind or above the receiver) should be sufficient to maintain a reliable signal, and it keeps the antenna out of sight. If that doesn't work, our tech support experts recommend mounting the GPS antenna either on the dash or along the rear deck. As long as it has a clear path to the sky and is not too close to A-pillars or a 2-way antenna, it should work. However, you may consider mounting the antenna on the roof or door of your vehicle if:

  • you have a wired rear defroster
  • you have metallic window tint
  • you have a solar reflective window
  • you have a windshield mounted radio antenna

The GPS antenna should also be as level as possible and maintain a solid connection to its attached metal plate or sheet, if there is one. There will typically be some sort of adhesive involved to keep the antenna in place. You'll then need to route the antenna wire to the rear of the receiver along the dashboard or floorboard or through a window or door seal. 

Wire connections

Parking brake

For safety reasons, any video screen in the front of the car must be attached to the parking brake wire. This applies to GPS systems too. Some of the more advanced navigation functions are disabled while the vehicle is in motion. If you want to look up a phone number or change the default settings of the unit, you'll need to pull over first. In rare cases, a connection to the foot brake may be required also.

wire taps

Using a wire tap and female disconnect is one way to make the parking brake wiring connection.

wire taps

The wire tap clamps on the wire you're connecting to; the female disconnect crimps onto the new wire you're connecting.

wire taps

The female disconnect slides firmly onto the end of the wire tap, making a secure connection.

Reverse signal wire

Many systems also connect to the vehicle's reverse (or back-up light) signal wire — this connection tells the navigation system when the vehicle is traveling in reverse. If this wire is not hooked up, then the vehicle direction will not track properly, and the navigation system won't be able to do its job.

The easiest way to do it is to connect to the reverse light wire right at the tail light. You can consult your wiring diagram in order to find it. You can also check each wire that goes into the taillight with a multimeter; connect the multimeter to a wire, have someone put the car in reverse (while keeping the brake engaged, of course), then see if you get a 12-volt reading. Repeat this process with each wire until you've found the right one. (Note: if you get a 12-volt reading, make sure it's because you've found the reverse wire, not the brake wire; you'll know it's the brake wire if you get a reading as soon as the brake is pressed.)

The reverse wire can sometimes be found under the dash or under the hood, but you'll have to consult your wiring diagram carefully in order to identify it correctly; tapping into it at the taillight tends to be much easier.

We recommend Posi connectors for wire connections

Posi-Product™ connectors offer a quick and secure twist-on connection for wires, and they can be re-used. It never hurts to have a couple of Posi-Tap connectors on hand for various jobs, too. This is our favorite way to get strong connections fast.  You can also try soldering or crimping if you feel more comfortable with those methods.

We can help

Our highly trained Technical Support staff can provide parking brake and reverse wire information for most vehicles. They're available seven days a week (have your invoice handy when you contact us). Even if the information is not available for your vehicle, they can still help you figure out which wires are the ones you need.

Remote-mount navigation systems

A remote-mount system consists of a separate navigation computer (with an external antenna) that must be connected to a compatible touchscreen car stereo. Drivers interface with them the same way they would an in-dash system. These are not as common today, but they're just as effective as most in-dash systems, provided their mapping data is up to date and they're properly connected.

The navigation module is basically a box that needs to be installed somewhere out of the way. Today's navigation modules are typically compact enough to be installed in the glove compartment, often with some sort of velcro fasteners to keep them in place. The GPS antenna runs off the module, and can usually be mounted on the dash. The module requires battery and ground connections, just like the stereo.

Pioneer AVIC-U280

Newer add-on navigation modules like the Pioneer AVIC-U280 are compact enough to fit into the glove compartment of most vehicles.

Last updated 2/1/2018
  • Gary from Florida

    Posted on 6/29/2015

    I installed a double din audio system with gps,everything works,but the navigation system.I have reset it and it still shows it not reading software,it has a 4g card in it with maps on. It,but still no gps.i have tried by pulling card and put back,same problem..can you help?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/30/2015

    Gary, if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details. Alternatively, you may want to try the manufacturer's Tech Support if the radio is under warranty.

  • Robert Young from Austintown, Ohio

    Posted on 7/22/2015

    I have a 2008 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS. Installed an aftermarket stereo...the speedometer and gear indication light went out. I there is something not hooked up right. The computer said it Vehicle Speed Sensor.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/23/2015

    Robert, it's hard to say for sure. Short of heading to the dealership for repair, you could give our Tech Support a call, which is a free service if your purchased the receiver from us. Or you could open up your dash, retrace your steps to an extent and double-check all of your connections. You may find wiring information in our online Knowledge Base.

  • Sunil from surat

    Posted on 8/1/2015

    How to activate Navigation system in dashboard player.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/3/2015

    Sunil, Without more information, it's hard to answer your question. If a navigation receiver is installed correctly, all you need to do is select the navigation interface and enter a location. You'll receive directional prompts until you reach your destination. If that function is not working in your navigation receiver, it may not have been installed correctly or a subscription to a service may be required.

  • Brent from United States

    Posted on 8/5/2015

    I have a pyle pldnb78i in dash gps radio. Everyday certain hours the screen is jist black, but everything else still works. Seems to be from midnight to 10am daily. There is nothing in the settings that I can find that will cause this. Can anyone help?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/6/2015

    Brent, we don't carry that stereo, but you're best bet may be to contact Pyle customer support. Good luck!

  • tiffany from Baltimore md

    Posted on 8/16/2015


  • Steve from San Carlos

    Posted on 8/30/2015

    I have a 2007 ram .which wire is the speed signal,and where is it,color and location.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/31/2015

    Steve, you can try searching our online Knowledge Base.

  • Joy from Fairchild

    Posted on 2/19/2017

    I just installed a GPS in dash stereo the GPS says no sattilite detected where do I hook up external antenna does this replace radio antenna also there is a slot for as card do I need one

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/20/2017

    Joy, your radio antenna is not the same as your GPS antenna, which should have been included with your new stereo. Your manual instruct you on which input on your stereo to plug into. Also, keep in mind that if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • joy from fairchild

    Posted on 3/2/2017

    i installd a in dash radio it has everything even gps gps cant find satillite i got a gps antenna to hook up will this help and where do i plug it into the radio

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/6/2017

    Joy, your manual should be point out where to plug in the antenna (which, I'm assuming was included?). If you don't see reference to GPS in the manual and you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can call the manufacturer's tech support or you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • kevin from bismarck

    Posted on 6/22/2017

    Hi, I just installed a Boss BN965BLC and am not able to get any satellite reception. I have tried mounting the antenna o the dash as well as the outside of the car..still no reception . I wasnt able to hook up the BU camera, reverse wire, or the parking brake wire..could that be the problem?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/22/2017

    Kevin, if you bought your Boss stereo from us, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

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