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How to install a powered subwoofer

Learn how to install a powered sub and boost your bass

Robert Ferency-Viars is the managing editor for the Crutchfield car A/V learning content, and has been with the company since 1999. A Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he loves spending time with his wonderful wife and sons, listening to music, writing, and playing games with friends. Robert's love for car audio began at 16 when he installed his first car stereo.

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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.

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 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.

  • Virgil Woods

    Posted on 8/9/2015 7:00:11 PM

    Thank you for your time and expertise. I have a PPI 900.4 amp. running 2-Infinity PR6502is and 2-Infinity PR9603is. I just purchased the Rockville RW10CW 10" slim subwoofer. My question is, can I running my powered sub from my amp or do I need to running its own power to he battery? I know it should not be a problem, but I am looking for your professional opinion. Thanks again

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015 9:19:48 AM

    Virgil, a powered sub by design has its own amplifier built into the box. You don't need to connect it to your other amplifier. You simply need to run power from the battery. Enjoy!

  • Les Price from Murray

    Posted on 8/22/2015 11:53:38 PM

    Why is it showing connecting to the battery with out a fuse inline?

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/24/2015 10:54:18 AM

    Les, there's definitely a fuse holder on that power line. It came pre-installed on the power cable. It's just a little further down the line and out of the camera shot. The kit I used was an older version of this 10-gauge kit from EFX.

  • David

    Posted on 3/21/2016 10:38:27 AM

    I've got a 1999 BMW E36 328ic Convertible & am thinking of adding a powered subwoofer in the trunk. If I know the "pin-outs" on the connector going into the Stock Amp coming from the stock head unit, can I "splice" into those wires for the "Turn-On Signal" & Sub-Signal Inputs Left/Right?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/21/2016 2:32:51 PM

    David, that should work, but be sure to check your powered sub's manual to make sure that you actually do need to tap into the turn-on signal. Many powered subs will power on when they simply receive an audio signal. 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.

  • Scott Bausum from Circleville

    Posted on 5/24/2016 3:53:11 PM

    Can I/how can I run two powered subwoofers? I already have an 8" Dual Bandpass and am considering adding another if it is possible and will work well. Head Unit is a Kenwood Kmmbt312U. Thank you.

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/26/2016 10:43:35 AM

    Scott, it can be done. If you're currently using 10-gauge power and ground wires, it would be safest (and give better performance) to upgrade to 8-gauge, then use a distribution block to connect the power leads from each sub. Likewise for the ground. Or, you can run a second set of wires for the second powered sub. The audio input will be a little tricky, unless one of the powered subs happens to have an audio output. If you're using an RCA cable from the headunit, you'll have to use an RCA splitter to branch off to the new sub. Or you can just use the speaker-level inputs and tap into a speaker line. 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.

  • Delbert

    Posted on 6/4/2016 1:47:59 AM

    I have an dual abl 10inch sub. I'm getting distortion from the sub and no audio just bass sounds. How would I fix that.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/6/2016 10:09:31 AM

    Delbert, use this article as a guide to troubleshoot the kind of problem you're experiencing. 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.

  • Gil from Loveland cop

    Posted on 7/28/2016 9:21:37 AM

    I have 03 Audi a4 with Bose system. And I got Rockville 500watt powered sub. How can u hook it up

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/29/2016 8:07:45 AM

    Gil, Rockville may have Tech Support you can call or you can get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Dan ougrah from Yonkers

    Posted on 7/30/2016 6:42:56 AM

    Hi I just bought a Jbl powered sub. I have a 2016 Ford Explorer that I want to install it to, without tampering with the factory radio. I seen you tapped into the rear speakers to get audio signal. My question is do I need to add a line out converter box?

  • Glen Williams from Baltimore

    Posted on 8/8/2016 8:31:47 PM

    I bought a Substation and EFX kit but I have no fuses. Just a holder. Which fuses should I get?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2016 1:28:15 PM

    Dan, no, you don't need to add a line-out converter. Your sub's speaker level input takes care of that for you. Posi-Products speaker connectors will be the best tool for the job of tapping into your rear speakers signal.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2016 1:31:21 PM

    Glen, you'll want to consult the SubStation manual for the best answer on fuse recommendations. If you run into any trouble 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 Kicker at 405-624-8510 or you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.

  • Kd from Grovetown

    Posted on 8/19/2016 9:48:36 PM

    I've had my MTX powered sub for many years and it recently started blowing fuses. Each time I replace a fuse and reconnect the battery the fuse on the sub blows; is there a logical reason why.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/1/2016 10:42:48 AM

    KD, 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.

  • Sekhar

    Posted on 9/21/2016 6:57:00 AM

    Is it necessary to get a dedicated cable from the battery (fuse box) to power an under seat sub woofer? Can't I just connect the wire to the one that's supplying power to my head unit? In my case, the head unit is a new model Pioneer DEH-X3990BT and the sub is a Blaupunkt XLF 200A.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/28/2016 10:09:56 AM

    Sekhar, yes, you'll still need to run a dedicated power cable to your vehicle's battery. Sub's are power-hungry by nature and you won't get the full performance of your powered sub without the proper wiring.

  • Dan from Craven,sk

    Posted on 11/4/2016 10:04:25 PM

    On the crutch field wiring diagram. Which wires do I use to tap into to run a 12" subwoofer & amplifier I am adding in the trunk. Thanks for any advise. 2006 Pontiac go GT with monsoon stereo.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/7/2016 12:22:26 PM

    Dan, tapping into the factory speaker wire will give you the audio signal you need for the amp and sub. It sounds like you bought your gear from us, which means, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. They can help you find the best location to tap in based on what your plans are.

  • Jack Oppel from Gainesville, Tx

    Posted on 11/24/2016 1:25:12 PM

    When utilizing speaker level inputs, do I need to tap into both left and right inputs, or will one input provide all the signal I need ?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/28/2016 9:38:21 AM

    Jack, you'll want to connect both channels.

  • Phil from East Lansing

    Posted on 1/2/2017 5:41:53 PM

    I am trying to install a kenwood ksc-sw1 to a new head unit, it used to be connected to the factory head unit via an IEC AULOC line convertor because there were no RCA inputs to the old head unit. I have tried plugging the RCA cords into both the line convertor and the head unit directly but get a strange distorted crackling sound coming from the speaker. Any idea what could be causing this and how to rectify it?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/3/2017 5:29:52 PM

    Phil, after checking your connections, you may want to consider switching out the RCAs with new ones if the problem persists. Also, keep in mind that if you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system.

  • Pete from Shakopee

    Posted on 2/10/2017 2:36:44 PM

    Is the fuse holder necessary to hook up the sub to the battery, or can you just secure the power cord directly to the negative terminal?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/10/2017 4:22:48 PM

    Pete, A fuse is absolutely necessary in order to protect you and your vehicle from burning up in the event of a short circuit. It goes on the positive battery lead near the battery. Ground wires usually connect to the vehicle's chassis, not to the battery.

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