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How to install a powered subwoofer

Learn how to install a powered sub and boost your bass

I've been with Crutchfield since 1999, where I began as one our advisors, helping our customers choose new gear. After a couple of years, I moved to the writing team where I spent a decade researching new products and getting hands on with car stereos, amplifiers, speakers, and subs. Yeah, I've been doing this for a while.

For the past few years, I've been the managing editor of Crutchfield's Car A/V web article content. I couldn't ask for a better job — we get to play with car audio gear every day! I'm a Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Outside of work, I love listening to music, playing board games, and installing new audio systems for my friends.

More from Robert Ferency-Viars

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

    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

    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

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

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/24/2015

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    Jack, you'll want to connect both channels.

  • Phil from East Lansing

    Posted on 1/2/2017

    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

    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

    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

    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.

  • Luis from Gainesville

    Posted on 2/22/2017

    Hi there, I'll like to install the Sound Ordnance B-8PTD on a 1999 Mustang GT Convertible, what do I need and where to connect it using my factory amps etc... my factory base sounds very good in my car still, but I will like to boost that sound a little... Any advice will be appreciated... Thanks.. Luis, Gainesville VA.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/22/2017

    Luis, You'll need a 10-gauge amp power wiring kit and some speaker wire. You connect the power wiring between the car battery and the powered sub. Ground wire goes from sub to chassis. And you'll use speaker wires to get the sub's input signals by tapping the car's rear seat side panel speaker wiring. Why don't you give us a call so an Advisor can help you get everything you need. Plus, if you buy from Crutchfield, you get free lifetime tech support for your gear.

  • Joe from Killeen, TX

    Posted on 2/25/2017

    Can I run a 150W powered sub and 600W 4 channel amplifier on the same system? I'm concerned about power issues. Also, I plan on changing the head unit. Do I need to look for one that has extra RCA outputs, or can I use an RCA splitter?

  • Eric Adams from Murray

    Posted on 2/26/2017

    Help! When I attach the + Power going to my Dound Ordinance 8" self powered 80W subwoofer to my battery my car wont start. It sparks a lil bit as well when I first attach it also. Ideas? 2005 Altima is the car. If I unhook the sub it starts, connec t it and it wont.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/28/2017

    Joe, You can get a receiver with front, rear, and subwoofer RCA outputs, or get one with less and use RCA Y-cord adapters in order to get signal to your amps. I'll bet that 600W number attached to a 4-channel amp is a peak spec and worthless for planning an amp installation. But even at those numbers, I doubt you'll come upon any power supply issues with your amplifiers.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/28/2017

    Eric, It sounds like you have a defective amplifier - drawing so much current the car can't start. Seeing as Sound Ordnance is only available from Crutchfield, you should call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. Their toll-free number is on your invoice.

  • Donnie Stephenson from Sterling

    Posted on 3/15/2017

    Does it matter which way a sub is directed or how close the speaker is facing an obstruction such as a seat back?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/16/2017

    Donnie, The sound of a subwoofer in a vehicle changes depending on position, aim, and proximity to seats and walls. The only way to find which is the best location for a subwoofer is to experiment, trying different places and positions.

  • Tyson from Grove

    Posted on 4/17/2017

    Hello all, I am having issues with my Kicker Bass Station getting signal from my Sony MEX-N4100BT. The power light is on for the bass station just no feedback from my deck. I have verified that my RCA plugs are inserted properly

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/17/2017

    Tyson, Have you checked the subwoofer level in the receiver's sound adjustment menu? Maybe it's turned off. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you could call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. Their toll-free number is on your invoice. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Click on this link for details.

  • Trevor from Sacramento

    Posted on 4/25/2017

    If I have a 4 channel amp running my speakers at 60 rms each, can I just add a powered sub and let it run itself while the 4 channel continues to run the speakers

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/25/2017

    Trevor, Yes, I don't see why not.

  • Gary from Roy

    Posted on 4/25/2017

    How do you tap a powered sub into the rear speakers instead of stock head unit?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2017

    Gary, You can get the input signals for your powered subwoofer by tapping into the factory speaker wiring either behind the receiver at the wiring harness, or at a more convenient spot like your vehicle's rear speaker wiring. Great connectors to use would be Posi-Tap connectors, so you won't have to crimp or solder wires together.

  • Chase Riggs from Cedar Point

    Posted on 6/6/2017

    hi i have a 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe, i'm installing a Sound Ordnance B-8P, where would be the best spot in the vehicle for the sub.

  • Melvin from Capitol heights

    Posted on 6/6/2017

    I have 2 kicker hideaway subs hs8's. Is it possible to connect both subs by running parallel wires to the one rca stereo connection at the back and splicing the power wire?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/7/2017

    Chase, In car audio, one has to make compromises as to which position of a subwoofer sounds best in your vehicle and which position the subwoofer can actually fit into without interfering with the driver or passengers' legroom. Like Stephen says in the video, "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."

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/7/2017

    Melvin, Those powered subs each come with its own power cable and in-line fuse. You'll need to run both of them to the battery. An alternative method would be to run 8-gauge power wire with a 60-amp in-line fuse from the battery to a distribution block. From there you'd use the subs' power cable to get power to each sub. For input, use RCA Y-cords to supply the same signal to both subs.

  • Nickie Lineberger from Maiden NC

    Posted on 8/12/2017

    I have a amplified sub, it has two red, two blue and two black wires, do I put both reds to power, both blacks to ground and both blues to the remote start?

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/14/2017

    Nickie, Not knowing exactly what subwoofer you have makes it impossible to give advice on how to wire it. If you bought your sub from Crutchfield, you could call Tech Support for free help wiring your system. Their toll-free number would be on your invoice. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Click on this link for details. Remember, if you want a question answered about a piece of gear, you must identify it by brand name and model number.

  • Robert Gomez from Austin

    Posted on 9/9/2017

    I bought the Sound Ordnance B-8PTD and wiring kit. I have a 2015 Jeep Wrangler 2 door. with the factory stereo. I also purchase your Crux rearview camera for the same vehicle. My question is about the Blue REM cable. Is this going to be necessary? I was thinking that I was just going to plug the RCA cables I got from you all to the RCA plugs that are extra in the white harness that I had to plug in for the Crux camera. And using the Remote knob I got with the powered amp should all be sufficient correct? if not can I please just be given a place to connect said blue REM wire. Thanks!!

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/11/2017

    Robert, The remote wire turns on the amplifier, so it's essential you install it correctly. Seeing as you bought your amp from Crutchfield, you should call Tech Support for free help setting up your system. Their toll-free number is on your invoice.

  • Ratnadeep Khanwalkar from Chandrapur

    Posted on 9/29/2017

    I have installed a powered 8" subwoofer tube to my car Hyundai Eon's factory fitted music along with 6.5" JBL components in the front door. I have factory fitted 5" speaker's on the rear. The technician who installed the woofer and front speakers did the following. He attached all the speaker's to one output from my stereo and another output to the woofer he said he did the same because my stereo does not have separate sub woofer out. Now when I turn the fadder controls on my stereo to one side my speaker's only work and when turned on the other side only woofer works. Pl. Advice whether this is correct and is some another way to get the maximum out of my music system.

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/29/2017

    Ratnadeep, That sounds like a perfectly valid way to hook things up. In fact, my vehicle is set up the same way, with the radio's fade control functioning as a subwoofer level control. If there's something about your system that doesn't sound right, you should take it up with your installer.

  • Willie rice from Killeen

    Posted on 10/8/2017

    How to stop negative feedback loop when doors close on 2017 impala

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/9/2017

    Willie, If your vehicle emits a loud noise when you close the doors, you should take it to the dealership for repair. For what it's worth, a negative feedback loop is an electronic circuit amplifier builders use to reduce distortion.

  • paul from rialto

    Posted on 10/29/2017

    I have a 2015 Toyota corolla and I don't know where to install the remote wire from the amp to the fuse box

  • Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/30/2017

    Paul, A great way to get a remote turn-on voltage for your amp is by using an Add A Fuse to add a fused circuit to your vehicle's fusebox. First find what style of fuse your vehicle uses - ATC, ATM, or ATMLPDT - and get the appropriate connector and a 2A to 10A fuse. Use the factory radio's fuse to add your circuit to.

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