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2003-2008 Honda Pilot

How to upgrade the stereo system in your Pilot

Honda Pilot

In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Pilot's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. We'll tell you all about:

Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your Pilot.

Overview of the Honda Pilot

Honda didn't go from obscure Japanese motorcycle manufacturer to worldwide automotive titan by ignoring the needs of the people -- especially the people in North America. In the early 2000's, those people needed (and/or wanted) mid-size SUV's and, alas, Honda didn't have one. Knowing they had to have something to compete in that segment, they reworked an Isuzu, called it the Honda Passport, and did their best to ignore the "Joe Isuzu" jokes until a proper Honda SUV was ready.

The Pilot turned out to be worth the wait. It had everything customers wanted, including all-wheel drive (later augmented by a front-wheel drive model), a solid V-6 engine, third-row seating, and, most importantly perhaps, a real Honda pedigree.

The first-gen Pilot has been a suburban staple ever since, and this handsome hauler remains a solid choice if you're looking for a reliable, comfortable SUV with plenty of room for people and stuff. The Pilot's stock stereo equipment wasn't terrible for the time, but if you're a real music lover, you'll want to upgrade. There are some challenging aspects to the process, but we have the advice and gear you need to make your Pilot sound better than ever.

Honda Pilot stereo receiver

One of the Honda Pilot factory stereos (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The factory stereo system

The Pilot's standard stereo was the expected AM/FM/CD player, located in the upper center of the dash. The upper trim levels could be had with a DVD-based navigation system with a 7" screen and a back-up camera, or a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 9-inch flip-down LCD screen -- just not both at the same time. With the nav option, the radio moved south, under the HVAC controls, while the nav screen settled into the spot occupied by the base receiver.

In 2006, Honda gave the Pilot a mid-cycle facelift inside and out, adding new front and rear fascias, plus a revised dash design. The look changed, but the basic layout for each audio system stayed the same. We'll break down the various differences below.

Replacing the factory radio

The techniques you use to remove your Pilot's factory stereo depend entirely on the factory stereo you're removing, but overall, the radio replacement process is pretty uncomplicated.

The dash redesign didn't change the basic layout of the various systems, but it did change the process a bit. We'll hit the high points in this article, but when you order your new stereo from Crutchfield, we'll include a free MasterSheet that provides detailed, step-by-step instructions on removing the stock stereo equipment.

We'll also give you a very nice discount on the dash kit and wiring harness you'll need to connect your new receiver to the car's wiring.

Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions

MasterSheet image
With step-by-step disassembly instructions and plenty of up-close, detailed photos, our exclusive Crutchfield MasterSheet™ takes the guesswork out of removing the factory stereo and speakers. It's free with your Crutchfield order, or you can purchase one separately for just $9.99.

Replacing the factory radio means losing (if present to begin with) factory features like satellite radio, navigation, and DVD entertainment. You can get all or most of them back (and better than ever) with the right aftermarket receiver. One of our Crutchfield Advisors will be happy to help you choose the right single-DIN (2" tall) or double-DIN (4" tall) receiver for your needs.

Just a note before you start: In order to unlock the factory radio after the battery has been reconnected, you will need the radio security code. If you can't find the code, the radio must be unlocked at a dealership. The owner's manual is usually a good place to start.

Honda Pilot radio

The 2003-05 non-nav receiver (Crutchfield Research Photo)

2003-2005 Pilot

Replacing the base receiver is pretty simple. Pry the radio trim out from the dash to release five metal clips, then disconnect the harness and remove it. You'll then remove four Phillips screws from the radio brackets, then pull the radio out and disconnect the harnesses and antenna. You'll need to purchase a mounting kit and a wiring harness, but both are deeply discounted with your stereo purchase.

Honda Pilot receiver with navigation

The 2003-05 receiver with navigation (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Replacing the nav receiver is a smidge more involved, but not too much. It's certainly nothing the average car audio DIY-er can't handle.

The key difference in these 2003-05 vehicles is the location of the stock receiver, so make sure you enter your vehicle info before you start stereo shopping.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

2006-up Honda Pilot radio without navigation

The 2006-08 radio without navigation (Crutchfield Research Photo)

2006-2008 Pilot

The "new" dash layout is also relatively uncomplicated. To remove the non-nav receiver, start by removing two Phillips screws from the trim panel above the instrument cluster, then setting them aside. Tilt the steering wheel to its lowest possible position, then (after setting the emergency brake) place the shifter in the lowest position.

Pull the instrument cluster trim panel towards the rear of vehicle and remove it, then carefully pry around the perimeter of the radio trim panel to release the retaining clips. Set the trim panel to the side, remove the four Phillips screws securing the radio, then disconnect the harnesses and remove the radio.

The navigation receiver isn't that hard to deal with, either, and a mounting kit and wiring harness are available at a discount with most receiver purchases. Note that the navigation screen will remain in place and your new receiver will be mounted in the lower portion of the dash. All the relevant instructions can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver

2006-up Honda Pilot radio with navigation

The 2006-08 radio with navigation (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.

Steering wheel audio controls

In most cases, it's reasonably easy to retain your Honda's steering wheel audio controls when you install a new stereo. When you enter your vehicle information, our database will choose the adapter you need to make your factory steering wheel controls work with a compatible aftermarket receiver.

Replacing the factory speakers

Honda left the door design alone during the mid-cycle refresher, so the speaker replacement instructions are the same for all models.

Honda Pilot dash tweeter

The tweeters are located in the dash (Crutchfield Research Photo)


All Pilots, no matter what model or year, have a set of (roughly) 1-1/2", 4-ohm tweeters wired in parallel with the front door speakers. They're mounted on the top of the dash, near the base of the windshield, and they're relatively easy to reach. That's good news if you want to install a set of aftermarket component speakers in your Pilot, which we highly recommend.

The tweeters are reasonably easy to reach and replace. You'll need to either fabricate your own speaker mounting bracket, or use our universal back straps to install your new component tweeters. There are also speaker wiring adapters available that plug straight into the vehicle's speaker harness.

Tools needed: Panel tool, small Phillips screwdriver

Honda Pilot front door

The Pilot's front door (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Front door speakers

The stock front speakers are 6-1/2" 4-ohm Alpine models that can be replaced with 5-1/4" or same-size aftermarket speakers. You'll need to remove the door panel, of course, and while that's not an especially difficult procedure, we do recommend that you take your time and use care when prying off the panels. It's also a good idea to make sure you have a clean, safe place to store the panels when they're out of the car.

If you're going to install 6-1/2" aftermarket speakers, you'll need to cut out the back of the plastic factory cup or mounting bracket to provide enough depth or magnet diameter for your new speakers.

You'll also need to break off the locating tabs on the factory speaker bracket before mounting an aftermarket speaker or bracket. Removing the tabs isn't too hard to do, and it won't affect the bracket's structural integrity.

If you install 5-1/4" speakers, you'll need adapter brackets, which are available at a special discount with your Crutchfield speaker purchase.

Rear door speakers

Conveniently enough, everything you just read about the front door woofers is also true for the rear door speakers.

Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, small flat blade screwdriver

Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information.

Honda Pilot rear subwoofer

The Honda Pilot's rear subwoofer is easy to spot, but hard to replace. (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Bass in your Honda Pilot

Your Pilot's 10", 2-ohm factory sub (if equipped) can be found behind a speaker grille on the far-right side of the cargo area. The subwoofer is powered directly from a woofer channel on the factory radio, so if you replace that unit, you'll lose the sub. Unfortunately, this factory sub is a rather thin model, and there's not enough space behind the opening to install most aftermarket subs without some modification.

There are a couple of subs that are within a few hundredths of an inch of fitting, but just getting to the sub is a challenging process involving extensive disassembly. That innocent-looking speaker grille is actually part of a lengthy plastic trim piece that extends all the way from the rear corner of the Pilot to just behind the back seat.

There aren't any real tricks to removing it, but there sure are a lot of steps. It's a time-consuming job, so your best — and easiest — bet for better bass is a powered sub. You'll get better sound in a compact package that won't eat up your cargo space.

If you have something bigger in mind, there's plenty of room for a dedicated subwoofer enclosure and an amp or two. The Pilot can hold a sub box up to 48" W x 17" H x 15"/6" D, so you can build a truly massive system back there if you want to.

Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide.

weathertech custom floor liners

Protect your Pilot's carpeting with a set of custom-fit WeatherTech FloorLiners

Other options for your Pilot

Perfecting your Pilot starts with quality gear. Here are a few suggestions from our experts.

Protect your carpeting with WeatherTech mats

ThePilot is a very nice SUV, but the factory floor mats are...just regular old factory floor mats. Whether you're doing outdoorsy SUV-type stuff or just tooling around town, those mats might not be up to the job. A set of custom floor liners from WeatherTech will help protect the carpeting from dirt and damage.

Add an iPod® or satellite radio adapter

If you don't want to replace the factory receiver (and if you have factory nav, you really don't), you can still add versatility and great sound to your Pilot. We offer several adapters that will allow you to use an iPod, MP3 player, or satellite radio with the factory system.

Seal in sound with Dynamat

The Dynamat 10435 Xtreme Door Kit is the perfect way to seal in sound. This heavy-duty noise-damping material is easy to install, and it really makes a difference. One kit will take care of the front doors in your Pilot.

Add a security system

Installing a security system in your Pilot isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's definitely a good idea. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need to get the job done, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional installer.

Building your system

If you're thinking about a used Honda Pilot and you're serious about car audio, you should look for one with the base stereo. The base receiver's "all-in-one" location makes it much, much easier to build a great system on your own. As we mentioned above, replacing the upmarket nav system is complicated enormously by the need to fabricate a custom trim plate to house the screen, HVAC controls, and radio.

If you already have a nav-equipped Pilot, though, you can still build a very impressive system using other components. Start by replacing the speakers, a reasonably easy and generally affordable process that's the same on every model. You'll be surprised at how much better that factory receiver sounds once it's playing through a nice set of speakers.

Honda Pilot cargo area

Even with third-row seating, there's room for a powered subwoofer and an amplifier (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The Pilot gives you plenty of room to work with, so if you really want to maximize your sound, you can add a new subwoofer and an amplifier. If it's all about expanding your musical options, you can add an iPod or MP3 adapter, or connect a SiriusXM satellite radio tuner (subscription required).

Any or all of these options will give you improved sound and performance, without disturbing your Honda's factory nav system. If you're looking for better, newer maps, you can always add a portable GPS receiver with lifetime map updates.

Let's get started!

Ready to shop? Use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your car or truck. If you have questions, give us a shout via phone, chat, or email

  • Faith Bullock from Saukville

    Posted on 8/21/2022

    I have a 2005 Honda Pilot EXL with DVD system. If I keep original stereo and all original speakers and sun can I just hook up a speaker box for more bass/loudness? I am completely clueless when it comes to car stereos!

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 8/22/2022

    Faith, Not exactly, really, but we can help you get better sound in your Pilot. Give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. We can help you choose the right gear for your vehicle, your music, and your budget.
  • Charles Hunt from Arlington

    Posted on 3/3/2022

    I have a 2003 Pilot EX. Why couldn't I buy a 2 ohm single channel amp and retain the factory sub? Connect head unit to amp, and splice amp output into factory harness?

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    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 3/7/2022

    Charles, With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. 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.
  • Brent Butterbaugh from Chillicothe

    Posted on 10/29/2021

    If I replace the factory sub do I need to rewire and hook up a am on my 06 pilot ex-l? I am trying to retain factory radio to keep DVD player

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 10/29/2021

    Brent, With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. 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.
  • Mike p from Chicago

    Posted on 8/28/2021

    I have a 2004 pilot ,Basic system, no nav or cd changer. Would like a new header, I don't need heavy bass in my music. How would sound be if new radio had no connection to the sub woofer, or should I get an amp for the existing factory sub woofer?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 8/30/2021

    Mike P, With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. 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.
  • Cory from Medina

    Posted on 7/22/2021

    So I have a 2007 honda pilot. I put my own system in it out of my old Durango I had before. Two 15s and a 3500 rms amplifier sounds Amazing in the pilot. But all my air seems to be escaping into the rear passenger fender and makes the metal flex and sounds horrible inside and out. If I push against it while playing it stops and sounds good again. I was wondering if there was a easy way to stop that fender from flexing or taking all the air?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 7/22/2021

    Cory, Based on what you've told us, you might need more sound damping material in the enclosure. But it's hard to say from here, really. With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system.
  • Chris Chavez from Elk Grove, CA

    Posted on 6/28/2021

    For a 2007 Honda Pilot with navigation system\backup camera, I would like to install a Pioneer Model:DEH-S6220BS in-dash stereo to replace the stock unit, but was told the only way to do so would be to lose the navigation system screen in the process. The new stereo would have to be mounted up high using a double DIN mounting bracket in the spot where the nav system is located, then putting another double DIN blank in the location of the old factory stereo. Does this sound correct based on your experience? If I can't keep the factory nav system\backup camera by going with an aftermarket stereo, is there a replacement system that comes with a screen compatible with my backup camera? Thanks for your time!

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 6/29/2021

    Chris, With questions like that, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. 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.
  • Eli from MHK

    Posted on 4/19/2021

    Can I replace the speakers front and rear, tweeters and factory sub without replacing the head unit to keep my top mount dvd working properly?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 4/20/2021

    Eli, That could work. When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see which speakers fit your Pilot. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.
  • Tara Fein from N. Attleboro

    Posted on 4/13/2021

    I have a 2007 Pilot EX-L. I don't need booming bass, but I do like some music LOUD. Can I get away with leaving the stereo/subwoofer as is and just replace the tweeters and door speakers? What would that cost if I use medium range speakers?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 4/14/2021

    Tara, That could work. With questions like this, though, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human. 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.
  • Emma from Laramie

    Posted on 2/25/2021

    I have recently had an Alpine ilx-w650 radio installed in my 2005 Honda Pilot ex-l I was not told that it would interfere with my subwoofer in the back. In fact the company I had install it said it would improve my sound quality. Is there ANY way I can get some of the bass I once had with the factory radio with the factory sub? Would I have to purchase a whole new sub? Please help!

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 2/25/2021

    Emma, That's really unfortunate. Alas, you will need a new sub for your Pilot -- and we'd suggest finding a new installer, too. I've sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.
  • Jaron S.

    Posted on 12/7/2020

    As and FYI to all. I tried to install a new DVD receiver into my 2005 Pilot EX-L with overhead monitor and in-dash DVD player. I made sure to select the Overhead entertainment option as I went through the options to see what fit my vehicle. If you want to retain the use of the overhead monitor it will NOT work. The factory head unit has 4 multi-pin connectors for the DVD and CD changer. The DVD player outputs that go from the roof monitor to the DVD player is a 20 pin connector and Not an RCA type connection. If you want to replace your head unit and have the rear playing DVD you will have to replace the head unit and the flip down monitor as they are not compatible with anything other than the stock equipment. I bought this with the caveat that the DVD player will not work, as the website states, but it doesn't say that the monitor will no longer work as well. The website needs to be updated to inform customers that your DVD player AND monitor will no longer work.

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 12/8/2020

    Jaron, You are correct, and we'll update our info to make sure we're crystal-clear on that point. Thanks for your help!
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