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2005-2015 Nissan Xterra

How to upgrade the stereo system in your Xterra

2005 Nissan Xterra

In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Xterra'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 Nissan.

Overview of the Nissan Xterra

For the second-generation Xterra Nissan increased the popular mid-sized SUV's overall size and upgraded the available performance and comfort content. The result was a big, spacious vehicle that looked equally ready for a cross-town shopping trip or a cross-desert rally raid.

Unlike a lot of "here today, totally revamped tomorrow" trucks, this basic Xterra design hung around for a good long while. Nissan largely resisted the urge to mess with a good thing, preferring a continual series of mild revisions, additions, and upgrades that helped keep an aging design somewhat fresh. The result is a solid, proven performer that's still a great choice for anyone who enjoys the outdoors or simply likes having a tall, purposeful-looking vehicle with tons of space.

Nissan Xterra Rockford Fosgate stereo in 2005-08 models

A Rockford Fosgate stereo was optional in some Xterra models (Crutchfield Research Photo)

The factory stereo system

The Xterra offered two stereo systems to choose from. The base package offered an AM/FM/CD receiver driving six speakers. All systems carried tweeters in each corner of the dash, with oval 6"x9" woofers mounted in the lower front doors, and circular 6-3/4" woofers located in the rear doors.

The Rockford Fosgate premium system had a 6-disc CD changer in the dash that featured MP3 playback. Later models also added an auxiliary input. The standard speaker package was replaced by a 9-speaker system powered by a Rockford Fosgate amplifier.

Besides having better speakers, the premium system added tweeters in the rear doors, and the ninth speaker was an 8" powered subwoofer located under the driver’s seat

Nissan Xterra radio

With the trim panel out of the way, it's time to remove the stereo (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Removing the factory radio

Removing the stereo is fairly simple, unless your stereo is integrated into the dash panel (found on some 2009-up models). Those vehicles require a little more work once the stereo is out of the dash, but we’ll get to that scenario in a minute. The Xterra offers plenty of room behind the dash panel and you can select either a single-DIN (2" tall) or a double-DIN(4" tall) stereo, so you’ll be able to choose from many aftermarket models.

If you're replacing the base radio, we recommend that you also replace the low-impedance factory speakers with standard 4-ohm aftermarket speakers (or add an aftermarket amplifier) to prevent overheating and other damage to the new stereo. If you're keeping the stock radio, look for low-impedance aftermarket speakers.

When you replace the stereo in the Rockford Fosgate system, you can safely use the factory amplifier with your new stereo, and the receiver wiring harness you get (at a discount!) from Crutchfield will enable you to connect it properly. However, your new receiver must have two sets of preamp outputs (front and rear) or you’ll lose the ability to fade the music from front to back. Keep this in mind when shopping for a receiver.

If you're installing a new receiver and bypassing the Rockford Fosgate amp, we recommend replacing these low-impedance factory speakers with 4-ohm aftermarket models. Or you can add an aftermarket amplifier.

If you have questions about any of this, just give us a call or chat.

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.

When removing the stereo, you'll start by using a panel tool to carefully pry up the plastic tray on top of the dash above the radio. Remove the screw that you find underneath the tray. Pry out the trim panel around the receiver and climate controls, and unplug the harnesses from it. Remove the four Phillips screws holding the stereo in place, then pull out the stereo and disconnect the wiring plug and FM antenna.

Stereo integrated into the nissan xterra dash (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Newer models have a factory stereo integrated into the dash (Crutchfield Research Photo)

2009-up integrated radio: For those newer models that have the radio integrated into the dash panel (shown above), the dash disassembly and removal process is the same. But when you pull the dash trim off, you’ll find that the radio is attached to it, instead of the dash substructure. So once you’ve unplugged all the harnesses, flip the dash/radio assembly upside down and find the four screws that secure the radio to the dash panel.

No matter which type of factory stereo you have, you’ll need a mounting kit to install the new receiver, a wiring harness to make the electrical connections without cutting into your Nissan’s wires, and an adapter for the FM antenna cable. All of these are available at a deep discount with all receiver purchases from Crutchfield.

If you’re installing a double-DIN receiver, you’ll need to use the mounting brackets attached to the sides of the factory stereo. If you no longer have these brackets, you’ll need to get replacements from a Nissan dealership. Follow the instructions included with the mounting kit to install it, then install the new stereo according to the instructions in your MasterSheet, and reassemble the dash.

Airbag light note: if your Xterra has a passenger’s side airbag, there’ll be an airbag light connected to the dash panel that you remove. You can safely detach this light from the panel by removing the screws holding the light in place. Do not take the easy road and unplug the cable from the light. Doing so will cause the computer to receive a fault code, which will then cause the airbag light to trigger. If that happens, you’ll have to take the truck to a Nissan dealership (and pay a service fee) to reset the truck’s diagnostic computer.

Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool

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

Shop for car stereos that fit your Nissan Xterra

Steering wheel audio controls

In most cases, it's reasonably easy to retain your Nissan'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.

Removing the factory speakers

The Xterra's stock speakers are adequate, but if you're serious about sound, you'll definitely want to upgrade. As noted above, pay close attention to impedance figures when you're choosing your new speakers.

Nissan Xterra tweeter location

The Xterra's factory tweeters (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Dash tweeters

You can remove the factory tweeters without much difficulty. All you need to do is pry off the grilles, then, depending on which stereo system you have, remove either two or four screws securing the tweeter. The only difficulty lies in the fact that these screws can be hard to get to with a screwdriver. A right-angle screwdriver will save the day.

When the screws are out, lift out the tweeter and unplug the wires. You’ll have to tap into the factory speaker wires because there aren’t any aftermarket adapters available for this location. Posi-Product wire tap connectors can really help with this process.

Tools needed: Panel tool, right-angle Phillips screwdriver

Front speaker in the Nissan Xterra

The front speaker in the Rockford Fosgate system (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Front speakers

As mentioned earlier, the front door speakers are 6"x9" ovals in both versions of the factory stereo system. The space in front of the speakers is a little tight, so only a few aftermarket 6x9’s will fit. You can also install 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers in this location, using adapter brackets that are available at a discount when you purchase your speakers from Crutchfield. Choosing one of these smaller sizes will give you more replacement options.

There are no wiring adapters available for the Xterra, so you’ll have to splice the new speaker wires to the truck’s wiring. This is another place where the Posi-Product wire taps will be very helpful. If you use these, you won’t have to cut off the factory connectors.

The door panels will have to be removed to gain access to the speakers, but the process isn't terribly hard. There are three screws to remove, located behind the door pull, armrest, and power options switch panel. After that, just use your panel tool to pry around the bottom and sides of the door panel until you release it.

Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool, 8mm socket, ratchet & extension,

nissan xterra rear door tweeter

The premium sound system's rear tweeters are mounted on the underside of the door panel (Crutchfield Research Photo)

Rear speakers

Removing the rear door panel is nearly identical to removing the front door panel. Once you have the panel off, you can install 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers, again with the help of a mounting bracket. You’ll also have to drill new mounting holes for the bracket.

Simply attach the bracket to the new speaker, then hold it in place so you can mark the screw holes with a pen or marker. Set the speaker assembly aside and carefully drill the new holes. Once again, a wiring adapter is not available, so you’ll have to splice the wires as you did in the front doors.

Rockford Fosgate systems: If you have the Rockford Fosgate audio system, you’ll also find tweeters mounted on the inside of the rear door panel. They’re held in place by two screws and can easily be replaced.

As with the dash tweeters, you’ll need to fashion a mounting bracket and splice the wires. If your new tweeters have a threaded screw hole on the back, you might even be able to re-use the Nissan brackets. The factory tweeters are 1-3/8" in diameter, so your replacements shouldn’t exceed this size.

Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool, 8mm socket, ratchet & extension, drill and 1/8" bit

Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information

Shop for speakers that fit your Nissan Xterra

JL Audio Stealthbox for the Xterra (Photo courtesy of JL Audio)

The JL Audio Stealthbox for the Xterra fits into the passenger's side of the cargo area (Photo courtesy of JL Audio)

Bass in your Nissan Xterra

The Rockford Fosgate system includes an 8" subwoofer that's mounted under the driver's seat. Getting to it is a bit fiddly, but it’s still a do-able DIY project and all the instructions can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet. Pay close attention to impedance specs when you're ordering the new sub.

You can re-use the factory enclosure when you install your new subwoofer, but depending on which aftermarket sub you choose, you may have to drill new screw holes or fabricate a speaker bracket. Not hard to do, really, but work carefully and wear eye protection.

With or without the Rockford Fosgate system, your Xterra can probably benefit from more bass. There's obviously plenty of room for a subwoofer box in the back, so shop our selection of bass packages to take the guesswork out of matching subs and amplifiers.

If you want a stealthy option that preserves your cargo space, consider the JL Audio Stealthbox® custom-fit subwoofer enclosure. It mounts against the passenger-side rear wall and contains a 12" JL Audio subwoofer capable of handling up to 500-watts RMS. Add an amp and fill your truck with hard-hitting bass.

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

Shop for vehicle-specific subwoofers for your Nissan Xterra


The low-profile Accele RVCLPMBS camera will help you see what's behind you when you're backing up.

Other options for your Xterra

There are lots of things you can add to improve your Xterra. Here are some ways Crutchfield can help:

Add a rear-view camera

With a vehicle as big and tall as the Xterra, it's important to be aware of your surroundings. A rear-view camera is a big help when you're backing up in a crowded parking lot.

Add a sound processor

If you choose to keep the stock radio, install a sound processor to send a clear, clean signal to your new amp. Sound processors remove any limitations on the signal imposed by the factory radio. The better the signal, the better the sound. Read our article explaining factory sound processors to learn more.

Remote start and security systems

Adding remote start capability to your vehicle lets you warm it up in the winter or cool it down in the summer. The iDatastart system is incredibly convenient and makes it easier than ever to install a remote start system, so we highly recommend it. The module requires a vehicle-specific T-harness (sold separately) to connect with your vehicle's computer, security, and ignition systems, so we ask that you call to order so that we can make sure you get the right harness for your ride.

You can also talk to your Crutchfield Advisor about a security system. They’re not as easy to install (we usually suggest letting a professional do the job), but we can help you choose a system that’ll work in your vehicle.

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

  • Adam from Bloomington

    Posted on 1/25/2023

    Is there an aftermarket head unit and / or harness that will allow me to use the factory installed satellite radio receiver and antenna in a 2012 Xterra with the Rockford Fosgate stereo? Thanks

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 1/26/2023

    Adam, 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.
  • Ryan

    Posted on 11/29/2021

    I'm looking to replace the head unit on my 2008 Nissan Xterra (not Rockford Fosgate). Would I need a new amp to do this, or would I be able to safely use what I already have in my car?

    Commenter image

    Jon Paul from Crutchfield

    on 11/30/2021

    Ryan, Yes, a new amp is probably the way to go. When you replace the Xterra's base radio, you can either replace the low-impedance factory speakers with standard 4-ohm aftermarket models, or you can add an aftermarket amp. This will prevent overheating and other damage to the new stereo. 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.
  • Commenter image

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/2/2018

    Ronnie, When you enter your vehicle's info into our Outfit My Car tool, you'll see which stereos fit your car, plus the correct harness. If you have any questions, our advisors are available via phone or chat.

  • Ronnie from Slidell

    Posted on 3/2/2018

    I have a 2007 Xterra SE with the rocksford Fosgate package. I don't know what door speakers and tweeters I should get that will actually fit in my car. Any suggestions?

  • Commenter image

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/12/2017

    Neil, If you're adding an aftermarket radio, one good SWC option is the Axxess RFASWC Universal Steering Wheel Controls Package. But give us a call and talk to an advisor to make sure this is exactly what you need.

  • Neil Richards from uniondale

    Posted on 9/12/2017

    I have a 2007 Nissan Xterra without audio controls on the steering wheel. How can I add these?? have see some steering wheel with controls . I have also seen the controls sold separately on eBay .

  • Commenter image

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/22/2017

    Joe, 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.

  • Joe from McLean, VA

    Posted on 8/18/2017

    I have a 2011 Xterra with the Rockford Fosgate premium sound system. The system has an AUX input to connect to an iPhone or other music source, but there is no BlueTooth capabilities for audio (the vehicle has a BlueTooth enabled integrated phone system, though). Is there a Crutchfield add-on that will provide BlueTooth audio capabilities? Thanks for your help!

  • Commenter image

    Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2017

    Robert, The MasterSheet focuses on removal and replacement of the receiver and speakers. But, if you buy your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for advise on adding the camera. If you purchase 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.

  • Robert from Sioux Falls

    Posted on 8/10/2017

    I have a 2011 Xterra with the Rockford Fosgate system and want to replace the head unit with the Alpine ILX-107 with wireless CarPlay. I also want to add a backup camera. Does the Crutchfield MasterSheet for the Xterra address backup cameras and the additional leads that a modern head unit requires? The ILX-107 installation guide shows leads that I assume are not used with the stock stereo, so I would have to identify these new connections (e.g. vehicle speed pulse line, back up lamp signal lead and parking brake signal lead).

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