How to Install a Car Stereo by Yourself

Out of all the vehicle accessories, I cannot even start to imagine my car without a stereo. This is what makes my trips that much bearable. But like all things they are going to need to be replaced. For me I can’t go a day without my stereo so I fix it on the day it stops working.

Now, there are people who will take it to a repair shop to get a new one installed but I do it on my own. The process is pretty simple and anyone can do it. And that’s what we are going to talk about today.

We are going to talk about how to install a car stereo without going to a repair shop so that you can do it on your own. But before getting into the installation process let’s talk about gathering the tools you need for this.

So first for the battery, you will need a couple of screwdrivers and a wrench or socket set. And you will also need things like wire strippers, electrical tape, and a way to connect wires. Another important tool that you will need is a panel removal tool.

This will help you remove things without causing any damage. Now with the tools in hand, we can move on to the next step.

Removing The Stereo

Now that you have all the things in hand you can start removing the old stereo from your car. But there’s a catch here. Not all stereos are the same. Different models from different eras and makes have different installation.

But don’t worry none of them is anything to sweat over. Here in the following passages, we will tackle each type of stereo and its removal. If you have your owner’s manual, then you will be able to find the instructions on what you need to do to remove the old stereo.

Or just follow the general guidelines we are going to provide. Now, when removing any car stereo, you need to set the parking brake and remove the negative cable from the car battery. Then you can move on to the removal process. The removal process for each type of stereo is as follows:

Spring Clip Mounted Stereo

So this is a common type of stereo. If you have a stereo that is mounted with spring clips, then you will most definitely need DIN tools for its removal. The DIN tools are required to unlock spring clips.

What they do is basically unlock the clip and locks itself in the stereo so that the entire thing can be pulled out. So what you do is basically insert the tools in the designated holes. After a certain point you will hear a click it means that the clip is unlocked and the DIN tool is locked. Expand the tool and then pull the stereo out.

Bolted Stereo

So there are stereos that are a bit harder to access than spring clip mounted stereos. You may have to remove one or multiple trim panels before actually getting access to start the removal process.

You simply have to pry the panels away carefully as many are fitted with hidden clips. Or sometimes you may just have to locate and remove bolts to remove the panels from the dash. Once the panels are removed you will notice the bolts that are holding the stereo in place.

All you need to do at this moment is just unscrew the bolts and you are done, you can then just simply pull out the stereo from the dash.

Stereos That Attached to The Rail System

So in some vehicles, the stereo is attached to the rail system in the dash. This is why once you remove the clips or bolts you need to pull out the stereo. But there are instances when the rail interferes with the removal process and at that time you need to remove the rail system as well.

Or if you are installing a stereo that does not fit in the dashboard with the rail system. This is why you may have to remove the rail system entirely. 

Shaft Style Stereo

So the shaft style stereos can be found in cars before the early 1980s. Now, these stereos are locked in the dashboard with nuts and washers. You can find these things on the right and left knobs.

So shaft style stereos are different than other stereos because they have to be installed from behind the dashboard. Now it might be a bit complicated to navigate through the vehicle's wiring, heater controls, and ductwork but it is possible.

And there are shops that can turn your shaft style stereo into a modern stereo to fit in your car if you have recently made models.

Unplugging The Stereo

So your factory stereo or if you have a “stereo prep” package then you will see that there is at least one plastic wiring harness that connects your stereo to the car.

So all you need to do is to remove the wiring harness and the antennae and you are done unplugging the stereo from your car. So now you can now move on installing your new stereo.

Wiring Your New Car Stereo

You already know about the wiring harness that your stereo has because you had to disconnect it. But now you have to reconnect the wire with the new stereo. This is as you can guess vital for your car stereo installation.

So you just refer to the owner’s manual of the new stereo and connect the wires accordingly to the harness. You can do that anywhere so you don’t really have to be couped up in your car for this part. Now if you don’t have a wiring harness then you can use other methods.

You can solder the wires, use connectors, or crimp them together as well. So usually you will have a wiring harness for your stereo but if you have to make direct connections then you need to make sure you determine the type of connection for power.

There are two types of connections you either have a constant connection or a switched connection. If your stereo has a switched power connection, then all you need to do is take the lead wire to the switch. If you have a constant power stereo.

These stereos always have the power on. Here you need to attach the memory lead to a constant power source. But these are not usual situations usually you will find a wiring harness attached in the back.

After you get the power wires sorted out you need to get to the speaker wires. A traditional speaker system will have positive wire and negative wire for the front left, front right, rear left, and rear right speakers.

Just attach those according to the instructions on the owner’s manual. So speakers generate a lot of static. This is why often times it becomes vital to utilize a ground wire to ensure good sound quality.

So if you are not using a wiring harness then you do need to ground your stereo. Take the grounding wire and put it under a bare unpainted bolt that is touching the car’s chassis. Remember your stereo won’t work properly unless it is grounded the right way. Make sure that the bolt is tightened and the wire is touching bare metal.

Mounting The Stereo

Now it’s time or you to mount the stereo to your dashboard. If the stereo was bolted, then you may need to remove your mounting brackets entirely and then attach them to the sides of the stereo.

For this process, you will need a mounting kit which you will be able to find on your local auto parts store quite easily. Simply follow the instructions on the owner’s manual and you will be able to simply slide your stereo in the dash.

And You Are Done

So there you go, this is how you install a new stereo in your car. The process as you can see is very easy and anyone can do it. So give it a try.

But if you feel overwhelmed then you can go to your local mechanic to have it replaced. With that being said our installation guide for car stereos comes to an end. Until next time, goodbye.

About the Author Long Le

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