What is a car stereo?
A car stereo is a radio and audio player that is attached to the inside of an automobile. The system typically consists of one or more “radio” units and speakers mounted in the car and a wiring loom that carries electrical power and signal around the vehicle.
Tools required to install car stereo
If you want to install a car stereo in your car, obviously will be required to specific tools. So, what tools should we get? Well, that depends on the type of installation and wiring harness involved. If you use an adapter (also called “Radio Plug”), all you need is:
- Soldering iron or station
- Wire stripper
- Phillips screwdriver
- Flat screwdriver
- Wire crimping pliers (or soldering iron)
How to wire a car stereo without a harness?
Wiring a car stereo the correct way can be difficult without a wiring harness to make it easy. However, even if you don’t have this luxury, you can always wire your car stereo without a wiring harness with just a few simple steps:
- Make sure that the head unit’s voltage range is compatible with your vehicle’s electrical system. This information should be located on either the back or bottom of the head unit. If it doesn’t say what voltages are supported, choose 12 volts as your upper limit and 6 volts as your lower limit. You will need these numbers later when wiring the head unit so write them down for now. Also, write down whether your head unit runs on the hostile ground or positive ground. Most car stereo wiring diagrams assume that a positive environment is used, but you should check to make sure.
- Disconnect the negative terminal of your vehicle’s battery. This will help ensure that no damage comes to your head unit while it is being wired up. This step is recommended whenever you work on your vehicle’s electrical system, so don’t skip it just because you are wiring a car stereo without a harness.
- Find the wire that powers the fuse box in your vehicle and connect one end of your power wire (red) to this wire. The other end of this wire should be connected to the 16-pin connector that plugs into the back of the head unit or directly onto the back of some head units (in this case, your power wire should be the one black wire coming from the head unit). It shows a 16-pin connector. You do not need to use all of the pins; you only need to make connections for the necessary ones, such as power, ground, and speakers.
- Find the speaker wires already in your vehicle and connect them to the other end of your power wire (red) if they aren’t already connected. This will send line-level signals from your head unit into your speakers.
- If there is no pre-existing wiring, you will have to connect a set of RCA cables directly from the rear output jacks of the head unit to a group of amplified speakers or an amplifier in the trunk. Again, you do not need to use all of the available lines from your head unit, so leaving a couple of them unconnected is ok.
- Find speaker wires in your vehicle and connect one end of each wire to the speaker outputs on your head unit or RCA output jacks if they are being used. If there is no pre-existing wiring, you will have to connect a set of RCA cables directly from these outputs to speakers in the front doors or door panels. This step can be complicated when wires from both sources are used at once because it can be difficult to distinguish between them during installation.
- However, this shouldn’t be a problem since almost every head unit feeds the rear speakers when used with RCA cables. Also, some head units only provide the front speakers when used with speaker wires, and others do not have any switches for this function, so it is turned off completely, and you cannot use both types of wiring at once.
- Connect the car stereo ground wire (black) to a bare metal spot on your vehicle’s chassis. This is very important as a loose connection will cause your head unit to malfunction. A good location can be found by following all existing wiring as they run into the trunk or behind panels in the passenger compartment.
- Just follow them until one of them is permanently connected to something that doesn’t move, such as seat belts or suspension springs. If no other options exist, then try mounting your head unit on a metal surface and then use the screws that hold it in place as your ground. Connect a speaker wire from each positive terminal of all speakers you wish to receive sound from the head unit to the corresponding left + or right + output on your head unit. This can be done by running these wires behind panels, hiding them from sight, under carpeting, or through custom speaker grilles.
- If this is not possible, you will have to drill a small hole into each panel and run them through there (be sure you know what is behind that particular panel, though) and then plug them into the head units outputs. Also, make sure you insulate these connections with heat shrink tubing electrical tape because bare wires touching can cause a short circuit.
- Connect the car stereo antenna wire (white) from the back of your head unit to a suitable spot on your vehicle’s exterior. This can be done by following existing wiring behind panels, mounting it near an existing AM/FM antenna, or running new wires up through the gaps between body panels and then screwing them into place.
- If you do not have any other options, try using an FM modulator because these devices will input a line-level signal from a head unit and convert it to an FM radio frequency broadcast over a small area. The idea is that you tune your car radio to the same frequency, so the sound from both units becomes synchronized together. Note, though, that performance can vary significantly depending on how well the modulator works in your specific vehicle.
- Connect the car stereo power wire (red) to your car’s battery from your head unit. This is done by running this wire directly to the battery’s positive terminal and securing it tightly with an appropriate corrosion-proof connector such as a crimp-on ring terminal. It may also be possible to connect directly to fuses located in or near your fuse box so long as they are rated for enough current to work properly.
- Again, suppose you do not have any existing power wires. In that case, you will need to run new ones, so plan accordingly because every inch of these connections must be insulated using rubber grommets that pass through metal surfaces and heat shrink tubing.
- Install any head unit accessories such as a removable faceplate cover or the wiring for your car stereo’s built-in amplifier.
- Connect all speakers to their respective spots on the rear of your head unit (labeled left + and right +) using either speaker wire or R cable, depending on which type your particular head unit uses.
- Reinstall everything and enjoy your sound system. Note that some head units may require you to change the settings from “LOCAL” or “L-CH” to “FR/RR” for all speakers to work correctly, so if yours is acting wonky, check out this section of your owner’s manual as it will have important information on how specific functions work and how to configure them correctly.
RCA cables are typically used to carry line-level signals (whereas speaker wire is used to carry high-power audio signals), so they can be plugged into nearly any device that has an output jack on it. On the other hand, speaker wire is designed specifically for speakers, making them an ideal choice for this type of project.
It depends. Some head units will automatically switch over to LOCAL mode when it detects RCA inputs, so you can connect your speaker wire without having to touch anything. However, if yours does not, you will have to go into the manual setup menu and change things, so all speakers are being used properly.
This is a common problem with RCA inputs because the signal is feeble and susceptible to interference. This causes a buzzing sound that gets worse as volume levels get higher, so it can be problematic in some cases. The best way to fix this issue is by adding an inline ground loop isolator between your head unit and amp(s), which breaks the electrical connection between them while acting as an electronic filter to reduce interference.