Installing Car Audio

When a person gets into a car, one of the first things they do is turn on the radio. Some people like the volume turned down real low and others like myself want loud blaring music. There are several steps to turn a factory sound system into a surround sound theatre.

I have installed all kinds of car audio equipment into automobiles and it doesnt come cheap. First thing anyone wants to do is to set a price range and compare prices at different retailers. The price range will vary between $200 and $5000 depending on what factory items are replaced or added. Although some stores may be significantly cheaper, quality of products is a factor too. Definitely stick to Car Audio dealerships and shops for guaranteed merchandise. The basics hardware that people will usually buy will be a head unit (either a CD, tape, or DVD player), front and rear speakers, subwoofers, and an amplifier. Measurements of the cars speaker ports and head unit opening will need to be taken if not already known. After that the products can be bought at a reasonable price.

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Someone with some kind of car audio experience should attempt these next steps. Start off by disconnecting the negative cable from the battery. First items to install will be the speakers in the car. Usually there will be two in the front doors and two in the rear. First you need to remove any screws that might be holding the door panel on. Usually you will find them around the door handle and armrest. Next position the door panel removal tool under the door panel and align it with one of the round retaining clips. Now just pry the clip upward. Continue until all of them have been removed and the door panel comes off. Now you will be able to see the speaker. Remove the screws holding the speaker and pull the speaker out. Pull off the positive and negative wires from the speaker. Take your new speaker and attach the positive and negative wires. Insert it into the door and secure it with screws. Do the same thing to the other door. The rear speakers are just as easy as the front ones. Find where the screws are and voila.

The CD player should be installed next. First use a special removal tool to remove the factory head unit. Unplug the connecting harnesses behind the head unit and pull it completely out. Depending on the make and model of the car more harnesses may need to be purchased for an aftermarket player to work. Plug a harness and the antenna wire into the back of the CD player. Use a crimping tool and butt joints to connect the colored wires to each other on the harnesses. The colors must match each other to work.
When buying subs the thing to keep in mind is trunk space and how soon you want to go deaf. There are three sizes that most people tend to buy; 8 inch, 10 inch, and 12 inch. Once you buy the subs you need a box with the recommended airspace for them. Use speaker wire and connect the wire terminals on the sub to the inside of the box. Drill screws into the box to hold the subs in it. I recommend screwing the box down to the car so its harder for someone to steal if they try.

To install an amplifier you must have an amplifier kit. Amp kits depend on what the Amplifiers output power is. The power rating is measured in watts and will usually have several channels. For example, 200 x 2 means there is 100 watts going out of two channels. The amp kit usually contains power wire, ground wire, remote wire, speaker wire, RCA cables, connectors, wire loom, and fuses. Mount the amp on a solid surface in the rear trunk area of the vehicle. Usually the subwoofer box will work. Connect a remote turn on lead wire to your “power antenna” or “remote” lead from the head unit. Run the RCA cables, and remote lead, from the head unit, down the middle of the car, or down the opposite side of the car from the power cable. The remote lead will serve as a turn-on for the amp. For the power wire find a spot to go through the firewall. Run the cable through the firewall, and up to the battery. Don’t connect it to the battery till you are all done. The ground wire is very important in keeping your stereo safe. Install a ground cable from the negative post on the battery, to the chassis of the car. If reachable, it’s best to run it to the firewall. Make it the same size, or larger than the positive cable. I like to run a 4 gauge or larger to the engine block, and an 8 gauge or larger to the chassis. Near the amp, install a ground distribution block. Find a spot as close as possible to this, to connect a ground cable. Its easier to connect it to an existing bolt. However if drilling is a must, make sure not to drill into the gas tank! Wherever the hole is, make sure to sand off all the paint, and put it right on the bare metal. Vaseline will also help prevent corrosion. Now connect the cable from the chassis, to the distribution block. Run a piece of cable from the distribution block, to the amps negative terminal. Connect the RCA cables to the amp. Do not connect them before you have grounded your amplifier, and wait till you connect the battery terminal. Often, the biggest mistake people make is to have their RCA’s hooked up the first time their amps get a charge. Since the outer shield of the RCA’s are grounded, the amp will try to take some of its ground through them, damaging the preamp of your radio and amplifier. Connect your remote lead to the amps remote connection. Next connect the speaker wires from the back of the subwoofer box to the speaker wire terminal on the back of the amp. Go back and connect the positive cable to the positive terminal on the battery. Turn the gain control on the amp to its minimum setting and turn the car on. Turn the volume up to where a person would listen to it most of the time. Go back to the amp and slowly raise the gain, and listen for distortion. If you reach a point where the volume is louder than you will listen to, before you hear distortion, then stop there. Otherwise, keep going till you hear distortion, and cut it back slightly till it disappears. Remember that volume setting. That is the maximum volume you want to play it at.

Grab some good CDs and go for a ride. Listen to all types of music, and stop the car, and make adjustments as necessary. If you have multiple amps, and an equalizer, it will take much longer to get it set the way you want it. But this is the fun part!


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