How to Install a Car Stereo

Many of us have installed a car stereo in a car when we were young punks getting our tunes jacked up to go cruising.   But times, as the saying goes, they are a changin'.

Today's vehicles have onboard computers that control everything from your climate control to your fuel delivery system.  If you don't do your installation properly, you could end up causing lots of very expensive damage to your ride.   Here are a few tips to make sure your stereo installation goes smoothly.

Step 1:   Order the right Dash Kit.   A Dash Kit (or Dashboard Kit) is the plastic molding that surrounds, and supports your new car stereo.   Gone are the days when you could just cut a piece of plastic and use some aluminum strips to bolt and go.  A Dash Kit fits all the factory screw holes so that it appears that the car or truck came that way out of the factory.   Furthermore, it will ensure that your stereo, whether Double DIN or Single DIN, fits snug and has the right support so that it doesn't rattle itself out of, or into, your dashboard.   A single DIN means a typical car stereo that you see in most cars.  A Double DIN is a larger stereo, usually touchscreen, that is about double the size of a single DIN.   Where do you find a Dash Kit?  That's easy.   Just google stereo parts distributors or better yet, just call us and we can provide you with the right Kit for your year, make and model vehicle.   Dash Kits can range from $20 to up to $300 depending on how sophisticated your dashboard is.   Most vehicle Dash Kits cost closer to $20 than $300, though, so don't worry.

Step 2:  Order the right Car Stereo Wiring Harness.   The harness is the wiring plug that connects your new stereo to your vehicle's existing audio system.   Lots of shops (or buddies) will tell you that all you need is some wire cutters and electric tape.  Uh,,,WRONG!  We see this all the time.  A car comes in with the wrong wiring connections and the wires have literally melted together because the load was too high or there was a short in the incorrect wiring.   To do the job right, order the correct wiring harness for your vehicle's year, make and model.   This will ensure that your new stereo properly integrates with your vehicle's electrical and audio system.  Also, it makes it very easy to plug and unplug your stereo for maintenance or replacement.   Wiring harnesses cost anywhere from $20 to $75 depending on your vehicle.

Step 3: Don't forget the Antenna, dude!   Most people use Bluetooth to play their favorite tunes, and others are still using CDs.  But don't forget the FM tuner!   Sometimes you just gotta listen to the radio when you're cruising to work or just cruising.   If you don't get an antenna adapter to link your new stereo up to your existing antenna system, you won't be listening to anything but Shhhhhhhhhhh (that's the sound of static) when you push the 'Tuner' button on your new deck.   Antenna Adapters are a pretty cheap, but necessary addition to your new sound system.   Costs range from $15 to $25 depending on your vehicle.

Step 4:  Use the right tools!  Make sure you use the right tools to remove the old deck and install the new one.  Not sure what to use for your particular vehicle, give us a call.  Or better yet, bring your vehicle by and we will take a look and recommend the right tools for the job.   Otherwise, call a local distributor or auto parts store and just ask for a stereo removal kit.   It should include the small flat tools that you slide into the sides of your existing stereo to properly remove it from the stereo support compartment in your dash.  One important note, don't ever just yank wiring plugs apart!  Take your time and look at how they are connected then use small tools to pry open the clips and slowly pull the plug apart.   These are delicate components and forcing them in or out may cause serious damage to your wiring system.

Installing your own car stereo is a challenge but it can be done.   Don't be afraid to ask for advice or help.  And just have fun with it.  It may not go right every step of the way, but as long as you can learn from your mistakes, you will get it.

However, if it gets to the point where you would just rather someone else do the job for you, just take it to a reputable stereo installer that warranties their work and they should be able to get it done for you in no time at all.

Happy tunes!

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