Do-It-Yourself Car Speaker Installation

Do you want to upgrade your car speakers, so you get tunes as smooth as your ride?

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Perhaps you bought a used car, and you don’t love the static and rattle you are getting from the stereo system. Maybe you already own a very used car, and the speakers were blown years ago. You might be looking to upgrade your car’s sound system as a cost-effective way to boost your resale value when you sell the car.

In any case, there are some good reasons for installing a new set of component speakers in your vehicle. 

Professional Versus Do-It-Yourself

Now the issue is how to install car speakers once you’ve purchased them.

The favorite method for many people is to drop your car off at a shop and pay a tech $80 an hour to do it for you. Pick it up a day or two later and find they have even thrown in a free wash and vacuuming. The reality is that once you have put out the money to buy a new speaker system, there is precious little budget to spend on that kind of installation, and let’s face it –some of us just really like to tinker and tackle things ourselves.

Let’s take it one step at a time.

How to install car speakers

1 – Choose a system


Decide whether you want to replace the existing speaker system with an exact duplicate or go for an upgrade. If you are going to be spending some money anyway, it might be worth the extra expense to dial it up. You don’t need to pay top dollar, but you should buy the best quality for the dollars you spend.

Get some advice or look up some information online to learn which component systems are the right fit for your vehicle’s layout and configuration.

While the performance features are all important to your choice, they have no value if they won’t fit. Speak to the people at your local automotive supply store or pay a visit to an audio shop to see what is available and learn about options and accessories. Visit online sites for options as well. Then start comparison-shopping until you find the best one to suit your needs.

2 – Determine Speaker Placement


Making sure you understand the placement and fit of the speakers is important to a successful result. You can check your vehicle’s owner’s manual, as well as look for YouTube videos on the topic to help you find out.

Some speakers are one piece, some are component models, and some are surface models. Again, your local automotive store will have a trained person on staff who can look at the car and give you information to work with. Once you know where the speakers will go, you can move forward.

Be sure to ask whether you need any car speaker adapters. They may be included with your new speaker system.

3 – Round Up the Tools


In addition to the speakers, the main tool you will need is a step-by-step list of instructions. Either the included user manual, printed instructions from an online source, or even a well-documented YouTube video will work.

Simple tools from around your garage include a ¼” drive ratcheting socket, screwdrivers with a variety of blades, torx drivers and bits, a wire cutter and stripper, a wire crimping tool and connector, a drill, electrical tape, a utility knife, a measuring tape, and a couple of old rags.

We suggest also getting your hands on a trim removal toolset such as the ABN Premium Trim Removal Tool Kit. It will help you take the door and other areas apart without cutting, scraping or scratching the surfaces.

4 – Locate and Expose the Speakers


Look in your vehicle’s owner’s manual to locate where the existing speakers are. In certain models of cars, the door speakers are sitting just behind a removable grille.

There will be notches around the sides of the grille that allow you to pry it off. This makes swapping out the speakers much easier. If the entire door panel must be removed, the speakers most likely will not be obviously visible. Find the screws or clips that are holding the door panel in place. Using the appropriate screwdriver or socket, loosen the screws and bolts to release the panel.

With a gentle rocking motion and slight pressure as needed, pry the panel loose using the trim tools and working from the outside in. If you come to a difficult spot, double-check that all screws were loosened and pry a bit harder. However, do not apply too much pressure – you don’t want to crack the panel or any of the clips.

If you do lose or break any of the clips, you can buy replacement clips at an automotive supply or electronics store. They must be replaced, or your panel will be loose, and you will have an annoying rattle. It may even cause the panel to crack over time or cause some damage to the inner workings.

If the speakers you are replacing are in the dash, remove any visible screws and then, using a panel tool to avoid damage to both the grille and the surrounding surface of the dash, pry the grille’s friction fitting loose and pop out the grille.

5 – Remove the Old Speaker


Generally speaking, your speaker will be attached with four to six screws or bolts. Determine which tool is needed to remove them. Once the speaker is freed, remove it carefully. You should be aware that the weight of a sudden drop could be enough to damage wiring. Take care to support it until the wiring is disconnected.

6 – Disconnect Speaker from Existing Wiring


Once the panel has been loosened, you can unscrew the old speaker and unplug and disconnect the wiring. You will possibly need to cut through old sealant or foam that may have been used to seat the speakers. If so, take care not to cut any wiring.

Your old system may have used a wiring harness. Disconnect the wiring harness from the old speaker by pressing the release tab and pulling to separate the connector. Then you will want to connect the wiring harness onto your new speaker. You can make a new connection with parts from your audio store if your new speaker does not include a wiring harness.

At this point, you can carefully gather up the components of the old speaker system including any wiring and connectors or screws, etc. Save the speaker if you plan to reinstall it at some point to sell your car, or if you want to donate the speakers to charity, keeping it all in a labeled box. If the speaker was damaged or dysfunctional, take it to your local transfer station to dispose of it properly.

Now for the fun part – install your shiny new speakers! You will want your instruction manual handy for details, but installing the new set is basically like the process of taking your old ones out in reverse order.

7 – Wire the New Speakers


Connect the ends of the wiring harness. It will be obvious which direction they need to be oriented.

If you are working with female blade-style connectors, simply press them into place on the male blades. You will have one black wire attaching to the (-) blade, and the other wire will connect to the (+) blade.

You should never use electrical tape to secure the wiring. Your vehicle is subject to extreme changes in temperature that can cause the tape to break down and the connections will come loose. Always twist the wires together securely and use wire nuts to cover the connecting ends where appropriate.

8 – Secure the New Speakers


Hold the speaker firmly in place to make sure everything is aligned properly. Match them with the holes in the door panel. Screw the speakers in place. When replacing the screws, alternate sides to keep the speaker from shifting. Screw them in only halfway so they can be adjusted as you go. Then when all seems to fit, tighten them gently into place.

9 – Replace the Door Panels


If you are going to add foam baffles to dampen resonance and buzz, this is the time to do it, before you reattach the panels.

Firstly, you will need to firmly snap any clips you removed back into their original locations. This step is important, so if you lost or broke any of them when you were removing them, you will need to replace them before proceeding, or you will have a rattle when you are going down the road.

Once this step is completed, start replacing the screws. Make sure to place them and then to tighten them. Once they are all in place, you can tighten them down.

You now know how to install car speakers! Now you have the basics down – that wasn’t so hard, was it?

If you run into snags or issues that have not been covered here, don’t hesitate to ask at your local audio shop. They can also help you out with a few tips on tweaking and tuning your speakers for optimal performance.

Then you’ll be ready to hit the road and try the system out.

Featured image credit: CC BY 2.0, DeclanTM via https://www.flickr.com.

 

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