How to Install Your Own Car Stereo

Ever wonder how to wire a car stereo from scratch?

If you own a car, chances are that you’re stuck with the stock stereo that came with it when you bought it. Although you can opt for an upgrade in your car dealership, it’s probably just going to be another flat, base-less, and distorted at high-volume kind of stereo.

Installing a new stereo in your car isn’t really that difficult. In fact, popping in a new head unit is the easiest upgrade you can give your car. There are several benefits to upgrading your stereo, such as crisper and clearer sounds.

In this guide, we take a look at how to install your own car stereo. You'd be amazed how easily you can do so with just learning a few things or two. You'll be able to wire a car stereo from scratch easily!

Benefits of Upgrading Your Car Stereo

Better Sound

Although some people might be satisfied with the stock head unit, a new audio system can give your car a noticeable improvement especially if you’re thinking of installing a high-quality aftermarket speaker. That means you’ll be experiencing tighter bass and little to no distortion at high volumes.

More Control

Most car audio systems provide you with basic controls on treble and bass, but when you install a new system with an equalizer, it will give you multiple options on adjusting your frequency response and fixing any noticeable distortions.

Better Smartphone Integration 

Chances are if you spend a lot of time in your car, you probably use the speakerphone regularly. But if you don’t have an adequate Bluetooth equipped audio system, a lot of the background noise in your car (especially when you’re driving) will probably be heard on the other end of the call. That means they will have a hard time hearing you talk. By installing a better stereo, not only will you have better communication with your friends and family, but your phone can also better integrate with your car.

Overall, a new car stereo can tremendously enhance your driving experience. It gives you clearer sounds and will give you more control over how you want to listen to music. However, if you choose the wrong one, you could just end up wasting your money.

How Much Does it Cost to Install a Car Stereo?

So how much does it all cost? When you are installing your stereo, one question you should ask might be how much does it cost to install a car stereo? When installing a new audio system in your car, not only do you have to think about what system to buy, but you also have to think about how much you’re willing to pay. That’s why establishing your budget is extremely important when buying a new audio system. You might end up buying components you don’t really need!

It’s difficult to determine exactly how much does it cost to install a car stereo system might cost, because several factors might influence its price. It totally depends on the type of system you’re buying, the complexity of the install, and if you’re hiring a professional to do it. 

Material Costs to Install a Car Stereo

Typically, if you are planning to install the audio system yourself, it will cost you somewhere around $40 for a subwoofer to $170 for a package of a subwoofer, an amplifier, and a Bluetooth receiver from Kenwood. At that price point, you already have a premium audio system that not only gives you crisp and high-quality sound but also gives you more options to customize your listening experience.

Although if you’re looking for a mid-range system that sounds almost as good as a premium system but at a relatively lower price, then look no further than BOSS’s audio system. Priced at close to $70, the BOSS Audio model 656BCK is one of the best entry-level car audio systems around. Just like the previous package, this one also comes with an audio receiver, a subwoofer, and an amplifier.

Labor Costs to Install a Car Stereo 

While installing a new stereo can be easy, it can be a headache, especially if you don't know what your doing! To avoid this, a lot of newbies out there elect to go to a licensed professional. If you have enough to spare after buying that new audio system, you could opt to hire a professional to do it for you.

In most cases, the cost of a car stereo installation could range anywhere from free-of-charge (if you buy directly from an installation company) to $300 if they’re installing a more complex system. Standard installations, however, will range from $40 to $80.

Many companies offer a complete car audio system package. Car Stereo City offers the package at $400 to $500, including the system and labor.

Audio Express Banner Stereo Install Labor Rates

Audio Express offers the following rates for their installation of a car audio system:

  • A head unit installation can cost you $50 up to $70 if you want to install one with Bluetooth.
  • A standard In-Dash DVD installation will cost $90.
  • A speaker installation will cost $75 up to $140 for audio systems that have a more complex wiring system.
  • An amplifier installation can vary depending on the number of channels in your stereo. A system with 1 or 2 channels will cost you $100, $120 for 4 channel system, and $140 for 5 to 6 channels.

Audio Express offers an hourly rate of $85 and $45 for every half-hour increment.

Not everything comes according to plan, and sometimes you need to pay for extra costs. If, for instance, your new audio system came in with wiring that doesn’t fit with the factory wiring, you may need to buy a new one. Or maybe the new stereo doesn’t fit naturally to your car’s dashboard; this will be another separate charge. All these parts combined, you could be looking at a $40 to $60 increase in the cost.

No matter your budget, always be aware of what you’re buying and paying to make sure that you don’t overspend.

5 Steps on How to Install Your Own Car Stereo

After the seemingly arduous task of looking for and buying a new replacement for your car’s audio system, you now have the monumental task of installing it. But before doing so, you must first disconnect your car’s battery before working on it. Not doing so could result in a blown fuse and that can be time-consuming and nevertheless frustrating. Plus you'll find that a major mishap can be a real shock! (Pun totally intended 🙂 But seriously, any electrical work you do, make sure the battery is unplugged). 

Tools You Might Need:

  • Voltmeter
  • Philips and flat head screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Panel removal tool
  • Wrenches (8mm, 100mm)
  • Wiring adapter kit
  • Wire crimps
  • Wire cutters

STEP 1 - Removing the Stereo

In order to remove the stereo from the dashboard, you will have to start removing the trim panels surrounding the head unit.

If you don’t know how to remove the panels, you can have a read at the manual that came with your car. The instructions on removing it can likely be found there. But if not, you can call your manufacturer or search the internet for instructions.

Start to remove the trim panels by first removing the surrounding screws. Be vigilant as some screws may not be obvious to see. Once the screws are removed you may have to carefully pull the panels in a certain direction to prevent it from breaking. Also, some panels may be held together by a push screw, which you can simply pull out.

STEP 2 - Pulling the Stereo Out

After all the panels are removed, you can now pull out the stereo assembly. The head unit may be mounted in two ways:

  • It can be bolted to the dashboard and secured with brackets or;
  • It can be secured with a mounting sleeve and spring clips.

 After removing the assembly, you need to unscrew the stereo from it.  Remove the screws surrounding the brackets on the side of the assembly. The stereo should just slide right out after removing the screws.

STEP 3 - Setting Up the Wiring

Before excitedly screwing your new stereo into the brackets, you must first sort out the wiring.

To connect the wires, there are two options available; you can either solder the wires (this is a more permanent fixture and ensures the wires will never come off) or you can crimp them (this is quicker and more efficient but will run the risk of falling over time).

How to Install a Car Stereo - Wiring

To start, you have to connect the wiring harness to the adapter. To connect the harness, you’ll need to strip the end of the wires and crimp the connection. After securing the harness, see if it is grounded. If not, you can use your car’s ground wire and crimp it to the harness.

STEP 4 - Test the Connection

Once all the wiring connections are secured, plug the stereo to the adapter and run the connection. If the stereo turns on, play something to check if all the speakers are working.

STEP 5 - Finish the Installation

Finish a Car Stereo Installation

After you made sure that all the wiring and connections are working, you can now screw the stereo back to the bracket and put it back to the place where you pulled it out. With the new stereo secured inside, you can now put the trim panels back to secure the dashboard. Screw everything up and you’re now ready to go.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully installed a new stereo by yourself. That wasn't too bad was it? If all went as planned, you can now enjoy listening to the music with you new headunit! Enjoy!