Whether you bought your car used or new there comes a time when upgrading your Audio System to meet your current needs is something you want to do.
If you watch any of the car shows on Cable Television you will see multi-thousand dollar kits being installed in SUVs that take up the whole cargo area.
Since most of us don’t want or need to go that far we thought we would examine some of the things you can do on the cheap without cutting into your cars interior or your wallet.
The main way to save money when performing an audio system upgrade on your own is to select pieces that fit your car without modification.
This will also reduce your time in the garage and the tools needed to complete the change over.
Audio System Physical Sizes
The first thing that you need to know is the size of components that are already installed in your vehicle.
Radios are measured in Din sizes measuring the height of the radio and you can have a 1 to 3 din sized components in your dash with half sizes in between.
If you do not know the Din size for the radio in your car there are a number of references you can use to find the correct replacement or you can call your Dealer’s Parts Department for help.
Speakers are measured in Inches and categorized in shape.
You may have more then one size of speaker in your car but for easy upgrade you want to match the sizes and shapes of your factory openings to reduce the time and expense of custom modification.
The most common size for standard equipment speakers is 5 to 6 inch round. They can be found in the front dash, kick panels by your feet or in the front doors.
You may also find oval shaped speakers on your rear package shelf just in front of your rear window. These speakers are often 4″x6″ or 6″x9″ inches in size.
Although these are the most common sizes for stock parts your car may have had dealer installed or after market parts that already replaced factory parts. In that case it is always best to take a look at the speakers before you start your shopping.
Amps and Watts
It is important to know that once you start thinking about installing amplifiers to increase the power to your speakers you will also need to upgrade your cars wiring.
Most stock systems are 15 to 35 watts in power and this amount of electricity can be transferred through the lower grade stock wiring system in your car.
If you wanted to upgrade your cars audio system in most cases you can find a 200 watt x 4 radio that can put a peak of 50 watts of power to each of 4 speakers. This is about as far as you can go on stock speaker wire.
Even so if you are planing to upgrade the wattage of your system you should ask an installer if the radio you select will require full rewiring of your audio system harness. If you were to simply install an Amp and higher Watt components and attach them to thin factory wires you will end up melting the wires and causing a fire. I have personally seen this happen to people so don’t take a chance.
Rewiring your audio system can be a difficult task especially if you are dealing with speakers in your car doors.
It will require that you pull new and thicker wires under your carpet and plastic moldings and may require the removal of many pieces which are difficult to remove without special tools. This is something you should keep in mind.
If you are adding an aftermarket Radio you will most likely need to buy a Harness Adaptor to connect the Radio to your Stock Harness. This adaptor will provide all the ins and outs for power, antenna and audio.
Harness Adapters usually cost about $20 to $30 and are not part of your Radio Purchase … They are a hidden fee you don’t get hit with until you see the installer bill.
Most harness connectors are a single piece but some systems require 2 or more.
When installing the harness you need a diagram of the wires and often if you are upgrading from a bare radio in your car to a CD Changer you will need to alter the routing of wires.
All good car manuals will give you a color diagram of this connector if you do not have one Our Store sells Repair Manuals very cheap or you can visit your local library.
Performing the Work Yourself
This really is a project that you can do yourself and if you are buying your audio components online …. in our store… hint hint … it is really the only way to go.
If you are visiting one of the superstore businesses they may include install services for free but this usually only includes basic install services.
If you are looking to upgrade your system with an AMP or different size speakers expect to pay extra.