Bass Not Bumpin'? Here's What To Consider When Installing Car Speakers
A dead speaker can kill a stoplight dance party in its tracks.
- Auto Repair and Maintenance
- Guides & Gear
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We all spend a ton of time in our vehicles, and much of that time is spent listening to music or podcasts. Knowing that, it’s easy to see how hopping in your car for the morning commute, only to find that a speaker has blown, is a bad day. You may get no sound at all out of the bad speaker, or worse, you might get cracking and distortion.
You can easily remedy this issue at home by installing a new speaker. You’ll need some time and a few tools, but the overall process to replace car speakers is far from the most complicated repair you can make. Newer vehicles with complicated interior trim pieces and highly connected stereos can be more difficult, but The Drive’s editors are here to help you understand the basics.
The best thing you can do to ensure a smooth installation is to research. Research your car and understand what it uses for speakers and know where they are. Take the time to shop for the right speakers that fit and meet your needs, instead of finding the most powerful or most expensive thing you can buy.
Let’s dive in.
Car Speaker Basics
Estimated Time Needed: 1-2 hours, depending on vehicle and skill level
Skill Level: Beginner
Vehicle System: Electrical
What Is a Car Speaker?
Speakers, in any scenario, translate audio signals into actual audio. They are the things that provide the sound in your home, vehicle, and at the airport to remind you that boarding ends in five minutes. In cars, we generally see a few different sizes and types of speakers, each designed to handle a different audio frequency.
You’re going to be working with things that use electricity during this job. Disconnect the battery so you don’t find out why that’s dangerous.
- It’s best to wear gloves during this process, if possible. While it’s true that they can make it hard to grasp small parts, they’ll also protect your Dove-soft skin while digging into tight spots.
- It’s probably obvious, but you should be sure to carefully replace interior trim and pieces in the exact way that you found them. Poorly installed interior panels not only look bad, but they can also cause safety issues as you’re driving down the road.
Everything You’ll Need To Install A Car Speaker
You might not need everything in the list below, but it’s a good idea to have more than you need. Every car is different, so check your vehicle’s repair manual to determine exactly what you need.
- Various screwdrivers (flat-head, Phillips, etc.)
- Allen wrenches
- Electrical tape
- Box cutter or small knife
- Soldering iron
- Socket wrench set
- Wire cutter and stripper
- Crimping tool
- Drill with screwdriver attachment
- Additional speaker wire
Organizing your tools and gear so everything is easily reachable will save precious minutes waiting for your handy-dandy child or four-legged helper to bring you the sandpaper or blowtorch. (You won't need a blowtorch for this job. Please don’t have your kid hand you a blowtorch—Ed.)
You’ll also need a flat workspace, such as a garage floor, driveway, or street parking. Check your local laws to make sure you’re not violating any codes when using the street because we aren’t getting your ride out of the clink.
Here’s How To Install A Car Speaker
Speaker sizes are a very particular thing in cars, so you’ll want to do your homework to ensure you’re buying the right model for your car. It’s also important that you read both the directions for the speaker and your vehicle’s repair manual. The Drive’s editors are good, but we’re not good enough to know the ins and outs of every car.
Let’s do this!
- Disconnect your vehicle’s battery.
- Carefully remove panels, grilles, and covers from the speakers. Depending on the vehicle, you may need the panel popping tool, a screwdriver, or other tools. Some speakers are hidden under seats and in odd places, so be prepared to dig.
- Remove the old speaker. Be careful to note the wiring connections and keep track of any screws that you remove, in case you want to reinstall the old speakers or sell them.
- Connect the new speaker to the existing wiring. Take careful note of the wiring to make sure that you’re connecting the correct wires to the right terminals.
- If you feel the need to add tape to hold the connections securely, be aware that tape can degrade over time, which may mean you’ll be digging back into the speaker assembly down the road.
- Before fully installing the speaker, reconnect the battery and test the sound. There’s nothing worse than fully installing a speaker, only to turn around and need to take it back out.
- Once the speaker has been tested, disconnect the battery again and fully install screws, mounting plates, and any speaker covers or trim pieces that were removed to begin with.
Note: If you want subwoofers or extra power, an amplifier and additional installation steps may be needed.
Sometimes You Need a Certified Mechanic
As much as The Drive loves to put the "you" in do-it-yourself, we know that not everyone has the proper tools, a safe workspace, the spare time, or the confidence to tackle major automotive repairs. Sometimes, you just need quality repair work performed by professionals you can trust like our partners, the certified mechanics at Goodyear Tire & Service.
Pro Tips to Install A Car Speaker
A few pro-tips we’ve learned along the way.
- Even if you’ve done research and are sure that you have the right speaker, it’s best to do a test fit before moving too far into the installation process.
- If you’re installing subwoofers, the process will look different, because of the specific enclosures and installation locations. You’ll also need a standalone amplifier, so there are additional costs involved.
- Replacing speakers is a great way to improve your vehicle’s audio system, but to get the full experience you may need a new head unit as well.
FAQs About Car Speaker
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. What Is the Best Speaker Setup for a Car?
A. The best speaker setup for your car will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. Do you want to shake the car next to you with bass? Your sound system should be heavy on subwoofers and amplifiers. Want to jam Whitesnake in your IROC-Z? You’ll need some solid 6x9s and a good head unit. Retailers like Crutchfield offer both fit and sound guides for various vehicles.
Q. How Can I Make My Car Door Speakers Sound Better?
A. Beyond updating the speakers themselves, you could take the extra step of insulating the inside of the door panels with sound deadening materials. This will help direct sound back into your car instead of letting it escape. You can also install new gaskets for each speaker and make sure that your doors themselves don’t have any loose parts that can rattle or make noise.
Q. What Should I Look for When Buying Car Speakers?
A. The first, and most important thing, is the size. The best speakers in the world won’t do any good if they don’t fit, and trying to force something to fit by modifying your vehicle is a big pain. Once you’ve found the fit, focus on the characteristics of the speaker, including power output, installation requirements, and cost.
Q. How Much Does Speaker Installation Cost?
A. This will depend on how many speakers you’re installing and the types of speakers you choose. Some can be had for as little as $20 or so, but don’t expect audiophile levels of sound quality. On the other end, the sky’s the limit, as you can spend as much as you want on super high-end speakers.
Q. Can I Install Home Speakers In My Car?
A. Yes, you can, but it’s not going to yield the best results. Assuming you’re able to work out the wiring, you’ll need a way to physically install the speakers so they’re not flying around loosely in your car. It’s best to stick with speakers that were made for the application you need.
Let’s Talk, Comment Below To Talk With The Drive’s Editors!
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You can buy speakers and installation equipment almost anywhere, and there are literally hundreds of individual products to choose from. We won’t overload you with sales pitches here, though. The Drive’s editors have chosen a few of the best products for speaker installation that are useful, affordable, and well-reviewed.
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