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How To Install a Car Deck

This general how to install a car deck guide was written by guest writer IoannI. Please consult an expert for details specific to your car and model.

The tools you need:

- Din Tools
- Electrical Tape
- Heat Gun
- Screwdrivers
- Retaining Clip Remover
- Wire Cutters / Strippers
- Soldering Iron

The first thing you do will be to remove the old stereo. You should pay close attention to the steps involved, because when you will be installing your new stereo the steps will be the same, only reversed.

Before you start, set the parking brake and removing the negative cable from the car battery to prevent accidently short circuiting something. The factory stereo will be mounted in one of two ways: secured in a metal mounting sleeve by spring clips or bolted to the dash with brackets.

If the old stereo is held in place by spring clips, you will need a pair of DIN tools. Insert the DIN tools into the holes on either side of the unit until a click is heard. The tools release the spring clips and also hook onto the sides of the stereo so that you can pull it out easily. Spread the tools apart slightly then pull the stereo out of the dash.

Sometimes, accessing the stereo requires the removal of one or more trim panels from the dash. You may have to carefully pry the plastic trim away from the dash which is often secured by hidden pressure clips, or locate and remove bolts to disassemble other pieces of panel. Once you have gained access to the factory stereo, removal should be obvious. The stereo will almost always be secured by four screws, sometimes bolted directly to the front of the dash, other times secured to side brackets. Remove the screws and pull the stereo from the dash.

There should be at least one plastic wiring harness behind the stereo opening. This plug(s) connects the stereo to your vehicle's electrical system, and also makes the speaker connections. You need to unplug the factory stereo from the wiring harnesses, and unplug the antenna to complete the removal process.

Decide whether you want to crimp or solder the wires together. Crimping is faster and easier. If you crimp the wires together, be sure to use the correct size crimp connector. Typical in-dash stereo wires are 18-gauge, however, a few use heavier gauge power and ground wires. There are several types of crimp connectors, including bullet connectors, butt connectors, or crimp caps. Soldering creates a permanent, professional connection that ensures maximum current transfer. We strongly recommend that you use heat-shrink tubing and a heat gun to insulate the soldered connection. Avoid taping the wires together — the tape will dry out and fall off, exposing the wires and making it only a matter of time before something shorts out.

Usually, it is best to make all of the new stereo's wiring connections via the wiring harness, but if you have to make a direct power connection, you need to know the difference between "switched" and "constant" power.

A switched power source is only on when the ignition is keyed — connect your new stereo's main (switched) power lead to a switched power source, so that the stereo will turn off when you turn off the car, and not drain your vehicle's battery.

A constant power source is always on — connect your new stereo's memory lead to a constant power source, so that you don't lose your stereo preset, sound shaping, and clock settings every time you turn off the vehicle.

A rare few high-powered stereos require you to make a direct constant power connection at the positive terminal of your vehicle's battery. This requires a heavier gauge power wire, an in-line fuse (usually included), and a ring terminal to connect the power wire to the battery clamp. You will have to route the power wire through the vehicle firewall and into the engine compartment in order to make the connection at the battery.

A good ground connection is vital for proper stereo performance. If you are not using a custom wiring harness, look for a bolt, screw, or wire that contacts the bare metal of your vehicle's chassis. Loosen the bolt, slip the ground wire underneath (this is almost always a black wire), then tighten the bolt. If your ground wire doesn't contact bare metal, your stereo won't operate. A loose or weak ground connection can result in signal noise interfering with your music.

In-dash video wiring:
If your new stereo has a video monitor built in, you will also need to connect a wire to your emergency brake circuit's ground wire. This wire acts as a switch to turn on the video monitor when the parking break is engaged. Follow the instructions included with your in-dash monitor to locate the emergency brake ground wire.

If the original stereo was bolted into the dash, you might need to remove the mounting brackets from the sides of it and attach them to the sides of your new stereo. More likely, you will need a mounting kit (which may include a trim ring, a dash insert, brackets, a faceplate, and/or a metal mounting sleeve) to install the stereo. If a mounting kit is required, install it first. Then slide the new stereo's metal mounting sleeve (if included) into the kit. Secure the metal sleeve by using a screwdriver to bend the sleeve's metal tabs into place.

Once the dash opening is ready for the new stereo, hold the stereo near the opening. Connect the stereo wiring adapter to the vehicle's wiring harness and plug in the antenna cable. Slide the stereo into the dash opening, but don't fasten it down just yet. First, test the stereo to make sure everything is working properly. It's easier to fix a problem while everything is still exposed. Turn on the power and try each source (AM, FM, and CD). Then adjust the balance and fader settings to check that each speaker is working. Once you're sure the stereo is wired and working properly, finish securing it in the dash and reinstall any pieces of dash trim panel that you removed.

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