How to Wire a Car Stereo

Learning how to wire a car stereo can be tricky if it is your first time, but this simple guide will help you get a grasp on just what is happening with all those wires. Since 1999, all after-market car stereos have used a standard color code in respects to their wiring. This has made it easier to know the function of each wire and to connect it to its corresponding wiring harness (or directly to the wires in your car’s dashboard). There are several different methods for wiring your car stereo, though this guide will focus on the easiest.

You will need the following items:

  • Wire stripper
  • Electrical tape
  • Wiring harness
  • Antenna adaptor
  1. Determine wiring arrangement. Depending on what type of stereo you purchased, the amount of wires coming from the back will differ.  However, wiring harnesses have every wire needed for modern car stereos to function, so you will want to first determine what wires you will be connecting to it. The objective here is to splice every wire coming from the back of your car’s stereo to the wiring harness. To prevent shorts, tape off any wires from the wiring harness that you will not need. If you stereo uses all the wires, then move to the next step.
  2. Splice wires together. Wiring harnesses use the same standard color code modern car stereos use, so you simply need to match the colors. Use your wire stripper and strip off one inch of protective coating from each wire, twist the matching colors together, and then cover the exposed area with electrical tape. 
  3. Connect antenna adaptor. Depending on the stereo model you purchased and the make/model of your car, you may need to connect an antenna adaptor. Plug the adaptor into antenna port on the back of your stereo. If you do not require an antenna adaptor, proceed to the next step.
  4. Connect harness to car. After you have all the wires spliced together you are ready to connect it to your car. Your wiring harness is designed to connect directly to the wiring adapter within your car’s dashboard.  Make sure your car is turned off and then connect the harness to the adaptor. If your stereo requires an antenna adaptor, connect it to the antenna wire coming from your cars dashboard.
  5. Test it out. Once you have everything connected, turn your car on and test your radio.  If everything went well you should immediately hear noise coming from your car’s speakers. Secure your stereo in your car’s dashboard, replace any dashboard molding, and enjoy the tunes!
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