Fitting A New Car Stereo Into Factory Openings

In a short period of time, almost anybody can replace their existing car stereo.

This is a relatively easy task that can be performed in a short amount of time, usually in one afternoon. The in-dash radio has to go, and a new one will be replacing it. But how does one go about figuring what will fit into that empty space? A few simple steps, a phone call or two, a bit of research; that's all it requires.

The first move is to determine if the chosen model will fit into the opening of the existing car radio. Start with the car stereo dealer. Most manufacturers publish some kind of radio size-chart that covers cars from 1975 and up to the present. Or check out the parts department of the local car dealer that sells the vehicle model owned. It may be possible to get a stock radio to measure and compare, or to get a glimpse at the parts book for how and where the radio is to be mounted. If no information is readily available to you, try the Internet and do a search for your model of vehicle and then radio installation. As a last resort, get out a ruler and measure the distance between the middle of each knob on the existing radio. Don't forget to measure the opening itself and jot down the length and width of the opening.

A lot of radios come with an in-dash mounting kit. If it does not come with a kit, then try the Internet and search for car radio installation kits. There are quite a few sites that have kits and instructions available. These kits are especially handy if replaced a knobbed radio with a newer model that has no knobs.

There are two ways a radio will be mounted in the dash, from the back or through the front. If it is mounted from the back, slip under the dash and take a look at it. It may be necessary to remove some trim or the heater/ac ducting. If it is still hard to see the radio, it is probably installed from the front. If it comes out the front, this is the easiest install and most common in newer cars.

While under the dash, remove the rear support bracket and any wires attached to the radio. Do not cut the wires; unplug them at the connectors so there won't be any shorts. Next, remove the old knobs--if there are any, they usually pull straight off. Then remove the shaft nuts with a long socket wrench or pliers.

At this point, the radio should drop down behind the dash. If it is a tight fit, some twisting or turning may be necessary, just don't force it. If the radio is loosened, but still won't come out from behind, try pulling it out through the front of the opening.

Remove the trim panel that covers the front of the radio. Sometimes the same trim panel covers the heater/ac controls. The trim panel is secured by obvious screws or spring clips. Slowly, remove the screws or pry the panel to remove it from the dash. Always be gentle, as trim panels can break very easily and are usually costly to replace unless you go to the junkyard. Behind the trim panel, there is the radio support plate. Remove the plate and the radio will slide out. Now measure again, and compare it to the new unit to be sure it will fit.

Installing the radio should be done in the reverse order of removing the old one. If there are knobs on the new radio, adjust the control shaft spacing to line up with the old holes in the dashboard. If the old radio did not have knobs, don't purchase a new one that does unless you are good with a jigsaw and have a very steady hand. If the old radio had knobs, but the new radio does not, it will be necessary to customize the opening. In this case, it is a good idea to purchase a radio that is wider, and use a metal file to enlarge the opening to fit the shape. Use a computer vacuum or hand-held vacuum to clear away any metal shavings that may occur during this process. Remember to work slowly because it is easy to remove metal, but not so easy to put in a new back plate.

Slide the stereo into the opening to see how it fits. If working on a car with a front mounted stereo, loosely put the support and trim panel back into place. If the radio had knobs, the shaft and nosepiece will slide in through the holes. If it is a close fit, but not tight, try adjusting the nose gasket up and down to get it tighter. If the old stereo did not have knobs, this step is unnecessary.

Use the included control shaft spacers to take up any distance between the stereo unit and the back of the dash or mounting plate. Use as many spacers as necessary to allow the control shafts to stick out the same distance, so the nosepiece will fit flush or stick out no more than one-fourth of an inch.

If there are no knobs, then simply mount the rear support strap and tighten the trim plate, which completes the installation. This is definitely a one-person project and can be completed by any person with minimal skills using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver.

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