Do It Yourself: How To Install A Car Radio With Cd Changer

This article explains how to remove an old car stereo and install a new one with a CD changer.

Before you get excited and try to jam that brand new CD player into your dash, there's some work that needs to be done. First things first; before going any further, remove the negative cable from your battery. This will keep you safe as you are messing around with the wires.

Next, you've got to remove your old stereo. This often requires manufacturer's tools. Consult the old manual for removal instructions. Once the head unit is out, you will see a cage bracket that held the stereo into the dash. This needs to come out. It should be held in either by screws or metal teeth that are bent to hook into the dash piece. If this is the case, simply take a screwdriver and some pliers and bend back the teeth that are sticking into the dash. The cage should slide right out.

Inside the dash you'll find a bundle of wires connected to a plastic connector. This is your car's wiring harness. Unfortunately, it will not fit your stereo yet. However, in the new box, you should have a similar looking piece that fits the back of your new head unit. Most of the wires coming out of this stereo harness will eventually match a wire in the car harness. However, at this point we need to match them up. There are two ways you can do this. Preferably, you can pick up an adapter (available at many retail stores) that will clip into the car harness and get crimped onto the stereo wires. If you are unable to get one of these adapters, never fear, you can simply cut the plastic car harness piece off. Avoid this if possible, as the harness wires are not very long, and it will mean you have to crimp them with your hands in the dashboard.



Now, find the wiring information for your old stereo. It should be in the owners manual, but if not, you can find it online. Compare this with the wiring information for your new stereo. There should be listings by wire color and what the wire is connected to. On the wires coming out of your dash and the back of the stereo you should have at least: four pairs of speaker wires, one always-on power wire, and one ground wire. Most modern cars and stereos also have a switched power wire that will turn the stereo off when the ignition goes off. Other wires you might encounter are: an amplifier remote coming out of the stereo, a power antenna control also coming out of the stereo, or possibly a cellular phone control wire coming from the car or the stereo. Besides the wires in the harnesses, there should be a thick antenna cable. Now is a good time to check to see if you need an adapter to make the antenna fit the stereo.

If you're lucky, the colors of the wires coming out of your stereo and out of the car harness will match up, If this is the case, all you'll have to do is match the a red always on power wire with a red power wire, black with black, and so on. However, it rarely works out this neatly, so be careful you get the wires right. I would suggest temporarily taping them together just so you can get them all sorted out before you actually connect anything. Now, to actually link them, you need crimps (either red or blue butt-splice or closed-end crimps; wire-nuts will not do here), a crimping tool, and a wire stripper. Use the stripper to take a half-inch of insulation off each of the wires. If you are using butt splice crimps, simply stick the stripped wires you want to connect in either end of the tube, and use the crimping tool to squeeze the crimp shut at either end. Do this for each wire pair you want to match up and you should end up with a long bundle of wires that terminates with the connector in the back of your stereo. If this is all that you're doing to your stereo, you can put the new cage in by bending the teeth out, plug the stereo and antenna into the harness and slide the whole deal right into your dash.

However, let's say you have a CD changer to install. If you do, don't put the stereo back in yet, cause you've got more work to do. First, you've got to find a place for the changer to be mounted. Some places to think about are in the trunk, under a seat, or under the dash. Think about how much you want to be able to change the CD's, and how out-of-the-way you want it to be. Just don't stick it anywhere that it might vibrate against bare metal. Once you figure out where you want it, mount it using the supplied brackets and screws. Take the RCA cable (the one with two plugs at either end) and the controller cable (probably resembles a computer cable), and run them to the dash. This can be very difficult, especially in newer cars, but if you put a little bit of time into it, you can make them invisible by hiding them underneath carpets, along molding pieces, or through body panels. Whatever you do, don't run them into the engine compartment. When you get the cables run from the changer to the dash, it should be a cinch to plug them into the back of the head unit. Note that certain head units require a special adapter for a CD changer. At this point you can put the cage in if you have not done that. Just put it in the slot and use a screwdriver to bend the teeth out. Then plug in the head unit, hook the battery cable back up, and you're done. Congratulations on your new stereo.

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