How to Upgrade Your Car Stereo

Your car stereo head unit gives you the flexibility to select music and other audio sources, then sends a digital signal that gets converted into sound by the speakers. Whether your stereo is simply an audio source or part of a more complex infotainment system, it has intricate electrical components inside. If it fails, or if you want features that your current head unit doesn’t have, one option you have is to upgrade the car stereo. And if your sound quality deteriorates or you want more volume, bass, or balance, speakers can be changed out too.

Upgrades to your car stereo can range from around $30 to hundreds – or even thousands – depending on what you want to accomplish. Here are some reasons why an upgrade could be a good idea, recommended products, and a step-by-step guide on how to upgrade car speakers and stereo head units.

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Why should you upgrade your stereo?

Upgrading your car stereo can provide a whole new level of entertainment and convenience for your daily commute. A few reasons why you should upgrade your car stereo could include:

  • Higher sound quality. Get increased volume and clarity, as well as richer tones from bass, mid, and treble, which is perfect for those moments when you need a boost of energy on the road.
  • Upgraded connectivity. Some newer units connect with devices such as phones or tablets via Bluetooth or USB ports which makes it easier than ever before to listen to audio files stored on these devices.
  • In-dash touchscreen. Control your apps and other functions with a larger screen.
  • Navigation. Upgrading to a car stereo with navigation can help keep you safe while driving by providing turn-by-turn directions right at your fingertips.
  • Your old stereo quit or speakers are crackling or blown. It could be a matter of necessity. If your stereo quit or the audio quality is terrible, a new stereo and speakers are in order.

Tools you need to do the job

What it takes to upgrade car stereo components really depends on your vehicle and the upgrades you want to do. Here’s a list of the tools you might need to get the job done:

  • Wrench set
  • Electrical tape
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Ratchet set
  • Crimp tool with butt connectors
  • Soldering iron and flux-core solder
  • Wire cutters
  • Amplifier wiring kit
  • Head unit installation kit

Of course, the components you want to install should be bought ahead of time. That might include a head unit, speakers, amplifier, subwoofer, and other auxiliary parts like a capacitor, fuse block, and more. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on changing the head unit and speakers.

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stereo speakers and audio stereo kenwood stereo kdc
Kenwood Stereo KDC-BT382U

There are plenty of options available to upgrade your stereo or replace car speakers. These are some of our customers’ top choices.

  • Kenwood Stereo KDC-BT382U. This Kenwood head unit offers your basic car receiver options – CD, AM/FM, Bluetooth, and a USB connection for your Apple device – but it has more than that. Equipped with Amazon Alexa voice control and Android device control through Bluetooth, it makes for a great in-car assistant. There are two sets of aux inputs in the back too.
  • Boss Stereo BE10ACP. This head unit fits in a single-DIN space but has a much larger double DIN display that integrates the latest tech. 80 watts x 4 channels, a detachable 10.1-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and compatibility for a rear camera and steering wheel controls, it’s a great upgrade.
  • Boss Audio 5 x 7 Speakers with LED. Part of Boss Audio Systems RAGE series, these 5x7s have a poly injection polyurethane cone and high-temp voice coils. What that means is stronger speakers that don’t lose their cool after playing a long time at high power.
  • Sondpex 400 Watt Stereo Speaker System. Integrating two 6.5-inch speakers, two 3-inch tweeters, and ports to power the boom, this enclosed speaker system offers a full sound range. Just hook it up with speaker wires to your amplifier and crank it up.
  • Scosche Stereo Mount. Getting a new stereo to fit in the factory slot is simple with a dash installation kit. Typically including the frame, a wiring harness, an antenna adapter, and any other hardware necessary to get it installed, it’s an excellent value to make short work of the project.

Steps on how to upgrade your car’s stereo

Upgrading your car stereo can greatly improve sound quality and the overall driving experience. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow for a successful upgrade:

1. Disconnect Car Battery

Disconnect the negative (black) battery terminal from your car’s battery first. This is an important safety precaution to avoid a shock and potential damage to your car’s electronics.

2. Remove Hardware

Remove any existing hardware or parts from your current stereo system, if necessary. This may include screws from the surrounding trim pieces or components located on the stereo itself. Keep the old wiring in place – you’ll need it.

3. Install New Head Unit

Install the new head unit into place, using a new installation kit to securely mount it in place. Refer to the included instructions for guidance, since different makes and models need different steps.

4. Connect Wiring

Connect any wiring harnesses between your car and the new head unit, taking into account any speaker wires which need to be connected as well.

5. Install Speakers

Install speakers in the original locations. Use factory-size speaker replacements whenever possible.

6. Add Sound Proof Material

Sound-proofing material may be added to help dampen road noise and make sure that you get maximum sound clarity from your speakers.

7. Reconnect Battery

Finally, reconnect the negative (black) battery terminal and turn on the ignition key. Program your stereo, adjust your sound settings, and enjoy your new upgraded car stereo.

Shop at AutoZone for your car speakers or to upgrade your car stereo. Explore high-quality components from top brands in the industry including everything you need to complete your installation.

FAQ/People Also Ask

What are the benefits of upgrading my car stereo?

Adding the newest tech, improved sound clarity and volume, and a fully-functioning stereo are the top benefits to an upgrade.

What tools do I need to upgrade my car stereo?

It varies based on the scope of your project. You’ll need screwdrivers, wire cutters and strippers, a crimper and butt connectors, and a ratchet and socket set.

Is it possible to upgrade my car stereo without professional help?

Yes. DIYers have been changing and upgrading car stereos for decades on their own.

What should I consider before upgrading my car stereo?

Consider fitment and features before choosing your new car stereo. Also, decide whether you’ll be adding components like amplifiers so you can ensure you have enough channels.

What are some of the latest car stereo upgrades available in the market?

Navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and streaming services are the latest upgrades.

How can I ensure that my upgraded car stereo is compatible with my car’s electrical system?

The wiring compatibility is most important. Find a dash installation kit that offers a connector to the factory electrical system.

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