Tips on Wiring Your Car Audio System
by Staff Writer
Your plans for an amazing new car audio and video system will probably require at least a little wiring. A few tips on wiring your car stereo and car speakers will go a long way to helping you make your sound system something to envy.
Wiring a Car Audio System:
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- Speaker wire:
If you're simply replacing existing speakers, then you'll probably be able to use the existing speaker wires to connect your new speakers and audio receiver. Even if you are replacing your receiver, you can often find a wiring harness that acts as an adapter between the existing wiring and the wiring to your new car audio receiver. Most car audio systems are quite similar, however, so you may have little trouble connecting with the existing speaker wire.
- Power considerations:
If you're doing a complete overhaul or you're adding a subwoofer, you may want to re-evaluate your wiring for increased power needs. High-wattage amplifiers draw more electricity, so you may want to use lower gauge wire that can deliver more power.
- Wire Gauge and Connector Cables:
Wire gauge: In the case of speaker wire, a lower gauge number means a thicker wire, lower electrical resistance and more power reaching the amplifier and speakers. Most factory-installed stereo systems use 16-gauge and 12-gauge wires, but 8-gauge wire is better for powering all but the smallest amplifiers on a custom car audio system. Check the resistance rating for your amplifier and speakers and match that with the resistance of your speaker wire.
Connector cables: In addition to your speaker wiring, you can easily upgrade the cable from the receiver to the power amplifier. A cable with good insulation can help clean up distortion before the signal goes out to the rest of your car audio components.
- Connector types:
Car audio components use different terminal, or connector, types for wiring. Spade and flat connectors, in-line fuse holders and battery terminals are designed to connect the specific gauge of wiring that you're using to the audio components. Check with your power amplifier's installation guide to make sure you have all the wiring and connector types that they recommend for the car audio components you're using.
- Battery requirements:
When your car is running, your alternator powers your car audio system and the rest of your car's electrical system. This means that you generally don't have to worry about the battery being able to support the audio system's power amplifier. As soon as you turn off the car, however, the battery becomes the primary power source for your entire car stereo system. If your car audio system is drawing excessive power (causing your headlights to dim, for instance), you may want to install a second battery, specifically for your car audio electronics.
- Alternator upgrades:
If your new car audio system is drawing too much electricity from your car's electrical system, you can solve the problem by upgrading your alternator. Look for an aftermarket alternator that can provide the increased demands of your power amplifier. Depending on your vehicle, changing the alternator can be a simple procedure.
Excessive vibration is another common dilemma that you face when you start installing high-powered car audio equipment. You can reduce the rattling of windows and panels by using some sound-dampening materials to line your car doors and trunk.