How to Install Car Audio Wires and Cables

  How to install your wiring, and make it a.) Invisible, or b.) Nice to look at:

  Alrightee! So, you’re off to installing all of the big-time components to your stereo system. I know you really really really want to skip the boring parts (like running wires), and go straight to installing the components, and turning on your system. Nnnnnno!

  Like I have said countless times before, we’re here to do a QUALITY stereo install. Not some janky, lame-o quickie job. We’re installing a stereo for the life of your vehicle, and as such, we spend a little extra time to do things properly. Sooooo, when it comes to wiring, we need to think about how we want to do things first.

  To re-cap. Do you know what components you’ll be installing? Even if you don’t have all of the components now, hopefully you know what your plans are. This allows you to run all of the wires, so when you finally get your components, you can just mount them, and hook up the wires, and you’re ready to rock.

  Don’t be stupid like most people, and think of components first, THEN think about how to install them. Think of how to install components, get the install parts, THEN install the components. DUH!!! By the way, you’ll save time and money with this approach.

  Was that a long enough introduction? OK, let’s get into what you should know about wiring!

  First, buy all of the wiring that you think you’ll need, and some extra just for safety. Don’t worry, your money won’t be wasted!

  Next, disassemble your vehicle in the places where the wiring will be run. When I say disassemble, I mean it! Pull out seats, carpet, panels, everything! Trust me, this will make running wires easier and safer.

  If you plan to use any sort of sound insulation or damping material, now is the time to lay it. If you don’t plan on using it, why not? This will make your system sound better by lowering noise, and by eliminating vibrations. Just do it!

  Now, you get to run wires. Run them everywhere they’ll be needed. Run power wires, RCA wires, speaker wires, interface wires, remote turn on wires. EVERYTHING.

  Now that they’re laid out how you want and need them, it’s time to secure them. Vehicle manufacturers use ties everywhere to keep wires organized and out of the way. Now it’s your turn! Many many many people skip this step, and I don’t think it’s too smart.


  Because when wires are subjected to vibrations, stress, weather, and other things that are constantly present in vehicles, they tend to wear away. When wires wear away, you get…

  Short circuits!

  Vehicle fires!

  Ruined components!

  Don’t risk it, just secure your wires!

  If you have amp racks or other items that your wiring will go through, it’s time to mount those items, and secure the wiring to them.

  OK, OK. Those are the basic steps you’ll go through to run wires. But, how do you actually do it? Let’s break it down:

  1.) Measure distances between where components will be mounted, and what they connect to. For example, measure from the battery to where you’ll mount your amp. Also, don’t be stupid. Buy a few extra feet at each end, so you’ll have room for error. Also, you’ll want to make sure none of the wires are stretched. You want to have some slack at each end. This will make your life much easier.

  Other distances to measure:

  Head unit to amp

  Amp to speakers

  Head unit to cd/dvd changer, mp3 player, navigation system, etc.

  Also, before you buy your wires, be sure you know what will work best with your planned components. If you’re planning to install a 500 watt amp, and you know that amp will be 17′ from the battery, use a chart to figure out what wire gauge to use. People like to get all loco in the cabeza with power wire, and spend $5 a foot on 0 gauge wire. WHY? If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!

  2.) OK, so you have all of your wiring in hand, and ready to go. Now is the time to take apart parts of your vehicle. First, figure out where your wires will be run. I usually run my power wire on the same side of the vehicle as the battery. I also usually run my RCA cables down the center of the vehicle. Knowing this information will tell you where you need to remove parts from your vehicle. If you’re not going to be running wires in a certain part of your vehicle, then it won’t be necessary to take anything apart. UNLESS!! UNLESS!!! UNLESS!!!! You plan to put some sound damping material down. I always recommend this!

  So, here we go. Time for the fun part. First things first. Disconnect the ground (aka negative) wire from the battery.

  Pull up panels! I highly recommend some sort of panel removal tool to remove panels. This will help protect your panels from breaking.

  3.) Time to run wires!

  First, we’ll run the power cable: Find a hole in the firewall of your vehicle. If you can’t find a hole, you might be able to squeeze a power cable through the far corner of your hood, by the windshield and into your vehicle that way. If you can’t do that, then you’ll have to drill. Every car is different, but one piece of advice is always true: Plan ahead, and be careful! Inspect where you plan to drill the hole, and be sure you won’t damage anything in the process. Take it slow, or if you’re feeling really nervous, drive your vehicle to a stereo shop, and have them run your power wire through the firewall. Next, run the cable wherever it will fit nicely, and not be visible once you put the carpet back in place. Run it all the way to your trunk (or wherever you plan to have your amp or distribution blocks mounted). Next, secure the cable. Use zip ties, or glue, or even velcro to make sure your power cable stays where it should. Be sure it is not near any moving parts, or rubbing on anything that will strip the insulation. Also, be sure it will not get in the way of anything once you re-install all of the panels, carpet, etc.

  Next, let’s run your RCA cable(s), interface cables and Remote turn on wire. Again, be sure the negative cable is disconnected from the battery. Disassemble any and all of the panels surrounding your head unit. Pull your head unit out. Next, pull up all of the panels, consoles and carpet around where you’ll be running your RCA cable and interface cable. Connect the remote turn-on wire to your head unit’s wiring harness. If you are planning to connect more than one or two devices to your head unit’s remote turn-on, you will want to look into installing a relay. Next, run the RCA cables, interface cable and remote turn-on. All of the stuff I said earlier about power cables is also true of RCA and interface cables. Be sure your cable is not near any moving parts, it is not rubbing against anything that will strip the insulation, and it is mounted in such a way that it will not show once the panels and carpet are put back in place. Connect the RCA cables to the pre-outs on your head unit, and be sure you know which RCA cable goes to which channel on your amp. Many RCA cables use color-coding, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Plug in your interface cable. Now, re-install your head unit. Make sure everything is all hooked up before you put everything back together!!

  OK, last step. Let’s run speaker wire! This is exactly like running all of the other wires above. Pull up the panels. Run the wires. Be mindful of where you plan to run them. Secure them. Make sure you have a few extra feet at each end of the speaker cable. I know this sounds stupid, but trust me. It’s more stupid to spend all of this time running wire only to discover that it’s too short. Then, you have to pull the wire up, throw it away, then run it all over again. DUMB!

  4.) Secure wires!

  Now that your wires are run, it’s time to secure them. There are many ways to secure wires, and not all of them will work at all times. In fact, you’ll probably need to use a variety of methods to secure your wires throughout your vehicle. Soooooo….

  1.) Secure wires with zip ties to other bundles of wires.

  2.) Secure wires with zip ties to small holes (or create small holes)

  3.) Use glue to secure zip ties to your vehicle, then secure the wires with them.

  4.) Run wires behind objects that they can be secured to.

  5.) Use velcro to secure wires

  5.) Secure wires to mounting locations (amp racks, speaker pods, etc)

  If you have any sort of custom enclosure or rack for your stereo components, you’ll want to find a way to secure your wires to the rack or enclosure. If these racks or enclosures are designed to be seen, you might want to take some time making the wires visible, and looking good.

  In the example of amp racks, you can drill holes where all of the electrical connections go into the amp. Run the wires through these holes, and to your amp. This trick will make your wires look nice and clean, and keep your wires organized.

  For speaker enclosures, there are a variety of things you can do to make the wires look good. For plexiglass subwoofer enclosures, people often choose wire that looks good. In addition, top installers will choose wire hardware (terminals) that are of high quality, and look good. If you want your enclosure to be removable, you can install speaker terminals on the outside of the enclosure, or even install a custom quick-release wiring harness.


  -Honest AEB