Introduction: Car Audio Speakers Upgrade

About: Electrical Engineer
This instructable will review how to:
  1. Identify correct speaker size
  2. Purchase new speakers
  3. Remove the door panels
  4. Install speaker
Each vehicle is configured differently therefor these instructions will remain general while attempting to be as detailed as possible.

Tools required:
  1. Screwdriver (flat and phillips)
  2. Possibly - Something to remove bolts
  3. Optional - Crimpers, Soldering iron

Step 1: Access and Determine Size

Accessing the speakers can be as simple as removing a clip on panel or removing a few screws and bolts but it is never any more difficult than this.  Accessing the speakers is the most difficult part of replacement so rest assured that it only gets easier.  To start try to locate any screws or bolts that are visible. For aesthetics some may be hidden behind small face plates which are removable with a flat screwdriver.  Be careful when forcing open any face plates as the metal screwdriver can scratch the plastic.  They may be located under the handle or inside of small circular holes.  Most doors are connected by a combination of screws and small pressure clips which detach when you pull with slight pressure.  

Once you have access to the speakers measure them to determine their size.  You can determine the type of speaker by either measuring it or by noting the model number on the back and looking it up online.  As you can see on the example these speakers are 6" tall by 8" long (6 x 8 inch).

Below is a list of the possible sizes:
  • 4 Inch
  • 4 x 6 Inch
  • 4.5 Inch
  • 5 Inch
  • 5 x 7 Inch
  • 5.25 Inch
  • 6 x 8 Inch
  • 6 x 9 Inch
  • 6.5 Inch

Step 2: Purchase Replacements

Once you have determined the size of the speakers you can purchase replacements.  There are only a few items to be aware of when searching for a replacement.  

Wattage.   It is not important to match the wattage of your new speakers with the old one's.  Verify that they wattage on the speakers does not greatly exceed the wattage on your vehicles radio deck.  Using speakers with a higher wattage than the car radio will not damage the speakers but they will not receive maximum benefit either given that the car radio will not supply enough power to use the speakers to their full potential.

Frequency Response.  The frequency response will be in units of Hertz (Hz) which are vibrations and oscillations of sound waves.  The lower a hertz the lower the sound and the higher a hertz the higher a sound.  Therefore lower frequency response range will have better base and higher frequency response range will have better treble, high notes.  Typical human hearing range is between 20Hz to 20KHz.

2 Way vs 3 Way:  Speakers designed for low frequency signals (base) are not capable of producing high frequency signals (treble).  To fix this speakers are actually designed with multiple integrated speakers.  2 Way speakers are actually 2 speakers and 3 Way speakers are actually 3 speakers.  Each speaker is optimized for a different range of wavelengths (high/low sounds under 30Hz to 160Hz).  The smaller speakers in the middle are for treble only (3kHz to 20kHz).  On a 3 Way there is an additional speaker optimized for mid range sounds.  The number of speakers is not as important as the Frequency Response range.

Below is an Amazon link to a filtered search for coaxial car audio speakers with 4 stars or more.  simply select your speaker size(s) on the left.


Step 3: Installation

Installation summary:
  1. Unbolt old speaker
  2. Disconnect old speaker
  3. Connect new speaker
  4. Re-bolt new speaker
  5. Replace door panels
  6. Test each speaker


Connecting Wires:  Most car manufacturers connect to the speakers by a proprietary wire harness to make life complicated.  You can purchase an adapter or cut the wires and connect them to the new speakers (recommended).  Almost all speakers you will purchase come with wire and compression wire connectors.  In the picture they were soldered together instead of using the included compression connectors.

Wiring Polarity:  When connecting the vehicles wiring to the speaker terminals note the polarity (positive and negative).  The positive terminal will be the thinner of the two terminals.  The wire from the vehicle will be two colors, to identify which of these two wires is positive you can note how the wire harness was connected to the original speaker or refer to an online search with the following search example: "speaker wire colors for 2006 Ford F-150".

Testing:  Test each speaker installation by changing the Fade and Balance from the radio deck to isolate one speaker at a time.  Note any distortion that may indicate incorrect wiring.
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