How To Install LED Light Strips In A Car

Car LED light strip installation guide featured image

Want to add some amazing style and color to your ride? Not only can you do it yourself, but you can also get great results for less than the price of a pair of speakers!

I’m passionate about helping others so I worked hard to put together this detailed do-it-yourself (DIY) guide to show you how to install LED strip lights in a car.

Want to see what they look like before you spend the time and effort? Be sure to check out my demo video at the end.


Infographic – Car LED light facts and tips

Car LED facts and tips infographic

What are LEDs?

What is an LED illustrated diagram and examples

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are semiconductor components that produce light. Semiconductors are basic electronic elements made up of silicon and other elements that allow electrons (electrical current) to flow in certain ways. Diodes are “one-way valves” which allow current to flow in only one direction. An interesting property is that they also produce visible light. An anode (positive lead) connects to a positive power supply and the cathode (negative lead) connects to the ground or (-) wire. 

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are one of the most important components in the electronics world. They’ve been around for decades but in the last 10-15 years or so they have become increasingly useful in our everyday lives. This includes uses in both home and car lighting, too.

LEDs work on the principle of a semiconductor junction. In other words, they contain 2 different materials like silicon and germanium bonded together to form a junction – or bridge – that forms a diode.

Diodes are extremely important to the electronics world as they’re electrical one-way valves, so to speak.

That principle is the basis of microscopic transistors which are what allow microprocessors and many other modern technological miracles to work.

The tiny components like the LED chip (the semiconductor materials themselves) are very sensitive but are sealed in an extremely hard and durable epoxy housing. Wires are bonded to the tiny components for connecting power.

If you’d like to read more about the different types of LEDs check out this page.

How LEDs produce light

Diodes have a special side effect when they pass electricity – they produce light! The color of the light produced depends upon the materials used to make them.

Over the years more and more companies have improved upon them and now produce cheap, great-looking LEDs that can produce light in a variety of colors.

Unlike regular light bulbs, however, LEDs actually work on a low voltage (say around 1.5 volts or so each). This means they must be used with a resistor to limit the amount of current flowing Otherwise they burn out quickly.

Resistors are used with LEDs when powered by car voltage (normally somewhere around 12V).

LEDs vs light bulbs & neon bulb comparison

LEDs have several advantages over incandescent (filament-type) bulbs and neon tubes as well. Here’s a comparison table highlighting some of the pros and cons of the three types.

Power use Low Moderate/high Low
Cost Low Low/medium Medium/high
Voltage Low Low/as required High (special power supply)
Durability Excellent Poor/moderate Poor/moderate
Life expectancy Extremely high (tens of thousands of hours) Low/medium (hundreds of hours) Low/medium (hundreds of hours)
"Soft" glow effect Poor Fair Great

As you can see from the table, LEDs have significant advantages in nearly every category that matters. They’re more cost-effective too.

It’s not just because they’re so durable and have an extremely long useful life (in the 10, 000 of hours, typically) but also because they need a lower voltage to work.

One drawback is that they can’t reproduce the “soft glow” neon tubes can, but that’s a minor drawback overall. When done well they still look great!

How do multicolor RGB LEDs work?

Image of RGB LED example

Image showing a multicolored red-green-blue (RGB) LED up close. These LEDs are actually a combination of 3 separate red, green, and blue LEDs built together. Today’s multicolored LEDs are very tiny and some are only a few millimeters in size!

Red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs are made of 3 separate color LED segments combined into one small package.

Just like images displayed by your computer monitor or a phone’s liquid crystal display (LCD) the colors are produced in various brightness levels to form different color combinations.

RGB LEDs have 3 connections: one for each color. By using a specially designed LED controller the 3 colors are driven at different brightness levels and various hues of colors are produced.

Of course, basic red, green, and blue colors can be produced as well. The number of variations in color and brightness you can choose from depends on the ability of the controller used.

How do LED light strips work?

How LED light strips work diagram

Diagram showing the design and basic operation of car LED light strips. The 12V supply powers the light strip controller which drives each light strip with separate red, green, and blue on/off waveforms. These waveforms are how brightness and color combinations become possible. Resistors are required to limit the amount of current each LED segment can receive.

LED light strips worked by being driven by a special power supply that controls the amount of time (and which color) LEDs switch on and off.

While simple single-color LED strips don’t need a power supply, they’re incapable of having different color combinations and special features like dimming or pulsing with music sounds.

An LED controller makes this possible in more advanced light strips by using very fast switching on/off with separate wiring for each individual RGB color.

Image of LED light strip up close

LED light strips contain an evenly spaced set of multiple RGB LEDs and resistors wired in parallel. When powered, each color receives a separate on/off signal from the LED driver controller box. This allows a variety of brightness levels and color combinations.

The longer the on time applied to an LED, the brighter it will seem to your eyes. If one color is turned on more than the others that color will appear more prominent. (For example, if blue is turned on more often than red, you’ll see a color mix with more blue in it)

Each light strip connects in parallel with other light strips by design in most light sets.

Choosing a great LED light strip set

Example of LED light strip set for car interior

Car LED light strip sets like this popular one from Amazon that I've tested are a great deal for the money and offer a lot of options including color-changing, a remote, and pulsing with your music.

Getting a good LED light set is definitely important. There are so many sold today it can become a headache when shopping!

Although you can buy a simple single-color light strip set for around $10 (like this one here) I recommended spending just a few dollars more.

My advice is to look for one with the following features:

  • Good buyer reviews and happy users
  • Fairly installer-friendly
  • Offers multi-color modes
  • Music mode to change with sound
  • Color rotation modes (gradient, fast, etc)
  • Brightness control

You don’t need to spend a lot – say $30 or less. Here’s a great example of a light strip set that does all this and more for a great price.

Instructions included with Chinese products like these can be hard to understand, so be ready for that!

Supplies, tools, and your shopping list

Inspirational example of notebook checklist

It’s really smart to make a list of what you’ll need before getting started. It only takes a few minutes and can really help you be better ready for the specifics of installing in your vehicle!

I recommend making a basic list of what you can expect to need before you begin installing LED lights in your vehicle.


  • Multimeter (for measuring voltage) – preferred over a test light
  • Crimp tool for crimp connectors
  • Screwdrivers and etc (as needed for your vehicle)
  • Wire-cutting pliers or pliers with a wire-cutting feature

Image of recommended car stereo installation tools

I highly recommend getting an inexpensive but good multimeter (left) like this best-selling budget model from Amazon and a wire crimp tool and wire crimp connectors (right) before starting your installation. You’ll get professional results and it will go much more easily, too!


  • Wire (“zip”) ties (usually sold in a bag of 100 or more), 6″ length or similar
  • Wire crimp connectors (small assortment)
  • Roll of electrical tape
  • Good quality fast-drying glue
  • Fuse tap adapters (if wiring from fusebox)

Example of LED light car interior installation supplies recommended

If you’re mounting the light strips to flat (or other material) surfaces, I really recommend using a great glue like this fantastic Gorilla super glue gel that’s easy to work with. For making your installation wiring neat or mounting lights to wires or other nearby objects, definitely pick up some small wire ties like these.

While it might not seem important now, I strongly recommend picking up a pack of wire ties. They’re incredibly useful for keeping wires held together and nice and neat.

They’re also very handy for mounting light strips to metal braces or nearby wiring (and other objects) underneath your dashboard and seats.

Installing LED lighting in your car: getting started

Image of guy looking under Mazda dashboard for LED installation

You’ll need to do just a few major steps to get your LED lights installed. The good news is that in most cases it’s not that hard! It does take a little while to do it right, but it’s well worth it!

You’ll need to plan to do the following:

  1. Wire the controller (or lights directly) to a power source of +12V and ground
  2. Mount the light strips securely
  3. Test and verify operation

In most cases, you don’t need to run any wiring to the battery. LED lights use only a relatively small amount of power so in most vehicles they can be connected to the factory stereo or cigarette lighter socket wiring.

There are also a few more sources I’ll mention later.

How to wire 12V LED lights in a car

Image of cigarette socket adapter for car LED lights

Many sets include a cigarette lighter plug with an on/off switch. While using the cigarette socket to power a set is an easy option, it’s not the best or neatest way. However, for temporary use it’s ok.

While LED car interior light sets often include a cigarette socket power plug, that’s not the best option. Ideally, you’ll want to hardwire them to turn off with the ignition switch just like the car stereo.

LED light strip wiring diagram

LED light strip wiring diagram

In order to power the set you’ll need to hardwire it to an accessory wire to get a +12V supply that switches on or off with the ignition.

You can normally find a wire that works for this in one of several places:

  • Behind the car stereo (usually the first option)
  • At the cigarette lighter socket wiring
  • At the fusebox in the vehicle interior

How do I find a +12V accessory (“ACC”) wire?

1. Look up your vehicle’s wiring colors

I recommend looking for wiring color codes for your vehicle at In most cases, you’ll find the colors and diagrams for your car or truck’s wiring.

If that doesn’t work out, it’s ok. We’ll fall back on plan #2.

2. Test wiring until you find a suitable wire

For this step, you’ll want to use a digital test meter (as I mentioned earlier). The main reason is that in modern vehicles not all wiring is 12V.  Some now have signal lines or other wiring with voltages below +12V.

Caution! A simple test light can’t show you the real wiring voltage and can cause potential problems with the vehicle. Using a test light can lead to using a lower-voltage wire by accident which can cause your LED lights to fail or never work right.

You can try removing the radio and, with the ignition in the ACC position, check wiring until you find +12V wires. Then test again with the ignition off to decide which are suitable.

3. Tap off of the fusebox

Example vehicle fusebox locations

A vehicle’s fusebox containing a power source for the radio – and your LED set – is usually in one of a few places. (Above) Under a panel in the dash itself or (below) in the lower driver’s side of near the brake pedal. The owner’s manual normally has labels for the fuses.

Additionally, another option is connecting to a power source at the fusebox. They’re typically found at the left side of the dashboard, either near the lower left-hand side of the interior or under a panel in the dashboard itself.

You can use the vehicle’s owner’s manual to show you which fuse is for what purpose. Most vehicles have one for the radio supply that you can tap power from.

Mini and micro fuse wiring adapters examples

Fusebox wiring adapters make it pretty easy to tap off of a power circuit for installing LED lights. You plug them in place of the original fuse and then connect the power wire.

If tapping off of the fuse box consider picking up a fuse wiring adapter. They can make it so simple!

If you don’t have an owner’s manual you can use a test meter to check fuse power with the ignition on and off until you find a suitable one. Then use a fuse tap adapter or other connection to attach the LED power wire.

Here are some great ones which will make installation much easier.

Connecting the wiring

Once you’ve found a suitable source for power, you’ll need to:

  • Connect the LED power wire
  • Ground the negative power wire

Here’s a helpful diagram with some ideas clearly explained.

How to hardwire car LEDs instructional diagram
Mounting your LED light strips

As many light sets (like the one I’m using here) have the light strips permanently attached to the control box, wire length is limited. However, there should be enough for most typical installations.

I measured about 48″ (122 cm) and 58″ (147 cm) for the front and rear lengths on mine. That’s about 4 ft (1.22 m) and 5.6 ft (1.7 m) in length for each front and rear pair.

Interior light strip locations

Car LED light strip interior location diagram

Diagram showing typical locations for the LED light strips in a car interior. Great locations are under the dashboard for the front 2 and either on the front or rear of the seats. Use the light strips with longer length cables in most cases.

Ideally, you’ll install your light strips (assuming you have 4, which most sets do) here:

  • Left & right front: under the dashboard, facing down
  • Left & right rear: under/on the front or rear edges of the front seats

Be sure to have them facing the areas you want the light glow to appear on.

You can also test them temporarily using some good quality tape to hold them in place before installing them permanently.

Locating the controller

Car LED light controller installation example image

The LED light set controller (for those having a remote control and/or sound sensor) needs to be accessible from the remote and should be placed where it can sense sound properly. Install it on one side of the dashboard center console where it’s hidden a bit. Most likely the driver’s side is best (as shown in the diagram above).

LED controllers that offer a remote control usually use an infrared receiver (IR) type of sensor. These need a direct line-of-site to the sensor in the control box.

Additionally, models (like the one shown here) have a sound sensor internally, too. In both cases, you’ll need to place the control box where it’s not totally covered and where the remote can work with it. Normally I suggest the driver’s side, hidden slightly underneath the dashboard.

Installing the light strips and cables (and why adhesive strips may be a bad choice)

Installing LED light strips in car interior diagram

The diagram above shows 2 great ways to install the LED light strips in your vehicle. I no longer recommend self-adhesive strips, even included on the light strips. After being exposed to heat in a car’s interior they often fail.

While LED light strips typically include a self-adhesive tape on the back of the strips, it’s often not reliable. The reason is that the adhesive fails after multiple sessions of heat exposure, vibration, and being kicked by feet in a vehicle.

For that reason I recommend the two methods I mentioned earlier:

  • Use a high-quality glue for attaching to under-dash plastic panels
  • Use wire ties to fasten light strips to vehicle wiring bundles or dashboard brackets

Using a high-quality gel super glue like Gorilla Glue is a great idea. Although it may sound permanent, you’ll only need a few small drops (about 4 to 5) for each light strip. The glue dries quickly but gel glue is easy to work with and quite strong.

Be sure to clean any surfaces beforehand with alcohol and a cloth, an alcohol pad, or a good surface cleaner. Silicon and other protective products like Armor All leave a residue that prevents glue from adhering well.

Additionally, wire ties are easy to use and allow for a lot of creative installation ideas. Nearly any nearby object or hole can be used to support a light strip.

Attaching light strips to seats

Similarly, after attaching the light strips underneath the dash, you can do the same for the seats as well.

If you’d like to avoid using a permanent glue, you can also consider using genuine Velcro. Generic velcro tends to have poor quality adhesive and won’t last long.

Where possible, try using wire ties on the seat frame if available. Wire ties are very strong yet can be cut and removed later without any permanent damage.

Spice up your system! LED amp rack lighting example

Custom car amp rack with Planet Audio amps and backlighting

Want to add some extra style and class to your system? One great idea is to use LED light strips, facing your amps, to create a cool soft light glow that looks sharp. Pictured above: My custom car amp rack I built.

In the photo above you can see my custom car amp rack with backlighting inside. LED light strips are great for your own low-cost custom amp rack too!

Just add them around your amps (for as many sides as you like or make sense for your system) with them facing the amps. It’ll add a beautiful look that you’ll be proud to show off.

In fact, you can use a simple relay connected to the remote wire & power from the amp +12V & ground terminals so they’ll come on automatically with your system.

Final notes and demo video

Car Interior LED Light Set Demo

An example of the kit installed in a Toyota sedan. The results are great!

Adding LED lights to your vehicle’s interior is a very cool project you can do yourself! The results are great and one of the most cost-effective ways to really spice up your ride.

Example of LED light strip set for car interior

As I mentioned before, a good LED light strip set won’t break the bank. In fact this multi-color car LED light strip kit I picked up from Amazon is under $20. It’s easy to install, too.

Additional reading

Speaking of taking your ride to the next level…got an amp yet? If it’s time for an upgrade, have a look at my list of the best 4 channel amps for sound quality.

Got questions, suggestions, or ideas? Feel free to comment below or send me a message.

How To Hook Up A 4 Channel Amp To Front And Rear Speakers

How to hook up 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers

Adding a 4 channel amp is a great idea. I’ve enjoyed powerful, crystal-clear sound in my vehicles for years using my own 4 channel amps.

But how do you hook them up?

In this guide I’ll show you how to hook up a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers. After installing hundreds of amps in vehicles just like yours I’ll share with you the fundamental tips you need for great results.

And hey – don’t worry…in most cases you can do it yourself and get professional results on a budget!


Infographic – How to hook up a 4 channel amp (tips and general guide)

Hook up amp 4 channel amp front rear speakers infographic diagram

Basics first

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’re not familiar with installing an amp, connecting wiring, and other details related to hooking up a 4 channel amp in a vehicle.

Not everyone has installed car stereo equipment before so I’m going to be as thorough as possible and avoid making any assumptions about how much you know.

What is a 4 channel amp?

Holding Alpine MRV-F300 amp in my hand

Today’s 4 channel amps offer newer technology, better sound, and more compact size than in the old days. An excellent example is the Alpine MRV-F300 50W x 4 model. It uses Class D technology to run extremely cool and yet it’s small enough to fit under a car or truck seat. Very nice!

What a 4 channel car amplifier is may seem obvious at first but there’s a bit more to know Additionally, there are some interesting (and good) ways they differ from 2-channel amps.

In fact, there are actually a few benefits you’ll get using one 4 channel amp instead of 2 stereo ones to power your front and rear speakers.

A 4 channel amplifier is a stereo amplifier with 2 more channels built in to boost (amplify) weak input signals to a higher voltage signal. This drives speaker voice coils to move the speaker cone and produce sound.

4 channel amplifiers add more channels into a more compact and efficient design than separate amplifiers would have.

Additionally, they offer more flexibility, as most can be configured for “bridged” operation which can give more power when you don’t need all 4 channels.

What is “bridging” an amp?

Bridged mode capability is a special design feature in which a “push-pull” set up is created: one channel (normally used for the left speaker) produces a signal that’s the opposite of the second channel (normally used for the right speaker).

This causes the speaker to receive a voltage audio waveform that is the difference between the two channels – resulting in more available power to speakers.

Essentially, bridged mode is a flexible way to get more power if you’re not driving 4 speakers. It means 2 channels are sharing the workload of one speaker between them and therefore and drive it with more power.

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

2 channel vs 4 channel amp diagram

A 4 channel car amp is basically an expanded version of a 2-channel amp. However, because they’re built together and not 2 separate 2-channel amps, they’re more compact. This saves installation space and makes it easier too. Additionally, most can be bridged to use 2 channels (or 3, depending on your needs) so you’re not restricted to using them with only 4 speakers.

The benefits of using an amp to drive speakers

Whether you have a factory stereo or a great aftermarket (non-factory) one, adding an amplifier is one of the best decisions you can make.

In-dash stereos are very limited in how much power they can produce. They can’t drive speakers with the same clarity and low distortion as a good amplifier can.

The maximum volume you’ll be able to get from your speakers will be pretty low, too.

There’s simply no way around it – most in-dash stereos are limited to about 15W-18W RMS of power for each speaker channel. That’s because they’re running directly from the +12V supply. Amplifiers are unique in that they take the +12V electrical supply and boost it to a higher voltage.

When a signal is boosted and sent out to your car’s speakers the voltage is much higher and the speaker can receive much more power.

That’s why tiny amplifiers are rarely worth bothering with – if there’s no special power supply inside, it’s simply not capable of producing much power.

Getting great sound

Powering speakers from an amp makes a big difference, and I’ve enjoyed excellent sound for years this way.

When an amplifier drives your vehicle’s speakers it’s often not even pushed to its limits. The sound produced at the speaker has lower distortion, doesn’t “bottom out” when heavy bass is played, and you can get a lot more volume, too!

Additionally, using an amplifier with built-in high-pass crossovers means you can block out lower-end bass that causes your speakers to distort and attempt to play music tones they’re not suited for.

The result is cleaner sound, less distortion, and great volume – you can crank your music even higher!

Just imagine driving down the road with the windows open and finally being able to blast the music you love. I’m confident you’ll love it as much as I do.

Things to know before you start

Clip art image of a face thinking - Things to know content image

It only takes a few minutes to make a list of the parts, wire, tools, and other bits and pieces you’ll need. Planning ahead can mean the difference between getting your system going without major problems or having a frustrating time – or complete failure! I always get organized and get my items together before I start a job.

Planning ahead is very important. You don’t want to run out of wire or discover you don’t have the rights parts, for example. That will mean you can’t finish your project.

It’s even worse when you have to drive around town searching for items or you’re not able to do anything after the stores close. Believe me, I’ve been there, and it’s terrible!

Notes about wire, tools, and a few other things

When it comes to installations, always plan to have more, rather than not enough, wire. This goes for speaker wire as well as RCA cables.

The amplifier kits I recommend have the right length for your amp installation, but speaker wire & RCA cables are another matter in this case.

What length and size speaker wire do I need?

wire of 16 ga speaker wire

There’s no need to spend an excessive amount of money on speaker wire. 18 gauge is enough for many installations, but 16 gauge is a great choice too if the price is right. A great example is this AmazonBasics 100 foot roll. I recommend a 100 foot roll for many installations with a 4 channel amp (see why below).

Here’s an estimate of the worst-case scenario for the length of speaker wire required. I’ll use the example of installing an amp using speaker-level inputs, with the following typical installation:

  • Amp is located in the trunk
  • Speaker level signal connections near the radio (center console)

Let’s use roughly a 15′ length of distance from the radio to the amp. That’s a good estimate in my experience.

So we have:

  • Wire from the radio to amp (signal wire): 4 channels x 15′ = 60 feet
  • Wire from the amp to speaker wiring near radio: 4 channels x 15′ = 60 feet

Total estimated wire required: 120 feet.

That means you need 2 100 ft rolls of wire. Or at the least, 1 100 ft roll and 1 50 ft roll. If you’re planning to use a line-level adapter, expect to pick up a 100′ roll.

If your installation is using RCA jacks, expect a 100 ft roll also (4 channels x 15′ length estimate for the speaker wire from the amp).

What about RCA cables?

KNU Conceptz KCA-K4 4 gauge amp wiring kit RCA cables imageIf you’re installing a 4 channel amplifier and using RCA cable connections, you’ll need to buy a 2nd pair along with your amp wiring kit, as most only include a 2-channel cable.

For most installations, I recommend 18′ length cables. That’s usually long enough for most vehicles and you should usually have enough length to hide the cables inside the interior and under the rear seat, etc.

There’s no reason to spend an excessive amount of money. Just pick up some good quality, well-made cables. Even a pair like these value-priced ones will be fine in most cases.

Tools you’ll need.

Image showing example crimp tool and crimp connectorsCrimp tools are great for installing your amp and speaker wiring with professional results. If you’re doing your own installation, you can get by with an inexpensive tool like this Pros'Kit crimp tool. Crimp connectors are sold separately in many automotive parts stores or general stores and are very affordable.

I recommend a few tools. If you shop carefully, you can avoid getting ripped off on tool prices. When connecting speaker wiring to factory wiring, it’s easier to use crimp connectors than solder.

Never simply twist the wire together and wrap it in electrical tape. Always use a reliable connection.

During warm weather, electrical tape adhesive can fail and the tape can come off of the wire. This exposes it to possible short circuits and potential damage to your radio or amp.

If you have access to a cordless drill, that’s fantastic! They’re great for drilling holes in the vehicle’s metal for mounting your amplifier or connecting the ground wire to bare metal.

I also recommend the following:

  • Wire cutters (some crimp tools have this built-in)
  • Roll of quality electrical tape
  • Wire ties (“zip ties”), 6″ length, bag of 100
  • A digital test meter for voltage measurement

Etekcity MSR-R500 digital test meter example

A test meter is often incredibly helpful when installing an amplifier. However, you don’t need to spend much money! A basic but good budget model like this one at Amazon will work great.

I recommend getting an affordable but good digital test meter to find a switched +12V wire for getting a remote-on signal to the amp.

They’re also extremely helpful when troubleshooting power problems when something isn’t working.

Get your installation shopping list together

Image of a paper checklist being prepared with a marker

Here’s a general but pretty accurate list of what you’ll need for connecting a 4 channel amp to front and rear speakers.

Installation types 1 or 2: Factory radio or no RCA connections

  1. 4 channel amplifier with speaker level inputs or amp and line-level adapter
  2. 120 feet or more speaker wire, 18 gauge or larger
  3. Amp wiring kit
  4. Crimp tool and butt (wire crimp) connectors (25 or more at least)
  5. Cutting pliers
  6. Electrical tape
  7. Wire ties, 6″, bag of 100
  8. Test meter

Installation type 3: RCA connections

  1. 4 channel amplifier with speaker level inputs or amp and line-level adapter
  2. 100 feet roll speaker wire, 18 gauge or larger
  3. Amp wiring kit
  4. Additional RCA cables, 18′ minimum
  5. Crimp tool and butt (wire crimp) connectors (25 or more at least)
  6. Cutting pliers
  7. Electrical tape
  8. Wire ties, 6″, bag of 100
  9. Test meter

Be sure to plan well and estimate the amount of speaker wire you’ll need. For the amp installation itself, I strongly recommend using a pre-made amp wiring kit like you’ll find here in my amp kit buyer’s guide.

You’ll also need to get a 2nd pair of RCA cables. I recommend 18 ft length or more. Don’t spend too much money, but do get decent quality ones.

How to get a signal to your amp

Image of an aftermarket car stereo outputs labeled

Image of an aftermarket (non-factory) stereo showing the RCA jacks and speaker output wiring. Either one can be used for getting a signal to an amp, but RCA jacks offer a better option. They’re normally lower distortion and allow using plug-in RCA cables. If those aren’t available, either an amp with speaker-level inputs or a line level (speaker level) adapter can be used.

In order to install a 4 channel amp and drive all 4 speakers, in many cases, the biggest obstacle is getting a signal to the amp. Once that’s done, the rest is usually a standard amp installation.

There are 3 basic ways to get a signal to your 4 channel amplifier:

  1. Connect speaker outputs to your amp’s speaker level inputs
  2. Connect a line-level adapter to the radio then use RCA cables to the amp
  3. Connect your radio to the amp using RCA cables directly
NOTE: I won’t be covering factory sound systems that are “premium” and have a factory amplifier. Those such as Bose, JBL, and Mark Levinson, often found in luxury vehicles or special-edition models, are much more complex and harder to deal with.

In that case, my advice is to speak with a good installation shop first and do your research.

If you feel that factory amplified systems should be here as well, send me a message or comment and let me know

In a few cases, adapters are available to connect an amp to a factory amplified system’s audio wiring, but it’s often difficult or there are obstacles you won’t find until you get started.

One of the reasons why is that factory amplified systems often have non-standard wiring connections for the audio path and are prone to bad noise problems if you connect an amplifier without the proper adapter or wiring.

Which type of connection do I need?

If you have a radio with RCA jacks, skip on down to the next section.

However, if you have a stereo with no RCA jacks (which is always the case for factory-installed stereos) you’ll have to buy one of the following:

  • A “line level” converter
  • An amplifier with speaker-level (“high level”) inputs

1. Line level converters

PAC LP7-4 4 channel line level converter

Line-level converters like this PAC LP7-4 4-channel model are designed to take speaker-outputs from a stereo with no RCA jacks and adapt them to RCA jacks. Using this, you can run RCA cables to your amplifier.

Line level converters are designed to allow connecting to an amplifier’s RCA inputs by converting speaker outputs from a stereo to a low-level signal an amp can use.

It’s very important to buy a quality, well-designed line-level adapter to avoid noise, poor sound quality, and other problems. Don’t get the cheapest – instead, get a name brand model you can rely on (like the one above).

2. Speaker level inputs

Car amplifier speaker level input example
Amplifiers with high-level (speaker-level) inputs like this one allow connecting to speaker wiring for a signal source. This avoids having to buy a separate adapter.

Speaker level inputs are common on many 4 channel amplifiers. These amps contain electronics that scale down speaker wiring signals to a lower signal safe for the amplifier’s input circuitry.

They’re simple to connect: normally it’s just a matter of connecting both positive (+) and negative (-) wiring for each speaker channel on a small wiring harness included. This then plugs into the speaker level input connector.

4 channel amp speaker level harness example

A typical speaker-level input harness for a 4 channel amp. The wires are color-coded to make installation easier. White = left front, gray = right front, green = left rear, and purple = right rear.

While it can save money (you won’t need a line-level adapter in this case) I often recommend that people consider buying a line-level converter anyway.

This allows an easier upgrade for your stereo later, which is very common for people to do. Using the line-level converter now will allow you to run RCA cables to your 4 channel amp to be used later if you buy a better stereo (which will include RCA jacks, almost always).

3. RCA jack (line-level) connections

RCA jacks offer a clean, lower-noise connection than speaker-level adapters do, but honestly, it’s not noticeable to the average person. RCA cables (line-level connections) are the preferred way to connect a signal to your amp if you have that option.

RCA jacks on the rear of a Pioneer head unit. This is the ideal way to connect your amplifier’s signal inputs, if available. For a 4 channel amplifier, you’ll need 2 stereo RCA cables to do so. White represents the left channel white red represents the right. These are standard colors for audio outputs for both car and home stereo.

If your stereo has RCA jacks, then congratulations. Things just got a bit easier – and potentially better sounding, too!

You’ll need 2 stereo RCA male-to-male cables (4 audio channels total) to run from the radio to your 4 channel amp. That’s 4 signal channels: left & right front and left & right rear.

4 channel amp signal connection diagram

Here’s a helpful diagram showing the most common connections you’ll need to make one of the 3 most common cases I mentioned earlier:

  1. Connecting to your amp’s speaker level inputs
  2. Using a line-level converter
  3. Connecting your amp to the radio’s RCA jacks

4 channel amp signal connection diagram
You can also click here to view the .pdf document for print or download.

Connecting and running signal wiring

Speaker-level connections

As mentioned above and as shown in the diagrams, if you’re using speaker-level outputs to get a signal from the radio, you’ll need to connect wire. Ideally, you’ll do so near close to the radio, then run the wire together as a bundle.

You can bundle speaker wire together with wire ties to keep it neat and make the installation easier.

Estimate the length of speaker wire you need to reach the amp (or line level converter) for each audio channel. To do so, run a length of wire from the radio to where the amp will be installed, then allow a little extra and enough length to run around curves and interior parts.

Cut 7 more lengths of wire, for a total of 8:

  • 4 channels (4 pairs of wire) going to the amp’s speaker level inputs
  • 4 channels from the amp to the radio’s factory speaker wiring

Image of car stereo wires crimped

I recommend connecting to speaker-level outputs using crimp connectors and a crimp tool for a reliable, solid connection. Blue connectors are normally the right size for 18-16 gauge wire.

Factory stereo color codes

If you have a factory stereo, you’ll need to find the wiring colors for the speaker wiring.

A great resource for that is, where you’ll find wiring diagrams for your vehicle and color codes listed.

Making connections

Image of factory stereo wiring harness

After removing the radio you’ll find connectors like this for the factory stereo wiring harness. You’ll need to separate the speaker wires, cut them, and attach wiring to run to the amp.

Remove the radio and disconnect the factory wiring plugs or aftermarket radio’s wiring harness.

Cut the speaker wires, leaving enough length to move the wire and to have enough length to connect to the wire freely.

Strip a small part on both the stereo’s speaker wire and your amp speaker wiring. If using a line-level adapter, connect to the stereo’s speaker output side. Then connect the 4 pairs of wire to the speaker wiring in the harness.

Insert the stripped wire (about 1/4″ of bare wire) into the connectors and crimp them carefully using a crimp tool if you have one. Alternately, you can twist together wire, solder it, and carefully wrap it with electrical tape or use heat shrink tubing for insulation.

If using speaker level inputs on your amp, also connect 4 pairs of wire to the output of the stereo.

Wire bundle with zip ties example

To make a neater, more professional installation, bundle the speaker wiring similar to this using wire (“zip”) ties. I recommend using 6″ ties which often are sold in packs of 100.

Once all wiring is connected, bundle it up using wire ties or, optionally, a little bit of electrical tape wrapped around. In both cases spacing out wire ties or tape about every 1″ or 1.5″ along the length of the wire works well.

Connecting RCA cables

Example of connecting RCA cables to rear of a car stereo

Connecting RCA cables to an aftermarket (non-original) stereo for running to an amplifier.

If you’re using a line-level converter or have a stereo with RCA jacks, connect all 4 cables plugs to the front and rear outputs.

RCA cables are sometimes marked with left and right symbols (“L” and “R”). In some cases, white, clear, or some lighter color can be used to represent the left channel.

Connect the cables consistently so you’ll be able to recognize which one is which. If the front and rear RCA cables are the same, you might want to mark front and rear using some masking tape and a marker or pen.

Connect the remote-on amp wire

Don’t forget the remote wire! Amp wiring kits include a small wire that’s used to connect the amp so that it switches on and off with the accessory position of the ignition switch.

Locate a +12V wire that has power when the ignition is switched to “ACC” or similar but turns off with the key. You may also have good luck finding an existing wire color from vehicle wiring diagrams I mentioned earlier or from a Google search.

I recommend checking the wiring even if you have already located it online, just to be sure.

Before re-installing the radio connect this wire and run it alongside the speaker wiring.

How to connect a 2 ch. car stereo to a 4 channel amp

Diagram showing a 2 channel car stereo connected to a 4 channel amp

You can connect a head unit car stereo with only 2 channels (left and right) to a 4 channel amp easily. Ordinarily, all you need is 2 RCA Y adapter cables. The head unit’s left channel RCA jack should be connected to the left front and left rear amp inputs. Likewise for the right channel. If using speaker level inputs on the amp, use the connections shown above. NOTE: Use only ONE of the two connections above! Never connect both types at the same time! Speaker-level outputs will damage RCA connections.

If your head unit (car stereo) only has 2 RCA jacks or two pairs of speaker outputs, that’s not a problem.

As shown in the above diagram, you can connect 2 channels to a 4 channel amp using either the speaker level inputs wired in parallel or by using simple RCA adapter cables.

RCA y adapter cable image

All you need is a decent pair (a total of 2) female to male RCA “Y” adapters like these low-cost ones from Amazon.

The sound quality will be exactly the same. Today’s amps are designed in such a way that there’s no harm in using a Y adapter to connect the amp. The amplifier will receive exactly the same signal, with the same quality, in the front channels as well as the rear.

The only drawback is there won’t be a front to rear fader control like with head units with 4 channels of outputs.

After connecting the stereo to the amp, you’ll need to adjust the rear gain to set the volume level for the rear speakers as needed for the proper volume depending on the stereo’s signal strength.

Installing the amp

Product image of Belva BAK82 amp wiring kitAn amp wiring kit like this one will make installing your 4 channel amp much easier. A good-quality one like this Belva 8-gauge complete kit includes not just wiring but much more. You’ll also need to pick up a 2nd pair of RCA cables (if using them) and enough speaker wire.

Your amplifier needs a good solid metal connection to ground and you’ll need to run the positive battery wire to the engine compartment. Your amp wiring kit will also include a fuse holder that should be installed near the battery as well (most kits include instructions, by the way).

You’ll also need to connect the amp’s speaker outputs to the wire you ran from the radio.

As it also applies to 4 channels amps, for the amplifier installation you can follow my guides here:

Here’s a basic diagram as well to help:

How to install a 4 channel amp diagram

Setting up your amp

Alpine MRV-F300 4 channel amp end viewOnce installed, you should set up your amp’s gain levels and crossovers for the best sound. In this image, you can see the adjustable crossovers for both front and rear channels. Turn on the high-pass crossovers and adjust to a setting close to 50-60Hz, to allow good bass for music but block low-end bass that distorts.

Once installed, you’ll need to set up your amp’s gain levels and crossovers, if available. Most sold today have that. (See my recommendations at the end for some great models)

Gain control is the amount of signal amplification the amplifier performs. Ideally, with a good input signal, it can be kept low to reduce any hiss or noise that can appear when it’s turned up high.

Here’s a great rule of thumb for how to adjust the gain for this type of system:

  1. Turn down gain controls on the amp
  2. Turn the stereo’s volume to 2/3 of maximum
  3. Slowly raise the gain controls until the volume is enough

When finished you should have enough volume available from the stereo but noise should be minimal. You’ll still need to tweak it a bit if the volume is too high or too low.

Setting the crossover

As I mentioned at the beginning of this guide, using high-pass crossovers will allow more volume with less distortion and will help protect the speakers from heavy bass.

For both front and rear channels turn on the high-pass feature and, if an adjustable dial is available, set it near 50 to 60Hz. Some models don’t offer an adjustable frequency for the cutoff but are likely preset to a good level.

Test and tweak

Once installed, test and tweak your amplifier as needed. A great way to mount your 4 channel amp is by using a board mounted to the car, covered with speaker box carpet or other material.

Play some music you’re very familiar with and adjust things like bass, treble, and the fader as needed. Using music you’re very familiar with (of high quality) means you’ll be able to notice any problems with the sound fairly easily.

If you don’t already have one, you might consider later upgrading to a head unit with built-in equalizer (EQ) functions to help tailor the sound.

Summary and recommended products

Hopefully you’ve found this post useful. Hooking up a 4 channel amp to your front and rear speakers takes some work and time, but it’s a great way to get sound you’ll love.

Considering buying an amplifier? You can find some great 4 channel amps (including the Alpine MRV-F300 pictured here) in my 4 channel amp buyer’s guide.

You’ll also need a good amp wiring kit – I’ve got a good amp kit buyer’s guide here.

If you find anything missing or have suggestions, just leave a comment below or send me a message!

10 Great Reasons Why You Should Install Your Own Car Stereo System

10 Great Reasons Why You Should Install Your Own Car Stereo featured image

Way back in the day before I ever worked in the car audio field as a professional, I tinkered with audio in the used cars I owned over the years. Like a lot of people, I struggled trying to figure out how to do things.

Along the way, I learned some hard lessons. It turned out I also learned a number of reasons why you should install your own car stereo system.

As time went on I realized how much I benefited from completing all kinds of great car audio installations on my own rather than paying someone else.

Installing your own car stereo equipment is really beneficial and I’ve written a solid list of reasons why. Read on to find out why!

1. You learn to be self-sufficient

Image of my first Toyota cars

The first 2 vehicles I owned – in which I had to figure out how to install car stereos – a 1976 Toyota Corolla (left) and later a 1985 Toyota Corolla SR5 (right). It wasn’t easy and I was nearly broke at the time! I somehow had to figure out how to get things done on my own – which I did, enhancing my resourcefulness and knowledge in the process!

I had a hard time growing up. I didn’t have much money and I couldn’t count on my dad to help and guide me through basic mechanical things.

I’ve always been a mechanically inclined tinkerer at heart, but I had to learn how to use tools and fix things all on my own. The same goes for all my technical projects and repairs and projects up to now including car audio.

For me, the first cars I owned were a real challenge. When you’re poor and don’t have the money to pay someone else, you live by the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I didn’t have any choice – I had to try and I learned to be resourceful.

Building skills for a lifetime

By taking things apart in my cars with a few basic hand tools like screwdrivers, pliers, and metric sockets, I learned some great skills. I became able to take a car dash apart and put it back together.

As I removed the original stereo and tried to fit a new one into place (bear in mind – there were no kits I could buy to do so easily!) I had no choice but to come up with some kind of solution if I wanted it to work. I wanted to listen to better music so badly and was motivated to keep trying. It was a hard struggle and times and there were times when I failed…but I learned so much and I don’t regret it.

By trying to do it myself, I learned new skills and had the experience I could fall back on next time – I learned to be self-sufficient.

That same approach became valuable over and over in many areas of life, too.

2. You save money

image of teen guy in driver's seat in car

Money is a precious commodity especially when you’re a young and broke part-time student, for example. What little money you have restricts the things you get to enjoy in life. Be smart and save money when you can – installing your own car stereo system is a FANTASTIC way to save cash and get the great sound you couldn’t afford otherwise.

Whether you’re well-off or not, you should consider doing things by yourself to save some money. Why? Allow me to explain more.

In many cases, car stereo shops charge a lot. But they charge not only for labor costs, (which is usually fairly reasonable, depending on the shop and where you live) but especially on parts and accessories.

You’re almost always to going to pay a lot, and believe me, I’ve seen people overpay because they thought they had no choice but to do so.

In reality, the necessary equipment, parts, and information are readily available to you! If you research properly, you can save yourself A LOT of money and avoid being scammed into paying more than you’re supposed to.

You have plenty of options – you simply need to learn how to exercise them properly.

When we’re young, money is hard to come by unless you’re lucky to be born into the right environment. Most of us struggle financially when we’re young, and there are some adults who are still struggling today.

In my experience, unless you are dealing with more difficult installations (like remote start systems, car alarms, etc) you’ll end up wasting a lot of money paying not just for labor but also the parts an installation shop will say you “need” but will mark up a lot – by as much as 40-100%!

3. Your research skills will significantly improve

Image of man searching on internet with cat

One of the first principles you’ll learn is that finding good, reliable information takes time. The internet is much better than it used to be but it’s still very much like a junkyard in many ways. Also, you’ll “learn how to learn” – that is, you’ll begin to better understand how you can learn more by seeking out information, learning to cut out what isn’t valuable, and making the best decision possible.

When you install your own car stereo systems, you’ll often start at “square one.” That is, you’ll have to figure out on your own what you need to buy, how to install it, and which electronics are the best buys.

A person who has very little knowledge about the subject is often overwhelmed with information or can feel like it’s too difficult to accomplish by themselves. But the truth is that everyone starts somewhere.

No one is born knowing everything!

Understanding what to look for in reviews

When you decide to install your own car stereo system you’ll realize soon that you need to scour the internet for reviews, information, and opinions from other people who have contributed feedback.

Unfortunately, a lot of it is junk and is biased, being written by people who are emotionally driven and have an axe to grind.

However, plenty of others post genuinely helpful and honest opinions about what they bought, how well it works, and how hard it was to install. That’s what you have to seek out.

As you go along, you’ll soon discover a few patterns emerge when trying to find information. You’re actually doing a form of research!

What you’ll learn

By attempting to install your own car stereo system, you learn to:

  1. Seek out general information about the car stereo product you think you need
  2. Look for more specific information to decide if it’s worth the price
  3. Look at general opinions and reviews – until you’re convinced you want to buy the product

As you go through all these, you’ll soon discover that you’ve become more efficient at finding useful information. After looking up specifications, buyer reviews, and more details about several car stereos and amplifiers – you’ll have developed a new, personalized method of approaching research.

Also, when you start looking for wiring & installation information, you’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t. It can sometimes be a slow and boring process, but you gain more knowledge and experience you can store for future use.

The next time you start to look into a similar topic, you’re well-prepared and ready to do even better than before. These days, it’s an extremely practical skillset to have.

Unlike most people who just believe anything a salesman would tell them, you know the facts – you can make a well-informed, educated decision based on what you’ve already learned through experience.

4. You gain skills with tools and become more mechanically inclined

Example of connecting RCA cables to rear of a car stereo

You don’t have to be an “expert” to do research, learn what parts you need, then try using basic tools like pliers and a crimp tool to install a car stereo. Everyone starts somewhere. If you do it yourself, you’ve overcome a huge obstacle and most importantly, your mindset has changed. You no longer think, “I can’t”, but instead, “I can and will!”

Installing the most basic equipment like an amp and subwoofer box may sound easy, but the reality is often VERY different from what people might tell you and what product descriptions imply.

The reason is that in the real world, every installation is different – you’ll have to overcome new obstacles you have to be successful.

For example, installing an amplifier in some cars is easy, as there’s plenty of room in the trunk. In that case you can mount it to the subwoofer box and you’re done. However, in others space is tight and you’ll have to come up with a custom solution.

You also need to know how to use basic hand tools (like a crimp too or an automatic wire stripper) so that you can strip and connect wires along with many other simple tasks useful for car audio installation.

The most basic and necessary of which are removing and installing by using screwdrivers, ratchets, and cordless drills with a clutch.

Getting better at DIY car stereo installation

It’s an essential set of skills that no one can pass up if they want to succeed.

Even better, if you’re able to solve hard problems like mounting an amp in a hard-to-fit area by using basic brackets or car stereo straps, you’ve gained the ability to solve other problems, too.

If you end up running into a difficult installation and have to get parts at the hardware store or maybe get some great metal mounting straps to make custom mounting brackets, then all the better!

The next time your mind you run into a similar challenge you’ll have ideas to fall back on and will search for similar solutions based on what you’ve learned.

It may be difficult at first, but once you succeed you will have learned many skills and lessons that you can use in other areas of your life.

Similar problems that come up later will be easier to deal with because of the experience you’ve gained.

5. You become more creative and a better problem solver

Let’s say you want to install your great brand-new amp in your car trunk, but you can’t find a good place where it’ll fit perfectly. Before you get all dejected and give up, how about trying something creative like mounting it to a board and then to the rear deck? These are the kinds of ideas you develop when you do it on your own.

When installing a car stereo in your own vehicle, one of the first things you realize when you start – and unfortunately learn the hard way – this that it’s often not easy. You have to be creative to find a solution to get things done.

As your project goes along, you’ll have to really think hard and try different things.

For example, to get a stereo to fit your car’s dash or to mount a sweet new amplifier in the trunk with very limited space it will take some good creativity. Those are things I’ve dealt with many times and it’s why I have very good installation skills.

I had to get creative to persevere – and I did! Since this was a side business of mine, I had plenty of opportunities to improve my creativity and solve more problems…which led to even more opportunities because of it.

Taking the first steps of doing it yourself sort-of forces you into a “try or fail” scenario. It’s funny how we don’t realize what we can do or what kind of problems we can solve until we’re forced to.

6.  It builds confidence

Image of happy guy in car giving thumbs up

“Wow! Did you install it yourself? That’s so cool. I can’t imagine how hard that was!” It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. Hey, you did it on your own – you have every right to be proud!

After installing hundreds of car stereos, amplifiers, and security systems (among other things), I can proudly say I’m very confident in my abilities – I can install nearly everything and do it well with professional results.

However, I didn’t start out this way.

It took years of experience, practice, and a lot of learning from my mistakes to build the confidence I have today. Likewise, any job you’ve accomplished – no matter how big or small – will reward you with a little bit of experience that boosts your confidence and self-esteem.

The reward of a job well done

For example, let’s say you bought an amazing new Bluetooth compatible car stereo like this one and after a bit of struggling you finally got it installed and you love it. Ok, sounds great!

Now you feel a bit more secure that you can add an amplifier and subwoofer later. After all, if you can install a great head unit and it looks good, can’t you do a little bit more, too?

And so it goes…when you complete a DIY project, you don’t get only the great feeling of a job well-done.  You also earn the ability to believe in yourself and have more confidence in what you can do.

Self confidence is extremely important for what you can accomplish in life and should never be taken for granted.

7.  You’re less reliant on others

Like how this looks? So does he. And he didn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to a shop to do it for him. When you’re willing to take the little steps and figure out how to install a system on your own, you realize how little you actually need to depend on others. It’s an incredibly useful trait in other parts of your life to have.

This is one of my personal favorites and for many reasons.

I grew up surrounded by very few – if any – people I could depend on. For more times than I’d care to recall, life was a struggle. I was forced to learn to rely on myself.

That can be both a blessing and a curse, but if we look at things optimistically, I can say I’ve gained plenty of life skills because of it.

When you can complete your own projects yourself without asking or paying others for help, you’re free from wasting some crazy-high amount of money for a task you could have easily done yourself.

You can do things the way YOU want – with notably better results once you get better at it!

You can do it!

It’s fantastic being able to not have to stress out over how you’ll handle installing something in your car or truck. After having completed 1 or 2 do-it-yourself (DIY) projects on your own, you’ll just sort of “know” what to do next.

You’ll find that you’re able to do so without nearly fainting at the idea like so many people today. So often these days I see examples of people who seem nearly helpless as they’re not resourceful at all.

Don’t underestimate what you can do – there’s an extremely high chance that you’re perfectly capable of building all kinds of stereo systems (or whatever kind of project you dream up) without paying a “pro” to do it for you.

Here’s some food for thought: in many cases the results I saw from other “professionals” weren’t really much better than what the average person could have done themselves!

8. You learn the “your way” rule and to think outside the box

Think different inspirational image

The “your way rule” means thinking outside of the box. Don’t just be ho-hum and think you can’t have a better sound or have YOUR things the way YOU want them to be – you can! Understand that nothing comes just the way you want it so you must be willing to work on it yourself. Most people can’t see things that way.

I have a good lesson in life I’ve learned over time, and it’s this: if you want things done your way want to get the best enjoyment, you’ll have to do it or customize it yourself. Almost nothing in life is perfect for you out of the box.

What does that mean? Essentially it means you need to understand that if you want the best sound, the best custom set-up and, or the coolest looking install, for example, you’ll have to customize yourself.

You will almost never find things in life that are perfect as they are by themselves.

Understanding this means you accept how you’ll have to put in some time, money, and effort to get what you want, but it’s the mindset that’s critical. 

Most people just accept what they have and seem to shrug their shoulders – they can’t imagine that things could be made better or could be improved upon.

9. You’re a better planner and organizer

Image of a paper checklist being prepared with a marker

I’d like to think planning for a project goes without saying, but it’s not necessarily something people appreciate until they learned the hard way.

In reality, when you finally decide to begin working on a big project, it often turns out way different than expected. Some parts come up missing, you don’t have enough wire, you can’t find the right tools – and the list just goes on and on.

When you install your own car stereo system, you learn how much time, gas, money, and stress it can save you if you did a better job of planning ahead of time. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but you can definitely improve how things go.

Learning to 1) make a basic plan and 2) be organized and prepared are skills that are very valuable.

A small amount of effort upfront pays off greatly not just in your personal projects but in other areas of your life.

The importance of planning

By installing your own equipment you learn this and will gain another great skill you’ll use elsewhere.

For example, if you’re planning to install an amp and subwoofer, you’ll need to get together:

  • The amp
  • The amp wiring (including miscellaneous accessories)
  • A solution for how to mount it
  • A general plan for how you’ll route and connect the wiring
  • The right tools

Yeah, I know. Maybe it does seem ridiculous to point it out, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t prepare for these tasks. I have seen (and learned the hard way) what can go wrong when you don’t plan or prepare well.

Sudden complications can bring your installation to a grinding halt and cost you days of delay and a lot of stress. Who wants to stop in the middle of installing that awesome new car stereo just because they don’t have the right parts or tools? When that happens it feels terrible!

Being organized and making a simple list is definitely smart. Once it’s become more of a habit and less of a chore, you’ll find yourself making checklists for your everyday life, too! You can now provide an accurate estimate of the amount of time a project will take – allowing you to foresee possible problems that might come up.

As a professional, it is expected of me to expect and prepare for certain complications.

10. Most importantly – it feels GREAT and it’s very rewarding!

Happy ecstatic man driving car

Man, let me tell you, this is the most awesome feeling in the world – finally getting your project together and seeing and hearing the end result. It’s like a proud and warm feeling inside.

That’s a feeling very few people will ever experience – and it’s a shame. You don’t have to paint the Mona Lisa like Leonardo De Vinci did to get a very rewarding sense of accomplishment.

Even installing a small pair of tweeters does the same. Sure, maybe it’s on a smaller scale, but it still feels great! Driving down the road listening to your favorite music, sipping a drink out of your awesome new mug, and loving it!

Working on your own car audio system and enjoying the results is a fantastic feeling. Listening to & enjoying your favorite music with sound quality than ever before is great. 

It’s almost indescribable!

In summary

Based on my own installation experience and personal accomplishments, I’ve listed 10 great reasons why you should install your own car stereo system.

Before giving up and paying someone else to install it for you, consider what I wrote. There’s nothing wrong with trying. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know where to begin.

You can find lots of step-by-step guides on the internet, just like my post about how to install a car subwoofer and amplifier.

The Best Cordless Drill Under $50 – Black And Decker GC1801 Review

Black and Decker GC018-2 review image

Over the years I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I relied very heavily on my cordless drill. I

f you’re looking for the best cordless drill under $50 my review of the Black and Decker GC1801 will show you why it’s one of the best budget cordless drills you’ll find.

Mine lasted a long time and was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. It really helped me work more efficiently when I went into business on the side as a traveling installer too.


Getting to know the Black and Decker GC1801 18V cordless drill set

Quite a few variations of Black and Decker 18V cordless drills are sold at different retailers. Many bundles are available such as versions with additional tools (like a stud finder) and/or a 2nd battery, and so on.

There seems to be some confusion caused by Black and Decker’s model number system. I’m not sure why but I’ve noticed it can be a little bit hard to differentiate between different drills and their accessory sets sold. Also, I’ve noticed that the newer models still carry the same model number for the drill itself as older models, rather than a new model number. I find this confusing and that’s one minor complaint I have.

Essentially, the GC1801 is the drill-only version of the same drill sold in other bundles. Other packages like the GC1801-2 include an additional battery.

For those on a budget, getting the basic drill-only version (which includes a battery and charger) is a great choice.

For heavy jobs you might want to consider the The value is higher since you get a second battery you can use for only a bit more money.

Only a few competitors offer the additional battery option.

First impressions

The drill is solid and feels great in my hand, just like the previous model I used to own. It weighs a solid 3lbs & 1oz, so it’s not the lightest cordless drill you can buy.

I personally don’t mind the weight, but if your arms tire easily or you prefer a lighter model, I recommend getting a lithium-based battery model instead. However, keep in mind that these types of drills are more expensive.

The GC01801 is a good-looking, solid, and easy to hold variable speed drill. It stays well-planted wherever you place it – thanks to its intelligent design and battery weight.

The grip is great! There’s a rubber coating built onto the back of the unit which helps keep it from slipping from your hand. I’ve always liked how easy it is to hold the drill and to squeeze the drill trigger.

The chuck feels good as well! Turning the clutch is a tiny bit different from the older model GC1800. However, it maintains that solid feel the previous had when you turn it from one position to another. You should feel something similar to a “click” or a notch as you turn it.

The only real changes between previous models and the current GC1800 I have pictured here are:

  • No optional rubber screwdriver bit holder to fit on the drill
  • Slight cosmetic changes
  • A 24-position clutch instead of a 12-position one
  • Improved battery charger

Overall it’s the same good design I’ve come to appreciate.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill on scale

The drill feels solid in the hand, partially due to its weight. It is just over 3 lbs with the battery attached.

What’s in the package?

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill all items

The GC1801 cordless drill set includes:

  • GC1800 18V cordless variable speed drill
  • 1 HPB18 18V NiCd battery
  • Improved battery charger
  • Owner’s manual
  • Dual Phillips/flat head screwdriver bit (not shown)

Specifications & thoughts on performance

It’s a great drill and has sufficient power and speed for most jobs except for when you need to use larger hole cutters or other similar bits. In that case, I’d have to recommend a corded drill, as cordless drills tend to get drained quickly when attempting to cut large holes using hole saw type attachments.

Basic specs you need to know:

  • Variable-speed with reverse switch
  • 0-750 rounds per minute (RPM) speed
  • Chuck type: keyless
  • Chuck size: fits 1/32-3/8″ bits
  • Clutch: 24-position including a locked position for drill bits
  • Weight: 3 lbs 1 oz
  • Battery type: 18V NiCd multiple-cell with locking easy-release tab on the drill
  • Drill torque: 115 in-lbs
  • Features a built-in bit snap-in holder near the base

If you’re not familiar with how a clutch works I’ll explain: a clutch is a great feature to prevent the drill from using excessive force past a certain point while in use.

For example, I normally set mine to position 1 (marked by a screw symbol) to ensure I don’t strip screws when I’m driving them into wood or other materials. For drilling holes I sometimes set it to the “locked” position (indicated by a drill bit symbol) to make sure the clutch can hold it without popping due to the large amount of force needed to drill holes.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill clutch and chuck

The keyless chuck works well and fits drill bits up to 3/8″. It’s easy to use. You tighten or release bits by hand by turning the black collar pictured in the middle while holding the silver chuck section.

The clutch works very well, although one thing I don’t like is how they’ve changed it from a 12-position clutch on older models to a 24-position one. It seems unnecessary. How much precision do you really need when drilling or driving screws? Also, fewer positions would mean it’s easier to turn although that’s a pretty minor complaint.

Drill power and my thoughts on using it on real jobs

I’ve used the drill many times for all kinds of tasks – from car audio installation and woodworking to home and auto repairs. Probably the most beneficial use I enjoy the fact that I can use it as a high-speed screwdriver. I’ve added my own magnetic bit holder to allow me to change bits. A Phillips style is what I nearly always use.

For speeding up removing or installing screws, this thing is fantastic!

I absolutely love how fast it is! Car repair is WAY easier when I use a short 1/4″ socket driver adapter to drive a variety of bolt sizes. That’s one awesome way I like to use it

It’s not just great for car stereo installations but it also works well car maintenance, especially for removing miscellaneous small bolts and screws. I can save a large amount of time using it compared to doing it manually. You won’t find me outside working on my car without seeing my drill sitting nearby, ready to help me get the job done faster and with less effort. Work smarter, not harder as the saying goes.

The power is good. I have no complaints: I’ve drilled metal, plastic, and different types of wood using bits up to around 1/2″ diameter in size, although I’ve also used small hole-cutting bits occasionally.

750 RPM is a great speed and is suitable for nearly everything I’ve need to use it for. As it’s variable speed, you can adjust the speed in the middle of drilling or turning screws by releasing or pulling the trigger gradually with your finger. It works well and to me feels natural – sort of like an extension of the hand.

If you need to create circular holes of more than 1/2″ or using a circular hole bit (for example by using a hole saw attachment), then you should know: those types of bits drain a substantial amount of power from the battery. I can’t recommend the drill in that case.

That’s not really a fault of the Black and Decker design but more of one of the weaknesses of cordless drills in general, at least in this price range.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill base image

There’s a built-in bit holder just above the base which is convenient for holding the included double-head screwdriver bit. However, in practice when you’re working hard and the drill bumps into things the bit can easily get knocked out and fall down. It’s a nice feature to have but in my opinion, it doesn’t hold a bit securely enough in real-world use.

Reversing the drill – easy and convenient!

One feature you’re sure to love is how easy and fast it is to change directions.

By simply pressing the forward/reverse selector, at the top of the grip area, you easily change drill direction. On one side you can use your thumb and on the other you can simply use a finger. In both cases, you don’t need to use your other hand or stop what you’re doing.

It allows me to work faster and it feels very natural – you’ll get the hang of it right away. It’s one more reason I love the drill considering what for what I paid for it!

Batteries & battery charger

The included battery seems to last well for most jobs. For average jobs (drilling with small bits, driving screws, and so on) you can expect several hours worth of work. Drilling through metal especially using larger bits 1-3 hours is a good rough estimate.

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill charger

Black and Decker GC018-2 cordless drill battery charging

The battery charger works well and is extremely simple to use.

Just slide it onto the top of the battery and plug it in. The design has been improved when compared to older models: this new one has an LED indicator that glows green as the battery is charging and turns off once fully charged. It’s barely noticeably warm, so you don’t have to worry about it getting too hot.

I find this feature extremely helpful since the previous model had just one red LED light that remained on even after being fully charged – I could never truly be sure if my battery was ready to go. I just had to give it lots of time to make sure. That’s not a problem anymore.

Charging time usually takes around 3-6 hours. In my experience, a battery that’s almost or completely drained needs to be charged for nearly 6 hours.

Note: I don’t recommend you always keep the battery charged. Charge only before you need to use them. They’ll keep a charge for several weeks – sufficient for light and minor work.

If you want your batteries to last longer in the long term, you wouldn’t want to keep them constantly charging – that applies to all NiCd batteries for any other product as well.

Swapping out batteries

Black and Decker GC018-2 springs image

The base of the drill is spring-loaded to make battery replacement very fast and simple. Pushing down on the release tab on the battery top end causes it to pop out.

Simply pull down on the quick-release tab at the base/on top of the battery and it pops out due to the spring-loaded design. Then simply slide the replacement battery back in place and you’re done!

Owner’s manual details

To be honest, the owner’s manual could be better.

If you’re not an experienced tool user like me you may not have a good understanding of best practices, proper drill usage, and a lot of other little things that matter.

Black and Decker GC018-2 owner's manual

The owner’s manual is applicable to several other models Black and Decker sells. In my opinion, it’s not a very good one. It doesn’t provide sufficient information for new drill owners, especially for those who aren’t sure of how to operate it the first time. Be aware of that when buying.

It’s only a few pages long and contains a lot of warnings and precautions, along with a few tips like how you should use lubricant when drilling through metal (which I don’t always do, it works well without it for small holes) and so forth.

That’s one thing I take issue with – the manual is a bit too short and while clear, it could have done a better job with explaining the clutch, keyless chuck, alternate screw bit use, suitable jobs it can be used for, and so on.

Fortunately, using the drill came easily for me – you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

A bit of helpful advice

I definitely recommend picking up some socket driver bits as they’re fairly inexpensive and extremely useful. The set shown here, for example, will allow you to drive bolts like a ratchet but much more quickly than you ever could do by hand. The bit holder is also excellent for a fast change of screwdriver bits mid-job.

image of socket driver adapter set for drillTo get the most out of the drill, pick up a set of socket adapters. Also, it’s well worth your time to also get a magnetic bit holder adapter. They make jobs SO much easier and faster!

Final thoughts and review score

The GC01801 drill is a great value and works well.

If you’re going to be using it for professional jobs or projects with heavy work, consider checking out the GC018-2 version which includes a 2nd battery and case for only a small amount more.

My complaints are pretty minor, and overall I’m truly very happy with how good the GC01801 is. At just under $50 (give and take depending on the retailer), it’s an excellent value and I love it!

It’s a great budget drill and worth heading over to see why so many people love it too.

  • Overall quality - 9/10
  • Performance/useability - 9.2/10
  • Features - 7.5/10
  • Value - 9.3/10

One of the best cordless drills for under $50. Good power, good quality, and very easy to use

The Black and Decker GC01801 is a cordless drill that has the same quality, great feel, and features I’ve come to rely on for years now. I highly recommend it for anything: from car stereo installations to car/home repair – whatever kind of general purpose projects you may have.

At 3+lbs weight, it’s not as light as lithium battery models but it does keep costs down with a set of NiCd batteries that have good capacity and a user-friendly charger. It can’t match the high torque of traditional corded drills, but it’s a great price considering what it is – a value-priced cordless drill that’s hard to beat!


  • Good quality
  • Bit-holder built in
  • Great value
  • 24-position clutch
  • 3/8″ keyless chuck
  • Battery replacement is extremely easy and quick
  • Forward/reverse control is placed well
  • Good grip and feel in hand
  • Stands upright well
  • Good torque and battery life for most jobs
  • 2 year warranty
  • Fantastic when used with socket & bit adapters
  • Battery charger indicates when fully done
  • Includes phillips/flat screwdriver bit
  • NiCd batteries are rated at 500 charges
  • 2 year warranty


  • New style clutch w/ 24 positions seems excessive
  • Model numbers are confusing
  • Instruction manual is thin
  • Doesn’t include socket drivers or magnetic bit holder
  • Bit holder on base tends to drop bit when drill gets bumped
  • It’s a bit heavy – may be tiring for some
  • Replacement batteries are costly
  • No additional storage for more bits
  • Not suitable for large hole-cutting applications

The DIY Car Amp Rack Guide – How To Build Your Own Car Amp Rack In One Day

DIY car amp rack image

Making your own DIY car amp rack may seem like something that’s out of reach. Or maybe you don’t know where to begin and you’re worried you’ll have to pay someone else a lot of money to make one.

Here’s an affordable way to build a do it yourself (DIY) car amp rack in one day.

I still use these same car amp rack plans in not just customer vehicles but my own, too! I love how simple but professional looking they are. It’s pretty cool getting compliments on how great and pro-level it looks.

Now you can build your own car amp rack that looks great and is affordable, too!


Infographic – Basic amp rack how-to guide

DIY car amp rack infographic image

Getting your tools & supplies ready – what to know first

Clip art image of a face thinking - Things to know content image

Tools you’ll need

You’ll need a number of tools to do the job well:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Cordless drill + Phillips bit (not essential but highly recommended) or standard electric drill
  • Pliers – I recommend square-jaw, locking, or other types but needle nose can work, too
  • Scissors for cutting material + utility razor (optional)
  • Staple gun (optional)
  • 1/8″ drill bit suitable for metal
  • Basic tape measure or measuring tape
  • Something to take notes with
  • Permanent marker

As you can see you won’t need many tools. That’s part of the reason this approach works well. I’m hoping to help you carry out this with as little money and hassle as possible.

If you can, borrow any tools you don’t have from others to save money and time.

For many basic items you can get great deals at stores like Harbor Freight Tools, Wal-Mart, or even the Dollar Tree $1 store. If you shop carefully things like pliers can be found for around $2 a pair.

Arrow T50 staple gun with staples

A staple gun can be bought when you go shopping for the materials you need, but it’s completely optional. They can drive strong staples into wood unlike a standard stapler and they’re great for stapling fabric securely. You can pick up a staple gun for close to $15 or so.

Will I need a power saw?

Fortunately, most likely you won’t need a saw. In the sections that follow you’ll need to shop for wood, but if your city has a Home Depot or Lowe’s hardware store, the great news is that they offer free wood cutting when you buy wood! And that’s also that much less work you have to do, too.

Parts to pick up before installation time

Metal mounting brackets (straps)

Car stereo radio installation metal straps examples imageCar stereo metal mounting straps are fantastic for installation and will make building & installing an amp rack much easier. You can buy them finished in black, which I highly recommend, or with the standard metal finish. 9″ straps are fine in most cases, and you can buy a 5 pack or similar to save money. You’ll need at least 4 straps if using these.

One item I highly recommend is excellent metal  mounting straps like these Metra BS9BK. They’re FANTASTIC for many types of car audio installations and are used very often by professional installers.

They’re strong enough for mounting an amp rack securely but are flexible enough to bend into odd shapes for more challenging installations.

I’ve used these for years to install almost anything in places you would think were impossible to put a sound system in!

It may or may not be possible to find some at your local stereo shop or electronics store that carries car stereo accessories, so you really need to check beforehand. Expect to pay $10 or less including shipping, although some can be found for around $7-8 for 2-4 straps.

Note: Another option is to use standard metal brackets like “mending plates” that are stocked at local hardware stores. I’ll explain more about the pros and cons of those later.

Speaker carpet vs. fabric

Car amp rack felt and speaker carpet examples closeup

Black automotive-grade speaker carpet (left) is great looking and durable. There’s no backing on it so it can be stretched and cut easily. However, you may have to order it, and it may cost more than regular fabrics like black felt (right) that you can find locally.

To finish your amp rack you’ll also need a good-looking & durable material to cover it with.

Backless automotive carpet (often call speaker box carpet) tends to be very durable and offers a great look. Colors like charcoal, dark gray, or mixed black colors are often available.

Otherwise, I recommend buying a good black fabric like felt. You can expect to spend $10 or so in that case, as it’s usually sold in 1 or 1/2 yards (1 yard = 36″). You may also find a different soft black cloth on sale while you’re there.

Suitable fabric can be bought often for a discount price locally from arts & crafts stores like Joann, Michael’s, and sometimes Wal-Mart.

Measuring installation space

Image of a car trunk and car amp rack space measured

Get basic measurements for the best place you find for installing an amp rack in your vehicle. Think in terms of fitting a large rectangle there, even if you don’t think a flat amp rack can be mounted on some areas that are curved or stick out. Don’t stress if there’s not a perfectly flat area available – that’s actually very common! We’ll cover dealing with curved or unusual surfaces later.

Begin by using your tape measure to find out how much space you have in your trunk (or cargo area, depending on your vehicle) where you can install a rectangular board.

The measurements don’t have to be super-exact but a close estimate of how much space you have available horizontally and from top to bottom. For example, measure from several inches below the rear deck of your trunk to about 1″ to the base of the trunk near the interior carpet or trim.

That should give you a good estimate of what to work with. Be sure to save in your notes the measurements you took.

Don’t forget the weight

As an assembled amp rack will be heavy so you need to be sure to measure the available space as if the assembled rack is resting on its bottom in the vehicle. T

Check for good places to mount the amp rack brackets

While you’re measuring, look for good places where you can fasten your mounting brackets when the amp rack is installed in the car.

Look for a section of the car’s metal body where:

  1. It’s safe to drill a hole without damaging anything underneath (always check!)
  2. The metal is sufficiently thick & strong enough.

In most vehicles, the sheet metal in the rear is the same thickness throughout, so that’s usually not a problem.

Planning your amp rack setup

Car amp rack planning imagePlanning your amp rack setup: place your amps on your floor and use your tape measure to estimate how much room your amps will need for clearance with wiring & cables installed. Also allow some spacing beside the amplifiers (the top and bottom of the amp rack).

Put your amplifiers on the floor and line them up as you’d like them to be placed on your amp rack. Place them next to each other with enough space so that there’s enough clearance to connect power wire, speaker wire, and RCA cables as needed.

If you’re tight on space you may need to consider using 90-degree bends for the wiring and right-angle adapters for the RCA connections.

When you’ve got the amplifiers lined up with enough space, measure a rectangle with enough clearance before and after the ends of the amps and a little extra clearance from the top to bottom.

Keep enough space!

Don’t make the amp rack spacing too small – you don’t want it right up against the sides of the amplifiers.

You’ll want to allow 2″ space or more at the sides of the amps if your installation measurements earlier will allow for it.

Write down the measurements in your notes as you did earlier.

Your shopping list and tips

Image of a paper checklist being prepared with a marker

You’ll be able to buy nearly everything you’ll need in only a few trips, but planning ahead as much as possible will save money and keep the problems to a minimum.

Give yourself enough time during the day for running around town and dealing with traffic to get what you need.  Start shopping early in the day or the before if you’d like to build & install your amp rack the same day.

I hate being stressed out and running into problems right in the middle of a project or installation, so take my advice and try to get what you need the day before if you can.

Be organized and write down or print out what you need before you go. Don’t be sloppy and cost yourself extra time, gas, and stress.

Materials list


With your notes, head out to your local hardware store for the following:

  • Spray adhesive
  • Metal brackets (if not using metal car stereo straps)
  • #8 Phillips head machine screws, 4-pack or similar
  • #8 washers, small package
  • #8 machine screw nuts
  • 3/8″ pan head Phillips screws
  • 3/8″ length self-tapping screws
  • Wooden board

3M Super 77 is a great spray adhesive. There are lower-cost adhesives available but in my experience, I’ve had problems with the adhesive being weak and the fabric can come off by itself. Super 77 usually costs close to $10.

3M Super 77 car amp rack fabric imageI recommend this one for car audio projects. It provides a strong adhesive and it’s reliable unlike cheaper brands that fail or aren’t very strong. You do have to be careful to not get it on you or nearby objects when using it, however. You can 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Permanent Spray Adhesive Glue, Paper, Cardboard, Fabric, Plastic,...

Choosing a wooden board

Home Depot wooden board imageYou’ll need a wooden board like this to build your amp rack. In the building materials section of your hardware store you’ll find wooden boards that are about 1/2″ or so thick and usually come in lengths of 4 ft. or longer. Pine is the cheapest but is more prone to warping and is weaker than others, but it’s suitable if you’re on a budget. It’s not suitable for installations exposed to a lot of humidity or moisture.

Using the measurements you wrote down from planning your amp rack, buy a wooden board that’s the same or close width to what you measured. To save costs buy one with length closes to your length measurements for what you need.

Quick tip: To save time and hassle, try buying your supplies at Home Depot or Lowe’s if you have one nearby. They offer free wood cutting to customers in the building supply section, so you’ll be able to tell them the length you need and they’ll do it for you.

More about metal brackets

Car amp rack installation bracket examplesMending plates and other metal brackets are sold in pairs or 4 packs for smaller sizes and individually or in pairs for the larger sizes.

As I mentioned earlier, if you’re not able to use (or buy) car stereo metal installation straps you might be able to get but with hardware store brackets.

Right-angle brackets and “mending plate” (flat) brackets are also helpful for assembling and installing your amp rack.

Unlike metal car stereo straps, mending plates are nearly impossible to bend. They’re very strong but the drawback is that they’re fixed in length and not suitable for curved or more difficult installation needs.

You can usually find them sold in packs of 2, 4, or 8 for a few dollars.


Car stereo installation screws examples imageSelf-tapping screws (left) make mounting brackets fast and easy if you have a cordless drill as they simultaneous drill a hole then screw into metal quickly. Regular pan-head screws (right) will work well for mounting your amps to the amp rack. Use #8 machine screws (below) and nuts with washers to fasten your mounting brackets to the rack securely. They’re better suited for this than using only pan head screws.

#8 machine screw

Machine screws work with nuts and washers. They’re great for attaching brackets to your amp rack board, for example. They come in packs with standard sizes. I normally use #8 machine screws for many projects.

Fabric/covering material

If you’re going to get fabric locally instead of ordering it, arts & crafts stores are where I’ve often found discounted black material I could use for building amp racks.

Ideally, try to get a material with a dark color that’s durable and stretchy. I recommend a strong felt material or similar basic fabric.

Be sure to ask the cashier or attendant for suggestions about what you’re planning to build. Honestly, sometimes they’re helpful and other times they’re fairly clueless when it comes to good suggestions, but at least if something is on sale they’ll normally let you know.

Image of a fabric store discount table

If you’re planning to buy fabric instead of backless speaker box carpet, try checking the clearance tables while you’re shopping. I’ve often gotten fabrics at a MUCH lower price by doing this. There’s a good chance you’ll find a deal! Black fabric is very common and should be easy to find.

Remember that fabric is normally sold in units of 1 yard (36″ in length) or 1/2 yard (18″ length) in many craft stores.

You’ll need to do just a bit of math to figure out how much you need. Try not to get exactly the same length as your measurements.

I strongly recommend you have a bit extra if it’s your first time working on a project involving fabric and a spray adhesive. Typically I use about 2 yards of material and have a small amount left over when I’m done.

The height is nearly always much more than I need.

Making your amp rack – covering the board

After having your board cut to the length you need and planned for its time to put the finishing touch on it and assemble the amp rack.

Now that the board is a length that will fit into the installation space you have and that will allow enough space for your amp wiring & cables its time to cover it and make it look nice.

Find a good place to work where glue overspray won’t get on surrounding things indoors.

Place your board on the fabric and trim it to a good size, allowing several inches past the board of extra fabric on each side. I recommend allowing at least 6″ or so, which you’ll trim as needed.

Follow the rest of the steps in the diagram below.

DIY car amp rack how to apply covering diagram

Spray adhesive is very hard, if not impossible, to remove from your clothes and other materials so be very careful when using it. Use light, consistent spraying strokes. You don’t need to use a tremendous amount, but it does help to spray some on both the wood surface as well as the fabric you want to glue.

Using adhesive on both surfaces gives an even stronger bond. After spraying, waiting about 15-30 seconds and lightly touch the glue to see if it is tacky.

If so, tightly pull the fabric over and onto the wood area you sprayed. Then rub the fabric firmly with your palm for a few moments to make sure there’s good adhesion.

The fabric, no matter how well you tried to trim it, will likely overlap each other a lot. If you have a utility knife with a sharp blade that makes trimming a bit easier than using scissors.

Otherwise, slightly pull up edges where needed, cut with the scissors, and place it back into place.

You may need to reuse the adhesive spray on some parts. It’s a bit tough to do in small sections but by quickly and gently tapping the spray nozzle you should eventually get the hang of it.

Putting it all together

Now that you have the board covered it’s time to assemble it.

Drill a 1/8″ (or close) hole in each corner and mount a bracket/strap to each hole using a #8 machine screw + washer on the top (amp) side and on the backside use a washer and nut.

Tighten securely using pliers while keeping the machine screw from turning by holding a screwdriver.

DIY car amp rack assembly diagramOnce all the mounting brackets are in place and facing the direction you need them to be, place the amps on the board and mount them using the measurements for spacing you wrote down earlier.

Be sure to leave enough length for the mounting brackets to reach the mounting points in your vehicle that you found during the first steps. 

Excess bracket length can remain hidden behind the amp rack for less hassle when installing and for a neater appearance.

Installation – Mounting your rack

Ok, it’s time for the “fun” part! Carefully put your assembled amp rack in the vehicle and begin the “fitting” process.

If you’re mounting it vertically, put as much of the weight at bottom of the vehicle and begin seeing how your brackets will fit to try to get the brackets parallel to sheet metal for mounting.

If you’re using bendable metal straps as I recommended, bend those such that they will allow the amp rack to rest on the straps when in the car.

When that’s done, hold the amp rack in place and begin doing the same for the top. Keep using trial and error until you have a pretty good way for the amp rack to rest securely in the vehicle and to have enough attachment points for the mounting brackets.

DIY car amp rack installation diagram
Once that’s finished, begin trying to use your cordless drill to drive the self-tapping screws through the brackets and into the body.

I highly recommend using washers on the screws to fit well over the bracket’s hole and keep the fit very tightThis is especially important in a moving vehicle as they vibrate quite a bit and screws may loosen over time.

If you’re having difficulty doing this step while holding the amp rack in place, then use a permanent marker to mark the bracket holes where you’d like to use the screw, remove the amp rack, then drill the screw holes alone.

Then you can return to place the amplifier rack and more easily fasten the screws either with the cordless drill & bit or with a screwdriver.

Taking your amp rack to the next level…on the cheap!

Car amp illuminated with LED lighting

Want something truly unique? You can use an LED light kit (often below $20) to add accent lighting to your cool amp rack. It’s pretty simple to do and will really get compliments from anyone who sees it.

fantastic idea is adding accent lighting to your sweet-looking new car amp rack.

Using an awesome low-cost LED lighting kit like this one under $20 mounted above the amp rack in order to glow down on them will give an incredible look and really make it shine.

I’ve done this several times (including putting an acrylic clear window in front) and people gave me lots of compliments!

Neon and LED lighting systems are lightweight so you should be able to install them using only zip ties. Overall, it’s usually very easy and it can be done on a budget if you shop carefully.

Wiring is simple as many kits can be powered by +12V directly and wired to a relay to switch on and off with your car stereo using the remote-on wire.

DIY car amp rack plans cost estimate

Here’s a good estimate of what you can expect to pay for all materials (not counting tools) depending on where you shop. Don’t forget to check your amplifier packages for screws you can use, as some include a 4-piece set.

Item Est.Cost 
Metal straps9.50
Spray glue9.75

Additional info

Take my guide and give it a try! It feels awesome when you get it all together and see how great it looks. Your friends and other people you meet will give you compliments and that’s a fantastic feeling, believe me.

Thinking about adding LED lighting? Be sure to check out my detailed car interior LED light kit installation guide.

If you’re still deciding what to do about buying amps and you’re on a budget, have a look at my great budget amplifier guide here.