Installing Car Subwoofer

Installing A Car Subwoofer – How To

A subwoofer is a dedicated device that reproduces low-pitched audio frequencies, or more specifically: Bass. Bass is that low, deep sound that makes your vehicle tremble and gives your music a whole new level of depth. A high-quality subwoofer can make a huge difference to the quality of your vehicle's stereo system and when combined with an amplifier, can create a tremendous window-shaking sound.

Many people pay a car specialist to install their subwoofer as they assume it's a difficult task to complete; This is not the case!

As you can see from the steps below, a subwoofer can be successfully installed with minimum effort and expense. Time is the main factor involved; providing you take care, prepare adequately, and follow the instructions, you can install a subwoofer in a matter of hours.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive set of instructions for those who wish to install their own subwoofer – from planning, through to wiring and powering. We hope you find this guide useful!

Phase 1 – Planning & Parts

Before starting the installation process it is important to plan and prepare. This is not a task that can be done without prior planning and if you prepare beforehand, you will make the whole process run smoother. The below list are some basic considerations that you should take into account when installing a subwoofer:

  • Do you feel confident in your own abilities?
  • Would you feel calmer if a friend was present to assist?
  • When can you dedicate enough time to complete this task in one go?
  • Is your car easy to modify?
  • Do you have any vehicle warranty? If so, would installing a subwoofer potentially void this?
  • Do you have a compatible amp (if installing one), and a quality sound system?

A car is an expensive commodity. This is why it is vital to make these considerations beforehand. You should be confident that you can install the woofer, and that it is suited for your vehicle.

Choosing a Subwoofer

In today's high-tech market there are a plethora of different subwoofer speaker systems to choose from. You must choose a woofer that compliments your amplifier and sound system, but is also compatible with your vehicle. The RMS rate of a subwoofer and amplifier is key – try to purchase a sub and amp that have similar RMS outputs so that they complement each other instead of blowing each other out.

Required equipment

The basic list of equipment is quite simple and most of the wires, cables, and connectors should be purchasable from a hardware or DIY store. Ensuring you have the correct equipment will save any hassle once you start the subwoofer installation. Furthermore, it will prevent any unnecessary shopping trips or delays.

Equipment List

  • Subwoofer
  • Subwoofer housing
  • Amplifier (optional but recommended)
  • 10 gauge wire for power connection
  • 10 gauge wire for ground connection
  • 16-18 gauge standard wire for other connections
  • RCA cables
  • Speaker wire
  • A set of small screws
  • Basic tools (screwdriver, etc.)

Once you have gathered your equipment, tools, and wire, the installation process can begin.  Consider keeping your wires separate and labeling them up so you know exactly what each length is to be used for.

Phase 2 – Wiring components

Wiring is the most time-consuming and important aspect of installing a subwoofer. There are several different components that must be wired in order for the subwoofer to work. If you have no electrical experience, it may prove beneficial to buy some cheap cabling to have a practice with before you start tampering with the wiring system of your woofer.

Wiring power from the battery

A subwoofer should gain its power from your car battery, not a fuse. A fuse can blow, and you may inadvertently hear engine noise through your speakers. The following steps should allow you to safely wire power from the battery:​

1. Access your vehicle's firewall (the metal wall under the hood, close to the windscreen).

2. Run the woofer power cable through a hole in the firewall.

3. Strip a small length of the insulation from the wire at the battery end and connect the "wire-in" fuse.

- Ensure the fuse is in close proximity to the batter.
- Do not connect the power cable to the battery.

4. Take the remaining wire and run it under the carpet in your car through to the boot.

- If your vehicle has a designated wire channel then make use of this instead.
- Ensure there is a little slack at both ends to allow for movement.​

Wiring the audio system

Once you have successfully wired the power cable, you must turn your attention to your vehicle’s stereo system. A subwoofer must be connected to the vehicles audio system otherwise no sound will pass through it. This step will vary greatly depending on what type of stereo system is installed in your vehicle – each stereo system will have proprietary features. The following steps should allow you to remove your stereo unit and wire the woofer to it:

1. Remove the stereo center unit from the vehicle dashboard.

- We cannot advise on this: you may have to seek manufacturer instructions.

2. Located the two RCA connectors on the back of your stereo unit.

3. Run the RCA cables from your woofer and connect them to your stereo.

- If you do not have RCA connections, you will have to connect the woofer RCA cables to your rear speakers instead.

4. Do not fix the stereo back in place.​

Wiring the remote

This is possibly the trickiest part and many people become flustered when looking at all the wires involved! A subwoofer will usually have a set of remote wires that you can connect to your stereo so it turns on in sync with your audio system. These wires must be manually connected to your stereo using the steps listed below:​

​1. Identify the remote wires on your stereo head unit.

- The remote wires are usually blue and may be labeled "Remote", "Rem" or "Ant"

2. Once you have located these wires, connect the 16-18 gauge wire from your woofer to the remote wires.

3. If your stereo has no remote wire, you must connect the 16-18 gauge subwoofer wire to a fuse in your engine that turns on when your vehicle's accessories are on - this will achieve the same effect.

Wiring the Amplifier

The final wiring stage is to connect the subwoofer to your amplifier. Without amplification, your subwoofer may not be able to reach a high output level. An amplifier can provide a sizeable boost to both your stereo system and subwoofer and make your audio experience that much more robust. To wire your amp, you must perform the following steps:

1. Connect the battery power cable to the connector on your amp labeled "B+", "Batt.", "Pos", "+12v", "Pwr", "Power" or something similar.

2. Connect the 16-18 gauge wire to the connector on your amp labeled “Rem.”, “Ant.” Or “Remote”.

3. Connect the 10 gauge wire to the connector on your amp labeled "B-", "-12v", "Ground" or "Gnd".

4. Connect the opposite end of the ground wire (10 gauge) to any bolt that is attached to the car body.

5. Connect the opposite end of the speaker wire to the + and – connectors on the speaker box.​

This step could involve a little trial and error and if you find that the amplifier is not working, you may need to double check your connections and that you have wired everything to the correct ports etc.

Phase 3 – Encasing the subwoofer

Most woofers will come with a pre-built enclosure, or alternatively, you can create your own custom built housing that fits neatly in your vehicle. Once all the wiring is complete, you must place your speaker in the housing and securely fix it. This phase depends largely on the type of housing, but it will usually involve screwing the speaker into the box, and joining any connectors from the outside to the speaker.

Phase 4 – Power

The last phase (before you can actually sit back and enjoy your handiwork!) is to provide a power source to your subwoofer. Even though you have completed all the complex wiring and encased your kit, the woofer will obviously not work without an electrical power source!

This process is quite easy to perform – all you need to do is connect the power cable from the subwoofer to your car battery in the engine bay. Ensure that the power cable is secure and that it is connected properly to the batter – it is also important that there is a large fuse present in the fuse holder.

Phase 5 – Enjoy!

There you have it – your subwoofer should now be fully functional and ready to rock! Ensure that you periodically check the setup and connections to ensure the wires aren’t damaged. Test your subwoofer and try out the various settings it offers – you can replicate a range of different audio frequencies and bass levels so don’t simply stick to the factory settings.

Most importantly, have fun and take pride in the fact that you have installed this pumping piece of equipment yourself!