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How to Connect Subwoofer to Car Stereo?

How to Connect Subwoofer to Car Stereo

17,600 minutes. That’s the amount of time the average American spends in their car every year. It’s no wonder cars are near and dear to our heart. “If you hurt my car, you hurt my heart,” someone said. So then why not make those 17,000 minutes count by connecting a subwoofer to the car stereo.

Connecting a subwoofer to a car stereo grants you a fantastic music experience. You feel the beat filled with richer profound bass as it penetrates your chest. All of a sudden, your body cannot resist moving to the rhythm.

The vibrations through the car chassis make your body tingle with joy. And if you install your car surround system per our instructions, you might even forget that you’re driving a car and not a moving pub. Want that experience? Keep reading.

Things Required to Sufficiently and Successfully Connect a Subwoofer to a Car Stereo

  • Passive subwoofer
  • Amplifier: Buy an amplifier capable that matches the power rating of your subwoofer.  
  • Hi-low or line-out converter: Purchase either one of these if your stereo system does not have RCA pre-outs by default.
  • Power wire, preferably 25 feet
  • Cable protection conduits
  • Screwdriver kit
  • RCA wire having the white and red connectors, preferably 20 feet
  • A ground wire about 4 feet long
  • The blue remote wire, preferably 16 feet
  • A fuse holder and 60-ohms in-line fuse
  • Plastic crimp to connect the remote wire
  • Speaker wires whose thickness matches the power output
  • Wire stripper
  • Cord hanger
  • Pen knife
  • Posi taps
  • Crimp ring terminals to facilitate wire connections
  • Adjustable wrench or combination wrench

How to Connect a Subwoofer to the Car Stereo Effectively?

Doing a quick Google search to find a process fitting your car model and manual would consume a lot of time because most videos and articles try to provide general information on this subject. It goes without saying that every other person aiming to connect a sub to a car stereo would have varied preferences.

To eliminate confusion and save time, you should keep the objectives of the whole process in mind. This way, you can follow through with this process and adjust it to your liking.

The objectives of the whole process include:

  • Powering a passive subwoofer by connecting it to the car battery via an amplifier. 
  • Then connect RCA cables and a remote cable from the stereo to the amplifier.
  • Finally, connect the amplifier to the subwoofer using speaker wires to get the sound to the subwoofer.

Here is a step-by-step guide you can use as a template to minimize errors in the whole process:

1. Run a power wire from the car battery to the subwoofer

1. Run a power wire from the car battery to the subwoofer

You must first shut off your car and pop open the vehicle’s hood. Then disconnect the car battery’s negative terminal using a wrench of your choice or nut opener to avoid electric shock while connecting the components.

Look for an opening to run the power cable

Look for an opening to run the power cable through the firewall. If you cannot find one, create one using the pen knife. Then, insert the code hanger through the opening from the hood area to the passenger side. Finally, attach the power cable to the cord hanger and pull the cable from the passenger side into the hood area.

run the power cable through the firewall

Proceed to pull the power cable to a length allowing you to connect the cable to the positive terminal of the car battery. Connect the crimp ring terminal of the power cable to the positive terminal. Then using a wire stripper to strip the ends of the wires, cut the power cable, and connect the fuse holder and the fuse.

The fuse should be closer to the battery. Also, make sure to protect the power cable from the engine’s heat using a cable protection conduit.

Run the power cable from the passenger side

Run the power cable from the passenger side to where you plan to keep your subwoofer. Most people prefer placing the subwoofer and amplifier in the trunk. Tuck the cable and conceal it properly. Ensure the amplifier and sub are close but have enough space for air circulation.

2. Ground the amplifier

Look for an exposed metal plug, such as a seat metal plug that is not painted. If the only available metal plug is painted, scrape the paint to expose the bare metal. This move ensures proper grounding. Then, connect the ground wire’s crimp ring to the metal plug.

To this point, your subwoofer and amplifier would preferably be in the trunk, and the power cable alongside the ground cable would be in the same space. Leave the devices and cables as they are and proceed to the next step. You will later complete the connection.

3. Get the sound from the car stereo to the amplifier through RCA cables

Get your car manual to help you disassemble your car stereo from the dashboard. Next, separate the stereo head and audio system to locate the speaker wires.

After finding the speaker wires, use Posi tabs to connect speaker wires that you will connect to either a line-out converter or a hi-low converter. Remember, either of the converters must be used when your stock stereo does not have RCA pre-outs.

Since the speaker code that connects to the audio system has a remote and a ground wire, tap into those using Posi taps. Connect the blue remote wire to the speaker code remote wire and ground to its ground wire.

Depending on the configuration of your converter, connect the speaker wires to the converter of your choice and the ground wire. Also, connect the RCA cable to the converter’s base ports.

Lastly, run the RCA cables and remote turn-on wire through the driver’s side to the trunk. These cables should be away from the power cable, which is why the power cable went from the passenger side to the trunk, to avoid electrical flow interference and the introduction of noise to the audio transmission.

4. Connect all the necessary cables to the subwoofer and amplifier to complete the connection

This is the final step of the process. Connect the RCA cables to the amplifier. Next, connect the power and ground cable to the amplifier. Finally, connect the remote blue turn-on cable to the amplifier. The remote turn-on cable automatically powers the amplifier during ignition.

To assess whether you have successfully connected the subwoofer to the stereo, reconnect the battery’s negative terminal and prompt the ignition switch. You should be able to play music and enjoy the bass beaming from the subwoofer. Afterwards, put back the stereo head and sound system and shut your hood.

Pro tip: If your car’s stereo natively supports Bluetooth connection and audio output to external Bluetooth enabled speakers, consider purchasing Bluetooth enabled active subwoofers. Alternatively, you can use a generic Bluetooth adapter compatible with your car for the same purpose. Doing this would save you time in connecting your stereo to a subwoofer.

Will the Subwoofer Drain Your Car Battery?

Since your subwoofer runs off your car battery, you must monitor the amount of drained power. That is why this guide insists that you consider specific factors, including your battery capacity, when selecting a subwoofer.

If you notice your battery car draining fast, it means your subwoofer is taking in more juice than the alternator can generate. Therefore, you should get an extra battery dedicated to powering your subwoofer, or your car battery might get damaged.

If you ever consider installing a fully-fledged music system in your car, ensure you get extra car batteries because off-the-market sound systems require a lot of power to function optimally. In such a case, the extra batteries spare your default car battery allowing it to last longer.

Key Takeaways

  • The process of connecting a subwoofer to a car stereo varies but the objectives tend to be similar.
  • The type of subwoofer you want to use affects the process to follow.
  •  Always turn off your car and disconnect the battery before proceeding to undertake the connection.
  • Never keep the power cable and RCA cables close to reduce noise generation and sound quality distortion.
  •  A Bluetooth enabled stereo can save you time because you can purchase an active subwoofer and connect it through Bluetooth.

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Miles Walker is the founder and lead reviewer at CarAudioWise. com. With over 20 years of experience in the car audio industry, he is an acknowledged expert on all aspects of car audio technology and installation.

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