Captain Howdy's guide to installing an aftermarket head unit
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This is a discussion on Captain Howdy's guide to installing an aftermarket head unit within the Interior Mods forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; I am new to, and wanted to contribute something right away, which may be useful to a few people ...

  1. #1
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    Apr 2007

    Captain Howdy's guide to installing an aftermarket head unit

    I am new to, and wanted to contribute something right away, which may be useful to a few people out there.

    This guide explains, step by step, how to install an aftermarket head unit in your 02-03 (and possibly beyond) WRX. I tried to make this guide easy to follow, and included a lot of pictures (probably too many). Clicking on a thumbnail will enlarge the image to full size.

    I am by no means an expert on this topic. If you feel there is anything I left out, anything that should be expanded on, or anything that is blatantly wrong, please feel free to point it out.

    Step 1 - Getting started
    The first thing you should do is gather all of the equipment and hardware you will need to perform this installation. Listed below is what I recommend, at a minimum:
    -Philips head screwdriver
    -Multipurpose crimper/wire stripper/wire cutter
    -Wire connectors
    -Wiring harness (Vehicle specific, should be available almost anywhere car audio is sold)
    -Head unit wiring harness (Should come packaged with new unit)
    -Din pocket (Fills hole in dash left by double-din stock unit)

    Step 2 - Preparing the wiring
    After you have gathered all necessary equipment, you are ready to begin the wiring process.

    Start by exposing roughly a quarter inch of bare copper on each wire. You may wish to twist the ends together. This will make it easier to insert the lead into the connector.

    Insert the exposed wire into the connector. Twisting the connector as you insert the wire will allow the wire to penetrate further, which will aid not only in making a better connection, but will help to hold the connector in place as you prepare to crimp it.

    Once the connector is in place, crimp at the end where the wire is inserted, using the specified slot for your connector size on the crimping tool.

    Squeeze as tightly as possible to ensure a good connection. If the metal tube within the connector does not clamp tightly enough around the wire, it may slip out if it is stretched taut.

    Repeat the process with the other end of the wire, creating a completed connection between harnesses. After both connections are made, pull lightly on each wire. If it feels loose within the connector, you can create a second crimp next to the first to help hold the wire in place more tightly.

    Repeat this process with all remaining wires. Be sure that you are connecting the right colors, as speaker connections will have two wires of the same color. The negative wire should always have a black stripe running the length of the wire, but if you are not paying attention, you could easily connect it to the positive wire on the other harness, as the primary colors are the same.

    It is possible that you will have wires left over that you will not use, including the remote amp turn-on (this is likely a blue wire), dimmer (orange), and others. I recommend using electrical tape to cover the exposed leads on these wires. If you do not cover these ends, the wire could make contact with a metal surface within the dashboard and cause a short circuit.

    Step 3 - Removing the stock unit
    After you have completed all of your wiring harness connections, it is time to remove the stock unit from the car.

    CAUTION!!! Always disconnect the negative battery terminal when working on electronics within the car. Failure to do so could cause a short circuit, frying your head unit, and possibly worse. If you choose not to heed this warning, do so at your own risk.

    After the battery is disconnected, we can get to work removing the stock unit.

    I am not entirely sure that this step is necessary, but I find it much easier to remove the additional trim by taking the cupholder out first. Eject the cupholder as if you were about to use it, and remove the 2 screws holding it in place.

    With the cupholder out, we can remove the trim panel which surrounds the stereo and climate controls. The picture below marks the approximate locations of the fasteners which hold this trim in place. Beginning at the top right corner (where we removed the cupholder), pry gently to unsnap the trim.

    With the trim removed, we can now get to the bracket which holds the stereo in place. Remove the 4 screws which lock the brackets to the dash.

    After these screws are removed, the head unit should slide out of the dash with relative ease. Take care to disconnect the wires as you pull the head unit out, and try to avoid putting too much tension on them. The ground wire on the right bracket can be difficult to remove the first time (I had to use pliers to get it off).

    Our stock unit is out. Time to mount up the new one!
    Last edited by Captain Howdy; 04-01-2007 at 03:39 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Apr 2007

    Part 2

    Step 4 - Mounting the new equipment
    Start by removing the 4 screws which hold each bracket onto the side of the deck.

    We will now use our newly freed brackets to hold our new stereo and din pocket. If your head unit utilizes a flip down faceplate, you will likely need to mount it in the top slot of the bracket, as the trim panel will interfere with the path of the face when mounted in the bottom. Use the same screws which held the stock unit into place to mount the aftermarket unit. During this time, we will also mount the din pocket. I purchased mine at a local Tweeter for $20. I have heard that there are units available off the Legacy and Forester which will also fit nicely, but my local Subaru dealership was somewhat less than helpful when I inquired about one. I had to slightly modify the pocket to make it fit in the bracket without bending anything, but this should be easy enough for you to figure out. Note that I did not use any screws to hold the pocket in place. There are tabs which will slip through the marked hole in the picture below which should be enough to hold the pocket in place.

    Step 5 - Back in the car
    After everything is mounted to the brackets, it is time to connect it to the car. Connect the proper harness to the back of the head unit. Next, connect the ground wire to the side of the bracket before plugging the other harnesses together.

    I highly recommend testing to ensure everything works before reassembling the dash. There are few things more frustrating than putting everything back together, only to discover you forgot something, or the unit is not working properly. For now, we will only slide our mounted equipment into the dash, but will not screw it in place.

    Reconnect the negative battery terminal if you have not already done so. Cross your fingers and turn the key. Hopefully, your unit will start up without any problems. If the unit does not power up after installation, first check the factory fuses to ensure they are not blown. If the fuses appear to be working properly, take the radio out and connect it directly to the battery. The red and yellow wires connect to the positive post and the black ground wire should go to the negative post. Turn the deck on to see if it works. If it does, recheck the yellow and black wires in the dash.


    You can take this opportunity to run additional wiring as you see fit. I will be installing an amplifier at a later date, which will be covered in another topic. For now, I will simply install an iPod connection cable.

    There is a hole in the back right side of the dash where we can run our cable directly to the glovebox.

    Now that all of our connections are made and we have run additional wires, we can safely mount the bracketed contraption in the dash.

    Reassembly should be relatively easy and straightforward. One thing to note, however, is that the cupholder needs to be reinserted before attaching the trim panel, as there is a tab underneath which will get hung up on the trim.

    We are pretty much finished now. Enjoy your new stereo!

    Last edited by Captain Howdy; 04-01-2007 at 03:42 PM.

  4. #3
    Registered User section9's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    nicely done
    Batmobile: 2002 WRX wagon RIP

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  6. #4
    Registered User Thug Nasty's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    Denver CO / Portland OR
    Awesome write up! I'll definitely be using this. Do you have a part number or anything like that for the wiring harness we will need?
    Different Strokes
    Dirty Crew #2002
    Mods in profile.

  7. #5
    Registered User rr1911's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    Central Florida
    Quote Originally Posted by Thug Nasty View Post
    Awesome write up! I'll definitely be using this. Do you have a part number or anything like that for the wiring harness we will need?
    Army Ranger For Life ! Thin Blue Line
    Military Militia # 1911/ Blobeye Syndicate # 1911/ Modifier's Anonymous # 1911/ Hawk-Eye Alliance # 1911
    All We'll Drive

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