Upgrading your car’s radio or stereo can be a great improvement over your factory installed car radio. There are thousands of options available for aftermarket custom car radios. You can install car radios with CD players, tape players, MP3 player or iPod compatibility, WiFi and Bluetooth connections, and even satellite radio access. 


But you’ll first need to remove your factory installed radio from your car which can be a small challenge if you don’t know how to properly remove a factory car radio. Care and attention to detail will be needed to complete the removal and replacement so you do not damage your car dash or the radio system itself.

Aftermarket Car Radio Replacing a Factory Installed Car RadioCredit: By Zuzu (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

For safety you’ll want to turn off the car and disconnect the negative battery terminal cable from your vehicle’s battery before proceeding. Do not attempt to remove or install the car radio with the battery still connected.


After ensuring the power has been disconnected you’ll need to carefully pry off the dash trim around the radio. Depending on the make and model of your car this process may involve removing hidden screws and plastic clips. Using a flat head screwdriver to gently pry around the edges of the trim will help remove the trim and dash area. 


Once the dash covering is removed you will see screws around the edges of the radio itself. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws; there is usually four screws. After removing the screws slide out the entire car radio from the dash. Don’t pull too hard as the system will be connected to various wires.


Grasp and pull off the wiring harness connected to the wiring connection on the back of the radio unit. You’ll also need to disconnect the power supply connection and unscrew the ground wire. If there are additional wires for an antenna and speakers, disconnect those as well from the back of the radio unit.


Prepare your replacement radio or stereo system head unit. You will need to also have a wiring harness adapter and trim brackets if the system is a different size than your original factory car radio. Consult your local auto supply store or electronics store to get the appropriate wiring harness and trim brackets so the new radio fits properly in your vehicle. Remember that a wiring harness adapter is preferred over wire splicing.


Hook up the wiring harness adapter if needed to the wiring harness coming out of the car dash. Connect the other end to the main connection on the back of the radio. Connect any speaker wires, antenna wires, and ground wire where indicated on the back of your aftermarket car stereo head unit. Hook up the power cable last. If you are unsure about the connections or where the connections go, consult the new radio’s manual.


Slide the trim or dash brackets around the front of the new radio if needed. Carefully slide the whole unit back into the dash; make sure the wires aren’t jammed between the dash opening and the radio.


Screw the four screws back into place. You may need to use the aftermarket screws that came with the trim or dash brackets to get an appropriate fit. Replace the dash and trim removed originally and replace any clips or screws. Reconnect your car battery to complete the process. Test out the new system to ensure it is working properly. 

And if you ever need to replace your car radio fuses after installing a new car radio you'll know how to with this next guide: How to Change My Car Radio Fuses .