How to Install a Car MP3 Player

Install your own MP3 player and save a bundle

Upgrade the original factory sound system in your car by installing an MP3 player. With the removal instructions you can usually swap out the old unit in an hour.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Replacement procedure

Your factory tape/CD player may work fine. But why put up with cassette and CD clutter when you can install a brand new MP3 player and listen to all your tunes from a single CD or thumb drive? You can buy a basic MP3 player for about $80 or a full-featured unit for about $200. Save money by installing it yourself. It only takes an hour and it's easy. Just make sure you cough up the $5 or so for radio removal instructions from carstereoremoval.com. Then gather up your tools (screwdrivers, sockets, wire crimpers) and you're ready to rock 'n' roll.

Start the installation by preassembling the adapter faceplate (Photo 1). Then attach the stabilizing bracket supplied with the player (if equipped). Next, place the new assembly on your workbench and splice the wiring harness adapter onto the player (Photo 2). Hold the newly assembled unit near the dash and connect the antenna cable and the wiring harness. Then power up the unit and test the speakers. Switch from left to right and front to back to double-check the wiring connections. Test all the player functions (radio, CD player, iPod connection and USB ports). Once you're sure everything works properly, install it in the dash and refasten the trim panels (Photo 3). Then crank up the tunes and rock on.

MP3 Shopping Tip

You can shop for an MP3 player at any car audio or big-box electronics store. But you'll find a much larger brand and model selection online (amazon.com and crutchfield.com are two sources). Find a model that fits your vehicle and your wallet. Then read the reviews for your selection at online sites. Once you decide on a brand and model, order an installation kit and wiring harness adapter for your particular vehicle (some online sources include the kit for free). Buy red “buttsplice” connectors to connect the harness.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Socket/ratchet set
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Crimper
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • MP3 player
  • Installation kit
  • Wiring harness
  • Red “butt-splice” connectors