DIY Car Stereo Removal

What You'll Need
Flathead screwdriver
DIN tools
Trim removal tools
Phillips head screwdriver
Adjustable jaw wrench

Rather than pay a professional installer to do the job, learn about DIY car stereo removal to save money and gain a new skill. Especially if just replacing the car stereo head unit, the job is not as difficult as one may imagine. Keeping the car speakers and an amplifier (if there is one) in place, the biggest obstacle about stereo removal is getting to the bolts or clips that hold it in the dash. However, removing higher-end 2-DIN or multimedia head units, due to their expense and sensitive components, may be better left to a professional. Removing a basic car stereo, though, presents a challenge, but it's entirely DIY accessible. 

Step 1: Disconnect Battery

Although there is not a major danger of getting shocked when removing a car stereo, it is a good idea to disconnect the battery anyway. Take the adjustable jaw wrench and loosen the clamp attached to the negative (black) terminal on the battery. Once loose, remove it and set it away from the battery.

Step 2: Remove Trim Around Head Unit

The head unit is another name for the in-dash stereo. The first task is to remove the head unit from the dashboard so the electrical connection panel located on its rear side can be accessed. Depending on the car stereo, it may be attached to the dash with special spring-mounted clips, or it may be bolted on. Either way, there is likely a strip of trim around the edge of the head unit that must first be removed before the stereo will pull out. Use either special trim removal tools, often sold in sets priced as low as $10, or use a flathead screwdriver to pry the trim away from the head unit. Be careful if using a screwdriver, though, as the trim is more easily cracked or scratched. 

Step 3: Remove the Head Unit

With the trim out of the way, the next step is to detach the head unit from the dashboard mount. This may be a little tricky. Bolt-on head units simply use screws or bolts to be held in place. The hard part will be reaching the flat- or Phillips head screwdriver in to loosen the bolts. If not in plain sight, use a flashlight to search the underside of the dash to locate the bolts. The car's manual may be able to help as well, especially if the stereo is an OEM fixture. Other stereos are fastened to the dash with spring-loaded clips. A special device known as a DIN tool is used to disengage the clips. It is a thin, U-shaped rod with ends that fit around the head unit to release the clips. 

Step 4: Disconnect Wiring

Now that the head unit has been pulled out from the dash, the final step is to disconnect the wiring. First remove the antenna cable by unscrewing it. It is usually found on the passenger side of the stereo's rear. Next, disconnect the power connection, most commonly located on the driver's side of the stereo. Lastly, remove the wiring harness that contains all of the speaker connections. 

Once the wiring is detached, a replacement stereo can be reconnected (in the opposite order) and reinstalled into the dashboard, followed by the trim.