With the purchase of a brand new stereo comes the promise of better sound and the exciting thrill of new features to toy with. Truth be told, aftermarket head units allow car owners to experience music in such a way that factory systems simply would not. But with all the exhilaration and anticipation that comes with a new sound system, comes a few unanswered questions.

One question that car owners have been asking is how do you go about installing your aftermarket Single or Double Din head unit? Admittedly, popping in a new head unit can be one of the easiest upgrades you can perform on your car. If you are new to the world of car audio, this is a terrific place for you to start learning some DIY techniques. If you are looking to install a new stereo in your car, you’re definitely in the right place.

Understanding the Difference Between Single & Double DIN

You may have encountered the term DIN when dealing with stereos or head units. Technically speaking, DIN is an acronym which stands for German institute for standardization ( or “Deutsches Institut für Normung” in German) and it is the standard we use for car head unit sizes today. There are two types of classification, Single and Double Din.

The first noticeable difference between the two categories are their dimensions. For Single DIN aftermarket radio head units, you require an opening on the dashboard that is approximately 7 inches wide and 2 inches high.

Double DIN head units use an opening twice the height of a single DIN unit. This means that your dash opening will be roughly 7 inches wide by 4 inches high. Furthermore Double DIN head units come with far more features than Single DINs, such as a large touchscreens, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and built-in GPS Navigation.

What you’ll need to install a car stereo:

  • 30-90 minutes
  • Car manual
  • Plastic prying tools
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Cable ties
  • Nut drivers
  • Electric wire hand tools
  • Electric tape
  • Your vehicle specific installation kit

Remove your old stereo from the dashboard

The first step should begin by disconnecting your vehicle’s battery for safety while working on the electrical components. Then use your vehicle’s manual to identify which way your factory head unit is bolted. This next step requires a lot of care, not to damage both the old unit as well as your dashboard. In most cases, this situation calls for some type of trim being removed to access the factory unit. There are also cases when it pops right out, but most cars have hidden screws, switches or plugs that offer convenience as well as secure access. Never attempt to force the trim, face plate or any other plastic dashboard component; they are extremely delicate.

Using the Flathead screwdriver, remove the gear lever surround, giving you access to the air conditioning controls. Next remove the air vents surrounding your old head unit. Make sure to remove all the hidden bolts before removing. Now carefully, pull stereo from dashboard and detach the wires and the antenna cable.

Vehicle specific dash kits

Buying vehicle specific head unit kits along with vehicle specific dash kits are the easiest and most convenient way to upgrade your car stereo. This is because the dash kits are made with a universal head unit that fits specifically into your vehicle’s make and model. Such kits come ready made with customized mounting brackets as a fitted sleeve for your new head unit. The good news here is that unlike traditional dashboard kits that just use plain panels, today’s kits have an aesthetically pleasing look about them. OEM (original equipment manufacturing) features on the best dash kits even come with things like digital displays, climate settings, LED lighting and even soft touch buttons.

Install your head unit

After adequately preparing your car for the new unit, it’s time to complete the final phase. If you need to, replace the wiring to ensure that your new get-up will work for the car stereo. Next, plug the wiring harness connector into the outlets on the rear panel. Plug the antenna wire into the FM outlet on the stereo’s back panel, typically the lower left corner but location may vary. Lastly, connect the wiring harness adapter to the car and secure the head unit firmly into the dash sleeve.

However, more advanced head units may have additional wiring to connect. If your stereo has built-in GPS, your GPS antenna will need a clear site to the sky, so make sure to wire strategically through the dash. A Bluetooth microphone needs to be located in a spot that will not be interrupted by external noise. But before you start fitting back all the trim and upper covers, you should test to see how the head unit works first to find out if you need to make any alterations. If everything sounds/looks good, put the head unit back into the dock assuring your wires stay organized. Reattach dashboard panel and enjoy your new head unit!