Getting a car stereo installed professionally - is it even reasonable to try?

Is it reasonable to try to have somebody sell you a car stereo with satellite radio, and install it? Or is this whole market such a mess that it is a bad idea to even try?

I had the car in the shop for several days for something else, and tried to have this done by a subcontractor they recommended, and the guy came but didn’t do the job, never called, and failed to return one call. He was going to install a model he recommended and was going to sell it to me as well. Never took the money, either.

So, looking around on the web, I find a few places, but all have reviews that say they are thieves, and they damaged equipment, and they never did the job, and everything else one might worry about.

We went to Best Buy, but the clerks on the floor, after conferring amongst themselves and making some calls, had no idea if they could install the antennas they sell. They also did not know what to make of the fact that their radios are all much wider than they are tall, whereas the Jeep has a more nearly square hole in the dashboard, with semicircles cut out of the sides for the knobs.

Seeking clarity, I went to Best Buy’s web site, which described several installations they sell. I couldn’t tell if they could include satellite radio, but was even more puzzled because installations are only available online, not at the stores. The site offered to put an installation in my shopping cart…

Anyway, is this just asking for trouble, or what?

I got the mechanic to do it when they serviced the car.

Chrysler radios are typically what is called “double DIN” sized. Any installer worth his salt will know what to do to replace it with a new unit.

Also, Crutchfield has a guide where you put in your car make and model and they tell you exactly what will fit it. And provide all sorts of installation assistance.

It’s really, really easy to do it yourself, as long as you can operate a screwdriver. Hie thee to the auto parts store and pick up a Haynes manual (or a shop manual for your car from the manufacturer if it’s new-ish).

The only hard part is connecting the wiring harness, which the install guys at your local Best Buy will generally do for a $20 bill.

I priced out how much it would cost Best Buy to install mine (non-satellite) and it turned out to be almost as much as the stereo, so I did it myself using Crutchfield’s guide which was accurate enough. The hard part for me was attaching the speakers to the doors. I think the stock speakers used 3 holes and my new ones had 4, so I rigged something up with the frames that the speakers came with, sawed off a tab, rotated them just so and got the holes to line up. Then there’s the fuss and fright of getting the door panels off. I think if my car and stereo weren’t so old/cheap I’d have paid an (not Best Buy) expert to do it.

Thirding Crutchfield!

Connecting the wires isn’t hard either. You can get little connectors that you stick the end of each wire into and then just crimp down. Or you can use wire nuts. The Crutchfield instructions should come with a wiring diagram too.

How hard is it to get the antenna mounted nicely? It was a fair bit of work to hide the cable for a magnetic stick-on antenna, around the edge of about ten feet of twisty plastic trim.

Professional, experienced installer here. Be aware that I might be a little biased as I’ve seen (and fixed) many failed attempts at DIY installation, and of course I have the profit motive as well.

I’ve only heard good things about Crutchfield as well. They have an excellent site, usually include many of the necessary installation parts in the sale, and are said to have excellent tech support. They also include drawings and instructions for disassembling your car.

The only downside is they charge pretty much full price, as much as you’ll see in any local store. If you look around online, you’ll see that you can find the radio you want much cheaper elsewhere online…but Crutchfield’s tech support and free install guides might well be worth all the extra money to you.

Anyway, to do this yourself, you need four things: 1, the ability to use basic hand tools, 2, the ability to connect wires to each other, 3, the ability to take car panels apart and reinstall them, and 4, the necessary tools.

I used to work for Best Buy, and I was frustrated by many of the things you observed during your trip there.

If you’d like to say your city and state, I can go to the industry-insider message board where I frequently post, and see if there’s a good installer in your area.

Also, you didn’t mention what kind of Jeep you have, but search Google for an online forum for your car. “jeep liberty forums” “jeep grand cherokee forums” and so forth. Most popular cars have at least one message board dedicated to them, and usually have an Audio/Video section with helpful tips.

Another great site is www.the12volt.com, where I’m also a regular poster. It’s full of rookies, DIY-ers, and seasoned professionals working together.