Replacing a Radio

There are few things better in life than cruising down an empty stretch of road on a bright spring day with your favorite tunes blasting from the car stereo. AM, FM, 8-track, cassette, CD, satellite, MP3, flash drive, I’ve had them all. Some of my favorite tunes have not changed, but the car stereos sure have. One thing that is really tempting, especially in older cars, is changing out the stereo for different one. But, wait, there are a few things to consider before you do that.

Driver Information Center

First, does your car have a stereo system that includes a driver information center? For example, my Pontiac G6 has a pretty decent radio with a driver information center built in. With a push of a button, I can scroll through important information like current fuel economy, the amount of life left in the oil, and other data. Unfortunately, if I swap out the radio for an aftermarket stereo, that

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

information is no longer available or may be available at a significant cost. If you are okay with losing this information, go ahead and consider another radio. Otherwise, you may be stuck with the one you currently have.


Installation Issues

Next, consider the difficulty of installing a new radio. It is somewhat easy to change the radio in some older model cars, but this is rare.  A great way to see how difficult it will be is to Google the phrase, “replacing the radio in a” followed by the make and model of your car. You may even find some helpful video tutorials. You may be surprised at how difficult or how easy the install will be.


Another thing to consider is the wiring harness.  You can cut and solder the wires yourself if you can find the wiring schematic for your current car radio. You then need to match up the wires to the correct ones for your new radio.  This can be tedious and difficult.  Therefore, I don’t suggest it. Luckily some companies sell pre-made couplers for different makes and models of cars that will adapt easily to your new radio.  Just plug and play.  Be sure to check online for these harnesses and also check the website of the manufacturer of the new radio.  They usually offer installation kits as well.


Yet another item to be aware of is the physical height of the radio. This is usually indicated using the term “DIN,” which stands for “Deutsches Institut für Normung” (the German Institute for Standardization). Single DIN or 1 DIN is approximately seven inches wide and two inches tall. Double DIN or 2 DIN is approximately seven inches wide and four inches tall.  Be aware that some radios from Japan do not conform to DIN standards.  The best way to know if a radio will fit is to contact the manufacturer.

One Last Thought

There are even more considerations that I may cover in another article, but here is one last thought for today. You can always have the radio installed by professionals, which will save you time and frustration but may cost more than you are willing to spend.  Either way, the cost of listening to your tunes on a great radio is always well worth it in my book.

Written by Gary Pradel