How To Hook Up Car Speakers Without an Amp

Factory-fitted sound systems don’t always sound great. In many cases, most people install aftermarket options to get far superior sound. Many such installations don’t incorporate an amp, so how can you get the system to work?

Here’s how to hook up car speakers without an amp:

  • Gather the right tools.
  • Remove the speaker grilles and panels.
  • Remove the factory-installed units.
  • Hook up the new speaker to your car’s electrical system. 
  • Test your new speaker.
  • Secure the new speaker in position.
  • Reattach the grills and panels.

The rest of the article will go over the methods of hooking up car speakers without an amp in more detail. I’ll also go over top considerations to keep in mind when choosing car speakers to go with.

1. Gather the Right Tools

You need to have a few tools on hand when hooking up car speakers. They include the following:

  • Set of screwdrivers
  • Allen wrench
  • Socket wrench
  • Panel removal
  • Wire cutter
  • Utility knife
  • Cable ties
  • Retaining clip remover
  • Soldering kit

You can find most of these tools in any home improvement store. You may also have some of them already in your garage. Once you’ve got them sorted, you can proceed with changing the speakers.

2. Remove the Speaker Grilles and Panels

Grilles and panels seal off car speakers and protect them. Before you install any new speakers, you have to remove them first. 

All you need to do is loosen a few screws and pull up the panel. You may need to use the utility knife to reach between the grille and the car’s body to lift it. With the grille removed, you can get a clear view of the speaker dome.

3. Remove the Factory Installed Units

You can’t install your speakers if you don’t remove the factory-fitted units. Most car speakers are attached to a wiring harness, so you need to pay attention when removing them. Again, you’ll need your screwdriver to unscrew one or more bolts. Store all the screws you remove as you’ll need them after fitting your new speaker.

4. Hook Up the New Speaker to Your Car’s Electrical System

With the factory-fitted speaker removed from the compartment, it’s time to install the new unit. 

Plug the speaker’s wiring harness into your car’s wiring harness. You need to pay attention here as your car, and speaker polarity has to match for the speaker to work. This guide goes into more detail on identifying speaker wires and how to complete the connection.

5. Test Your New Speaker

Once the speaker is connected, it’s time to test it so that you can find and fix any problems before you secure the speakers in position. Turn on the head unit/car radio to confirm that your new speakers are responsive. If they aren’t, check your connection and try again.

6. Secure the New Speaker in Position

When you’ve confirmed that your new speakers work, it’s time to secure everything in place with screws. Screw in the speakers first before screwing on the grilles or panels. If a speaker doesn’t quite fit in the position you had in mind, you may have to make custom screw holes or cut out a new speaker space. This approach is most common with door speakers (more on this below).

7. Reattach the Grilles and Panels

Replace your panels and grilles to round off the process. If the grilles don’t match, you should consider getting matching units made for your new speakers. The grilles protect your new speakers from damage. Accidentally resting or stepping on any speaker will break it. The grilles serve as a barrier in this case.

The above method will work for most types of car speakers. The key is to choose the right speaker and then pay close attention to the connectivity. If you have speakers that won’t fit in the existing speaker grille or panels, you can make new speaker holes in the car.

How To Make Custom Holes for Your Car Speakers

You may need to make a new speaker hole to fit your new unit, especially when installing speakers on door panels. Here’s what you need to do for this process:

1. Choose Your Preferred Mounting Location

You can choose to mount the speaker at the top or bottom section of your door panel. Choosing to mount at the top section will require less time and effort, but it may not be the best position due to your car model and your unique preferences.

Also, you need to check whether the speaker will fit in an area before you cut it. Are there any obstacles behind that portion of the door? Can the speaker grille fit on the surface you’re looking at without coming too close to the handle?

2. Cut Out the Mounting Hole

Once you’ve highlighted a spot for your speaker, go over the area again to confirm that cutting a new hole into that section won’t affect your door or car’s functionality—especially as it concerns locking your doors and windows. 

How much room will be left between your new speaker and the windows when it’s rolled down? If you’re satisfied with the space, you’ve got your position for the new speakers.

Using a temporary marker, trace the speaker’s shape over your chosen mounting location. Detach your door panel and lay it on a flat surface. Cut out the shape with a strong utility knife. Follow the sketch as closely as possible.

You may need to use a saw if there are metal surfaces on the panel. If you have to use one, wear protective gear and eye protection. Be mindful of how you use the saw to avoid causing any damage to your door panel or injuring yourself. You should only cut the metal frame and panel separately to avoid damaging other car parts. Sweep up any debris after cutting the frames.

3. Run the Speaker Wires

Your new speaker won’t work without proper wiring. You need to insert the cables through flexible tubing to protect them. Run the wires from the speaker area down to the plug or receiver. Pay attention to ensure the wires aren’t in the way of any door parts to keep them from squeezing and cutting up.

4. Install the Speaker

Position your speaker and map out positions for the speaker screws. Use a drill to open the screw holes and then connect the speaker wires to the right terminals before inserting the speaker into the hole. 

Temporarily hold the speaker in place with some loosely fitted screws until you’ve tested the speaker. If the speaker is working as well as it should, you can screw it firmly in place and then attach the speaker grille to protect the cone.

Should You Hook Up Car Speakers Without an Amp?

You should hook up car speakers without an amp if the speakers match up to the pre-installed amplifier in your car’s receiver or head unit. If the head unit is underpowered, you need to find a separate amplifier for your speakers.

An underpowered head unit is unlikely to deliver enough power to your newly installed speakers after your upgrade. The most obvious sign of underpowered speakers is poorer sound quality. However, there’s also the risk of speaker damage over the longer term.

Your speakers may also blow up quickly if the built-in amplifier in your receiver is too powerful for the newly installed units. Therefore, you can’t choose your new car speakers in isolation. You have to ensure each one fits into your wider sound architecture.

Choosing the Best Type of Car Speakers

There are many car speaker brands to choose from, including Infinity, JL Audio, Kicker, Focal, and Infinity. However, choosing the right car speakers goes beyond brand names and output power. 

You have to ensure the chosen option matches your sound setup and your car. Some of the factors to consider when choosing your preferred car speakers include the following: 

Speaker Sensitivity

Choosing speakers with sensitivity specs that match your overall sound system is important if you want to prevent blowouts and ensure your speakers last as long as they should. It’s also a great way to ensure the speakers aren’t dampening the shine of your sound gear. 

You should choose speakers with a lower sensitivity rating if you have a high-powered system. Match up low-powered systems with speakers featuring higher sensitivity ratings to take full advantage of the lower power.

Speaker Power Rating

The power rating or power handling refers to the wattage your speakers can handle. Your speaker’s power handling should match the power output from your car’s built-in amplifier or the external amplifier you intend to add. 

Excess or inadequate power will damage your speakers, so it’s important to thoroughly go over the spec sheet.

General Speaker Composition

Car speakers are either component or full-range in composition. If you’re thinking of buying a car speaker right now, you’re almost certainly considering a full-range unit. However, component units may serve you better if you’re looking for very specific sounds or looking for a powerful accompaniment for your existing system.

Full-range speakers effectively deliver highs, mids, and lows because they feature tweeters and woofers in one unit. Some of them may also feature small subwoofers. They are an excellent option if you want a simple sound system that does the basics effectively.

On the other hand, component speakers deliver a specific sound range—mids, highs, and lows. You get to choose the exact sound you’re looking for to fill a gap in your car’s existing sound architecture. Choosing the right component speakers allows you to achieve a greater depth of sound. Many audiophiles go with this option because of the flexibility it guarantees.

Speaker Material

Speakers made of quality materials deliver high-quality sounds. They also last longer overall. Speaker material will vary across components, so you should ensure your chosen unit has the right materials for the purpose.

For example, the best materials for woofers are lightweight such as polypropylene, woven fibers featuring titanium or aluminum coating, or a combination of polypropylene mixed with mica. With tweeters, a metal or ceramic build delivers brighter highs while a soft, textile blend delivers mellow highs.

On the speaker surround, rubber is a great choice of material. It’s durable and delivers the best sound. However, some budget speakers still deliver decent results with a surround made of foam and textiles. However, they aren’t quite as durable.

Does an External Car Amp Always Guarantee Improved Sound Quality?

Amplifiers don’t always guarantee improved sound quality. These units are only one part of the wider sound system. However, quality amplifiers can deliver sharper highs while keeping external noise down to the barest minimum. 

A matching amplifier for your car’s sound system can help you unlock its full potential. If you stick with the factory amplifier in your system’s head unit, it may be underpowered for your external speakers. Distortion and reduced lifespan for your sound system are common outcomes in this scenario.

Can You Hook Up New Car Speakers at Home?

You can hook up new car speakers at home. It’s a simple DIY job as long as you’ve bought speakers that match existing speaking holes and don’t need any elaborate rewiring.

Even when you have to cut new speaker holes, you can complete the job in a few hours with the right equipment. However, don’t hesitate to take your car to a technician if any part of the process feels overwhelming.

Final Thoughts

Hooking up car speakers without an amp is simple. However, you need to ensure the speakers perfectly fit your wider sound setup. If the built-in amp in your receiver is too powerful or too small to handle your new speakers, your sound will likely get worse after installing the new speakers.

Even worse, disrupting the sound setup with underpowered or overpowered speakers can shorten your system’s lifespan. Therefore, you should only hook up new car speakers without an amp if you’re certain that the existing amp in the head unit or receiver can do the job.

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