Wrangler Sound System Write-Up (Long, with pictures)
Jeep Wrangler Subwoofer/Amplifiers Installation
After three years of Jeep ownership, I became fed up with the on going battle between wind and word—music, more specifically. Every trip down the highway with the top down was dominated by wind. As a employee at Circuit City, I figured I could change that.
The itch to purchase a subwoofer became a nagging thing. It was so much cheaper to buy one while employed than when not. Thinking about the finances, and knowing that I always wanted to round out my tunes, I went for it. I purchased all my equipment on the twenty-seventh of July and hoped that it would all get to me before college (which is where I am when I’m writing this).
All my stuff did arrive before I left. You probably could’ve guessed that considering this article is being submitted as a write up for procedure. What you might not have been able to guess is the contents of the boxes. For my setup I finally decided on driving a subwoofer and my speakers with amps. I even convinced my dad to put a sub in the back of the 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. Fake wood paneling. It’s a beast.
Here is a shot of everything the wonderful UPS man brought, in addition to what I purchased at Circuit City. The subwoofers and amps were purchased factory direct from Stillwater Designs, Inc.—a partner.
Talk about excitement and anticipation.
My aim in this write-up is to provide information pertaining to my installation so that others can use it as they see fit. When I read articles and write-ups, I appreciate all the details and wording--so I'm trying to return the favor. If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to contact me.
Materials List (Retail Prices)
There are 4 aspects in which I’ll try to summarize the installation. I will try to separate these aspects into headings so that most information pertinent to the topics stays there. However, understand that topics overlap. Here’s how I chose to look at it.
First and foremost, it is imperative to understand that a setup like this will draw a lot of power and can potentially be harmful and dangerous. Cutting corners with power cable is not a good idea. Just keep common sense around.
The first step is to disconnect the negative terminal of the battery.
Before I laid out my power cable, I placed the amps where I wanted them to be. This is opposite the directions on the box, but since I only had one place to really put them, it needed to work. So for mock-up purposes, place the amps under the back seat or in the place that you want them.
Note: Dad and I decided to put a few screws in so that the pieces wouldn’t move.
At this point you’ll want to determine what to do with your carpet, if you have one. Rolling it back from the sides temporarily is a must, but I chose to keep mine in because I like carpet. But, I know some people around here do not.
Once the amplifiers are mounted, you are ready to run the power cable. Get under the hood of the Jeep and start to scope out a good wiring direction. The wiring kit should come with approximately 15’ of 4 AWG cable. I think mine came with a few more feet, but just an estimate. Your first job is to route where you want this cable to come through. I decided to drill a hole through the driver’s side of the firewall specifically for the power cable. Trying to run the cable through another grommet may lead to some wires being crimped, crushed, mangled, etc. Plus, there really are no factory places to run 4 gauge through your firewall.
Grab a drill and a 5/8” bit if you have one. Poke a hole in the firewall and then get fancy with a rat tail file cleaning up the edge. While the wiring kit should supply a grommet, it’s good practice to dress the edge just in case. That way, if your grommet does fail and you don’t realize it for a while, you have a little more comfort room. Unfortunately when I did this I didn’t have a 5/8” bit, so I had to file a 31/64” out to the necessary size. A lot of work, but no one around had the bit. Place the grommet inside and make sure it fits well.
Now that you have a hole ready for the cable, you can begin to prepare your cable. Run the cable through the hole in the firewall; keep one end right at the battery and determine how much cable you need to get back to the distribution block (basically a power splitter—seen later). Check your measurement. Cut your cable using sheet metal sheers or something comparable. Always leave some slack.
The battery end will need a terminal connector; one of these is included with the wiring kit. However, you will need more, so it’s best to just pick up some more at the hardware store. Pick an end of cable on which to install it, strip the plastic coating with a knife, and crimp it down nice and tight with a vice if available.
When I refer to a terminal connector or an eye-lit (not sure where I picked up that term), this is it.
Now that you think you are ready to run the cable all the way back—you are not. In the wiring kit is an in-line fuse that should be installed near the battery. It is shown in the picture below. Install the fuse box around the passenger-side hood-hinge area. This spot provides a clean, open position to drive two screws into the firewall with little interference. Unscrew the ends of the fuse box, strip back the wire and install. The fuse box has caps on the ends to prevent moisture from invading. Underneath are Allen screws to loosen for insertion of power cable on either end.
When you have installed the fuse box, and run cable to and from both ends, the final result should look like this in your engine bay.
[Picture of engine bay]
Take some plastic loom included in the wiring kit and cover up the wire around sections near metal. I don’t have any pictures of that, or of the final tie wraps to existing wiring looms. Both additions help your Jeep keep a clean look and stay safe, in the case of the plastic cover.
Once your cable is through the firewall and into the cabin of the Jeep, fish it back to the rear seat however you desire. I ran mine on the driver’s side between the seat and the door. Just whatever you do, keep power on one side and speaker wire on another. You can debate as much as you want if there is cross-talk or not, but why test it? Just run it on opposite sides.
When at your back seat, you’ll need to figure out where the power distribution block is going to be installed. At this point, I decided to stop working on wiring and spur off completely. In the “Additional” Section, you can see that I designed a mounting plate out of plywood for all my amp components. If you are going to do this, do not screw the block down. If not, feel free to fasten the block where you deem appropriate.
A block like this will work.
Just make sure that the distribution block you use is compatible for 4 AWG in and out. If not, you will need to drill out some room to make ensure compatibility with the cable.
The power distribution block will allow power to be split to the amplifiers. One with built-in fuses is preferable. I was able to get mine from work; however I understand that they are available for purchase elsewhere. From the power distribution block you will need to measure the appropriate amount of cable to reach your amplifiers. Keep a little slack in the cable routes, but not too much. Do not strip the ends of the cable until you’re perfectly satisfied with the placement of all components. Once you are, install the cable into the block and the amplifier. (Make sure you put the power in the power input. I accidentally screwed that up one because I had the amp oriented differently before I finalized my plans and thought I broke my amp! Really dumb mistake, I know.) Remember you are running cable from the distribution block twice if you setting up two amps, so plan accordingly in terms of routing and wire usage.
Power is now available to the rear of your Jeep. You cannot do anything with it, however, until you have properly grounded your equipment. A perfect ground is a must for electronic setups—this one no exclusion. Without a proper ground, your setup will not function properly, sometimes even at all. The first step of grounding is finding a location. I decided to push my ground location a good 10 inches back from the driver’s side rear seat bracket.
Notice also that the area surrounding the bolt hole is silver—bare metal. Sand or grind all the way down to pure sheet metal to achieve the best ground. When we did this, dad and I chose to ground both amplifiers to the same location, because we knew it was a good location and it was well prepared. A hole was cut in the tub to allow for a nut and bolt. I forget how big of a bolt it was, but I think it was a ½” bolt. It does not need to be a huge bolt, but a reasonable size is necessary to hold down the eye-lits from the 4 AWG crimps.
Black 4 AWG cable should be included for use in grounding. Measure the necessary length of grounding cable for the longest connection. Cut this piece and prepare as previously explained for the power cable connection to the battery: strip the plastic off, and crimp the eye-lit down tightly with a vice for the best connection and strength. Since you are preparing ground for two amplifiers, just like you did with power, you need to make sure that you repeat the same steps. Simply account for your extra use of cable. You should end up with a ground wire for each amplifier.
The Head Unit
Currently I am running a Sony CDX-GT300. It’s a fairly old model—purchased in 2005 with a pair of Kicker 6x9” speakers that I installed on my wheel wells. It may be old, but it performs well for what I need it to do. The unit’s one downside, however, comes in the form of outputs. The back of the radio only has two pairs of RCA outputs. The two outputs are: front and rear/subwoofer. This posed a problem. I needed three outputs—one for my single channel, and two for my four channel.
The answer came in the subwoofer itself. Once nice feature of the ZX 500x1 was its included pre-amp output, meaning I was able to jump my second connection to my four channel from the single channel. Review: one RCA cable directly to the single channel, one RCA cable directly to the four channel, and one RCA cable from the single channel to the four channel.
I purchased a “better” cable for the direct link to the single channel amplifier, figuring it would benefit more from a sophisticated cable due to the kind of signal it was carrying. Was it necessary? Probably not. But again, it certainly didn’t hurt. In the following pictures, the blue cable with silver RCA ends connects the head unit to the single channel amplifier. The other cables are simple RCA cables that feed into the four channel amplifier.
The lead off the single channel was directed into the four channel for use with the rear 6x9’s. I do believe that Kicker meant it to be a pre-amp output. But for my sanity, I wanted to put the “possibly bass adjusted” signal into speakers that had a better chance of handling it. Front speakers, 4x6’s, do not handle bass well at all.
The last cable that must run from the head unit is the remote turn on wire. My wires were blue and white/blue and were designated in my radio manual as “amp remote turn on” and “antenna remote turn on.” Use the amp remote turn on for this setup. Kicker recommended that this is the best way to power the amplifiers. (Other power options are available.) Now, I had two amps to install, but only one power lead. Problem? Slightly. The wiring kit will provide you with 15’ or more feet of the 18 AWG remote cable (blue), but I needed more. As it sits now, I have two wires spliced together in a splitting motion so that a blue and a yellow cable power on the amplifiers.
My original solution was to take the yellow cable and jump from the single channel to the four channel. That would simply avoid the splice and tape technique, but since it works now I’m not too inclined to attempt fixes for visual pleasure since the entire setup is under a seat. But hey, I might.
By the time I got to the point of running the speaker wires, I had a pretty finalized idea of where everything was going to go. All of my pieces were set on top of my board that I made and my subwoofer had been mounted in my trunk behind the seat. I attacked the speakers as my setup looked like this (plus my RCA cables)
Edit: I just realized things were all connected in this picture. Imagine they are. Sorry.
At this point, it was all about cutting and crimping. Locate all of your speaker wires, and, as best you can, determine the polarity of each wire. Good practice to route all – one way and + another in terms of color just for future reference. For example, my positives I tried to keep with my white stripes and my negatives with non-white. Try to tuck all the cables under the carpet and leave as clean a route as possible. Additionally, make sure to route these cables opposite to your power cable (i.e. on the passenger’s side in my case)
Label your wires from the start—it will make your job much easier. (RF=Right Front, RR= Right Rear, etc)
Five wires need to be routed. Right front speaker, left front speaker, right rear speaker, left rear speaker, and subwoofer. Probably explanatory, but the first four go into the four channel amplifier, and the subwoofer in the single channel amplifier. I decided, as I mentioned earlier, to allocate the rear speakers to the signal that came from the single channel amplifier. Once all your wires are routed, your setup should have all the wires connected to it.
Here’s a checklist:
When all your cables are connected, your system will look similar to this.
To tack on to the project of installing a sound system, I designed a wooden platform and trunk lid. Some of you may have seen this type of thing before on my Jeep. In fact, I kept the old trunk deck that killed subwoofer space and now use it as a shelf in college. Anyways, I fabricated another shelf system. As you can see, it makes the subwoofer “invisible.” Now, it’s not a fully lockable trunk. It will be when I screw the top down into the subwoofer box. But for now all I’m looking to do is deter theft.
My second extraneous modification to the subwoofer process was the black wooden rack you’ve seen in the pictures. I decided that, should I need to take my equipment out for a wheeling trip or another adventure needing trunk space, this would be the easiest way to do it. All the physical pieces are mounted to it; all I have to do is remove cable and it’ll pop right out with some screws. I took a piece of plywood and cut it to the dimensions necessary. It is cut so that it hits the hinges/brackets of the rear seat and has very little lateral play between wheel wells. Also, the two holes that are cut allow for the bracket bolts to come through and for the board to lay flat under the seat. Painted it black on the sidewalk and it came out pretty well.
These are the kind of clips that I used for wire organization.
Thirdly, I installed this remote bass control unit that came with my Kicker amplifier. It connects with some simple telephone-like wire and RJ-11 connectors. Plug one end of the cable into the amplifier, and run it with the speaker wires up to a mounting location that you determine. I put it next to the ash tray in an attempt to round out my dash system. It takes one screw to mount the bracket; then slide the unit on the bracket, plug in the cable, and you’re ready to rock.
Here are some final pictures of my Jeep to show the enclosure of the subwoofer and the overall finish of the product and my most recent modifications, just because I like to post new pictures.
Old tool box wouldn't fit due to width. So I took and old screw container and shoved all my tools in there.
Always have to have a disc. It's a Jeep one, too. Subwoofer messed with that, too. That 65 lbs. rated magnet should do the trick.
And then we had some good picture opportunities before going to college.
Naturally, I had to take them.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed! :wave:
nice in depth write up. im sure it will help alot of people. maybe they will find it their selves and we wont have to answer any more ?s...
Yeah, I hope it comes up quickly in the search function. It's always a bummer to have to dig through search pages that only slightly deal with what you're looking for.
Added to YJ FAQ/Write-up list......
Very thorough write-up and it looks like you'll be driving the sub and speakers with a good amount of power so you won't want to upgrade right away. Power, placement, and source signal are the big barriers and it looks like you've conquered them. I like how you showed where and how you located the wiring. This thread def. gets bookmarked.
Nice, and clean other than the wiring around the amps.
I'm not sure how I want to clean it up. When I get home from school I'm going to take some more of the clips and screw them in to sort the wires out. Unfortunately I bought 3 long RCA cables, and I really only needed 2 long RCA, and one short. But, I don't want to cut and crimp the RCA cable.
Thanks for the compliments!
I would wait a little bit and get yourself some high end twisted type rca cables that are the correct length. By waiting you'll be able to appreciate their quality.
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