Prestige Car Audio & Marine in New Orleans does a huge number of radio installations in vehicles. Whether they are cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, side-by-sides. Almost anything with an engine, we have done radio installations in it. In fact, if you add up the radio installations we have done since our humble beginnings in 1990, it runs into the tens of thousands. So, it would be safe to say that we have become experts at it.
Among the biggest things that have changed over the years when it comes to having a radio installed are the complexity and the installation parts needed. Let’s walk through a radio installation in two different vehicles and compare what has changed.
Reminiscing The Glory Of Old School Radio Days
Let’s start in 1996. If you wanted to have a new radio installed in your brand-new 1996 Ford F150, it was a very simple task. You used a set of Ford radio removal tools and if it was done properly, the radio was out in under 30 seconds. You took your new radio and laid it out on your workbench. You hooked up the wiring harness adapter so your new radio would plug into the factory Molex plug that connected to your stock Ford unit. You secured the included metal mounting sleeve into the dash opening, plugged the harness into your new radio, plugged the other end into the Ford harness and slid the radio into the dash until you heard it click. You were now done. You could have a splitting headache and still accomplish this in under an hour; ten, maybe fifteen minutes for a pro.
Zipping Forward to 2006! A Handful Of New Features, Questions And Complications
Let’s move forward to 2006 and stick with an F150. You want to upgrade the radio. Now you have to know the following things:
- Is the vehicle equipped with premium sound or the basic, standard audio system? This changes the wiring harness needed.
- Does it have factory Sirius radio? That factory tuner won’t work when you change the radio. So you need a radio with satellite radio capability and a new, modern satellite tuner.
- Is it a single DIN or double DIN radio? There are two different dash kits, depending upon the model chosen.
- Does the truck have steering wheel-mounted audio controls? Do you want to keep them? If so, you need an interface, and you need a radio that will work with that particular interface.
When it comes time to do the install, you have to remove the dash trim bezel around the radio. And also program and install the steering wheel control interface module. If you want to keep satellite radio, you have to install a new tuner for SiriusXM. Depending on how the truck is equipped and the model radio you choose, the install can take 1 hour or 4 hours. As you can see, it is getting more involved.
What Is This Madness? The Cockpit Of A Jet Plane?
Let’s move to a 2014 Ford F150. In the dash front and center is no longer a “radio” or a “stereo” but rather now the truck features a large, touchscreen computer hub that controls the plethora of multimedia sources. Also now, the HVAC heater and air conditioning controls, along with other user-programmable items, are integrated into the factory in-dash touchscreen computer hub. To change out this complex, computer-controlled system, you made need one of five different dash kits. And just removing and reinstalling the factory stereo could take up to 90 minutes. You also need a programmable computer chip based interface to allow your new aftermarket stereo to interact with the factory satellite tuner, USB port, factory Ford SYNC system, factory backup camera, steering wheel controls, and on and on. In other words, it is a lot more involved. A radio install can take 2 hours or a whole day, depending on how your truck is outfitted and the equipment you choose.
Parts For Radio Installations Skyrocketing In Price
In your 1996 vehicle, you needed $10 in install parts. In your 2006 vehicle, it ranged from $40 to $200 in install items, depending upon how it was equipped. In your 2014, you can spend up to $300 just on installation accessories.
Modern Software Based Control Hubs Are Not The Simple Setup That Was Old School Car Stereo
As you can see, a lot has changed. While we still do radio installs every day, more and more people opt to have us upgrade their audio system components only. Integrating upgrades into the factory stereo such as adding subwoofers and replacing speakers while keeping their factory stereo systems. As sophisticated as some of these modern “infotainment” computer hub “stereos” are today, with so many functions and features available that they like, it can be hard to justify the quite high and still rising cost of head unit replacement in a modern vehicle.