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Total Stereo Upgrade... What A Buggar!


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:wacko: Ugh, so I just spent the entire weekend going through this "new" '95 ES300 I bought for my wife. What an ordeal... Here are few notables if anyone plans to undertake this....

So, when I got the car, someone had put in an aftermarket stereo... kept the stock speakers, and just spliced in around the amp. Looks like the owner went to a shop, for the install was done right (polarities matched, all wires ran and crimped properly), but they used this big ugly metal plate for the dash install, and it didn't even have a 'pocket' under the stereo.

As I took out the stereo, I found other little problems, so ended up stripping the car of it's interior for the most part.. seats, console, partial dash and carpet. I also ran a new, "clean" power line off the battery through the firewall and down the length of the car (the new stereo head unit is powered by it as well as the amps/subs in the back, and that takes the load off the car's electrical system... it's still tied into the accesory key positon, so it turns off with the car). If you go to install a low powered head unit in the car, you can splice into the factory power wire, but it's quite small gauge, and just used to power the factory head unit, which is signal-level outputs (nearly no power) since it's signal gets routed to an amp under the passenger seat, so it didn't really need much power from the factory's viewpoint. Anyhow it's a real buggar to run a clean wire and have it be completely hidden and unobtrusive... best way is to run it under the carpets along the driveline "tunnel" and out through the grommet on the firewall at the far driver's side under the dash. If you do this, always, always, always fuse the wire as close to the battery as you can incase it shorts!!

So, replacing the door speakers was kind of a snap. Once you figure out how to remove the door panel (and Crutchfield's info isn't all that comprehensive, especially regarding the door-pull trim ring), they forget to tell you the factory speakers are freakin' glued into the basket!! Not much of a place to pry from, either. But if you know that, then you don't need to remove the plastic basket to find out.... just tap a sharped edge chisel or flat screwdriver in between the speakers and basket and it'll pop free. Just unsolder and solder in the new speakers... 6.5" will fit in the door with ease.

Don't worry about your dash-screamin' speakers... not much use in changing those out... just disconnect them and leave 'em be. I'm running Polk 2-ways in the doors, and I left the factory tweets attached... they bring the 'stage' up a little bit without being offensive.

The rear deck is buggar to remove, but at least I got to clean out all the old coins, pens, batteries, ticket stubs, napkins, french-fries, and spilled soda pop left behind from the other driver after I pulled all the seats out. Once I got to the speakers, I found the new Boston Acoustic 6x9's i got are too deep and broad in the basket... they won't clear the sheet metal on the rear deck. So, I built a 3/8" spacer which made the speakers set a little higher. I used some 3M seal 'putty' to keep anything from rattling in the assembly. I also left the inner 'screens' off that come on the factory speakers... that leaves the difference just about a wash and the rear deck cover went back on nicely.

Now for the factory amp. There are two plugs into the amp. I think one was blue. Anyhow, it's the plug with the larger wires what you want to go after... that leads to the speakers. You can check continuity with a multi-meter (which is invaluable in an install) to make sure your are grabbing the right wires with the right polarity. For the front speakers, there is a common (-) negative wire and two (+) positive wires for both the dash speakers and the front door speakers... just grab the door speaker's wires. You'll have to pull the carpet up and run some new wires to the head unit... that way you can wire in your speakers to the new headunit harness (if you are running from the new headunit's power.... if you are running an amp, then route them to where your amp is... I ran off the head unit, since it's a decent 50Wx5), and I used lower end coaxial speakers (meaning lower power to operate, but they are still very nice speakers).

Just as a note, there is something weird in that the right door speaker is tied into the power antenna. I have a problem with my antenna in that it won't kick in, but when you disconnect the plug to the antenna, the right front door speaker gets disconnected... maybe it senses a load and that's what triggers the antenna to deploy... don't know. I've never seen that before.

Other than that, I used a plastic install kit which gave a nice little tray below it. Everything went back together fine, I got a chance to detail the car, steam clean the carpets, clean and condition the leather seats, and now it's like a new car again... and the stereo sounds SOOOOO much better. Clean, rich, deep, smooth, and balanced. And I'm pretty impressed with the new JVC headunits (I was totally impressed with this one in that it was only $99 (free shipping from Etronics.com)). I've had hit and miss with them in the past, but this one is very nice... powerful sound, nice controls, feels robust, a big knob for most controls (toggle between the functions), and a clean display... it's a black head unit with red button illumination, and it compliments the black interior pretty well.

Here are a few pics... feel free to ask any questions if you are going to attempt this install or have and ran into problems.... I think I found most of the 'bumps' in the road on a mid-90's ES300 stereo install.

Enjoy the pics...








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Hey Jason,

I'm not sure where the amp is on the '99, but I'm thinking it is in the dash by the factory CD changer.

Either way, you can't just bypass the amp and run off your factory head unit because the head unit has no real power behind it... unless you are saying keep the factory head unit and run the signals from that into a separate, new aftermarket amp. To do that, you might want to check to see what the line voltage is out of the headunit and see if it matches up with what an aftermarket amp can take. There shouldn't be a problem, but it's always good to double check.

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Thanks for the great info. Where did you get the faceplate with the pocket? Is that the Crutchfield solution?

The weird thing going on with the right front speaker is a "telephone tranceiver and speaker relay". The relay switches off that speaker when the phone rings. Apparently you get this relay installed whether or not you have the factory phone. It shouldn't have an effect on the power antenna...

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Ah, so that's what it is... thanks Odo53. I guess the wiring is just tied in back there in the antenna cluster plug, but not really tied to the antenna.

The faceplate assembly was through a local company here in the NW called Magnolia Hi-Fi, but it's the same kit you can get on eBay for about the same price delivered. I was actually kind of impressed with how well the kit fit... looks like it could almost be factory. For the most part they are roughly $20 for the install kit, and I don't really see a good way to install an aftermarket headunit without one.

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  • 10 months later...

wow, what an outstanding post, i have gotten so much help from reading this. i'm driving a 1994 es300 with 64,000 miles, in mint comdition, which i'd like to not mess up. i currently have an eclipes head unit that i need to instal, along with a jl 500 watt amp which runs my 3 10'' jl subs, two focal door speakers, and 250 watt amp for the door speakers. i have two questions tho. how long did this instal take? and how did you remove the dash to take off the oem stereo? :cheers:

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