Getting Your Car Amplifier Up and Running


Getting your car amplifier up and running may seem like a daunting task to the novice. This is because installing it and then getting your car amplifier up and running is one of the trickiest installations the new auto-audiophile can attempt. That’s not to say that getting your car amplifier up and running is hard. It’s not. Once you’re familiar with the process, it’s actually an easy one. However, there are many pitfalls waiting to trap the newbie.

The first step involves disconnecting the negative battery terminal and then threading the power cable through the firewall. Make sure to note the reactivation code when dealing a radio that has a security feature. Generally, the installer can thread the wire through an unused factory hole by simply removing the rubber grommet.

In cases where there is no factory hole, the installer will have to drill one into the firewall. The novice should start with a pilot hole, and then increase the bit size in small increments until reaching the proper hole size. Make certain to seal the hole edges with paint or similar material, in order to protect it from rust. Next, install a rubber grommet, and use caulking if necessary to prevent water from running along the cable.

The next step to getting your car amplifier up and running is to run the amplifier wires from the interior through the hole and to the battery. Be very careful to avoid pinch points, sharp edges and moving parts. Install an inline fuse holder for the power wire at the battery connection. This is extremely important in order to protect your vehicle in the case of a wire shortage. The fuse size will depend on the current draw of the amplifier, and the installer needs to add the draws of all amplifiers in multi-amplifier setups.

Running the wire in the cabin is difficult for the novice. Take your time and be very careful. Remove the rocker panel and kick panel, and pull pack the carpet in the appropriate area. Snake the wire to its termination point with care, making sure to avoid pinch points. Once you have the wire completely installed, go back and do cable management with cable ties and other accessories. Do not rush here. You will regret it in the end.

Now the installer connects RCA cables and the remote turn-on lead from the head unit to the amplifier’s mounting location. Run the RCA cables on the opposite side of the vehicle that you installed the power cables. Otherwise, the installer runs the risk of creating interference that will distort sound quality. Next, string the speaker wires between the amplifier and speakers. If the speaker wires need to be strung through the interior, run them on the same side as the RCA cables.

At this point, all of the difficult aspects of getting your car amplifier up and running are complete. Connect the amplifier’s negative terminal to the chassis ground on the vehicle. Any metal surface should work. Make certain to scrape away any paint or similar substances to ensure better contract between the terminal and the ground. Now verify that all connections are in place and that all wires are secure. After a complete check, insert the main power wire fuse and reconnect the negative battery terminal.

So, what happens after all this work is complete and the amplifier isn’t working? Double-check that no part of the amplifier is mounted to a conductive surface. Even if just a mounting screw is touching a conductive surface, the amplifier is likely to be in protection mode and refuse to power up. Second, ensure that the amplifier is receiving the correct power and is grounded. Double-check all of the connections, reexamine the ground and test the fuse. If the amplifier has a built-in fuse, test that.

After all power checks and tests, determine if the amplifier is receiving a turn on signal. If the installer connected the amplifier to a factory radio, there is a good chance that there was no dedicated remote lead. In that case, a separate unit is needed and must be installed between the factory radio and the remote lead of the amplifier. At this point, determine if the amplifier is receiving a music input signal and if it is outputting a signal. If none of these tests identifies the problem, take it to the local car audio shop. Unless there is a severe problem, they should charge only a nominal fee since the bulk of the work is complete.

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