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Aftermarket Car Stereo Wire Colors Guide

Installing an aftermarket car stereo on your car can be daunting for first-timers, but this process gets considerably easier once you understand it. The trick behind a successful installation is knowing the wire colors.

To help make your experience smoother, we’ve made this guide on aftermarket radio wire colors as comprehensive as possible. You’ll find information regarding wire colors, harnesses, and installation procedures that’ll help you get the job done without any error. So, let’s get started.

There was a time when the color code varied from brand to brand, and in some cases, even from model to model. Nowadays, cars are usually manufactured following standardized car stereo wire color.

In most cases, you’re supposed to find a diagram provided with the aftermarket stereo, as well as with your car. If you find no such label, following the standardized aftermarket radio wire colors will suffice.

These wires can be divided into four types according to their purpose. Let’s take a look at what the colors indicate.

  • Ground Wire: The single black wire among the stereo wires, and this one is the ground wire.
  • Power Wires: There are three power wires. The yellow wire is the one that supplies a constant 12V, the red wire is for accessories, and the orange wire with white stripes is for the dimmer or for illumination.
  • Speakers: You’ll find four stereo wire colors for the speakers, and each of them will come in two variants, solid and striped. For example, while the grey wire is the (+) for the right front speaker, the grey wire with black stripes is the (-) for the same speaker. Likewise, the white wires connect to the left front speaker; purple wires indicate the right rear speaker, and the green wires are for the left rear speaker.
  • Antenna and Amplifier Wires: The blue wire connects to the antenna, and the blue wire with white stripes is for the amplifier.

What’s A Stereo Harness?

Harnesses are like adapters. These essential accessories can help you install an aftermarket stereo in your car effortlessly. Specialized harnesses can be used for bypassing built-in amplifiers, extending the wire length, and more.

Harnesses can be bought at very reasonable prices, and you’ll find them available easily. The challenge lies in choosing the right harness for your car and your stereo.

For making the harness work, you must ensure that it suits both the car and the aftermarket stereo. There are online tools that can help you choose the right harness for your car and stereo.

Specialized Harnesses For Stereo

Due to the massive diversity in wiring systems, different types of specialized harnesses can be found on the market. Here you’ll find whether any of these harnesses can aid you or not.

Extension Harnesses

In some cars, the stereo connectors are found at a considerable distance from the stereo itself. There are some cars that come with connectors in the trunk even. In such cases, extension harnesses can be used.

These harnesses come with long cables that can reach any corner of the car. Some advanced harnesses allow you to customize the cable length as per necessity.

Amp Bypassing

Sometimes the amplifier built into your car might be separate from the stock stereo system. In such cases, you can always use the amplifier with your aftermarket stereo.

If the aftermarket stereo comes with a better amplifier built into it, then there’s no reason to use the stock amplifier. In this case, getting a specialized harness can help the user bypass the stock amplifier.

Safety Alarm Retainer

Every modern car comes with some form of safety alarm system. In a few cases, it’s found that the safety alarm system was built into the stock stereo system. This means that replacing the stock stereo can eliminate the alarm system completely.

Certain specialized harnesses can be found, and the function of these harnesses is to help retain the safety alarm system even after the stock stereo is replaced.

Programmable Harness

Many of the modern cars come with exquisite features built into the stock radio. For example, there’s FORD Sync, Chrysler Uconnect, and more. In the case of these cars, you’ll lose access to these amazing features if you replace the stock radio system.

To prevent that and help you retain these features, many advanced harnesses were built. These harnesses cost more, but they offer great value. You’ll be able to program these harnesses to help you enjoy the special features of your car.

How To Install An Aftermarket Stereo Using Harness?

A lot of users get confused about car stereo wiring harness color codes. Harnesses usually follow the standardized layout discussed in this guide.

You need to match the car stereo wiring colors with the colored slots on the harness, and then you just have to plug the other end of the harness in the head unit of the car.

How To Install an Aftermarket Stereo Without Harness?

There’s a chance that you might not be able to find a suitable harness for your stereo and car. In such cases, the only way to connect the stereo to the car is by following the manual method.

To get started, you must keep the car stereo wires color code in mind. If you have the pigtail with the head unit, you need to connect the cables coming out of the radio with that.

On the other hand, not having a pigtail leaves you two options. You can either get a suitable pigtail, or you can connect the pins directly to the head unit.

If you’re connecting directly and without a pigtail, then you should search for the wiring diagram on the head unit and online, as the color code might be different.


Installing an aftermarket stereo gets much easier once you know what the aftermarket radio wire colors mean. Using a harness will help you get through this effortlessly too.

We highly recommend that you remain cautious while picking a harness for your car. Getting a harness that suits both the head unit and the aftermarket stereo is absolutely necessary, as you won’t be able to make them function otherwise.

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