We will detail the car stereo wire harness colors below to help you wire the system accurately.
We cannot do without stereo units in our vehicles because they make the drives fun. But these head units have more functions than simply entertainment.
They can provide navigation or help enhance visibility when backing up using the reverse camera. Due to these multiple functions, car stereos have complex wiring systems.
So, they have a broad range of colors to signify their different tasks. Let’s focus on these stereo-wiring colors to explain the function of each one.
Table of Contents
- Why You Need To Know the Car Stereo Wire Harness Colors
- Aftermarket Car Stereo Wire Harness Color Guide
- Significance of These Color Codes
- How To Install an Aftermarket Car Stereo
- Why Not Use Adapter Harnesses Instead of Splicing Wires?
- Which Wire Colors Go Together in a Car Stereo Wire Harness?
- What Happens if You Mix the Positive and Negative Speaker Wires?
- Wrap Up
Why You Need To Know the Car Stereo Wire Harness Colors
This knowledge is handy when replacing your vehicle’s factory stereo with an aftermarket head unit. Most aftermarket car stereos come with a wiring diagram printed on the device or in a separate paper, plus the wires, adapters, and accessories.
You can follow these wiring diagrams, but you should also know their general wiring standards to make the process easier.
An uninstalled single din head unit ready for replacement
Before wiring, disconnect the battery’s negative terminal and tuck it safely to prevent accidental contact.
Factory radios usually have the following wire colors.
Green or Black Wire
Black or green wires function as the ground wires in these stereos, but the green/yellow wire type is more common.
Red or Blue Wire
The power wire is usually blue or red. It might differ from what you get in your aftermarket unit.
Grey Stripe Wire
This wire supplies the positive electric signal to the right front speaker.
The white wire supplies the positive signal to the front left speaker.
Car speakers undergoing tweaking to enhance their sound quality
Purple wires power the rear right speaker.
This wire sends the sound signal power to the rear left speaker.
Black Stripe or Black Wire
Black or black stripe wires are typical grounding cables for all four speakers.
Blue or Black Wire
Black or blue wires send the frequency signals from the antenna to the stereo unit.
Aftermarket Car Stereo Wire Harness Color Guide
The factory wiring above only covers the four primary functions: ground, power, speaker, and antenna connectivity.
Aftermarket wiring harnesses have more colors because the stereos have more features.
A car’s factory head unit
Let’s categorize these wires by polarity to ensure you make the correct connections.
Positive Polarity Connections
|Red||Power||Ignition-switched power (accessory power)|
|Yellow||Power||Delivers constant power (always on) to keep the memory intact|
|Orange||Illumination/power||0V potential difference when exterior lights are off and 12V when they are on.|
|Orange with a white stripe||Dimmer/power||Adjusts between 1V and 12V to dim the display depending on your settings.|
|Blue||Antenna||Powers the antenna or the remote turn-on feature|
|Blue with a white stripe||Amplifier||Switches on the amplifier|
|Gray||Speaker||Powers the front right speaker|
|Purple||Speaker||Sends signals to the rear right speaker|
|White||Speaker||Powers the front left speaker|
|Green||Speaker||Sends sound signals to the left rear speaker|
|Pink||Miscellaneous||Vehicle speed sensing wire|
|Light violet||Miscellaneous||Reverse gear trigger|
Negative Polarity Connections
The negative wires are fewer than their positive polarity counterparts and include the following.
An up-close image of a car’s head unit wiring harness
|Black||Ground||Grounds the head unit’s chassis|
|Gray with a black stripe||Speaker||Front right speaker’s negative connection|
|Purple with a black stripe||Speaker||Grounds the rear right speaker|
|White with a black stripe||Speaker||Front left speaker’s negative connection|
|Green with a black stripe||Speaker||Grounds the rear left speaker|
|Light green||Miscellaneous||Parking brake connection|
Significance of These Color Codes
When installing an aftermarket stereo in your vehicle, you can encounter problems matching the unit’s wires to the existing wire harness.
The alternative is replacing the entire stereo wiring harness, but this option is expensive and time-consuming.
A technician replacing a vehicle’s head unit (note the multicolored wire harness)
These wire-color tables should help you match the correct wire harness colors from the aftermarket head unit to the existing harness.
How To Install an Aftermarket Car Stereo
There are two ways to handle this upgrade. The first is using the pigtails that come with the stereo to connect to the vehicle’s harness.
Using a wiring harness adapter is the second option, whereby you need a harness adapter for the head unit for your specific vehicle.
This second option is easier to work with because it simplifies installation.
Aftermarket stereos have the same inputs and outputs as their stock counterparts, but these connections are in different spots.
So, the challenging part is to match the two to ensure you make the correct connections.
An aftermarket car stereo unit
Aftermarket adapters help you with the matching process. One end connects to the new aftermarket car stereo system, and the other to the existing factory wiring harness.
Why Not Use Adapter Harnesses Instead of Splicing Wires?
Adapter plugs are affordable and easy to use, but getting a compatible unit for the aftermarket stereo and your vehicle’s make and model can be challenging.
You might be after a specific aftermarket radio due to its extensive features, but its wire harness adapter is unavailable.
The alternative is to consider looking for the available adapters for your vehicle and then buy the stereo unit matching it.
But you might have to sacrifice some features if the top-spec aftermarket unit is incompatible.
A vehicle’s stereo wiring harness
So, instead of limiting yourself, you can use the color coding described above to match any aftermarket stereo to the factory wiring harness.
Which Wire Colors Go Together in a Car Stereo Wire Harness?
Due to their related functionality, the car stereo wire harness has at least five wire groupings that go together. These include:
- Red ignition-switched, yellow constant-on, and black ground power wires
- Blue antenna and blue-with-a-white-stripe amplifier wires
- Orange illumination and orange-with-a-white-stripe dimming wires
- Gray, gray with a black stripe, white, and white with a black stripe front speaker wires
- Purple, purple with a black stripe, green, and green with a black stripe rear speaker wires
Pink, light green, brown, and light violet wire colors are optional in most stereos.
What Happens if You Mix the Positive and Negative Speaker Wires?
You won’t hear any sound from the speakers because the waveform signals will cancel each other out.
The opposite polarity connection creates a phenomenon known as destructive interference caused by the sound waves’ equal and opposite peaks and troughs. The two opposite waveforms will line up perfectly and cancel each other out.
Aftermarket car stereo wire harness color codes usually differ from their stock counterparts, so you must know the meanings of the insulation colors to make accurate connections.
Adapters make the work easier, but if you don’t get one for your specific vehicle and head unit, the only option left is to splice and crimp the wires. And that’s where the color codes come in.
That’s it for now. Comment below to share your thoughts and sentiments about the article, and we’ll be in touch.