Aftermarket Car Stereo (Radio) Wire Colors Guide – No More Guessing

The back of a car stereo is often a tangled mess of wires. Although it may seem intimidating, installing an aftermarket car stereo is actually quite easy.

In the past, different brands and even different models from the same brand had varying wiring colors. This made it difficult to install a new car stereo. However, today, wiring color is standardized making it much easier to install an aftermarket car stereo.

A wiring harness also makes the process simple, even for those who are not car audio experts. It’s a straightforward job that anyone can do.

Let’s take a closer look…

Standardized Wiring

The CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) has standardized wires across the industry, making installation of aftermarket car stereo simpler. Big-name brands such as Sony, JVC, Kenwood, Alpine Electronics, Jensen, BOSS and Pioneer, follow these color codes.

Aftermarket Car Stereo Wire Colors
Aftermarket Car Stereo Wires

Types of Wiring

There are four main types of wiring found in an aftermarket stereo wiring harness – grounding, power, speakers, and the amplifier and antenna. Some newer harnesses will have additional wires for things like the parking break – but not all will.

  • The ground wire will be black.
  • The power wires consist of three wires: yellow, orange, and red.
  • There are eight speaker wires, four for positive and four for negative.
  • The speaker wires are color-coded with a block color for positive and the same color with black stripes for the corresponding negative. These wires go to the left front, left rear, right front, and right rear speakers respectively.
  • There may be one or two wires for the antenna and amplifier. The antenna wire will be blue, while the amp wire will be blue and white.
  • Some harnesses may also include wires for features such as the parking brake, speed sensor, and other gadgets. These wires may be brown, light green, light purple, and pink. However, if these wires are not present in your harness, it’s not necessary to have them for the installation process.
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Aftermarket Car Stereo Wiring Diagram / Wire Color Reference Chart

Here’s a car stereo wiring reference chart to keep you right:

Wire ColorTypePolarityDescription
RedPower+12V Ignition (Switched)
YellowPower+12V Memory (Clock, Tuner)
BlackGroundingRadio Chassis Ground
BlueAntenna+Antenna Power
Blue / White StripeAmplifier+Amplifier Turn ON
OrangePower / Illumination+Dash Light (Illumination)
Orange / White StripePower / Dimmer+Dimmer Wire
GreySpeaker+Right Front Speaker
Gray / Black StripeSpeakerRight Front Speaker
WhiteSpeaker+Left Front Speaker
White / Black StripeSpeakerLeft Front Speaker
PurpleSpeaker+Right Rear Speaker
Purple / Black StripeSpeakerRight Rear Speaker
GreenSpeaker+Left Rear Speaker
Green / Black StripeSpeakerLeft Rear Speaker
BrownMisc.+Audio Mute (Not Used Frequently)
Light GreenMisc.Parking Brake
Light VioletMisc.+Reverse Gear Trigger
PinkMisc.+Vehicle Speed Sense (PWM)

Using A Stereo Wiring Harness

When installing an aftermarket car stereo, the factory harness must be left behind. To simplify the process, a stereo wiring harness can be used to connect the new stereo to the factory harness. This acts as an adapter for the new stereo and the old vehicle.

When choosing a wiring harness, it’s important to select one that’s compatible with both the vehicle and the new aftermarket stereo. There are various types of harnesses to choose from, so it’s important to research which one will best fit your needs.

Extension Harness

When the stereo connector is not located in the dash, an extension harness may be necessary. This is especially true when the connector is a significant distance from the stereo location, such as in the trunk.

An extension harness provides the additional length of wiring needed to properly connect an aftermarket stereo.

Amplifier Bypass Harness

If you’re upgrading your sound system, an amplifier bypass harness can help you connect an upgraded amplifier. This is especially useful if you want to improve the quality of your sound system, as factory stereos often have low quality.

Programmable Harnesses

When upgrading your car stereo, it’s important to maintain the stock features that came with your vehicle. Entertainment, communication, and navigation systems, such as Uconnect in Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeeps, are often integrated into the stereo. With a programmable harness, these systems can be adapted to your new stereo.

Alarm Retainer Harness

The alarm retainer harness is an essential component for those who wish to integrate their car alarm with their replacement stereo unit. It allows for the adaptation of the alarm system to work seamlessly with the new unit, ensuring that the vehicle remains secure.

Installing An Aftermarket Stereo With A Wiring Harness

Wiring harnesses simplify the process of installing an aftermarket stereo. Use a standardized wire color guide to match up the correct wires and plug in. However, before starting, refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the wiring.

When connecting the wires, splicing and soldering is the best method. If you don’t have soldering equipment, butt connectors are a quick and easy alternative. Blue connectors are recommended for 14- to 16-gauge stereo wire. Remember, butt connectors aren’t as reliable as soldering but are convenient to use.

Once the stereo is wired, assemble the dash kit and replace everything in the dash.

Installing An Aftermarket Stereo Without A Wiring Harness

If you’re a DIY enthusiast and prefer to do the wiring manually, or if you can’t find a wiring harness that fits your vehicle and aftermarket stereo combo, you can still install an aftermarket stereo without a wiring harness.

Having a pigtail – a connector already attached to the wiring – can make the process much easier. If your aftermarket stereo has a pigtail, you can simply connect the stereo’s wires through it.

If a pigtail isn’t available, you’ll need to connect the pins to the head unit directly. It’s important to note that without a wiring harness, you can’t rely on color guides. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a manufacturer’s wiring diagram for your head unit before connecting any wires.


Installing an aftermarket stereo doesn’t have to be a headache. Wiring harnesses are designed to make the process simple and affordable. Even premium harnesses that allow you to keep factory upgrades are worth every cent.

Gone are the days of complicated car stereo wiring. Now, installing a head unit is a straightforward process that follows laws and regulations.

Take the reins and install your aftermarket stereo with confidence.

Robert Muñoz

I’m Robert, a US-based auto electrician, auto mechanic, trained engineer and fanatic about all things motor vehicle. After studying engineering in college I returned to my original passion - car mechanics - and I ran a garage for a number of years serving my local community. Through my garage, I got involved in numerous road safety campaigns in my local area until eventually, I decided to share what I've learned with the world. Know more about me... You can follow me on LinkedIn.

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