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How To Install A Satellite Radio Unit In 10 Easy Steps?

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The easiest and most cost effective way to add Sirius or XM to your car stereo system is with an external stand alone unit. Many of today’s aftermarket and factory radios accept an external satellite unit via an RCA input, an FM Modulator or a modified cassette.

First Step – Determine which input your car stereo supports

RCA Inputs

If your car stereo unit have RCA line level inputs, you can directly connect most satellite radios to your stereo using an audio cable. Check your stereo unit to see if it has stereo input jacks.

If your stereo unit have this feature, then make certain the satellite radio you purchase has a cable for RCA line level out. This will normally be a mini-1/8 inch stereo plug on one end, and two RCA plugs on the other end.

If your stereo does not have RCA inputs then you will need an FM Modulator or a cassette adaptor.

FM Modulator or Cassette Adaptor

Most Satellite radios includes the option to use a modified cassette tape to feed in the satellite radio signal. Obviously, this is not a option if you do not have a cassette deck (some newer factory stereo units are CD only). If this is the case, then you will need to purchase a FM Modulator.

Step Two – Choose Your Satellite Service

Next pick your Satellite service.

Step Three – Select Your Satellite Radio Unit

Once you have picked between Sirius and XM Radio, you need to pick the satellite radio of your choice.

Step 4 – Choose and Installation Spot

Choosing an installation spot is probably the most difficult task, there are many factors you need to consider. The big question is how much work are you willing to put into the installation, wether or not you are willing to drill holes into the dash. You want the radio in a place where you can read the display and easily get at the controls while driving. Ideally, the best spot is on the dash. However, some car model have little room to put the unit, and not many people like to see wires out in the open. It’s unsightly and a offers an opportunity for theft.

How To Install A Satellite Radio Unit In 10 Easy Steps?

Alternatly, I recommend mounting the unit in the console, on the driveshaft hump. As a result, the unit is out of sight and the wires are easily consealed behind the console and under the dash. Another option is a customized bracket for GPS units. These can be modified to mount to the console or under the dash.

Step Five – Ground It

Next, you need to connect the ground wire, it’s the black wire that come from either your satellite unit or FM Modulator or both. Attach the ground wire to a solid metatl brace, typically found under the dash. The screws under the glove box door are good ground connection points as well. Simply loosen the screw, slide the spade lugs from the ground wires under the screws, and tighten it back up.

Step Six – Power it Up

The red wire that comes from either your satellite radio, or your FM modulator, or both is your power wire. You need to connect this to a switched 12V power. A good volt meter or a test light will help you find a good connection point. You can usually find lugs available in your fuse box to connect to a switched 12 volt power source. Take care the wire you select is really switched. Avoid power source like dimmer light and cigarette lighters. They may look like switched but are normally on all the time.

Once you locate the right power source, secure the connection and insulate it with black electrical tape. This will prevent accidental connections to the ground and other wires. Make sure that the fuse for the satellite radio is as close to the power source as possible. This will ensure the fuse protect the wiring as well as the radio.

Step Seven – Install the Antenna

A best location for the antenna is the highest point of the car. You can set it near the edge but the ideal place is toward the center of the roof. Run the wire through a door opening or through the trunk lid opening. Check the wire to see if it looks pinched. Move the wire to a different spot if it does. Use a tie down brace or sticky tape to secure the wire. Make sure the wire does not flap in the wind. The wire will quickly fail if it flap or vibrate from the wind.

Once you have the antenna wire inside the car, you have two choices for installation. A more secure installation is to remove the back seat and rocker panel covers, and route the antenna cable under the carpeting. This will ensure the wire is not damaged by feet or other items in the car. An easier method but less secure is to run the wire through the gap at the edge of the seats, or between the seats, and under the floor mats. I recommend the first method if you have small children.

Step Eight – Connect the FM Modulator

The FM Modulator converts the audio signal from your satellite to a FM radios frequency, typically from 88.1 to 88.7 range. The FM Modulater has two wires. One has a connection for your radio antenna, the other cable plugs into your in-dash stereo in place of the car radio antenna.

Pull the antenna wire out of your in-dash radio, and plug it into the modulator. Then plug the antenna feed from the modulator back into your in-dash stereo where the antenna wire was just removed. Once all the wires are connected secure the modulator underneath the dash with wire ties or double sided tape.

If you are using a modified cassette adaptor. Simply connect the wire from the casette adaptor to the satellite unit and insert the adaptor into the car cassette player.

Step Nine – Mount the Satellite Radio Unit

Your install kit usually comes with an industrial strength style sticky double sided tape to mount a bracket to your dash. You might also elect to drill holes in your dash for a more permenant and secure mount. Drilling holes into your console or the floor is also an option. Be careful if you drill into the floor that you do not drill into anything under your car, such as a gas line, brake line, or your transmission.

Once you have your satellite unit mounted secure the wiring with wire ties and wrap up the excess wire lengths and stuffing it under the dash. Keep a little slack in the wire to accommodate the vibration. Also avoid sharp edges and make sure the wiring is clear of both driver and passengers.

Step 10 – Activate the Radio Service

Once your satellite radio is properly installed, turn on your car stereo and power up your satellite unit. If you have a good strong signal, you should be able to hear the preview channel loud and clear. If not, consult your user manual on how to adjust your signal strength. Leave your radio on and call your service provider. They will walk you through the activation process. This might take anywhere between fifteen minutes and up to one hour.