And now, the exciting installation of a Kenwood head unit into my TJ. To be honest, this install ended up being rather anticlimactic. I humbly suggest that TJ/LJ owners stop paying to have a new stereo installed since you can DIY pretty easily with a few common hand tools and the step by step instructions below. Start by removing the dash cover closest to the windshield. It’s just attached with clips and pops right off.
Once those screws are remove, gently pull forward on the center dash panel. It’s held in with clips at this point and will tilt towards you and pull out. Be firm, but gentle and the end result should like this.
With the stereo exposed, remove 4 black Phillips head screws at all four corners. Do not mess with the gold screws, those won’t get you anywhere. I’m pointing to one of the screws to be removed below.
With the four screws removed, the stock radio will slide out freely. Disconnect the harness and antenna from the back of the radio and remove the head unit. Congrats! You just completed the un-installation portion of this job.
Now, it’s time to get the new stereo ready to install. Start off by preparing the wiring harness. To be honest, this is the biggest time suck of the entire project. In the picture below, you’ll see two sets of connectors with wires. On the right is a standard Chrysler Jeep wiring harness made by Metra (included for free from Crutchfield). On the left, the wiring harness that came with the head unit from Kenwood. All you need to do is connect the wires in the correct order. In the instruction manual from Kenwood, they tell you what each wire does and on the packaging of the Metra kit, they do the same. I’ll leave it up to you how you choose to connect them as long as you do so in the correct order. Here are three good options.
If you have the four speaker stereo, you can skip this step. For those with the factory subwoofer, You will need to connect the Blue/White power control wire from the Kenwood harness to the blue antenna wire on the Metra harness in order to active the amp that powers the factory sub. With out this step, your dash and sound bar speakers will work great, but your “subwoofer” will not produce any sound.
Check out the finished product below, isn’t it pretty? I prefer to solder, then heat shrink, then zip tie my connections. Yeah, it takes a little more time but the finished product is OEM quality and should remain problem free as long as you own your jeep.
Set the harness aside for a moment, grab the dash kit and the mounting sleeve that came with the head unit. If you don’t see it, check if the mounting sleeve is still attached to the head unit. If it is, simply slide the head unit out. Insert the mounting sleeve into the dash kit as shown below.
Turn the dash kit/din sleeve combo around and fold up the little tabs to create a nice tight fit between the two pieces. Don’t forget to do this on the top and on the bottom. With out this step, prepare to have the head unit rattle around in the dash till the end of time!
Install the dash kit using the same four screws that you used to remove the OEM head unit. Use a hand screwdriver so you don’t over tighten. Plug in the wiring harness you just created into the harness and the antenna adapter into the Jeep. At this point, you can also install any optional accessories for your radio like an XM module or external microphone, or if you want to run external amps, this is the time to do so. The only piece I added was the included microphone for hands-free calling. You can see the little 3.5mm jack hanging down near the temperature control below.
Plug the harness, antenna, and microphone (optional) into back of the new head unit and slide the head unit gently forward into the din sleeve until you hear a click. Reinstall the center dash panel (pressing firmly but gently), screw the two screws back in at the top of the dash, and replace the top dash trim panel.
That’s all there is to it! Fire it up and test it out. I’ve noticed that even my old crappy paper cone speakers sound better with a cleaner signal running to them than they did with the stock head unit. Stream your favorite playlist through your phone and turn it up! Hope you enjoy your new tunes.