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VW mk3 Stereo Replacement

This section will show you exactly what's involved in replacing the factory stereo in your Mk3 VW. This one in particular is my '98 GTI VR6, but Jetta's are basically the same thing. You may have heard the VW stereo systems are a real pain to work on but they're much, much easier than they used to be.

Before: The crappy stock stereo

Yeah, it looks OK in the dash. Only problem is, it sounds like CRAP!! Sure, you could probably get some improvement by adding an amplifier to all eight speakers...but the best way (in my opinion) is to just get a new stereo. For the price of a good four channel amp, you can have a new head unit with an in-dash CD player (like it should have had from the factory) ! It's also my opinion that Crutchfield is hands down the best place to buy your new stereo. Why? Because they'll give you a free installation kit including the wiring harness adaptor and the antenna adaptor, along with a detailed intruction guide. Add to that technical support via 1-800 number and you can't go wrong.

What you'll need
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Wire cutter/Crimping tool
  • Soldering Iron OR Butt connectors
  • Heat gun OR cigarette lighter
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • DIN removal tool
  • Step One: Disassembly
    Begin by using the flat blade screwdriver to carefully pry the trip panel out from around the climate control knobs. It's held in by pressure clips. You may want to put a layer of electrical tape or masking tape over the tip of the screwdriver to prevent possibly marring the surface. Next, pop out the switch blanks to the left and right of the stereo. Remove the ashtray. Then, remove the two phillips head screws from behind the ashtray and the four surrounding the climate control knobs. Grasp the panel just inside of the ashtray opening and gently pull it outward, letting it hang loosely. Next, push the climate control cluster inward, slide it down, and out between the openings in the dash.There's no need to disconnect any of the wiring for either panel. You now have plenty of space to reach your hand to the back of the radio... this will be important later!

    Step Two: Removing the Factory Unit

    This is where your DIN tool comes into play. According to Crutchfield, your stock stereo has four small at each corner....and they are supposed to send you the DIN tool that you use to pull out the radio. Unfortunately for me, the radio in my car was different. It has two small vertical slots instead of the four holes. Luckily, I have a friend at a local stereo store who has the required tool and was willing to pull the stereo out of the dash for me. Insert the tools, push gently outward, and pull. I've heard of people using butter knives instead, but that method didn't work in my car. You may be able to fabricate your own from aluminum sheet if you're ambitious. Once you release the stock unit with the DIN tools, it will simply pull out of the dash. You need to stop with the radio partially out and reach behind it to unplug the antenna lead from the back right corner of the radio. Now take it out of the dash and unplug the wiring harness from the back left side.

    Step Three: Wire the new Harness
    You'll want to go inside and clear off the kitchen table for this step. Unpack your new stereo and find the wiring instructions, the wiring harness, and the wire harness adaptor. If you have a soldering iron, now's the time to heat it up. If not, get out your wire connectors. Simply follow the instruction sheets, matching up the wires from the adaptor and the wiring harness for the new stereo, and make the connections. Soldering/heat shrinking is the superior method, but if you don't have a soldering iron, you'll also get good results with butt connectors. DO NOT twist the wires together and wrap with tape!!! You'd hate to have to take everything apart after you're done because a wire came loose.

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