What Makes a Great Installation?

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car audio installer

By James Chevrette

As 12 volt industry professionals there is an important question we should be asking ourselves, “What makes a great installation?”

Many of you are experts at making a system sound and look incredible. But I offer a few guidelines that are sometimes overlooked that also are part of a great installation.  And these tips will help not only improve sound quality and system design, but improve your shop’s bottom line.

How accessible is the install? If a product needs to be serviced, removed, or updated, can it be done without any special tools or requiring an extensive time commitment? Let’s face it, stuff breaks in an automotive environment. If it takes more than 15 minutes to replace or service, the shop is losing money.

How durable is the install? Are the wires secured and protected against the elements when outside the vehicle and are the wires secured in a way that the vehicle can be fully used and serviced without removing any of the installation?

A smart installation will ultimately lead to a better sounding system.  For example, mounting speakers as rigid as possible and sealing the speaker front to back with sound deadener and/or by using a gasketing material, equates to better performance and a better experience if a product needs to be serviced or adjusted in the future.

Have you considered manufacturer guidelines and the car’s limitations? It is well known that mid-2000 Hondas have a small battery. If the customer wants to install two 12-inch subwoofers and a 2,000-watt amplifier, chances are the charging system will not keep up. This would compromise the reliability of the vehicle.

Some manufacturers state their amplifiers run at 1-ohm bridged. This usually means the amplifier is running at its internal limits. The amplifier might run great with the proper wire, good ground, and proper mounting (vertically and proper air circulation). But in some cases, this is not possible.

Let’s use the example of mounting an amplifier behind a rear seat in a double cab pickup truck. It might be mounted vertically but air is not circulating properly around the amplifier. Maybe think of wiring an amplifier in 4-ohms instead of 1-ohm. There might be a small loss of power, but the amplifier will run cooler and require less current.  Four-ohm loads have been proven to be the most reliable with any manufacturer.

When looking for fresh staff or taking your current staff to the next level, ask yourself, have these points been addressed. No matter how pretty an installation looks, is it serviceable? Customers are hard on their vehicles, can your installation practices stand the test of time in an environment with fluctuating temperatures, toolboxes, hockey bags and spilled drinks? I believe addressing these issues are traits of a great installer.

Salespeople can also add revenue to these sorts of installations.  “Mr. Customer, you have a large hockey bag in your car (or golf clubs etc). Might I suggest a pair of subwoofer grills to protect your speakers, a fan to make your amplifier run cooler, and a hard cover to protect your amplifier because it is a work truck?”  I think you have the idea.  People will pay more for service and reliability. If this is a false statement, why do companies make thousands of dollars off extended warranties? If someone said to you, a fifty-dollar part would add years to the life of your dishwasher, would you buy it?

A house can’t stand on a bad foundation.  Before investing in fancy tools, make sure proper installation practices are being followed. If the same customer has been back three times in your shop to replace an amplifier, audit the situation.  Is it the wrong product for the application, is the product of inferior quality, is the installation contributing to the equipment failure? By addressing these questions, you will have happier customers, more 5-star reviews and a more profitable shop!

James Chevrette


James Chevrette

James Chevrette has been a territory manager for over 8 years with Trends Electronics, a Canadian electronics distributor, but he never forgets his roots.  He has worked in an installation bay, in R&D in manufacturing, and personally trained thousands of people across Canada. Through his dealing with national accounts, regional chain stores, and relationships with brick and mortar independent retailers, he offers a unique perspective about business growth opportunities. He started a non-profit blog in 2015 to educate people within and outside his industry. It has since reached across North America and into Europe with over a million posts read.

Photo: Car stereo installer, the former Cartronix, IN

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