Question about car stereo installation @ B***B**


i stopped by a large box retailer tonight to checkout the car stereos – my son’s 17th b-day is comming up and I am looking for a gift. In any case, i found an OK stereo ($159) and decent 6X9 speakers ($79). The out-the-door price on a purchase and install would be $510. This includes a $100 part to prevent the radio swap out from interfering with the air bag system. He told me that if the “open door (key in the ignition)” chime uses the car speakers, than I would have to purchase the part!!!

According to the install tech, without this part, the air bag system will not work. The car is a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am with dual front air bags.

Is the tech’s claim true? Has anyone every heard of this? Thanks for reading!


How about starting a retirement fund with the money instead. At 17 He would be way ahead of the curve saving for his future a Roth IRA now there is a great present. It would grow an grow long afterthe car and stero is long gone…


no doubt that is true… i would not go $510, nor would he,… is there any truth to the claim that a car stereo installation is “complicated” by the air bag system OR is it just smoke?


Call the tech support line at Crutchfield ( I’ve dealt with them for years and have always had good service.

Ed B.


I’ll check the wiring diagrams in my Haynes manual when I get home, but I can’t fathom that there is the slightest possibility that the airbag system has anything to do with the radio circuitry. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced the guy is totally full of it. Ditto for the door chime.

A stereo installation is actually fairly easy to do as long as you buy mounting and wiring harness adapters. Throw in a service manual for less than $20 (which will pay for itself many times over if your son decides to learn how to work on the car himself).


Saving only $5.00 a day 5 days per week for the next ten years , $3000 per year total invested $30,000 in a mutual fund returning 8% at age 65 he would have … guess how much…not a few thousand more not tens of thousands more… but over $1,000,000. Better yet that is if he never saved another penny after that 10 years… My dad always told me that it is better to grow old then pass on young an old with money sure beats old an broke. Think of the stero he could have then…


I tried to buy a car stereo at the same retailer and I was less than happy with the service. I left and went to another chain and was much happier with the service. You should check out other retailers who will not feed you a line of B.S. and will do the same job for a lot less money. Specifically, I recommend Circuit City and Pep Boys.


the chime does run through the radio on some gm vehicles,and ive installed steros on these cars you do need the part,for chime to work.the chime is then looked at,by the srs system to make sure it can notify you of ,putting on your indirectly it is realated


I would not let any of these clowns at BestBuy or Circuit City touch the vehicle. They both are the Jiffy Lube of stereo installations.

Go to a reputable independent or do what I do, enjoy the sweet factory sound :slight_smile:

Good story>>>>


VERY indirectly! Would a manufacturer REALLY make SRS operation dependent on the radio??? Holy liability suit, Batman! However, I don’t believe it applies to a '97 Grand Am anyway. Crutchfield doesn’t seem to think so. All they list is a wiring harness adapter for $9.99. If another part was needed to ensure proper operation of the SRS system, it would be listed or a disclaimer would appear on the page. They’re pretty reputable.

In my fiance’s '99 Grand Am, the chime doesn’t sound through the speakers. Still gotta look at those wiring diagrams, though.


Well, does the open door chime come out of the stereo? I think it’s not impossible-- the trend with newer cars has been towards the “entertainment systems” integrating with pretty much everything which makes it pretty difficult to put in an aftermarket stereo. I would think a 1997 Pontiac probably just has a regular old radio, though.

One other thing I would mention is that the stock radio on Pontiacs are usually pretty darn good. Does your son just want to rattle all the windows in the neighborhood, or is the stock stereo really not sounding good? If the latter, there may be something wrong with it. I don’t think stereo equipment in the price range you’re mentioning will really sound significantly better than the stock stuff on this car.




OK…thanks for all the replies… I have learned:

  1. There is no way i should buy a car stereo for the car as I could invest in the stock market and have loads of money for my son’s retirement.

  2. It was a load of bull I was hearing from the “tech” at Best Buy. I will check out Circuit City as they are nearby.

  3. Having him live with the factory sound may be good enough (even if he can’t connect his I-pod).

My son and I went for a drive tonight… He is probably just going to live with the sound he has now OR we’ll wind up doing the install ourselves. Thanks for the insights Cartalk community!


(even if he can’t connect his I-pod)

He should be able to connect it with one of the radio transmitter type connectors. They don’t get wired in and just broadcast to the car’s radio at low power. I got one for $20.00 they go up to about $100.00 depending on features and quality.


Those wireless FM modulators are very iffy, and sound quality isn’t good. A cassette adapter would be better (if the car has a cassette deck), a hard-wired FM modulator best of all. I bought one for around $30.


Here’s my take- it doesn’t interfere with the operation of the SRS but it might interrupt the alarm annunciation. That would spell liability for any business that installed a stereo that could not pass the alarm tones through to the speakers. So they will not do it without the special mixer.


Just a thought, keep the OEM stereo and upgrade the speakers only. Crutchfield supplies speaker adapters that plug into the factory connectors making hook up easier.

When I had to replace the speakers in my 2000 Blazer, but kept the factory radio (similar to the one in the Grand Am),the sound quality was much improved. I’ll replace the stereo with an aftermarket unit when the CD player quits working (it’s a little flakey these days), but not before.

Ed B.


The unit in the car is a AM/FM/CD player… I now recall that the previous owner told me he hit the junkyard and switched out the original radio (AM/FM/Cassette player) for the current unit. (I bet he didn’t spend $100 for the “mixer”…)

I will check out Crutchfield…

I have discovered that the rear speakers have no juice. Am thinking now I can give the system a tune-up by hooking up the rears. The fronts have some pretty good thump and slap – certainly enough for me. (I can’t stand “boom cars”.) It looks like our headache will be to disassemble the dash to get at the radio connections

I’ll follow the advice to borrow/purchase a Haynes manual.

If we get the rears going and he still isn’t satisfied, he can look into the new speakers as suggested.



Here’s a link to the Autozone repair guide for 85 to 98 Grand Am’s.

Ed B.


I use an FM modulator and have found the best way to get good sound quality is to:

-Lower your radio intenna. This way the FM modulator doesn’t have to compete with outside radio waves.

-Remove the batteries form the modulator and plug it into the power outlet. You can find universal 12 volt adapters that will work. This way you won’t ever be running on depleated batteries.

-Place the FM modulator right in front of or next to the radio on the dashboard. The best way to do this is with velcro strips.

You will need to experiment to find a frequency that gives the best quality. Sirius satellite radio’s web site ( has a tool that will let you enter your zip code and will give you a list of frequencies that will work best in your area. The direct link to Sirius’ frequency finder is If you follow these steps, the sound qulaity should be as good as what you normally experience from the FM stations in your area.