Installing an after-market speaker system in the bed of your truck can be a great way to improve your audio output and sound quality, not only when driving but also when hanging out and socializing with other music lovers.
There are many ways to set up speakers in different cars, but how should you install speakers in a truck bed?
As a general rule, to install speakers in a truck bed, you need to make an enclosure to house the speakers and place it firmly on the truck bed. Another way of installing speakers is to mount them to the bar on top of the truck bed.
Tip: Regardless of how you want to install speakers on your truck, remember that speakers should be water-resistant. Otherwise, the cones or surroundings can get damaged in no time from moisture or dust.
My favorite waterproof speakers you can use in your truck are Polk Audio DB692, or when you want to place them on the roll bar, use Rockville WB65KLED. You can choose an option with LED lights that play great and look amazing after sunset.
In this article, I will be going over some of the different ways of setting up speakers in the truck’s bed and what modifications each method needs.
Installing Speakers in a Truck Bed: A Brief Overview
In the same way as every truck bed, every audio system is different. Therefore, you have to consider many variables in your speaker system before actually purchasing the first parts of the equipment.
A speaker system may consist of an amplifier, one or multiple speakers/subwoofers/tweeters, a dashboard deck, and a control or toggle switch.
All of these things should be accounted for when planning your layout. You must then take a look at the physical design of your truck bed. The shape and the space available will also come to affect which method of installation you ultimately settle on.
Generally speaking, there are two different primary methods of installing speakers in your truck bed: an internal and an external setup.
What I mean by internal speakers, as it pertains to a truck bed, is that the speakers are installed directly into the sidewalls, tailgate, or back cab wall of the truck bed. While I do not typically recommend an internal installation, it may be advantageous in certain instances.
Generally, the internal speaker mounting approach is not my favorite because it requires modifications to your truck and is inconvenient instead of speakers mounted in the enclosures. It is always preferable to avoid hacking up your truck as much as possible.
However, you may already have internally mounted speakers in your truck bed from the manufacturer in some instances. In that case, it will be straightforward and convenient to simply swap them out and replace them with a better quality system and call it a day.
Another problem with an internal mounting is that it is much harder to do the wiring through to the cab this way.
The much more popular approach, and the method I recommend, is the external speaker truck bed setup.
This way, external speakers are mounted into the truck bed customized cabinets or enclosures.
There are many different ways that people may go about an external setup, as this style allows for a much greater range of creative designs than does a system that is directly mounted into the bed’s sidewalls.
However, some rules and guidelines must always be adhered to regardless of how you design the system.
If you are not mounting the speakers directly into the truck’s body, you will need a box to house them. In the speaker world, this is known as a “cabinet,” “box,” or an “enclosure.”
When it comes to the cabinets, there are two ways:
- you can purchase complete cabinets from a retail supplier, or
- they can be homemade and more customized for your individual needs
Homemade cabinets are not overly difficult to fabricate, and building them yourself allows you to fit them into your bed in the best way possible.
How Do You Make a Homemade Speaker Box?
Your speaker cabinet’s size and shape will depend on the size and number of speakers it will be housing, but the main thing is that the box’s enclosure is sealed and as close to being airtight as possible.
If there are too many places for the sound to escape from your cabinet, it will create a power leakage, reducing your speaker’s output.
For the sake of simplicity, I recommend you build your cabinet to be square or rectangular as opposed to having angled sides.
Although such a cabinet may look very simple and not so modern, it will be easier to ensure everything lines up ideally and fits together evenly.
To build a speaker cabinet for your truck bed, you will need the following tools and supplies. If you do not have these tools, I added links to my favorite items I have in my garage.
- Wood glue
- Wood screws
- Nail gun
- Electric drill
- Table saw/skill saw
- Geometric compass
If you are unsure of the dimensions of the cabinet required to house your speaker, this speaker box enclosure calculator will allow you to enter your speaker’s specs and provide you with the most accurate sizing for the job.
Once you are equipped with everything you need for the job, it’s time to put it all together. Here are the steps:
Measure your cuts according to your plans.
With your pencil and ruler, measure your six pieces and mark where they are to be cut. Do not measure and mark a mounting hole on the front face of your cabinet. This will come later.
Cut the panels out using a table or skill saw.
At this point in the process, you should have all the sides of your box cut out and ready to be put together.
Begin assembling the cabinet by using your nail gun to tack the pieces together one at a time.
Leave the front of the box, which will remain open for now. Make sure each edge and corner lines up flush. The nails simply hold everything in place and keep it straight while you put in your screws, which will pull everything in tight and secure it.
Leave the front wall of the box off at this time.
Do not close the box because we need it open to glue it.
With your wood glue, form a seal along every seam and corner on the inside of the box.
This will help ensure that the finished product remains airtight.
Trace out the mounting hole on the front piece of your cabinet, according to the size of the speaker.
Do this by using your compass and pencil. You can get the specs from the instructions on the box in which the speakers came in when you purchased them.
Cut out a mounting hole in the front face.
- Use your electric drill to make a starter hole in the center of your drawn circle, and then insert your jigsaw blade into said hole and cut out the circle. The blade will fit into the hole, and you should maneuver the saw to the necessary cut marks.
- Mount your speaker(s) to the front piece of the cabinet.
- Drill a small hole in the back or side of your cabinet where you will feed the wire through.
- Screw the front on to enclose the box, and you’re all finished.
Many speakers will come with box size dimensions and requirements in their manual upon purchase, but many free blueprints are available online if that is not sufficient.
How to Mount a Speaker Enclosure in the Truck Bed?
Now that you have your speaker cabinet fully assembled, it must be appropriately mounted in your truck bed. There are a few reasons why the cabinet should be braced in the truck bed securely:
- You do not want your cabinet bouncing around and sliding in the back of your truck while you’re driving. Not only can this damage your speakers and ruin your sound quality, but it also poses a potential risk to other drivers on the road.
- To prevent theft. Quality speaker systems are, unfortunately, often the target of petty thieves. Having your box firmly mounted into your truck bed will make it impossible for thieves to simply lift your box out and make off with it.
The best way to mount a cabinet in your truck bed is to screw it to the floors and back cab of your truck using multiple heavy-duty metal 90° angle brackets.
If it’s tightly braced in the truck, it won’t move around as you drive, and it will deter the overwhelming majority of would-be thieves from stealing your property.
Alternative Ideas for Installing Truck Bed Speakers
Fabricating a wooden cabinet is by no means the only way to install speakers in your bed. Few alternative methods are relatively common and have reportedly had very positive results.
Place Speakers in Truck Bed Utility Box
One popular alternative method is to mount your speakers into a truck bed utility box.
Utility, or toolboxes, are boxes that sit in the bed of pickup trucks to store tools and other miscellaneous items like gas canisters and camping goods. These are made from either steel or heavy-duty plastic.
It is possible to house your speakers in a truck bed utility box by cutting a hole and sealing the speakers in. For more on this method, see this article by Instructables.com.
Place Speakers in Undercover Swing Case
An undercover swing case is like a truck bed utility box but much smaller and designed to contour to the wheel well of your truck.
These are an excellent subtle option for housing a single, small to the mid-sized speaker.
Mount Speakers on the Truck Roll Bar
This third alternative method is growing immensely in popularity. Many audio enthusiasts have begun to mount marine speakers directly to the roll bar in the back of their trucks.
This saves the work of building a box or modifying your bed, but it requires that your truck has a roll bar and that the speakers you use are designed to be mounted and produce output without a casing.
Choosing the speakers for the roll bar is not a difficult task. There are many outdoor or marine-type speakers available that will produce perfect and strong sounds. My favorite is the Rockville WB65KLED, in which, thanks to the included LED lights, you can adjust colors and really enjoy party time.
How to Wire Speakers on a Truck Bed
With your cabinet assembled and mounted in the truck, it’s now time to wire the speaker system up to your deck so that it may be used and operated.
Running the wires from your newly installed bed speakers to the deck is a relatively simple process, but you must consider a few things before you begin.
For a heavy-duty sound system, you will likely require a heavier gauge of wire. If the wires are too thin and light, it may overload the system and short it out, or at the very least diminish the sound quality. You will also more than likely require an amp.
When setting up a high-capacity sound system in your truck, it is always advisable to use a second 12V battery rather than drawing power from the vehicle’s main battery and alternator. Here are the steps:
- Wire your second battery in parallel with your first.
- Hook up both batteries to a battery isolator, and place an additional fuse box for the second battery.
- Connect your amplifier to the fuse box, as well as the deck.
- Be sure to ground your amplifier by firmly screwing the ground wire to a bare and unpainted metal part of your truck.
- Your speakers and subwoofers will now be tied into the amp. A 4-channel amplifier can support four speakers or one pair of speakers and a subwoofer.
- Mount the amplifier wherever is most convenient. Make sure that the amplifier is placed inside the cabin.
- Run your wires in a way where they are hidden and won’t get in the way.
Wiring Color Scheme for Speakers
Practically all speakers will come with a manual that features a labeled diagram of what every wire color is and what it does. Use this diagram to hook up the speakers and receiver to their corresponding wires.
If you are still confused, or in the odd event that you do not have a wiring diagram available, this article by Wikihow will provide a detailed yet easy-to-follow guide for connecting the wires correctly.
Refer to it if you have any questions regarding the specific diagram.
Toggle Switch/Controls for Truck Speakers
The last point to mention in regards to wiring your truck bed speakers is the toggle controls. These are a common feature of truck bed speakers because they allow the user to instantly switch between the truck bed speakers and the truck’s internal speakers.
The possibilities of a toggle switch are endless. They can be set up to control any individual speaker, which grants you total control over your audio system.
The toggle switch stands between either the head unit and the amp or between the speakers and the amp and splits the signals coming out of the amp, allowing you to choose which speakers you will like to enable.
You can purchase toggle switch boxes that are ready to be hooked up and mounted to your dash almost immediately, or you can buy generic 12V switches and use a more manual approach. Either way, the result is the same.
In writing this article, I shared the simplest and most convenient way to install speakers in a truck bed.
Ideally, your truck bed speakers must be housed in a speaker cabinet and mounted in the bed to secure them in place. Wire the bed speakers through an amplifier for the best sound quality, and always make sure your stereo amplifier is grounded to bare metal.
Connect the amp to the receiver and a fuse, and implement a second battery for powering a heavy-duty sound system.