1998-2004 Toyota Tacoma
Upgrading the stereo system in your Tacoma
1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004
In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Tacoma's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. Use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your truck.
Overview of the Toyota Tacoma
The all-new-for-1998 Toyota Tacoma was a big moment in Toyota truck history. For one thing, it had a snazzy new name, with "Tacoma" replacing the venerable "Hi-Lux" and its rather unimaginative successor, "Pickup." For another thing, it was specifically designed to appeal to the work/play/look-cool needs of the North American market.
And appeal it did. Toyota sold a ton of these trucks to a lot of thoroughly satisfied people. And judging by the number of Tacomas still running around all over the continent, there's still a lot of appeal left in them. Makes sense to us. The Tacoma comes in a handy, practical size, it doesn't suck down massive amounts of fuel, and it's a Toyota, so as long as you do basic maintenance and don't drive off the side of a mountain, your truck should run until there's no fuel left on Earth and we're all fighting animals for food.
The factory stereo systems, while a huge improvement over anything seen in a Toyota truck to that point, are just plain old now. A receiver and speaker upgrade will make your old truck sound as good as new. Well, when you crank the music up, anyway!
Replacing the factory radio will give you better sound and more functionality (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Factory stereo system
At this point in time, the best that can be said of your Tacoma's stock stereo is that it makes noises and blends into the dash nicely. In terms of functionality, it might as well be a Victrola. Happily, a variety of very cool single-DIN (2" tall) and double-DIN (4" tall) receivers will fit in the dash and bring your entertainment up to 21st century standards.
That said, some people won't want to replace the stock stereo unless absolutely necessary. If you're one of them, there are adapters that will allow you to use your smartphone as a music source.
If your truck has a 2-channel factory stereo (only has front speakers) and you're adding new rear speakers, you'll need to switch it to 4-channel mode. The switch is located directly above the screw that secures the left side of the dash pocket below the radio. This small, white switch is recessed into a slit on the radio chassis. To change modes, just push the switch towards the back of the radio.
The radio's appearance changed a bit over the years, but the removal and replacement instructions are the same througout.
You can let this panel hang while you replace the radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing your Tacoma's factory radio
Before you start working on your truck's radio, set the parking brake and disconnect the negative battery cable to prevent electrical shorts and other unpleasantness.
Once that’s done, you're ready to get to work. Press in the center pins of the retaining clips found on the power accessory panel, then use a panel tool to pry out the clips and pull back the panel. You don't have to remove it altogether, just pull it back and let it stay.
Remove the ashtray, then remove one Phillips screw from the rear of the ashtray cavity. Next, pull off the climate control knobs and carefully pry off the climate control trim panel. That'll expose two Phillips screws on the receiver trim panel, and you'll need to remove those. The panel and knobs changed a bit over the years, but the process is the same on all of these trucks.
Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions
Pull the receiver trim panel from the dash to release the retaining clips, then move the panel out of the way — without disconnecting the air bag switch harness. The air bag switch harness should not be disconnected under any cirumstances.
From here, just remove four Phillips screws securing the stock radio/pocket assembly, pull the whole thing out and disconnect the radio harness. Once the receiver's out, remove the four Phillips screws (two on each side) securing the side brackets to the radio.
Be careful here, because the first step towards installing the new receiver is attaching these brackets to it. Don't get over-enthusiastic and damage the bracket. Oh, and if for some reason the factory bracket isn't there anymore, you can find a new one online or at a dealership.
The rest of installing the new receiver is basically everything you just did, but in reverse. Complete instructions can be found in the Crutchfield MasterSheet that's included free with your stereo purchase.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, flat-blade screwdriver, panel tool
The woofers and tweeters (shown) can be replaced by a variety of component speaker sets (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing your Tacoma's factory speakers
Replacing the door speakers is pretty simple for the most part, but there can be some mildly challenging parts, depending on model year and configuration. One size does not fit all here, but when you enter your vehicle information, our speaker-fit tool will make sure you're looking at the right speakers for your truck.
Earlier trucks were available with manual or power windows (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the door speakers (1998-2000 models)
On the 1998-2000 model year trucks, speaker replacement isn't difficult, but the front door procedure will vary depending on whether your truck has manual or power windows. If you have manuals, you'll need a shop rag to remove the crank. If you have power windows, you'll need to disconnect and remove the power options switch panel, which isn't hard to do.
The factory woofers can be replaced with 6-3/4", 6-1/2", or 5-1/4" models, but you'll need mounting brackets for the smaller ones. No worries, they're included with your Crutchfield speaker purchase.
You will need to drill new mounting holes to install your new speakers. If you're a reasonably skilled DIY-er, this is not a problem, but you're still drilling holes into your truck, so take the job seriously. Be aware of what's around the area you’re drilling into, work carefully, and always, always wear eye protection.
The complete, step-by-step speaker removal details for these trucks can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet. Once your speakers are installed, be sure to test them and make sure they're working before you put the doors back together. You should also double-check the windows and locks to be sure nothing is interfering with their operation.
If your 1998-2000 Tacoma didn’t come with factory speakers, you'll need to purchase a large plastic, factory bracket. This bracket is only available with speakers attached, so you'll then have to separate the two. Not hard, but annoying. Check with your local dealer for details and pricing.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, flat-blade screwdriver, panel tool, shop rag, drill and 1/8" bit
You'll need to remove the door panels to get to the factory speakers (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the front door speakers (2001-2004 Double, Standard, and Xtra Cabs)
The Tacoma was updated a bit in 2001, and the '01-'04 models sport component speakers in the front doors. The tweeters are wired in parallel with the woofers, so this is a great spot for aftermarket component speakers.
The stock speaker array consists of 6"x8" woofers and tweeters that are just a hair or so over 1-1/2" in diameter. Plenty of replacement speakers will work in these locations, so you have a good assortment to choose from.
For the woofers, same-size or 5-1/4" models will work, but you may have to cut out the plastic material in the speaker opening to create space for a new 6"x8" woofer. If you choose 5-1/4" models, you'll need mounting brackets, which are included with your Crutchfield speaker purchase.
In either case, there isn't a wiring harness that works here, so you'll need to connect the new gear to the factory wiring system using Posi-Products speaker connectors. They're a lot easier than splicing and you'll get a much more durable connection.
You'll have to remove the door panels to get to these speakers, which isn't a huge deal, but will require care and patience on your part. And if you have to do any cutting to make the speakers fit, be sure to wear eye protection while you're doing it.
As for the tweeters, most component tweeters will work, but you may need to use a universal backstrap (or hot glue or silicone) to secure them.
As always, complete, step-by-step woofer and tweeter removal details can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, flat-blade screwdriver, panel tool, hacksaw
Replacing these 6"x8" rear door speakers is a pretty painless process (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear door speakers (2001-2004 Double Cab)
The rear door speakers found in the 2001-2004 Double Cab are 6"x8" models that can be replaced by same-size aftermarket speakers or, with help from mounting brackets, 5-1/4" models.
You'll need to remove the door panels here, too, a process that begins with removing a Phillips screw from the door release assembly and sliding the assembly toward the front of the door. You can let it hang there while you proceed with the rest of the job.
Carefully (we mean it, they can break) pry up the armrest to release six plastic clips, then remove the armrest and remove the two exposed Phillips screws. Seriously, these clips are brittle, so don't go full Neanderthal on this task.
Pry out the sides and bottom of the door panel to release seven retaining clips. Lift the panel, then work the door release assembly through the opening in the panel and disconnect the wiring harness. Remove the door panel and store it someplace safe and out of the way.
Remove the four Phillips screws securing the speaker to the factory bracket, then pull out the old speaker, and disconnect the harness. And keep those screws organized, too. You'll need them again later!
You may need to cut out the plastic in these speaker cavities, too, so work carefully and wear eye protection. Our website will let you know in advance if you need to do this, but a quick test-fit during the installation will confirm it for sure.
From here, it's just a matter of installing the new speakers. Use the wiring harnesses (included with your Crutchfield order) to connect the new speakers to the trucks wiring connectors and then mount the speaker using the same screws you just removed. When you're done, test 'em out, check the locks and windows, and if all is well, start re-installing the panels.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool, hacksaw
If you have rear speakers in your Xtra Cab, adding new ones is pretty simple (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear side speakers (1998-2001 Xtra Cab)
If your 1998-2001 Tacoma Xtra Cab has rear side panel speakers, they are pretty easy to replace. Most of the time, the originals are 6-3/4" models and can be replaced with same-size, 5-1/4" or 6-1/2" aftermarket speakers. Later models have 6"x8" speakers which can be replaced with the same size or 5-1/4" speakers. Our advisors or vehicle selector will let you know which new speakers will fit.
You'll need mounting brackets for the smaller sizes, and they're included with your Crutchfield speaker purchase. So are wiring harnesses. All you need to do here is remove the grille, remove the speaker, and install the new one. Easy peasy.
If your truck doesn't have stock speakers back here, it's a totally different deal. You'll need to fabricate something to secure the speakers in the cavities currently occupied by storage cubbies, then you'll need to drill holes to mount the bracket. This is do-able, but it will take some skill – either on your part or on the part of your local car audio shop
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool
Replacing the rear side speakers on the newer trucks is a bit more involved (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the rear side speakers (2002-2004 Xtra Cab)
The 2002-2004 Xtra Cabs are a little more complicated when it comes to replacing the rear side speakers. None of the work is hard, mind you, but there is a decent amount of it and you'll need to stay organized – and patient.
You can replace these 6"x8" speakers with same-size or 5-1/4" aftermarket models, and the effort will be worth it. Complete details can be found in your Crutchfield MasterSheet. You'll need to do some work with the rear seats and seat belts, so after you test the speakers and start buttoning everything up again, make sure these important things are re-installed properly and functioning as they should.
Tools needed: Phillips screwdriver, panel tool, 12mm and 14mm sockets, ratchet, and extension
Bass in your Tacoma
Adding bass to any pickup can be challenging, and the smaller the truck, the bigger the challenge. Tacoma owners do have some options, however.
Adding bass to 1998-2000 Tacomas
There's not much room for a subwoofer box in the Regular Cab trucks, but if you can fit something into a 45" W x 16" H x 2"/6" D space, go for it. Those measurements were taken with the seat in the far back position, and with the jack removed. Speaking of which, removing the jack requires removing the jack hold-down bracket. This bracket is welded in place, so you'll have to cut it out, which is not an easy job. But if you don't do it, the enclosure width is limited to 33". For obvious reasons, we suggest that you look into compact powered subwoofers.
Xtra Cab trucks give you some more room to work with. The theoretical subwoofer enclosure space measures 51" W x 18-1/2" H x 14"/19" D. Those measurements were also taken with the seat in the far back position, and the height measurement is to the bottom of the side windows.
The custom-fit option for these trucks is a JL Audio Stealthbox with a 10" sub in a sealed, down-firing enclosure. This enclosure fits between the rear jump seats.
Adding bass to 2001-2004 Tacomas
For the later trucks, the options are very similar, but pretty much nothing other than a compact powered sub will work in the Double Cab.
Regular Cab owners should look into powered subs for these models, too.
In the Extended Cab trucks, your best option is the same JL Audio Stealthbox (see above) that also fits the earlier Tacomas.
Other options for your Tacoma
There are lots of things you can do to improve the performance and comfort of your Tacoma. Here are a few ways Crutchfield can help.
Get there more easily with GPS Navigation
You can still get aftermarket nav functionality without installing a touchscreen nav receiver in your car's dash. A portable GPS unit will mount on your dash and give you turn-by-turn directions, traffic updates, and everything you need to make your road trip go smoothly. Plus, when you get to where you're going, you can put your GPS in your pocket and use it to find points of interest wherever you are.
Add more speakers with kick panel pods
If you really want to improve the sound in your Tacoma, install a set of Q-Forms Kick Panel Pods. These unloaded, custom-fit speaker enclosures fit into the space where your kick panels are now. They hold a set of 6-1/2" component speakers in an ideal position that maximizes sound quality. They're available in a variety of colors to match your truck's interior, so they'll look as good as they sound. Installation takes some work, but it's not beyond the realm of an experienced DIY-er. Enter your truck info to find what fits your Tacoma.
Protect your floorboard with high-quality floor mats
Driving a truck eventually leads to getting out in the mud and doing truck-type things. That can really take a toll on your Tacoma's carpeting, so do what you can to keep them looking good. WeatherTech floor mats and liners will help protect your truck's floors from dirt and damage.
Add a car security system to protect your truck and belongings
Installing a security system in the Tacoma isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's less complicated than it could be. Our Crutchfield Advisors can help figure out what you need to get the job done, but we usually recommend taking your car and new gear to a professional security system installer.
Find the audio gear that fits your car or truck
Visit our Outfit My Car page and enter your vehicle information to see stereos, speakers, subs, and other audio accessories that will work in your vehicle.