1998-2010 Volkswagen Beetle
How to upgrade the stereo system in your Beetle
In brief: This Crutchfield Research Garage article gives you an overview of your Beetle's stock stereo system and your aftermarket upgrade options. We'll tell you all about:
- The factory stereo system
- Removing the factory radio
- Removing the factory speakers
- Adding more bass
- Other options for your Beetle
Then, use our vehicle selector to find the gear that will fit your vehicle.
Overview of the Volkswagen Beetle
Designed to capitalize on the immense popularity of the original VW Beetle, the New Beetle made its bubble-topped debut in 1998. The vehicle remained largely unchanged throughout its production run, which lasted until 2010, when it was finally retired and replaced by an all-new design. The New Beetle was available in two flavors – coupe and convertible.
The standard Beetle radio (Crutchfield Research Photo)
The factory stereo system
The Beetle was also available with two different audio systems. The standard audio system included an AM/FM/cassette player with 6 speakers.
The upgraded system included an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capabilities and an auxiliary dash input, as well as a 10-speaker Monsoon Sound System. The Monsoon system was not available in the 98-99 models.
If you’re in the market to upgrade your Beetle’s sound system, the good news is that a number of very cool receivers are available. Radios with fold-down faces are not recommended for this car, but a lot of single-DIN receivers will work nicely. Replacing the speakers can be a challenge, particularly if you’re upgrading the Monsoon System.
The Monsoon stereo (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Removing the factory radio
Whether you have the standard system or the Monsoon system, replacing the receiver is the same process. The difference comes into play when replacing the speakers in the Monsoon system. We'll cover that below.
Important note: If you remove the receiver while the security system is armed, it will disable the starter on the car. To disarm the system, put the master key into the driver’s side door, turn it to lock, and then unlock the door.
To start the receiver replacement process, you’ll need a pair of VW OEM radio removal tools (which are available with most stereo purchases from Crutchfield). Slide the two VW radio removal tools into the slots on the right and left side of the factory receiver. Gently push the tools in until you hear a click. The click is the sound of the system unlocking.
Pull the tools out slowly, and the receiver will come with them. Hold the receiver with one hand and disconnect the wire harness and antenna cable from the rear of the unit. Remove the two T-15 Torx bolts from the interior mounting bracket.
Detailed stereo and speaker removal instructions
Install your new receiver mounting bracket and attach the two T-15 Torx bolts, then insert and secure the receiver's metal mounting sleeve. Next, connect the wiring adapter harness to the new receiver's wires; this will let you plug the new stereo into the Beetle's stereo connector.
The Beetle uses a non-standard antenna connection, so you'll need an adapter for that, too. This antenna adapter also has a wire that needs to be connected to the new receiver's power antenna wire. These two wiring adapters and the mounting kit are available at a deep discount with most stereo purchases from Crutchfield.
Plug in the antenna adapter and the wiring harness, slide the receiver into the sleeve, and test the stereo to ensure it works. If the new unit operates correctly, install it in the dash and snap the stereo's trim ring into place.
This is a tight space, and installing a new stereo can be frustrating. According to one of our expert installers, the key is to feed the factory harness back into the radio cavity, with the adapter harness connected. It’s a tight fit, but it will go back in there. Once the harness is tucked into the dash cavity, leave just enough length to connect the new radio to its harness. Make sure the harness is neatly bundled, too, because there's no room to jam an unruly nest of wires into this space. This will take some patience, of course, but it's do-able.
Note: If your Beetle is equipped with OnStar, you might lose that feature when you install a new aftermarket receiver.
Tools needed: VW OEM radio removal tools, Torx driver and T-15 Torx bit, small flat-blade screwdriver
Read our Car Stereo Buying Guide for shopping tips and advice.
Removing the factory speakers
The degree of difficulty involved in replacing your Beetle's speakers depends on which factory system you're working with.
Standard system speakers
The standard stereo system has six speakers, located in the doors, front pillars, and rear panels. See below for details on the Monsoon system.
Front door speaker (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Door speakers: You can choose from many 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers to replace the factory speakers. You'll need a mounting bracket and wiring adapter for each speaker, and these are available at a discounted price when you purchase your speakers from Crutchfield.
Getting to the door speakers requires that you remove the door panels. Start by removing the cover for the door handle, then remove the two Phillips head screws holding the door pull in place. Depending on the model year of your Beetle, you'll remove either two or three T-20 screws at the bottom of the panel.
Starting from the bottom of the door panel and working up both sides, pry the panel away from the door using a panel tool. You'll be releasing six retaining clips as you work around the door. Once the clips are released, lift off the door panel. Remove the door release cable and disconnect the wiring harness, then set aside the door panel.
The speakers are riveted in place, so you'll have to drill out the rivets and then drill new screw holes for your new speakers. This might sound daunting, but if you take your time and drill carefully, it'll be smooth sailing. Drill out the rivets that hold the speaker assembly in place using a 3/8" bit. Be sure to work carefully and wear eye protection when you do this.
Next, pull the assembly away from the door, disconnect the wiring harness, then remove the remains of any rivets with the nail punch. Attach the new speaker to the mounting bracket and use this assembly to mark the spots for the new mounting holes, and then drill them out using a 1/8" bit. Put it all back together by reversing the directions above.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, Torx driver and T-20 Torx bit, drill and 1/8" and 3/8" bits, nail punch
The tweeter, still attached to the pillar trim (Crutchfield Research Photo)
"A" pillar speakers: The VW Beetle has small tweeters mounted on the A-pillars. To replace these small speakers, you will need to release the three plastic clips that run the length of the pillar trim cover and then pull the pillar cover tabs (two at the bottom) loose. Disconnect the wiring harness from the tweeter. You’ll need to drill out the rivets holding the speakers in place and then replace them.
To mount them, you'll need a set of our universal backstraps and to connect them, you'll want to use Posi-Products connectors. Otherwise, you'll have to fabricate your own bracket and splice into the factory wiring.
Rear speakers (coupe): The factory speaker size is 6-3/4" and most aftermarket speakers that size will fit the location. You can also use a 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speaker with the help of a mounting bracket. This bracket and the necessary wiring adapter are included free from Crutchfield.
The rear speaker location in the coupe (Crutchfield Research Photo)
Replacing the rear speakers in the Beetle coupe is relatively straightforward. You’ll need to release six plastic retaining clips and one metal clip by prying along the side and bottom of the rear side trim panel. Once the clips are released, lift the panel out of the way. You can fold the seat down flat to get better access to the back corner.
Once the panel is out of the way, remove the four Phillips head screws holding the speaker assembly in place, and disconnect the wiring harness. Remove the factory speaker, then install your new speaker and connect the wiring harness. Reverse the steps above to replace the trim panel.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver
Rear speakers (convertible): Replacing the rear speakers on the VW Beetle convertible requires a bit more effort than the coupe. The factory speaker size in the convertible is also 6-3/4", but in this case, mounting depth is more limited, so not many replacement speakers of this size will fit. As with the coupe, you can go with 6-1/2" or 5-1/4" speakers instead, and use a mounting bracket to make them fit properly.
The first step is to open the top, then fold the rear seat bottom cushion and remove it. Both headrests will also have to be removed. At the edge of the seat back cushion, you’ll find three 6mm Allen screws that must be removed. Remove the trunk access panel and then the rear seat back cushion. There is one 10mm nut that must be removed at the top rear of the rear side panel.
Now, remove the rear side panel by releasing the retaining clips (pry out at the front bottom edge). Do the same for the rear edge and then pull the panel out. You’ll need to remove the cable end, as well as the cable end stud to the convertible top cover, then disconnect the flap motor and tweeter harness.
There are four T-20 Torx screws holding the speaker in place, and you’ll need to remove these. Pull out the assembly, disconnect the speaker and replace it with your new speaker. Follow these steps in reverse to reinstall the trim panels, top cover cable and seat cushions/backs.
Tools needed: Panel tool, Phillips screwdriver, 10mm socket plus a ratchet and extension, 6mm Allen wrench, Torx driver and T-20 Torx bit
Monsoon system speakers
The Monsoon system adds several challenges to the process of speaker replacement. The speaker configuration is similar to the standard system, with the addition of two sets of tweeter-and-woofer components in the dash. All of the speakers are powered by a Monsoon amplifier located in the rear cargo area. Overall, replacing any of the front speakers will be difficult.
Also note that if you replace the Monsoon system's low-impedance speakers with standard 4-ohm speakers, you'll notice a real loss of volume. Keep this in mind when you're shopping for speakers.
Door speakers: The doors hold 8" woofers that are riveted in place. You'll need to fabricate some brackets to mount standard-sized speakesr in this location. This speaker only receives bass frequencies, so when you replace it, the new speaker will only produce bass.
Dash speakers in the Monsoon system (Crutchfield Research Photo)
"A" pillar speakers: Notes for these tweeters are the same as in the standard speaker system. They're easy to get to, but hard to replace.
Dash speakers: The dash speaker location contains a set of separates (a tweeter and midrange woofer) on each side of the dash, near the corner. Getting to them is easy, but replacement will require some work and you'll need to create custom brackets or use a set of our universal backstraps.
Finding new speakers to fit the location will also be challenging. The factory 3" woofer and 1.34" tweeter are located in very shallow spaces. The woofer's available clearance is only 1-3/8" deep and the mounting height is a mere 1/4". Like the tweeters in the A-pillar, you're better off just leaving these alone.
Rear speakers: Replacing the rear speakers in the Monsoon system is just like replacing those in the standard system. Mounting brackets and adapter harnesses are available for this location, and you can choose from 6-3/4", 6-1/2", or 5-1/4" sizes.
All things considered, replacing the speakers in Beetles with the Monsoon system will be more challenging than it would be in most other vehicles. Non-standard sizes and arrangements are the biggest hurdle.
Read our Car Speakers Buying Guide for more information
Bass in your VW Beetle
Space in the back of the Beetle is tight, but there is certainly room for a very small subwoofer box or a powered subwoofer back there.
Learn more about building a bass system in our Car Subwoofer Buying Guide
Protect your Beetle's carpeting with custom-fit WeatherTech floor liners
Other options for your Beetle
Here are some other upgrade ideas for your Beetle:
Protect the carpeting
Daily life has a way of destroying factory carpeting, even if you're careful. Floor mats and cargo mats from WeatherTech will help protect your floors from dirt and damage.
Add iPod and auxiliary input adapters
If you intend to keep your factory stereo, but would like to add an iPod connection or an auxiliary input, there are adapters available. You'll still need to remove the stereo in order to connect either of these adapters, so just follow the process outlined above.
Step up your security
Installing a security system in your Beetle isn't easy (security systems rarely are), but it's definitely a good idea. 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 installer.