Upgrade Your 2nd/3rd Gen Tacoma’s Non-JBL Audio With This Relatively Cheap and Easy Mod: Step-By-Step DIY Install + Review
It doesn’t take an audiophile to realize that the stock sound system in the 3rd Gen Tacomas is not the greatest – there’s a lot of room for improvement. While newer vehicles have come a long way as far as stock sound systems are concerned, there’s still quite a bit left to be desired.
Quite possibly the easiest and biggest bang-for-your-buck audio upgrade is switching out the bland stock tweeters for some Subaru Kicker tweeters. Doing this mod will provide a much clearer upper range for your truck’s audio.
You might be asking yourself, what exactly am I installing? Are these tweeters off of a Subaru? Will they fit? Do I need to do any wiring?
The simple answer is that these are tweeters by Kicker, for Subarus, that fit (without modification or wiring) your 3rd Gen Tacoma. If you’re wondering, these tweeters also fit the 2nd Gen Tacoma with minimal modifications.
This is a very common audio upgrade for both the 2nd and 3rd Gen Tacoma.
Let’s jump in!
What Are Tweeters?
Tweeters are the smallest speakers in your truck. In the 3rd Gen Tacoma, they are located at the front corners of the dashboard on both the driver and passenger side.
These are the audio drivers that produce the treble of the audio you’re listening to. They emit the higher frequency sound waves, which is why they’re the smallest speakers in the truck. Higher frequency = smaller wavelength. That’s physics.
Ever noticed your music sounding too sharp and screechy to your ears? Treble is the most likely culprit. Without good treble, your music can sound like nails on a chalkboard for those higher frequency sound waves. You can always turn your vehicle’s treble down, but this is undesirable as you will lose a lot of detail in the upper range of the music you are listening to.
What You’ll Need
This install is super simple so the list of tools needed is quite short.
Tools Needed For Install:
- Genuine Subaru H631SFJ101 Tweeter Kit (1 Pair): Check Price
- Small 10mm Socket Wrench
- Small 10mm Wrench (flat)
- Trim Removal Tool or Knife
Step 1. Unplug Battery
Whenever you are touching anything electrical on your truck, you MUST unplug your battery. Disconnect your negative battery terminal before starting. In this case, we are working close to the side curtain airbags. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not want an accidental airbag deployment to the face.
To remove the negative lead on your battery, simply loosen the 10mm bolt to release the clamp. Then shimmy the battery lead off of the battery terminal and tuck it out of the way so that it will not accidentally come into contact with the battery terminal.
Step 2. Remove Driver Side Pillar Trim & Tweeter Cover
Carefully use your trim removal tool or knife to pop out the tab on the driver side pillar.
This tab says “SRS Airbag” on it. After popping out the tab, you will see the 10mm bolt that is holding the trim piece on. Use your 10mm socket wrench to remove this bolt.
Now that the bolt is removed, you can remove the trim. To do this, carefully pull the top of the trim near the headliner. You will hear the plastic tabs pop a little as they leave their housing. After the top of the trim is loose, pull to your right (towards the steering wheel) and in towards yourself. The whole pillar trim piece will come off, revealing the curtain airbag and wiring.
Next, use your trim removal tool to pop up the cover over the tweeter. There are a couple of plastic tabs around the perimeter of the cover. There are a couple of tabs in the back nearest the windshield that slide into the dash. You should be able to pop all of the tabs out and remove the cover by pulling it towards the steering wheel.
Step 3. Remove & Replace Driver Side OEM Tweeter
You should now see the stock tweeter bolted to the dash with two 10mm bolts. Use the 10mm socket wrench to loosen and remove the bolt closest to you. For the further bolt that is near the windshield, use the flat 10mm wrench to loosen and remove.
If you have a small enough socket wrench with a shallow socket, you may be able to use it. However, my socket was too long and wouldn’t fit under the windshield.
Once the two bolts are removed, you can carefully pull the tweeter out a few inches. There is a plug on the rear underside of the tweeter. On the left side of the plug is a tab you will need to press in so that you can pull the plug out of the tweeter.
Plug the Kicker tweeter in with the Kicker logo facing closest to you and bolt it down using the two factory bolts. You can then replace the cover by sliding the back tabs into the dash near the glass and then pressing the tabs on the side and front into their respective slots. Finally, angle the pillar trim back into its spot and bolt down.
4. Remove Passenger Trim & Tweeter Cover
The passenger side is mostly the same process except the pillar has two bolts under the grab handle. To remove the grab handle, pop out the two plastic tabs using your trim removal tool.
You will then see two more 10mm bolts. Loosen these bolts using your socket wrench. If you have a deeper 10mm socket, I’d suggest using it as the bolts are sunk into the pillar a bit more than the driver’s side.
Once the two 10mm bolts are out, you can remove the grab handle and set it aside.
From here, the process is identical to the driver’s side. Remove the pillar trim and the cover that is over the tweeter.
Step 5. Remove & Replace Passenger Side OEM Tweeter
Unbolt the tweeter using the 10mm socket wrench for the bolt closest to you and the 10mm flat wrench for the bolt near the windshield.
Once you pull out the passenger side tweeter, you’ll realize that the tab on the plug is still on the left side, so you’ll need to reach around a little to unplug it. I actually found the passenger side easier to unplug since you have more room to work with.
Install the passenger side tweeter. Again, make sure the Kicker logo is facing you and then plug in and bolt down the new tweeter. Then slide in and push down the cover over the tweeter. Angle the bottom of the pillar trim back in and push the whole trim piece back into place.
Line up the grab handle on the pillar trim and get the bolts started by hand. I tried using my socket wrench to put the bolts back in but found it was easier to put them in by hand and get them started a few threads. From here, simply tighten down the bolts and push back in the plastic covers over the bolts.
Step 6. Reattach Battery Terminal
You can now put the negative battery lead back on the terminal and tighten its clamp using the 10mm socket wrench. Don’t forget to tighten the negative terminal so you don’t experience any problems later on.
It is worth noting that everyone has different hearing and sound preferences, so results may vary. This short review is my personal experience and the difference that I noticed.
When I first started up my Tacoma and began playing a song, I immediately noticed that the sound itself was a bit louder. I only had the volume at about 15, but the Kicker tweeters sounded louder relative to the stock tweeters were at the same volume level.
At a low volume, I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference in sound quality (other than how loud they were) compared to the stock tweeters. But then I turned up the volume…
At louder volumes, the sound is noticeably clearer. I started to hear specific instruments and subtle notes in songs that I hadn’t heard before. My ears have always been pretty sensitive to treble to where I typically turn the treble setting down quite a bit. With the Kicker tweeters, I ended up turning the treble up to normal levels because the audio was coming through much more clearly.
After a couple of weeks with the Kicker tweeters in, I am really enjoying them. I have noticed that the front of the truck is louder than the rear, so you will likely want to mess with the sound settings a bit until it sounds good to you.
I would definitely recommend the Kicker tweeters to Tacoma owners who have noticed that the stock sound system is lackluster.
For more, check out the YouTube video by Rob Damn below!