Speaker Kick Panels

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"Tunes" in the car are important, but where to put the speakers? Most people install them in the doors, cutting a large hole in the door trim panels and running the speaker wires through the forward door post and into the door. Dave decided go the kick panel route for his speakers, mainly because he was loath to ruin the new door trim panels by putting the speakers in the doors. After a little research Dave ordered a pair of fiberglass speak-mounting kick panels from an outfit called Innovations in Fiberglass in Phoenix, Arizona.

While researching the success of others with this question, Dave received a very informative and useful post regarding the installation of speaker kick panels from James W. Lindsay (Sharkey's Garage) in Vancouver, British Columbia. Following is his advice (with a few additions from Dave) -

Fitting speakers in kick panels inside the cabin is far better, for a number of reasons:

  • Slamming your doors causes undue stress on speakers mounted in the doors, usually causing the speaker mounting hardware to loosen up over time (or worse, pull out and/or distort the hardboard that most VW door panels are made of).
  • You don't have to deal with pinched wiring at the leading edge of the door. I've had difficulty getting wiring that runs into the door to stay put and look good, instead of pinching and sticking out of the gap when the door is closed.
  • The speakers are pointed more directly at the passengers inside the car, instead of at the ankles of the front seat occupants.
  • Using speaker kick panels doesn't ruin your door trim.

Test fit the panels into the car first, making any necessary cuts to improve the fit. Next, cut the holes for your speaker(s). When properly installed the panels offer a maximum of 2" mounting depth -- make sure your speakers fall within this!

Once you have the panels ready for carpet, you have two paths to choose from:

  • Pull the carpet back and install the panels in place against the body of the car and carpet over them, then cut a hole through the carpet to match the hole(s) in the panels and install the speakers with the attaching screws running through the carpet and through the panel,
  • or

  • Carpet the panels while they are out of the car (allowing for excess carpet to extend past the edges of the panels) and then install the panels.

The first method is usually the way most people go, but it can be very difficult to get good results (I'd recommend letting an auto upholsterer do it for you). Since the panels aren't flat, the carpet with punch up along one of the two raised creases in the panel. This will require making a careful cut along one of the creases and cutting out a narrow, triangular piece of carpeting, so that the two edges butt up against one another. This can be rather difficult to dod with the panels in the car, due to the limited space.

I went with the second method -- bonding the carpeting to the panel and making the necessary relief cuts to get a nice fit while the whole thing was outside the car. I then test fitted the panels inside the car and cut away any excess carpet (I left about a 1" overhang where the panels stands vertically near the door pillar, and about 5-6" along the bottom where it follows the countours of the heater channels (and slips beneath the front passenger floor carpeting).

Finally, before installing I had the top and vertical edges "serged". Serging is a process which binds the edge of carpeting with heavy thread so that it doesn't start to unravel -- the edge of your VW carpeting should have a heavy serged edging. Anyone that specializes in making custom home carpet mats should be able to do this for you. If you can't find someone to perform this task, an automotive upholsterer should be able to stitch a narrow band of cloth or vinyl around the edges instead. It is up to you as to what looks best, although it is a bit cleaner looking to match the serging on your current carpet panels.

Mounting the kick panels was accomplished using a combination of screws and Automotive Goop(tm). One or two screws should be all that is necessary to secure the panels (note where the screw tips will end up before picking locations to drill!), and the glue can do the rest (I used long strips of wood to hold the panels in place while the glue dried, using the natural bow of the wood to apply pressure). Don't forget to run your speaker wiring first!

- From Sharkey's Garage.

Thanks, James!

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Dave pulled back the new carpet on either side of the footwell area in the cabin and installed the speaker panels against the body of the car. He found that they fit very nicely, with plenty of space behind the panel for the speaker and no reduction in room for the driverís/passengerís feet. Once the panels were covered by the carpet they were indistinguisable from the natural contours of the body of the car.

 

Speaker Panel Being Installed,
Before Carpeting

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Dave glued the carpet back over the panels, then cut the holes for the speakers through the carpet with a utility knife (having cut the holes in the panels previously).

The installation of the panels, covering the panels with the carpeting, and cutting the holes for the speakers all went very smoothly. Dave did have to cut a narrow wedge out of the carpet over the panel to make it fit smoothly, but that was easy enough with a good sharp knife.

Installation of the speakers themselves was also easy; they were each attached with three little screws. One minor problem -- it was very easy for the drill bit (used to make the holes for the screws) to get bound up in the carpet. Dave finally used the same trick he had used when installing his center console -- at the point where the screw had to go through Dave melted the carpet fabric with the hot tip of a soldering iron. Once the melted material had solidified, the holes were easily drilled and the screws went right in.

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