Car Audio Safety

As much fun as car audio is there is still a serious topic that needs to be discussed and that's safety. Safety when installing, safety when listening and safety when driving.

Tool Use

Power tools are dangerous. They can be deadly if misused. Whenever you are working with any tools and especially power tools make sure you read, understand and follow the safety precautions and instructions for that tool. Always wear the necessary safety equipment as well. This includes safety glasses, goggles, hearing protection, gloves and fume masks. I'd highly recommend getting properly trained through a community college or similar course on woodworking.

Decibel Levels

Whether you're booming down the street or testing your system in the garage always be aware of the noise levels. If the music is so loud it hurts then you definitely need to turn it down. Your ears can only take so much before you start having permanent hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set guidelines on the decibel levels that are allowable for workers. Use this chart as a guideline and keep in mind that most speakers can produce 90 decibels with only one watt of input. How many watts does your stereo have?

Maximum 24 Hour Exposure
Sound Level (SPL) dBA
Occupational Non-Occupational
8 hrs
1 hr
4 hrs
30 min
2 hrs
15 min
1 hr
8 min
30 min
4 min
15 min
2 min
0 min
0 min
OSHA Noise Exposure Chart

Securing Equipment

Securing equipment is important. Not only to keep from damaging your equipment but more importantly from damaging you or your passengers. It is especially important if you drive a hatchback, SUV, minivan, pickup truck or any other vehicle where there is no physical barrier between the passenger compartment and the equipment (such as a trunk). If you were to get in a crash with unsecured equipment the consequences could be deadly. While your forward motion might be stopped by your seatbelt and airbag the momentum of the equipment would continue forward, stopping only when it strikes a stationary object such as a passenger. With the weight of a subwoofer enclosure and the speed of the vehicle this force could easily decapitate a human. Ensure you or your installer secures all equipment securely to prevent this from happening.


When you operate your stereo equipment make sure you are always focusing your attention on driving first and your system second. Whether it be switching CDs, trying to tune a station or changing the track it only takes a fraction of a second to have an accident. One way to help avoid this is to choose a head unit that is easy to use with a button lay out that you understand. Avoid head units with tiny buttons that can be difficult to find while driving. Read the owner's manual and familiarize yourself with all of the functions of your head unit. Pay particular attention to the common features like volume adjustment, track change and radio tuning. Knowing intuitively how the system works will minimize the need to hunt around the unit for the correct button combination to do what you want.

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