Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio installation

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The following works for installing an aftermarket radio in a 3rd generation Ford Escort (1997-up) or ZX2 (1998-03).

Using a DIN adapter plate is required to install a standard head unit in the Ford Escort. Since the radio and climate controls are built in same unit, you can purchase these at either your local audio store or They usually cost about about $40.00 unless you buy the head unit from the dealer and they will give you a discount on it. Crutchfield lowers the price to $19.99 w/ purchase of any of their head units. The unit is very easy to install and will normally take about an hour, maybe two, to complete. The following is an installation procedure and photos from performing this in a 2002 Ford ZX2.


  1. The factory tape deck with integrated climate controls. Notice how the climate control knobs are a little recessed in the panel. The knobs will stick out a little with the new panel, which is nothing to worry about. This will not effect the controls operations.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall0.jpg
  2. Remove the knobs. They pull out fairly easy, washing hands may be required because they can become slippery.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall1.jpg
  3. Go to the bottom side of the driver's area and look to your right. You should see a "round gear" looking cable. This cable controls the hot / cold air selection. Push the white button marked and it should separate very easily.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall2.jpg
  4. If your installation kit came with "U" shaped keys, these are designed to take out the factory unit. Slightly "squeeze" the the keys to fit the holes on each side of the factory radio. You should hear them "click" when you instert them and they will stop.
  5. Once they are secured in the radio, slowly but firmly pull the factory unit out. A towel or rag can be placed over the shifter to avoid scratching it.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall3.jpg
  6. Lay the radio against the towel.
  7. Carefully remove the connectors from the back of the radio. The connectors on the right side control climate controls and other vacuum connections. The connectors on the left are for power, ground and speaker connections.
    Note: The instructions from Crutchfield's kit say that cutting parts of the dash may be required to make the new face plate fit if the car never had a aftermarket radio installed. However during this procedure, no cutting was required and there were no installation issues. So see how the plate fits and if needed you might need to trim where the instructions state.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall4.jpg
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall5.jpg
  8. Use a Torx T-20 screwdriver to remove the factory screws to remove the controls from the back of the factory unit. Some drilling needs to be done to connect the factory climate controls to your new face panel. The layout is pretty straight forward and you can use the same screws the factory used. This is preferred because they will be long enough to hold the controls w/o going all the way through the face plate.
  9. Using a 7/64 drill bit, carefully drill two pilot holes that are needed to attach the controls. This size is a perfect fit for the factory screws.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall6.jpg
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall8.jpg
  10. Install the climate controls on the new face plate.
  11. Connect everything back to the car is reverse of taking it apart. The "defrost" switch will be relocated on the left side instead of the factory right side. Everything will connect like it should, the kit I used had the correct connector to match the factory one.
  12. Slide the new face plate into the dash opening and push it until it stops.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall9.jpg
  13. While connecting the receiver's wires to the adapter harness Crutchfield provided, crimp on connectors were used. However it's strongly advised to solder the wires instead as crimp on adapters can degrade the audio signal.
  14. Install the new receiver per the unit's instructions.
    Ford Escort 3rd gen aftermarket radio isntall10.jpg

Also see

  • Ford Escort & ZX2 section for the entire index of all Ford Escort and ZX2 related articles.