With cleaner reception and a clean pickup, our attention turned to the speakers. Big improvements in sound quality can usually be had with good speakers, and they're easy enough to replace. Crutchfield was the chosen source, as the sales reps always patiently help guide us through the enormous amount of product available, plus whatever wires, adapters, and instructions are needed come free in the installation kit. Crutchfield recommended Kenwood KFC-1779ie 6 3/4-inch two-way speakers for the doors, at $80 a pair, plus a trim removal tool.
As good as the instructions were, there was no mention of a screw at the lower front of the door, and luckily we had a tool for window crank handles (is this the only vehicle still out there without power windows?). We used dielectric grease on the connectors, took the rubber gaskets off the stock speakers and put them on the Kenwoods, which wasn't mentioned but seemed like a good idea. A large improvement resulted, but the setup still wasn't able to reproduce Santana's Jingo or Persuasion very well. Rather than settle for some less-demanding music, we moved on to the rear speakers.
A pair of KFC-4675C Kenwood 4x6-inch speakers from Crutchfield included the adapter wiring and helpful instructions for $70. Those instructions alone could be worth the money as we probably wouldn't have guessed how to tear (almost literally) the interior apart correctly. It's understandable that vehicles are built thinner and more assembly-friendly these days, but we're used to thicker metal and threaded fasteners, lots of fasteners, holding an interior together-even the speakers were held in place with clips.
We learned three things from installing the new rear speakers: Modern plastics bend a lot, cars sure aren't made like they used to be, and those foam "tubs" behind the speakers really work.
After discussing the Silverado's acoustical needs with a Crutchfield sales rep, we decided to begin the quest for decent sound by replacing the factory speakers. One pair each of Kenwood KFC-4675C (center) and KFC-1779ie two-way speakers were ordered up, plus two foam enclosures for the rear speakers. It all arrived by UPS in a few days, together with the necessary wiring adapters, instructions, and a trim removal tool.
The new Line-X Xtra is a three-component urethane top coat with Kevlar that goes over the Line-X base material. It's applied immediately afterwards with a regular spray gun. This Xtra coating gives improved scratch resistance, UV light protection (so the black stays black), and makes the bedliner more glossy.
We mentioned the service manual last month, but not the extent of it. It is five volumes total, weighing a respectable 26 pounds and measuring almost 11 inches thick altogether. At $135 from Helm (www.helminc.com), that's not much per page, but these books are worth their weight in premium gasoline when something needs troubleshooting or repair.