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BONUS TIP: No Aux, No Cry
If you don’t have a stereo with RCA inputs, check eBay or the junkyard for a used one, or check out these options.
FM TRANSMITTERS Devices like the Belkin TuneBase ($79.99, www.belkin.com) or Monster iCarPlay Wireless 200 ($99.95, www.monstercable.com) broadcast music from an iPod over an FM radio signal. These devices don’t need to be wired to a car stereo, but local radio stations often cause interference, creating static and other issues.
TAPE ADAPTERS If your current stereo has a cassette deck, these offer better sound than FM transmitters. Just stick the tape into the stereo, and connect the cable to an iPod. The tape deck’s playheads are tricked into thinking the adapter is a regular old audiotape. Consider the Belkin Cassette Adapter for iPod ($19.99, www.belkin.com) or Griffin’s SmartDeck ($29.99, www.griffintechnology.com).
REAR INPUT ADAPTERS Most car stereos offer upgrades for CD changers and other add-ons, and a third-party adapter can exploit this proprietary jack to create an iPod or RCA input. For options, browse products and distributors at Precision Interface Electronics (www.pie.net) - street prices range from $40 to $150 depending on features. You’ll still have to reach the stereo to make the connection, but the result gives great sound.
USED STEREOS Replace the built-in stereo with a used, aftermarket option that includes an RCA input. Search craigslist.org, eBay, or local junkyards for options.
NEW STEREOS Find a model with an RCA input - these can be found for less than $100 - or buy one that can be upgraded for an iPod. Nearly every stereo company offers an upgrade path for roughly $30 to $50, even on entry-level models (about $100). Or splurge on a high-end option with a built-in iPod interface, such as Alpine’s iDA-X001 stereo, which includes a 320-by-240-pixel color screen that displays album artwork ($450, www.alpine.com). Be aware of extra costs if you’re adding a new or used stereo, such as a wiring harness to connect the new stereo to a car’s built-in speakers ($10 to $20), an antenna adapter ($10), and installation housing if the new stereo is smaller than the original ($10 to $20).
BONUS TIP: Crimp My Ride
Crimp connectors are insulated tubes that hold wires on at least one end. Crimp connectors come in several shapes, so locate the correct connector depending on the leads wired to the 12-volt housing. We used disconnectors to match our 12-volt leads and butt connectors, which are tubes open on both ends for bare wires. Strip about 1/2 inch of insulation off a wire, twist its end, and insert it into one side of the tube. Use a crimping tool - often part of a large wire cutter - to crush the connector around that end of the wire. You should leave no metal exposed, and a gentle tug will verify that the juncture is tight.
BONUS TIP: Gauging the Connection
Wires come in many gauges, with smaller numbers signifying a thicker cable. A thin wire handles fewer amps before heating up and posing a hazard, while thicker gauges stay cool during use. You can calculate the exact gauge needed for your car by referencing its electrical system’s fuse. The fuse’s amp rating should always be lower than a wire’s safe level so that the fuse is the failure point. Check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_wire_gauge to translate a wire’s gauge into its amp cutoff. Or just use a thick gauge - 10 should be sufficient.