Connecting and Using an iPod Car Adapter

We're going to explore what goes in to hooking up iPod adapters to your car stereo. Levels of required expertise vary, but careful attention and patience on your part can get the job done. Here's how to connect each type of iPod car adapter:

  • Cassette Adapters: For the price, these are about as quick and easy as adapters come. Plug the mini-jack cord from your iPod to the cassette, and pop the cassette into your car's tape player. It's as simple as that.
  • FM Transmitters: These come in two varieties: wired and wireless. The wired versions offer somewhat better sound quality since they use your car's own antenna input. They are also more complicated to install since they require you to tap into a source of switched power and for you to attach a ground wire from the modulator to your vehicle. Basically, the modulator sits between your car antenna and your car stereo. Using a mini-jack-to-RCA-input connector, you hook up your iPod to the wired FM modulator. Wireless FM modulators actually fool your car stereo into thinking your iPod is a radio station. All you have to do is set the modulator to a station without any broadcasting and tune in to that station on your car radio.
  • Direct-to-stereo Systems: You can buy kits that will connect to your factory stereo or to your store-bought, aftermarket stereo. They require you to remove the stereo head-unit from the dash and connect a cable and adapter to the CD changer port. Another cable goes from the adapter to your iPod. To button everything up, re-install the stereo, secure the adapter with screws or zip ties in an inconspicuous place, and plug in your iPod.

These systems let you control your iPod and view track and artist data through the car stereo. They also keep the iPod charged. Some models also have a pass-through feature that allows you to retain the use of your CD changer.

A lower-maintenance direct-to-stereo method uses the auxiliary input jack on an aftermarket stereo. With these, you simply connect a wire from your iPod's headphone jack to the stereo's input jack. Keep in mind that this will not keep your iPod charged, so you might want to buy a cigarette lighter power adapter if you go this route.