Full Installation

No messing around

MountFollow closely, and your
iPod will fit seamlessly.

There are a few solutions when trying to infuse your ride with iPod or MP3 player. These include using FM transmitters, cassette adapters, or even headphone-to-headphone cables. We'll take a close look at each of these methods, but the most professional step might be the most difficult one. That means accessing your stock or aftermarket head unit and doing some wiring work. Not scared? Then follow along.

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Note : Remember that it's a good idea to disconnect your car's battery before engaging in any electronics work. Let's make sure your hair stands on end because you want it to , and not because of some unfortunate jolt of electricity.

The following tools are required to perform such a task:

iPod and iPod accessories

  • Any iPod capable of connecting to a dock connector (the iPod Mini and on)
  • Dock connector, such as the Belkin TuneDock

Third party hardware

  • Head unit capable of connecting to iPod
  • Interface adapter
  • Line level audio output adapter

Wiring

  • Headphone-to-stereo cable or stereo-to-stereo cable
  • Note: This often depends on the make of head unit or audio adapter. Some third party packages include these wires.

Tools

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Philips screwdriver
  • For easiest access to the head unit, a prying tool
  • If necessary: If you're installing a whole new head unit at the same time, make sure to also purchase the custom harness for the car make and model

Step #1: Removing the head unit

Whether you're installing a whole new deck or simply connecting a third party audio interface adapter so that an existing device can play iPod tunes, you're still going to need to pull that head unit out. The ease of this process ultimately depends on the make and model of car you're working with. Generally, there are a few plastic tabs keeping the outer casing around the head unit in place. The easiest way to remove these is with a prying tool that wraps around each tab. You'll want to carefully apply pressure and pop each out, making sure not to break any (as they can be particularly painful to replace).

With the outer casing removed, you can now remove the head unit. It may involve a few more obstacles in some cases (I once owned a Saturn SC1 that required I also remove the attached rear window defroster).

In addition, some head units – particularly those that are still stock – require a special tool for removal. This can mean traveling on down to the local dealership.

Audio InputAudio input devices are
required for a full installation.

Step #2: Plug in the iPod interface adapter

Interface adapters can be obtained from any number of manufacturers, including Alpine, Pioneer, and JVC. They all range in price, but don't generally stray much lower than $100 or higher than $200. It's a pretty simple piece of hardware that, in some cases, can fit in the slot behind the head unit itself. However, for smaller vehicles (such as my former Saturn), that's often not possible, forcing Mister or Missus installer to plant the interface adapter somewhere else, such as tucked under a seat or under the glove compartment.

There are two cables necessary to connect the interface adapter. Both should be included in the packaging for the unit and the necessary dock connector. These include:

  • Ai-Net cord
  • Dock connector cable

Link the Ai-Net cord to the Ai-Net port of your head unit. This is generally a white, plastic adapter. It won't be too tough to figure out, so long as you're familiar with the whole "round hole, round peg" concept.

You're also left with the task of weaving the dock connector cable from the interface adapter to the dock itself. Where you place this is up to you and your creativity.

Step #3: Replace the head unit

For style purposes, it's possible to leave as little cable hanging out of the head unit slot (or another hole in the plastic casing surrounding the deck) to mount the iPod.

Now that the installation is complete, you'll need to slap that deck back into place. This means plugging the head unit's power back in, as well as any other wiring you may have disconnected (such as a rear defroster). Also make sure to snug the plastic bezel/casing for the head unit and stereo interface back into place, popping the plastic tabs back in as you go.

Step #4: Picture perfect iPodding

For the custom, professional, or even just functional iPod car audio setup, you'll probably require a few accessories. Unless you're sure that valuable MP3 player won't go flying out of the cup holder at the next turn, docks are a wise investment.

There are a few of these available, including products from Belkin, Griffin, and Ten Technology. We'll take a closer look at how you can use these devices (as well as their quality), in the dock connector section of this guide.

More custom jobs involve using Velcro to attach an iPod or MP3 player to a dash or under the glove compartment. The very ambitious might even look into fiber glassing the dash for the ultra-custom look.

Once everything is back in place and reconnected, make sure to test the setup. Wiring directly into your stock or aftermarket player generally leads to the best sound quality possible, so music should sound fantastic (assuming you aren't playing a song with a 96 kbps bit rate over blown speakers).


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