Installing the iPod in Your Vehicle

With your iPod, you can eat your cake and have it, too. Many aftermarket manufacturers have accessories for installing the iPod in your vehicle so that you can listen to your playlist on the go. There are many different types of accessories, and installations differ. Here, we will discuss the different installations, some examples, and how to install the iPod in your car.

Types of Installations

There are six basic types of installation:

  • The FM modulator
  • The cassette adapter
  • FM modulator with direct antenna installation
  • A line-in connection
  • A line-in connection via a CD changer
  • iPod smart cable connection

Let's Look At Each

The FM modulator is one of the fastest growing accessories that is used to attach the iPod to a vehicle. It is basically a small FM transmitter that will broadcast your iPod music on an unused FM channel. A connector from the FM modulator plugs into the iPod jack. A lot of satellite radios have an FM modulator already installed in them, so if you have a satellite radio, you are halfway there. Prices of modulators range from $20-30. The upside of this installation is that it works on any FM radio. On the downside, playback quality is not the greatest. Also, if you buy a model that doesn't utilize the power outlet on your vehicle, you need to carry a spare AAA battery with you.

The cassette adapter has been around since portable CD players were first introduced. You simply plug an adapter into the cassette deck of your car stereo, and away you go. Playback is through the stereo. This adapter works in every car with a cassette deck. Unfortunately, many cars do not have cassette decks installed in them any longer.

The FM modulator with direct antenna installation works on the principle of airwave transmission, but not through the stereo. The modulator attaches to the FM antenna, and then the modulator is attached to the stereo system in place of the car antenna. iPod injects the signal through the stereo. Sound quality is much better with this setup. The modulator charges the iPod. Installation is a bit trickier, but the average do it yourselfer can accomplish this in an hour.

Using a line-in connection is very easy. Connect the line-in cable to a 1/8-inch jack which can be place on the front of your car radio, in the glovebox, or in the center console. Many car manufacturers have now begun to install these in automobiles. Cost for a connection cable is $2-10, and cables are readily available. Sound quality is excellent, although not a lot of cars have these installed yet.

A line-in connection via a CD changer is installed through the cable for a CD changer. Most cars manufactured in the last decade have these installed. The connector will be on the back of the radio, and installation is a bit tricky if you don't like the idea of pulling the unit from the dash. Cost varies from $25 to $150. Installation can be accomplished in an hour or two, or have a car stereo shop perform this task. Sound quality is excellent.

The iPod smart cable connector is a cable or silver box made specifically by Apple to accomplish the installation. It also connects via the CD changer plug. The signal is passed to your radio and the iPod charges at the same time. Some of the better quality modules, such as Harman/Kardon drive+play, Monster and iCruze have a detachable LCD faceplate that can be placed into the faceplate of your stereo, passing iPod information on to the user. Sound quality is excellent, but installation is tricky. Any car stereo shop can handle this installation easily, but it may be difficult to do it yourself. Expect to pay from $100 to $250.

There have been many trick installations of the iPod in vehicles. One Explorer owner made a custom center console for his 2001 Ford Explorer Sport. Using oil based clay to sculpt the design, he then made an Ultracal 30 plaster support shell, finished it off, and installed it in his vehicle along with fiber optics for lighting. With the iPod, anything is possible.

Installing an iPod into your vehicle can be very easy, depending on your area of expertise and willingness to work on your own vehicle. There is a setup for everyone. Try one of these suggestions, and enjoy the sounds of your iPod in your vehicle today.

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Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.