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How to Play MP3 Songs on Your Radio

Install an MP3 adapter for better sound quality

FH09OCT_PLAMP3_01-2Family Handyman
Adapt your car radio to play music from your MP3 or iPod with an add-on adapter that ensures good sound quality. It costs less than $150 and takes about an hour to install.

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Buy and install an MP3 adapter

Photo 1: Plug in the adapter

Plug the MP3 adapter into the external CD changer port on your factory radio. Use zip ties to secure the adapter to a recess behind the radio.

Photo 2: Plug in your MP3 player

Route the combination audio/power cable to a convenient location near your console and plug in your MP3 player. Test the radio and adapter before you remount the radio.

If you want to play your MP3 (or iPod) tunes through your car radio, you have two choices: an FM adapter or an MP3 adapter that installs permanently inside your dash. The in-dash MP3 adapter powers (and recharges) your MP3 player, provides better sound quality and eliminates the constant channel switching required by the FM adapter.

In-dash adapters are available in models to fit almost every factory radio made since 1992. The installation was a cinch and took less than an hour. But one warning: If you already have an external CD changer, you’ll have to give it up. That’s because the MP3 adapter plugs into the CD changer port in the back of the radio.

MP3 adapters are radio-specific, so take a mental (or actual) snapshot of your radio before you go to the adapter manufacturer’s Web site (one source is neocaraudio.com). Next, download radio removal instructions (for a small fee) from carstereohelp.com. We followed its instructions and had the radio out in 10 minutes (with no broken parts).

The most time-consuming part of the job is finding a good route for the MP3 player cable. You can route it through an opening under the dash and out to the console or glove box. Or you can hide the cable by routing it directly to the console (drill a hole in an inconspicuous location). We decided not to install an MP3 mount (they alert thieves that you have theft-worthy gear in the car). If you want one, check out “device holders” at proclipusa.com.