How to Connect Your Car Radio to an MP3 Player

by Andrew Mikael

While some newer models have the ability to directly interface with an MP3 player, almost all car radios can play music, podcasts or other audio from an MP3 player by one of three methods. Connecting the car to an MP3 player provides a more convenient method of accessing a music library than storing a large number of CDs or audio cassettes in the vehicle. Use the auxiliary connection method for cars with the appropriate inputs, and use the tape deck conversion method for older radios with an audio cassette deck. As an alternative, all radios will work with an MP3 player radio broadcast device.

Auxiliary Connection

Locate the auxiliary connection input on the car radio. Many vehicles have a small port on the front of the radio deck labeled "Aux," while some may have an input between the driver and passenger seats or another location. Some trunks even have a connector for installing multi-CD devices. Most older vehicles do not include this feature.

Connect a male-to-male 3.5 mm audio cord to the input, and connect the other end to the MP3 player's output port. This type of cord works with almost all MP3 players.

Switch the car's audio input to use the auxiliary port. This action often uses the same controls used to switch between the radio and any connected CD or cassette players, but see your car or radio manual for specific instructions.

Play an audio file on the MP3 player to begin listening through the car radio. Both the MP3 player's volume control and the car radio's volume control will affect playback volume.

Radio Broadcast

Connect a radio broadcast device to the MP3 player. Some devices require an additional installation on the device from a computer, while others work without configuration. Radio tuners are often designed to work with a single device, such as the Belkin TuneFM and Kensington Digital FM Transmitter for iPods.

Place the MP3 player and connected radio tuner in the car, in close proximity to the radio receiver. Reception will degrade if the MP3 player is moved farther from the receiver, and sound quality often varies while transmitting from different points inside the vehicle.

Turn the car radio on and set the tuner to a dead frequency. If you use a frequency shared by a radio station, interference will diminish the sound quality.

Switch the radio broadcast device to use the same frequency as the car radio. Play an audio file to begin listening through the car's radio. Most radio broadcasting devices only allow volume control through the car's stereo controls.

Tape Deck Conversion

Insert an MP3 player cassette adapter into the car radio's cassette deck. These devices come in several models from manufacturers such as Monster and Philips. Ensure that the cord connected to the adapter reaches out of the deck without snagging or kinking. Some cassette adapters feature a movable cord for easy connection to different decks.

Connect the cassette adapter's 3.5 mm connection cable to the headphone jack on the MP3 player. Turn the MP3 player on and play an audio file.

Play the cassette deck to hear the audio from the MP3 player. Control the volume using either the car radio's controls or the MP3 player's built-in volume settings.

About the Author

Andrew Mikael began writing in 2010. His articles appear on various websites, where he specializes in media and related technology. Mikael has a Bachelor of Arts in film from Montana State University.

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