How to Hook Up an MP3 Player in a Vehicle

by David Weedmark

Hooking up an MP3 player to your vehicle's stereo system is not usually complicated and is an inexpensive way to bring all of your favorite songs with you on the road. It's important to properly secure the MP3 player with a car mount, as a loose device hanging from a cable can be a serious distraction should you need to stop quickly or turn a sharp corner. There are many mounts and adapters to choose from. Some mount on your console or hang from an air vent. Universal models use a suction cup to mount the MP3 player on the windshield or dashboard.

Selecting an Adapter

Examine your stereo system for a USB port or a 1/8-inch auxiliary input jack on the front panel. These are available on some newer models and are usually designed with MP3 players in mind. Consult the stereo's user manual to determine its proper use and to understand its features. (This may be a separate manual or a section of the vehicle manual.) For example, a USB port will often provide power to an MP3 player when connected, while an input jack most often does not.

Select an MP3 player adapter that suits your stereo, MP3 player model and your specific needs. Some cassette player adapters can connect directly to an MP3 player. Cigarette lighter adapters can power an MP3 player and broadcast to a specific radio station on your vehicle's stereo system. Installing an MP3 player into a CD player usually requires connecting it to a spare input in the stereo so you should read the owner's manual to ensure your model has one and how you can access it.

Purchase a MP3 car mount separately if the adapter kit you choose does not come with one. This will secure the MP3 player so it does not swing freely from the connecting cable. A sudden stop or a sharp turn could damage the device or become a serious distraction if it falls to the floor.


Install the MP3 player adapter as directed by the manufacturer's instructions. For cassette player and cigarette lighter adapters, this is simply a matter of plugging it in. For a CD player adapter, you will usually need to access the back of the stereo from below the dashboard or by removing the head unit from the front panel.

Secure the MP3 player car mount in a position where it does not obstruct your view of the road or interfere with your ability to access vehicle controls.

Connect the adapter to the MP3 player using the cables it came with. Read the instructions that came with the adapter to determine whether or not the MP3 player is being charged while it is connected. The battery/charge indicator on the player may not perform properly when connected to a car adapter. It may indicate it is being charged when it is not, or may indicate it is not charging when it is.

Turn on the MP3 player and the car stereo to test its performance before driving the vehicle. If you have a wireless adapter, tune your radio to the appropriate channel. Determine whether the stereo controls or the MP3 player control the volume. In some models, the stereo's fast forward, stop and rewind buttons may control the MP3 player.


  • Distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle collisions. Program your MP3 player to play your favorite songs beforehand and resist the urge to adjust it while driving your vehicle.
  • Keep the volume low enough that you can hear sounds outside your vehicle such as horns, screeching tires and approaching sirens.

Photo Credits

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