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Help-Key: How to integrate your iPod with your car stereo easily

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Many car stereo houses are pushing car decks this holiday season that have built-in iPod integration. There’s a dock connector, and most let you view and control the content on your deck’s face, a pretty cool feature. And, since iPods and other MP3 players are replacing CDs, this kind of integration only makes sense. But if you’ve got a good deck and don’t want to shell out money on a new one just to make it work with your DAP, we have an idea for you.

And we’re not talking about crappy FM transmitters or cassette tape adapters, we’re talking real iPod integration, hardwiring your favorite device into the car itself, and it’s not as difficult as you think.

Many, if not most, decks have a connector for a CD changer. What a lot of people don’t realize is that this port makes an effective auxiliary audio input port, and most brands have an adapter or cable that can be used to input any kind of audio, usually with an 1/8-inch jack, just like a headphone jack.

Find your brand and model of deck and go to your local place that sells car stereo gear and just tell them which model you have, they’ll know which cable it is and will likely have it in stock already. They go for between $10 and $20, depending on which cable it is, but if they’re asking more than $20, go somewhere else. And if you’re using a factory deck, you’re in luck as well; most factory radios since about 1994 have a CD changer port, so it should work just fine.

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In addition, these places can usually install it for you. You could do it yourself, sure, but unless you know what you’re doing, you’re likely to scrape up your dashboard and do other nasty business. This shouldn’t cost more than about $25 as well, but depending on the wait and which model of car you have, it could be up to $35 or $40.

So now you’ve got a clever little cable sticking out that you plug into your headphone jack, but we’re going to go one better. Belkin makes a fantastic cigarette lighter adapter that allows you to better control how the music sounds, and also charges up your iPod as you rock out. By connecting to the dock port instead of the headphone jack, you don’t get the annoying problem of having to change the iPod’s volume each time you plug it in.

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The adapter has a headphone-style port for the music, meaning you plug your new one into it and you’ve got a one-cable solution that rivals those of new decks for less than a quarter of the cost of most.

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Sadly, you don’t get integration with the face of the deck (song title, all that), but the iPod (or, indeed, iPhone) makes a great remote for itself.

Consider this, as it works quite well. I’ve been using this set up myself for over a year, and have hooked other friends up with the fun as well, and they all work just fine.

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