How to Put a New Stereo in Your Car for Under $45

I knew I’d be doing a lot of driving. Audiobooks pass the time more quickly, and allow me to be entertained and learn a lot while the miles fly by. In my mind, the only good way to store and listen to audiobooks is via an mp3 player, iPod, or smartphone, because you don’t have to shuffle CD’s, or bring a bunch along (or burn them beforehand if you purchase online).

The only problem was the stock stereo in our 2000 Camry doesn’t have and auxiliary input, nor does the tape player work correctly for using a tape adapter. Since it was just going to be me and the boy the whole trip, I decided I had to have a stereo with aux-in. Here’s how I did it for less than $45:

  1. Find someone selling a stereo like this deal I found on KSL, on a site like craigslist.org or KSL classifieds. Make sure to use the search options to find an older listing that’s been on there a while. This gives you more bargaining power.
  2. Make an offer, or ask what they’ll take. In this case just asked if he’d sell just the stereo (because I didn’t need new speakers), and if so, how much? He responded $20. Done!
  3. Meet, get the new stereo and see what comes with it. Hopefully it includes some kind of adapter for the wiring, with a bunch of loose ends. This seller ended up throwing in the speakers too, since he didn’t want them (now I’ve got to get rid of some brand-new speakers, let me know if you’re interested).
  4. Go to Target, and buy an install kit for your vehicle ($19-pre tax). Yes! I said Target, not Best Buy. I bought one at best buy first and it a) did not have wiring adapters, etc, b) cost more. I returned it when I found the awesome one at Target. It included install parts and wiring for many foreign-made cars of the years surrounding our vehicle. They had the same kits for US-made vehicles, too.
  5. Install the stereo. You can find instructions online of how to take out existing stereos. Then from there you’ll just want to take the 2 sets of wire adapters (one that connects to the back of the stereo, and one that connects to the vehicle’s wiring) and join all the wires, which are color coded. Finally, follow the instructions included in the install kit for how to mount the new stereo (with probably a little pocket beneath it to fill the extra space) into your vehicle, plugging the now, joined wire adapters into the back of the new stereo and the vehicle.

It took me about 2 hours to install, but that’s because about half the time my 15-month-old boy was in the backseat crawling around, grabbing parts and tools from me, and trying to climb over the console into the front seat to “help.” I’ve already spent over 12 hours driving in the past week, and the new setup hooked up to my Droid X Android phone just great. I’ve listened to a couple audiobooks: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell (excellent) and Tree of Sacrament by Nick Galieti (also excellent) as well as a lot of music via Google Music Beta.

NOTE: If you get static in the audio when the device is connected to the aux-in and charging via the cigarette lighter plug, it’s called a “looping ground” issue. I have yet to fix this on mine, but will post an update when I do. I’m fairly certain from my research that merely connecting the ground (usually the black wire) from the stereo to the ground on the cigarette lighter, will fix it.

Wireless Syncing of Music & Photos to Android

I take Wednesday’s as my day off. That’s because I can set my own schedule and roads, stores, attractions, etc. are all less busy on Wed., than on Sat. when everyone else is off. So yesterday I spent my morning trying to figure out the best way to transfer music, pictures, and media between my Android phone (Droid X) and computer, wirelessly. I only have one sync/charging cable (though I could easily get another since it’s just micro-USB), and didn’t want to keep taking it between the bedroom and office.

1 Bad, 1 Okay

I tried a couple free solutions. Android WiFi Manager was horribly slow, and well, just clunky in general. WiFi File Explorer is pretty cool in that there’s no desktop software to install. Basically your phone just serves up a webpage that you can access from any browser on the same network, then use it to view, download, or delete files on your phone. It’s a handy app to have if you think you’ll ever want to transfer stuff from your phone to a friends computer. There’s also a pro version ($1.25) that allows you to upload files to the phone.

I kept WiFi File Explorer on my phone, but wanted a better option, since it didn’t preview files easily (so I could know which pictures to download and/or delete) and it only allowed uploading (pro version) of 1 file at a time, unless you zipped them all first, then unzipped them on the phone, making it an untenable option for putting music from iTunes on my phone.

Dreaded doubleTwist

With a sigh of frustration, I finally tried the hated doubleTwist. I’ve used it before, only to have it freeze and crash constantly, besides being slow, and not having hardly any good features. However, things have changed somewhat, and I was pleased to find it working somewhat better now. It’s still on the slow side, even on my new and quite fast desktop, but now will sync with iTunes every time you start it up (if you set the option). That means I can still use iTunes to play music on my computer (I like features like Genius and smart playlists that dT doesn’t have), but dT will sync those changes whenever I open it. The new doubleTwist Player app for Android works quite well, and will probably be my main music app from here on out.

Audiobook Dilema

The same major shortcoming appears in doubleTwist as almost any app/sync software for Android: no Audiobook support. I like to listen to audiobooks. It allows me to do necessary things (like exercise or drive) while still engaging my brain. My solution thus far has been to copy the files to a unique folder on my phone’s SD card, then use MortPlayer to listen to them. Works great, but takes more work than it needs to. Why can’t someone just setup a solution like iTunes/iPod where those files are treated differently (spot is saved, etc.)?

doubleTwist Android Apps

doubleTwist Player has an add-on app called AirSync that is $4.99, but lets you sync your phone over WiFi. This is what I was looking for. Turns out its super simple to use. You buy and install the app then just type in the code you’re given, into the doubleTwist software on your computer. Then you can choose to auto-sync your library, or just drag and drop to and from the phone. The software will even give you thumbnails of images, video, and song titles, etc, so you can tell what you want to transfer or delete. I set mine to just sync various music playlists, then I can drag and drop images or video I want on or off my phone. doubleTwist also loads up all the pictures and video in your personal folders on your computer, so you can quickly browse those and upload to your phone. It seems its trying to be an all-in-one media manager, but still has a long way to go before it really starts replacing things like iTunes or Picasa. However, its a great way to sync wirelessly (or wired for that matter), as long as all you want to send/receive is pictures, video, or music.

Final Notes

Tip: plugin your phone the first time you sync, even if its just to a wall outlet while using AirSync, because the screen has to be on for AirSync to work. That means it’ll drain your battery quicker, and the first sync usually takes a while, if you’re transferring lots of music/files like I did.

Note: if you only want to sync music, iSyncr is a great app ($2.99) that syncs your Android phone with iTunes. Plus it has a nice add-on app called iSyncr WiFi Add-On for 99-cents, that adds WiFi capability. I’ve never used the WiFi part, but there are free versions of both for you to try out.