Option 2: Installing an integrated iPod stereo
Choosing the right stereo
If you want a more substantial iPod interface for your car, the best solution is to install an aftermarket car stereo that is designed to work around your iPod. These stereos make use of an "intelligent" or "full-speed" iPod connection, either as a built-in feature of the stereo itself or -- more frequently -- via an optional add-on module. Full-speed connectors transfer information from the iPod to the stereo's display and give the driver full search and playback control via the stereo's faceplate buttons. The challenge for these stereos is to present the driver with a user-friendly means of navigating iPod menus on the move.
One of the first things you'll have to decide is whether you're looking for a smaller (single-DIN-size) stereo or a larger, more expensive (double-DIN-size) device that will probably feature an LCD touch screen. If your car does not have a standard rectangular DIN slot, things get a lot more tricky, and you may have to make some major -- and therefore expensive -- modifications to your car's dashboard if you want to switch out your stock stereo.
Single-DIN systems have less real estate to play with, but some manage to do a good job of giving drivers control over their digital-audio libraries. Sony's AU$449 CDX-GT50UI and JVC's AU$329 KD-PDR55 enable drivers to stream songs according to artist, album, or playlist, while Alpine's AU$699 iDA-X001 was designed with input from Apple and enables drivers to view album art on its LCD display.
Among the larger, double-DIN systems, the AU$3,799 Pioneer AVIC-HD3 and the AU$1,899 Clarion MAX676VD both provide user-friendly touch screen interfaces. The AU$1,899 Alpine IVA-W200 presents drivers with an intuitive means of navigating their iPod song collections.
Remove the stereo and install your new stereo
Unsurprisingly, before installing your new stereo, you'll need to take out the factory-installed deck. This can be more complex than it first looks. Many stereos are tucked away behind cosmetic paneling, which must be removed before you can access the screws that attach it to the dash. Before even touching the electrical connections, it's a good idea to disconnect the negative terminal of the car battery. With the stereo detached from the dash, pull out the main wiring harness, the FM cable, and any other connections.
With the factory stereo removed, you'll need to prepare your new stereo for installation. Typically, this involves stripping the ends of the wires for connecting the power, speakers, and any other systems via the stereo's wiring harness. Next you'll need to connect the wires from your stereo to your car's proprietary harness: the wires are colour-coded so it's easy to know which stereo wires connect to which car wires. Use automotive wire connectors for the best connection and make sure to cover over any exposed bare wire with electrical tape to prevent short circuits. With the two harnesses connected, plug them into their respective ports on the car and the stereo.
For stereos that require add-on modules to connect to an iPod, you can either hide the module behind the dash, or, alternatively, run the connecting cable from the back of the stereo behind the dashboard and out into the glove box. Either way, you are going to have to run the iPod connector itself out to the cabin, either through the glove box or through some other opening in the dashboard.
Most "made for iPod" car stereos make use of a music-selection interface based on the design of the iPod player itself. Even with single-DIN-size systems that have a single-line display, the driver is usually given a means of selecting songs according to the standard iPod categories (playlist, album, artist, song, and so on). Some manufacturers, such as JVC, have designed specific controls around the iPod player to give drivers a familiar interface for selecting tunes.
Other stereos make use of a more conventional combination of hard buttons and the volume dial for iPod navigation. With your new iPod-compatible stereo installed, one of the major challenges stereo manufacturers face is that of giving drivers an easy means of navigating through hundreds of songs on their connected iPods.
Now that your interface or auxiliary cable has been installed, you'll need some extras that will give you a seamless iPod-in-the-car experience. First, you'll need to make sure your iPod doesn't go flying in every direction when you make turns. We recommend Belkin's TuneDok, which secures your iPod and resides in your car's cup holder. You can also use a strip of Velcro and affix the iPod in a case, for example, directly onto your dashboard.
Those who want to keep their hands on the wheel while driving, can invest AU$110 in the DLO TuneStik, which combines an FM transmitter and radio frequency remote control. The TuneStik has a clip-on cradle to hold the remote to your steering wheel, allowing drivers to wirelessly play and control their iPods.
We think the AU$199 Harman Kardon's Drive + Play is one of the best in-car iPod accessories on the market. With its large screen and control knob, the Drive + Play allows drivers to access their music via an iPod-style interface. The system plugs into -- rather than replaces -- your car stereo. Overseas there's a Drive + Play 2 which features a colour screen and more customisation features, but it'll set you back US$400 before shipping costs.