I need a cheap car CD player
January 8, 2007 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I need a cheap car CD player with a line-in for my ipod that will be very unattractive to thieves.

I live in a large city and am getting a little tired of the FM transmitter I currently use to play my ipod through my car stereo. My stereo is a tape player, but not one that accepts tape adapters anymore.

I'd like to buy a replacement radio but Im afraid this will make me a target for theives. Im sure no one wants my stock radio, but if I got a new one, albeit a cheesy one, it might be an invitation to break my window and take it. I do not have a car alarm and I often park in a marginal neighborhoods on the street.

Should I just go with a removable faceplate? Will a radio with an activation code make a difference? Should I invest in some kind of alarm?

I hesitate to go with the removable face because it adds cost and I dont want to remove it everytime I park at night, but if I have to I will. An alarm feels like overkill but if thats the most cost effective way to protect my car it might be worth it. Any advice?

Also, while Im getting this installed I'd like to ask them to make my cigarette lighter work only when the car is running. How much more for install should I expect this modification to take? Is this something a technically minded person could do on their own?
posted by the ghost of Ken Lay to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how attractive this would be to thieves, but it's cheap and has a line-in.
posted by null terminated at 1:36 PM on January 8, 2007

How does a removeable faceplate add cost? They are probably the most common configuration for lower end radios these days, in my experience.

What kind of car do you have? Making the lighter only work when the car is running should be pretty straightforward, once you can access to the area. If you can get schematics for the car, you should be able to figure it out; otherwise, let me know (email in profile) and I might be able to help.

You can either change the source to a circuit that is only powered when the key is On or Accessory, or if it would draw too much power to the detriment of other items on that circuit, you could run a lead from a powered in On or Accessory circuit to drive a relay that would switch the cigarette lighter circuit off when the car is off.
posted by Doohickie at 1:39 PM on January 8, 2007

In my experience, any aftermarket car stereo, no matter how cheap or horrible, is a target for thieves.

You could also keep the stock stereo, and have a car audio shop install an inline FM modulator (or do it yourself, for that matter) between the antenna and the receiver. The sound quality isn't as good as a real line-in, but it's essentially invisible to passersby.
posted by box at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2007

My daughter got a Sony Xplod car stereo, with aux-in for iPods (or for any other gagdet that requires aux-in) on sale for only $75 at a local retailer (regular price: $99)... It's also got a removable faceplate... I'm not sure of the model number, but here's the Sony Xplod website to have a look around...

I don't have an answer for your installation questions (her dad installed it for her).
posted by amyms at 1:52 PM on January 8, 2007

I should have previewed, null terminated's link goes to a Sony Xplod... Sorry.
posted by amyms at 1:54 PM on January 8, 2007

I googled around once for what it would take to add an input to my car's stock cd/radio and it turns out there are replacement wiring harnesses that seem to do this (keep the stock unit but introduce an aux-in) - however I believe the one for my car was around $250, uninstalled.
posted by cairnish at 2:02 PM on January 8, 2007

This is the entire point of removable faceplates. It's a little extra work (removing and carrying it with you), but it's your safest bet. Then you can get the Alpine deck and not suffer the Sony.

The problem with alarms is they generally only go off after someone's smashed your window (unless you get one of the super-duper alarms that have motion sensors and chirp at people near the car). So you're still going to pay the replacement cost of a window, which, depending on damage, is often more than the stereo costs. It seems to me that making your car less of a target (the way you're thinking with this post) is the right approach.

Rewiring the lighter to be powered by the ignition wire instead of the battery wire should be fairly trivial while the stereo is being installed. It would probably take a competent installer 10 minutes or less. (Depends on the car, but most of the cars I've worked on have the lighter wiring accessible once you've removed the stereo.)
posted by knave at 2:07 PM on January 8, 2007

My stereo is a tape player, but not one that accepts tape adapters anymore.

I'm surprised to hear this. Are you saying it's broken? Or that it's somehow designed to not allow cassette adapters? I use a cassette adapter in my 2001 car, and it works great.
posted by knave at 2:09 PM on January 8, 2007

In my experience, any aftermarket car stereo, no matter how cheap or horrible, is a target for thieves.

Seconded. Sorry for the triple posts.
posted by knave at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2007

My stereo is a tape player, but not one that accepts tape adapters anymore.

I'm guessing that you have a tape deck where the tape goes in with the long side facing in, rather than the short side. (So that the slot is the width of the tape's longest dimension.)

If that's the case, you can find tape adapters around where the wire comes out of the middle of the long side opposite the tape heads, rather than at the top (side adjacent to the tape head). My girlfriend has one that's quite old and is actually convertible between either configuration. It's generic, though I think some of the MacAlly ones do this. I'd hunt around and see if you can find a compatible tape adapter before you write off the stock deck.

Unless you were implying that the car has an 8-Track, that's the only kind of tape deck I can think of which might seem on casual inspection to be incompatible with most tape adapters.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2007

In my experience, any aftermarket car stereo, no matter how cheap or horrible, is a target for thieves.

Thirded. In the late 80s, I caught two kids trying to steal the underdash tape player I had installed on my crap Buick with the side door smashed in. The tape player that barely worked, and cost me $5 from a local surplus shop.

I also had a car broken into because it had a backpack with a single videotape in it. The car didn't even have a radio.

In short: putting *anything* in your car -- no matter how crappy, or how cheap/worthless -- will attract unwanted attention.

Then again, even that doesn't always stop people; sometimes it's the type of car. My german cars always got broken into (like the backpack from my VW Rabbit, or the time someone broke into my VW Jetta by punching a screwdriver into the door lock -- even though the WINDOWS WERE DOWN, thank you very much!) but my japanese cars and american pickup truck never suffered a theft.
posted by davejay at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2007

?Add very visible paint splatter, or paint on a pattern of dirt and cracks grungy enough to be visible before the window is smashed?
posted by Idcoytco at 3:08 PM on January 8, 2007

If you have a cassette adaptor already, try opening it up. I have a couple adaptors and they both have housings that can be opened to rearrange the signal wire to exit out the preferred side. This'll be cheaper than a whole new stereo.
posted by ardgedee at 5:13 PM on January 8, 2007

I've been toying with doing this myself, but knowing that I live in a not-so-great neighborhood has given me pause. But not so much as the spending extra cash, because I've had cars broken into (repeatedly!) for less than 15 cents sitting on the floor! Seriously, the level of thief that is going to break into a car for something is going to do it for the most absurdly petty things. It only takes them a few seconds to break a window and grab whatever caught their eye and there is basically nothing you can do about it. Get the one with removable face, get in the habit of taking the face with you (put it on your keyring if you have to) and move on. And for the love of all that's holy, DON'T get an alarm! Seriously, when was the last time you heard a car alarm going off and thought 'hey, somebody's breaking into a car! I should call the cops!'? Bloody useless piece of technology...
posted by schwap23 at 5:33 PM on January 8, 2007

Depending on the car, it may or may not help to get your windows tinted. On the down side, having them tinting implies you have enough extra money that there may be goodies inside. On the upside, it tends to discourage casual looking into your car to see what's in there. Here in Texas, it is very common and does not attract undue attention.

Just another angle to think about.
posted by Doohickie at 8:45 PM on January 8, 2007

From experience, I can tell you that thieves know about removable face plates and that the presence of one is a loud signal that there is an expensive setup behind it. It makes your car a target for criminals, rather than discouraging them.

If your present car radio has a cassette player, an outboard-to-cassette adaptor that pops into the cassette slot is inexpensive and works well.

The other possibility is to have an auxiliary input installed, with the plug hidden under the dashboard.
posted by KRS at 11:24 AM on January 9, 2007

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