Car Tape Player
April 14, 2004 8:05 AM   Subscribe

The cassette deck in my car is so noisy that when I'm listening to books on tape on the iPod, all I can hear is the clacking and ratcheting of the tape deck as it gnaws on the cassette adapter. What can I do? [more inside]

I gave up on iTrip when I never found a station that would stay clear throughout my commute. Here's the question: can I make this thing any quieter? Or is there some way I can take a soldering iron to my cassette deck (factory 2001 Camry) and turn it into an aux input so that I can go direct?
posted by vraxoin to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
I have the exact same problem. Noisy tape noise, iTrip won't hold a station for the duration of my commute, changing stations is perilous. I did find that if I put my iTripped iPod right up near the radio and not far from the antenna, I got better reception, but overall it was a bust. My kludgey solution is to put a lot of hip-hop on my iPod and turn the volume up. I realize this is not super-helpful.
posted by jessamyn at 8:16 AM on April 14, 2004

Try removing the guts from the cassette adapter. It has some gears in it that make the two reels turn in synchronization, and these get noisy. Some tape decks require this, otherwise they think the tape has stopped and therefore reverse and/or eject. But if your tape deck is one of the ones that doesn't need both reels turning, you can remove the clackety innards.

If you find you need the clackety innards, you might try a spritz of WD-40.
posted by kindall at 8:39 AM on April 14, 2004

The top story right now at slashdot is an ipod custom vehicle install,
I'll bet there are some good ideas there (after you wade through the crap)
posted by milovoo at 8:52 AM on April 14, 2004

have you tried that belkin tunecast thing? i'm not sure if that'll work for you though.. i tried my friend's out, and the iTrip worked much better, after i experimented and found JUST the right station.
posted by lotsofno at 10:05 AM on April 14, 2004

The Belkin Tunecast seems like a great product, except that a new stereo for the car, which plays mp3 cds, costs about $120 + install at Best Buy, which probably means that you can get it much cheaper online. Plus, newer players probably have a line in jack, if I'm not mistaken.

If you plan to keep the car for a while, I'd suggest a new stereo for the car.
posted by BlueTrain at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2004

This happened to me as well in my VW Jetta, then on a long road trip I was cranking it up and while I was futzing around I got it to stop and quiet down completely. Apparently (at least in 2004 Jettas with the factory radio) if you hit the flip tape button over to side b, the wheels stop pulling the fake tape and it goes silent.

I was wondering if it was just me struggling with this, and remembered that VW was giving away kits like this with new Beetles so there had to be a fix. Maybe try it in your Camry?
posted by mathowie at 10:33 AM on April 14, 2004

Also, As a cheap option, have you tried removing the inner spokes of the psuedo-cassette adapter.
I had a noisy one of those and pulling out the spokes made it near silent.
posted by milovoo at 10:37 AM on April 14, 2004

After trying radio transmitters like iTrip and tape based systems like you describe, I found a solution which provides high quality audio and zero headaches.

Buy a new car stereo - one with an aux input jack.

They can be acquired here in the UK for aroun £70 and upwards, so I imagine the dollar price would be similar. Plug in your iPod/ MP3 player/ whatever and away you go. No noise.
posted by skylar at 11:56 AM on April 14, 2004

So, if I may extend the question, does this mean most people aren't very happy with their iTrips? Not recommended?
posted by muckster at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2004

Yeah, I hated my radio transmitter thing. It never worked that well for me, and especially in large cities, it sucked because every inch of the dial was being used by somebody.
posted by mathowie at 3:28 PM on April 14, 2004

FM bridges are always an extremely sketchy compromise. I finally optimized mine by taking the antenna off the car to minimize external interference -- I rarely listen to live radio, especially with hundreds of hours of mp3s to be had -- then getting some velcro tape from Radio Shack and velcroing my TuneCast transmitter right up next to the radio. It was still far from satisfactory, but it worked Well Enough most of the time.

Then after a few weeks I got sick of it, and ordered an after-market stereo. If you're going to go this route, be prepared to pony up $150 or so, at least; none of the el Cheapo models have AUX inputs.

The heart of my current iPod in-car rig is Belkin's Auto Kit, which I have tucked away under my center console. It draws power from a 12V accessory outlet that I bought at Rat Shack and tapped into the switched 12V+ line going to my radio. The docking cable from the AutoKit snakes under the center console to my dash, where it comes out through my ashtray -- never sees use -- and goes up through the bottom slot in the TuneDok, also made by Belkin. The TuneDok keeps the iPod conveniently at hand, without letting it slide all over the car when I drive fast. The audio out from the Auto Kit is routed through a patch cable into the auxiliary in of the head unit I bought. (Pioneer's DEH-P3600)

This setup takes a modicum of electrical and automotive smarts to install, but it should be doable with a little bit of time and effort. If you haven't done a car audio install before, I recommend buying from Crutchfield -- they will send you complete, illustrated instructions, customized for your car.

Or you could pay someone to do it, but what's the fun in that?

The overall effect is neat (although not nearly as fancy as the Slashdolt story linked above), and has drawn comments from several people who've ridden with me. I'm happy.
posted by jammer at 4:01 PM on April 14, 2004

My deck (Eclipse CD8454 comes with a line-in that I plug my Nomad Jukebox into. If your car speakers are stock and you have no sub, then going through the radio tuner or tape deck might be sufficient. If you're like me, and your stereo is possibly worth more than your car, then a physical connection is the only way to go.
posted by woil at 7:44 PM on April 15, 2004

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