My Quest to Upgrade My Car's Antiquated Stereo System
Patty, my 2003 Volkswagen Passat, has been a reliable vehicle since my sister and I bought her in May. There have been little drawbacks with owning an ancient automobile, such as faulty locking systems and a shattered side mirror, but one issue has stood out above the rest: Patty lacks an auxiliary jack.
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Patty has both a tape deck and a CD player, but I, like most people these days, use a streaming service instead of owning my music. I've created my own CDs to keep me going, but all of my choices predate 2014.And if I want to listen to podcasts while driving, I'm out of luck (unless I put a Bluetooth speaker in the cupholder like my sister).
Patty and I, ready to hit the road | Cars.com photo by Kylie Carlson
I knew that CDs and radio broadcasts would not be enough to keep me going across hundreds of miles of cornfields as my new mode of transportation between Chicago and where I attend to school in Columbia, Mo., a six-and-a-half-hour commute. Thank thing there are options for bringing your antique automobile into the new era - the difficult part was selecting one that worked for me.
A Quick Fix Using Tape
I was ecstatic when I discovered a tape cassette adaptor for less than $8. Although reviews warned about poor sound quality, ours had little perceptible cracking or buzzing issues. We were just delighted to drive around with the windows down and listen to our favorite music.However, the honeymoon period was brief. The cassette adaptor failed after only a week of use. You can hear the tiniest sound coming through if you turn the audio all the way up, but nothing else. I was unhappy that it died so fast, but for the price of a sandwich, I suppose I was content to have my own music for a few days.
Sometimes doing it yourself is preferable. Pinterest is to blame
As it is, the internet lied to me, making it appear like installing a new audio deck on my own would be entirely simple. Despite the fact that I had never done anything like this before and am not very skilled with computers, I believed it was surely achievable. Aside from the cost of the deck itself, which might vary depending on how advanced you want it to be, the parts required to install it will cost between $55 and $100.
Someone informed me that the process may take up to four hours on my own.It would also necessitate the use of a heat gun and probably a soldering iron, neither of which I own or have ever used. It became evident that the risk of damaging my car or burning myself was too great to justify saving the money on having it properly fitted. (If you believe you can perform the task on your own, conduct extensive study before making your selection.)
Leaving It to the Experts
I chose Best Buy to browse for a new deck because if you spend more than $100, you receive the $65 installation for free.I chose a Sony receiver with an AM/FM tuner, Bluetooth, a USB connector, and an auxiliary jack. Even though it was a $109.99 deck on sale for $89.99, they still provided me free installation.I believed I could do it for less than $130, but I didn't expect the installation components would cost $135 before tax. After I requested an estimate, Best Buy provided me a service plan that included all of the components I would require for my vehicle (bearing in mind that the cost of parts varies per automobile).My Passat required an aftermarket antenna, wiring harness, and radio installation gear. I bought everything online and, per Best Buy's advice, picked up the deck and all the pieces a few days before my installation date.
I was told that installation would take an hour and a half when I scheduled the appointment. When I arrived, I was informed that it would take approximately an hour. It barely took 30 minutes; the installer even spent 10 minutes to demonstrate me how everything worked, including letting me link my phone through Bluetooth to the deck.I was in and out in 45 minutes with a new vehicle audio. The installer also connected the deck's microphone for hands-free calling and was able to keep my steering wheel's search and volume functionality.
The End Result: Hands-Free Joy
I fell in love at first sight, owing mostly to the beauty of the deck. I expected it to look a little clumsy, but it fit perfectly in the dash. I'm glad I replaced my previous double DIN stereo with a single DIN one since there's now a new storage cubby in the dash below the radio.
Some features of the stereo are a little finicky. Cutting the stereo size in half means many of the buttons are used to control several different options, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time with the instruction manual in the coming weeks. It also has a USB port, which is useful for charging devices, but music doesn’t play automatically from connected devices and has to be messed with in the settings. It's strange how, because of the various connectivity choices available, I've rarely looked in the direction of the auxiliary jack – the initial reason I started looking for a new deck. Bluetooth is my preferred method.
I lost a couple sound possibilities because to the smaller deck. I'm not exactly devastated by the loss of a tape deck, but I no longer have fader or sound tone knobs. The new stereo has a "extra bass" button that helps bring songs to life, but if you want more treble, it's no longer right at your fingers.I wasn't anticipating a significant boost in sound quality with the new deck, but I was pleasantly surprised. I purchased this update for the connection, but CDs now sound sharper and clearer than on my previous stereo.Overall, I am really happy with Patty's new audio system. If you're tired of your old vehicle sound, here is an update you can customize to fit your requirements and budget. I'm looking forward to hitting the open road with a lengthy music.
- Qiang Ling