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Music on the Road or My Adventure with an FM Transmitter

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 8:07 PM on July 12, 2011

FM Transmitter for the CarThis past weekend I drove up to the Lancaster,PA area to visit my family it is about an 8 hour drive, so having good entertainment was important. We always rent a car when we go and this year my husband picked a Toyota Corolla. The first thing I did when he got it home was to check the audio system to see where I could plug-in my iPhone. I checked the normal places car companies try to hide the input, the glove compartment, the storage bin between the driver and the passenger. I finally found what I thought might be an input underneath the audio system. It was back so far that you couldn’t see it unless you lay on your side across the front seat and then not very well. We quickly determined that this was not an input for the iPhone (or any other phone), but strictly for an MP3 player. After further searching I finally came to the conclusion that I could not connect my iPhone directly to the audio system and I needed to figure out another solution. Then I remembered I had a no name FM transmitter I had picked up somewhere, and I thought that would work. Early in the morning around 3:00 AM we started off, for the first 3 hours my husband who was driving was in charge of the radio since at 3:00 AM I really didn’t care. Around 6 AM I woke up and was ready to take control of the in-car entertainment. So I plugged the FM transmitter into the iPhone and began to trying to get the music from the iPhone to come over the car stereo. After several minutes of fiddling with it and the radio I finally got it to come in.  Then 10 minutes later I would lose the signal and have to start  all over again. When the signal did come in I had to hold the transmitter exactly right or the signal would disappear. The fact that we were traveling through West Virginia and the mountainous part of Maryland didn’t help either. After several failed attempts I finally gave up and was reduced to listening to the car radio.

There are a couple of lessons I learned from the trip. I know the next time I rent a car it will not be a Toyota Corolla. I still can’t believe that four years after the iPhone came out cars are still being made with out a way to connect the iPhone or any smart phone to the audio system. I wasn’t asking for full integration. I would have been happy with a simple audio jack. The second lesson I learned is that FM transmitters are not much use in mountainous terrain when you are traveling. I do wonder though if a better transmitter would have made a difference. If anyone has had any luck using a FM transmitter, what make and model did you use and were you in hilly terrain.