How to Play MP3 Files in Your Car

Article posted on July 22, 2012

Article Photo Chances are, you or someone you know owns a mobile device capable of playing back MP3 and similar audio files. MP3s are small in file size, can sound pretty good and are most commonly used as a delivery method for digital music. When loaded onto a MP3 player (like an iPod), your entire music collection can fit in your pocket and brought with you literally anywhere you go.

You've probably heard or seen advertisements for automobile companies that allow you to "sync" your entire music collection to an internal hard drive stored in the vehicle and play your songs through your car's speakers. Listening to your MP3s in your car, especially if you've built up a collection of playlists, is one of the simplest ways to enjoy music on the road, but what if you're not one of the few motorists with a fancy schmancy head unit or don't have a hard drive installed in your car? Not to worry, even motorists with nothing more than an FM radio tuner can play their digital music through their car speakers as long as they have their MP3 player on hand.

The AUX Port and a Single Cable

If your car doesn't have an internal hard drive but does have an auxiliary port on the front, sending songs to your car's speakers through your MP3 player is as easy as investing in the right cord. If you're not sure whether or not your vehicle has an auxiliary port, look for a small hole or plug (often labeled "AUX") on your car's radio or CD player. To connect your MP3 player or smartphone to your car's speakers, pick up a "3.5mm" cord online or from your local electronics store - you can find them for as cheap as two bucks at places like Amazon. A proper 3.5mm cord should have male connectors on both sides and its connectors should look like the ends of your earbuds or headphones. After you've connected your digital music device to your vehicle, simply hit the AUX button on your car's radio or CD player, choose a playlist on your MP3 player and hit the road!

With a Cassette Adapter

Even motorists with nothing more than a working cassette player can enjoy the benefits of on-demand digital music with a small investment. The same companies that sell those 3.5mm cords mentioned above are likely to sell cassette adapters, too. Cassette adapters are a must-have for anyone riding around with an old tape player as they allow you to connect any type of device with a headphone or 3.5mm port to your car's speakers. Just plug the 3.5mm end into your MP3 player or smartphone, stick the cassette end into your car and you're good to go. Most automobile head units will switch to the cassette audio source once a tape has been inserted, but if yours doesn't, simply switch the source manually.

Use an FM Transmitter

But what if you have neither an auxiliary jack nor a working cassette player? Luckily there's still hope. The final method may not sound as good as the aforementioned alternatives, but if you've got a working FM radio in your car, an FM transmitter will allow you to "broadcast" your MP3 player to your car's radio. You need to be careful when investing in an FM transmitter though, poorly-manufactured transmitters won't sound as good as the higher-quality ones and it may be difficult to achieve ideal reception in areas with an abundance of radio interference. But assuming you've picked up a good unit in a relatively interference-free area, just plug the connector into your MP3 player, tune your FM radio to the station displayed on the transmitter and enjoy the ride.

Hopefully one of the methods listed above will work well for you and your setup. Remember that regardless of which of these three methods you choose, each of them will require that you control playback on your MP3 player or smartphone and that you should never try to do so while operating your vehicle. And while the methods listed above are a terrific way to play back the digital music you've purchased, you're not only limited to music stored directly on your device. Any radio apps you have installed on your device will play through your car's speakers as well once a connection has been established!

Thank you, dboy, for the high quality article photo.