Iphone and Ipod Direct Connection to Car Stereo

Filed Under (Personal) by Robert on February 21, 2009

Ever wish you could have a direct connection from your iphone or ipod to your stock car stereo using the standard 3.5mm jack? Many new cars are now including a 3.5mm input into the stock stereos for all of your mp3 devices, but if your car is a couple or more years older, you’re out of luck…so you thought. I’ve never really been satisfied using any of those FM transmitter devices—the sound quality is just plain bad and you’re always messing with the FM stations just to find one that’s unused. So, eventually I just never bothered with that anymore.

I really love some of the music apps on the iphone like for instance Pandora which lets you build your own radio stations based the music you like, so I looked a little harder and found that there’s an easy way to get a direct connection for almost any car using one of PIE’s (Precision Interface Electronics) Auxiliary Input Converters. Most stock car stereos are designed with some sort of auxiliary input that is used for either an external CD changer or satellite radio. PIEs device splices in between the stereo head unit and the wire harnesses that connect the speakers, power, aux, steering wheel controls etc. The device has RC jack inputs so the only other thing that is needed is a cable with RC jacks on one end and the 3.5mm jack on the other. It sounds complicated, but if you’re a little mechanically inclined or have a friend that is and you can bribe with a couple of bears, it can be done in about an hour. The cost of the converter is around $65.00

Here’s the steps with pictures for the install on a Ford Explorer. Other vehicles will be similar but will probably have some minor variance.

First check PIE’s AUXILIARY INPUT CONVERTER APPLICATION GUIDE to find the correct converter for your car. For the Ford Explorer you still have to pull the stereo out first and look at the pin layout because you will need either the FRDN-AUX or FRD03-AUX depending on whether the pin layout is 20 pin or a 16 and 24 pin connector. You can order one of these from a few different place on-line, but I just went with TSS Radio because they’re local to me in Chicago. So, I just drove there to pick it up, and the guys there are really helpful in making sure I got the correct unit.

The only tools you need are a small screw driver to pry off the front panel surrounding the stereo, and small socket driver to unscrew the 2 bolts holding the stereo.


Here’s what the converter packaging looks like.


The converter I needed was the FRD03-AUX/S. The 16 and 24 pin female connections (red) connect directly to the stereo head unit. There are 2 male connectors in the picture over on the left and in the back, the 24 pin one is connected to the harness that was previously connected to the stereo, and the 16 pin connector is not connected to anything. On the converter itself there are 2 RC jacks on the left where the stereo cable is connected to.


Connect your RC cable with 3.5mm jack on the other end to the converter box.


You’ll have to pry the cover off using a screwdriver or something similar. It’s only held on by 6 clips, you can see the clip holes in this picture. It was easiest to start at the top end. The visual on the clip holes should give a good place on where to pry.


Once the cover is off, it will still be attached by a harness on top left for the system information controls and the top right for the 4×4 controls. You can pull the harness clips out easily by pressing the little tab on the side.


Unscrew the 2 bolts holding the stereo in place then just slide it out. Unplug the FM antenna and the harnesses. The back of the stereo head unit and pin layouts for my Ford Explorer’s stereo look like this.


Connect the converter harnesses to the stereo and the outgoing harnesses. Then connect the RC cable and decide how you want to route this. I just routed mine down toward the floor on the passenger side.



It’s a little hard to see from this pictures but the cable comes in front of the iPhone to the right and then up behind the panel. Enjoy your music! Let me know if you have any questions. It really is pretty easy and well worth the time if you like your music.


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