Introduction: Invisible MP3 Player for Cars

Picture of Invisible MP3 Player for Cars

These instructions are for cars that have an FM radio, but otherwise limited options for listening to music. I wanted to invisibly incorporate an mp3 player that plays through my car's speakers, which I did using a hidden FM modulator that connects to an mp3 player small enough to fit in the ashtray.

MP3 player that fits in your ashtray
A wired FM modulator
A cable with dual-RCA to 3.5mm stereo plug

Whatever is needed to remove your radio and install the FM modulator (probably a screwdriver, wire cutter/strippers, electrical tape)

Step 1: Install an FM Modulator

Picture of Install an FM Modulator

I installed an FM modulator that hides behind the control panel and connects directly to the antenna and power, as opposed to one that hangs down from the cigarette lighter. I just followed the installation instructions that came with it. FM modulators of this type have an on-off switch for the antenna, which I put in a discreet place below the steering wheel.

My 97 Ford Escort is weird, and required a special tool made from a coathanger to remove the radio. Since all cars are different, I won't discuss how to install the modulator. Generally speaking, though, you'll probably need a screwdriver, some wire cutters/strippers, and electrical tape. It may or may not be easy.

Step 2: Pull a Stereo Cable From the Modulator Through the Ashtray

Picture of Pull a Stereo Cable From the Modulator Through the Ashtray

There are two RCA jacks that come out of the modulator. I extended these with a cable that adapts the RCA jacks to a 3.5mm stereo plug. The stereo plug was then pulled through the opening for the ashtray.

Step 3: Modify Ashtray

Picture of Modify Ashtray

I modified the ashtray slightly, to allow the cable to fit through the back, and to fit an mp3 player. I made these modifications easily with a small hacksaw and a pair of pliers. To cut out the square opening in back of the ashtray, I made several parallel cuts, then snapped the pieces off.

Step 4: Plug in the MP3 Player and Put the Ashtray Back In

Picture of Plug in the MP3 Player and Put the Ashtray Back In

That's it. Here are a few comments, though..

The player I used (irock ezmp3) uses sd cards for memory. Given the minimalist interface, it'll be difficult to manage a lot of music on a single card. I plan to save music on multiple small-memory sd cards, maybe with a few albums each, and just keep the cards in a Sucrets tin.

Using an FM modulator to listen to a $20 mp3 player is definitely low-end. It sounds pretty good, though.


cesarino (author)2010-03-08

what is a fm modulator?

Irwind Kee (author)cesarino2010-10-16

device that convert audio signal to fm signal

Deus (author)2006-08-01

But what if U smoke??

vref_guy (author)Deus2009-12-03

I've never been in a car with a smoker who actually uses the ash tray. Even in the dead of winter they put the window down it seems.

mikeread (author)Deus2009-09-24

good reason to quit?

toogers (author)Deus2009-07-24

load subliminal hypnotism on the player saying "smoking is gross"

abadfart (author)Deus2009-06-01

well you can ether splice it in like i did with my spare lighters or buy a lighter

I only smoke when I'm on fire.

no_fear (author)Deus2007-02-13

How about stop smoking...

munchman (author)no_fear2007-12-03

put the mp3 in the tape deck!

PCfreak (author)munchman2009-04-08

there is no tape deck from what i see

Derin (author)munchman2008-06-27

then this mat happen: ok you can drive*hands keys to friend* ty your welcome *drives*hmm i want to listen to music*presses tape button* *ipod flies out*HEY WTF?WHERE DID THAT IPOD COME FROM!? well who cares*inserts cassette**listens to music*

Guy.Fawkes (author)Deus2008-11-24

Since you can buy many gigabytes of flash memory (SD cards, CF cards, etc.) for the cost of a carton of smokes, and to the best of my knowledge, listening to music doesn't cause lung, throat, or mouth cancer, perhaps you should re-evaluate where you're spending your entertainment money.

RENATO.ROSS (author)2009-11-19

não teria um outro lugar para colocar o mp3? aonde vou apagar os cigarros???

ktalex (author)2009-10-03

pretty cool till u get bored of the same music over and over.

tcup (author)2009-05-21

I'm impressed. Now if only you could add a CD player. I just bought a car, no CD player but it has a cassette player and AM/FM radio. Any suggestions?

Bazzatron (author)tcup2009-06-17

you can buy cassette tapes that have a lead coming out of them, you plug your cd device/mp3 or whatever into them and they just play through your speakers as if you were playing a cassette

tcup (author)Bazzatron2009-06-17

Ahhh, it took me a moment, but I think I know what you are referring to. They're still available? Any idea where?

Bazzatron (author)tcup2009-06-18

they are yea, my sisters boyfriend just put on in and ran the wire behind the console of his ford fiesta so he can plug his ipod in and not have a dangly lead. Look on amazon i guess, i live in the united kingom so it might b different, look for a cd/mp3 to cassette/tape converter. Ill look into it, message me back so i can easly respond on my iphone ;-P

tcup (author)Bazzatron2009-06-18

thank you, thank you, thank you. you given me more reasons to love this website! has a huge variety and they are very inexpensive. My CD collection is saved.

tcup (author)2009-06-18

Found them! On Amazon. com, they are amazinling inexpensive. Thank you!

geterkikzkid (author)2008-08-25

Great Idea! Quite simple and easy! But damn, I'd rather smoke a cigar then listen to mp3 format music. So I'm keeping my ashtray. But it's still cool. Off topic: Why do car manufacturers install lighters and ashtrays in their vehicles anyway? I usually keep those with me. Plus those trays are hard to clean out. I guess those things are meant for mods.

netxtc (author)2007-07-16
.the standard fm modulators suck...and i mean suck hard...

second that........
Derin (author)netxtc2008-07-07

yea,i prefer the pioneer ones with aux in

Esmagamus (author)2008-06-12

That is not a RCA connector. That is a TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) connector.

jongscx (author)Esmagamus2008-07-06

No, he's saying that you need an RCA to 3.5mm (1/8") adapter (aka headphone plug) The FM modulator is the one that has RCA inputs.

mikesty (author)2006-07-20

Best use of the ash tray I've ever seen. A little more details on actually getting into the car would be nice, especially for someone looking to buy his first car and hack that thing up :)

Derin (author)mikesty2008-06-27

we use the ashtray as a holder for the garage key

reid (author)mikesty2006-07-20

Yeah, I agree - ideally, I would've described in more detail how to install the fm modulator, which required I take apart the control panel. But here I confess: I put that thing in years ago and only recently put in the mp3 player. So, I don't remember well enough how I got the control panel apart. I do recall laying with my head below the steering wheel and my feet on the seat, messing with a connection back there, thinking that if I was rear-ended it would be pretty ugly. Maybe a professional installation would've been more sensible.

aleahey (author)2006-07-22

have you considered wiring up a converter and having it powered via the car as well? dont you have to keep changing your batteries?

cornboy3 (author)aleahey2008-03-14

My transmitter is battery powered and and car powered by default

reid (author)aleahey2006-07-23

It would be pretty slick to have this powered by the car battery - I wouldn't have to change the batteries and I suppose it could be wired to turn on and off with the accessories switch, just like the radio. I use rechargeable batteries and don't find it too bothersome to keep an extra charged one around, though. And as it is now, I could easily unplug the player if I want to take it in the gym or something (not that I have). But it's a cool idea I'll look into a little more.

crazypyro (author)reid2007-09-27

just wire it to the fuse that controls your radio

rickick (author)2007-04-28

Good Awnser !

crapflinger (author)2006-11-14

good setup for hooking something in like this....the standard fm modulators suck...and i mean suck hard... but i could see where it actually being tied to the antenna would make it not suck so well as being powered by the car... a nifty change up would be if your radio had RCA inputs on the could go from the mic jack on the player to rca or something to that effect...

bowdie (author)2006-07-21

Good one. I do something very similar in my Smart fortwo. I have a DAB (I think it's called HD radio in the US) portable that fits in the glove compartment. In a smart, that's under the radio. Fortunately, the standard AM/FM unit in the fortwo has a line in for the CD changer (if iftted) You get get a little adaptor that fits into the din connector, and has a 3.5 stereo jack at the other end. Most of these portables use the headphone cable for the antenna, so I just brought a headphone extension cable, and duct taped it along the length of the dash underneath where it wouldn't be seen. Poing! In car DAB for 40UKP

reid (author)bowdie2006-07-21

That sounds really cool to me - I think I'd like a smartcar myself! Upgrades like adding an HD receiver are not so easy with my car... these Fords have blob-shaped "integrated control panels" that require crummy-looking aftermarket blob-shapes to upgrade the radio. Before I ever do that, I'd probably upgrade the whole car.

saites2001 (author)2006-07-20

I like how you did it. It really makes the MP3 player more like part of the car. However, you can get FM modulator cheaply that is much smaller. For me, this is better. Although it doesn't quite flow with the car as well, it is very easy to use (both transfer sound and add new music). I think when I get my car (right now I drive my dad's truck), I'm going to put a carputer in, which will (hopefully) erdicate the problem altogether. Good project, though.

theRIAA (author)2006-07-20

i want to do this but i have a new car, and they require diffrent tools to take the dash apart. usually theres 2 clips (one on top, one on bottom) of the dash area. you have to slide in a metal strip to undo a clip. i made some metal strips from a floppy drive sheeth and might see if they do anything a little later

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