Using an iPod in a Prius

Using an iPod in a Prius

Summary: When we bought our Toyota Prius in August we purchase the base model without any options. Although, that's what we wanted, it's not like we had much of a choice in the matter Prius' are still very scarce in the northeastern part of the U.

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Using an iPod in a PriusWhen we bought our Toyota Prius in August we purchase the base model without any options. Although, that's what we wanted, it's not like we had much of a choice in the matter Prius' are still very scarce in the northeastern part of the U.S. and there is little, if any, selection available.

Much to my dismay the base model base model Prius doesn't have an auxillary (AUX) audio input for things like iPods – a big bummer. After a couple of months of burning CDs for the car (remember that?) I discovered that there is an iPod solution for the Prius and that it works with the base model radio. Wheee!

I discovered the iPod option while flipping through the Prius accessory pamphlet at the Toyota dealership during a recent oil change. They charge about US$150 for the iPod connection kit, which consists of an interface module and a cable plus another US$150-180 for labor because they have to remove the entire dash to get to the back of the radio. Don't expect to leave for less than US$300, but if you're suffering with juggling CDs it can be well worth it.

Here's how to get it...

My Toyota dealership installed the iPod interface from USA Spec (PN: PA15-TOY) which turned out not to be the best option. The PA15-TOY doesn't charge the new iPod nano 4G nor does it work with the iPhone 3G. In my testing I was able to connect the nano 4G but it didn't work as expected, seemingly picking songs at random. It wouldn't charge the nano 3G and my iPhone 3G wouldn't work at all, not even in airplane mode. Luckily the PA15-TOY does work with and charge my iPod classic 80GB, which is what I'm using now.

A call to USA Spec revealed that they've released an updated 3G charging cable (PN: CB-PA-105) which charges and operates the nano 4G, iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G according to the company. The cable sells for US$19 plus shipping. If you already purchased the older PA15-TOY interface you can buy the new cable directly from USA Spec, but you'll still need to have it installed. If you're having trouble with a newer iPhone/iPod, tell your dealer that a newer cable is available and see if they can help you.

For now I'll continue to my iPod classic connected to the older cable but I plan to have my dealer switch it out for the newer cable when it arrives next week.

Tip: If you have the iPod kit installed at your dealership, bring along a six foot male RCA to male 1/8-inch cable and have the technician run that cable into your glove box while he's got your dash apart. The extra input will come in handy for connecting other audio sources, DVD players, etc. and they shouldn't charge you anything extra to do it.

What's your iPod > car rig?

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware, Networking, Telcos

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51 comments
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  • My sweet Rig

    I have a 1995 Mitsubishi Pajero with a broken radio, so I
    put my iPhone in the cup rest (speaker down to bounce the
    sound up into the car. For radio, I use a coleman
    emergency light/flashlight/radio that sits in the passenger
    seat.

    I have experimented with a DC/AC converter, a MacBook
    Pro, and an Aircard to stream internet radio, but that is
    kinda overkill.
    Gritztastic
  • RE: Using an iPod in a Prius

    I have a Chevrolet Avalanche which had 2 empty slots under the factory radio. On eBay, I purchased the older model of the Harmon Kardon Drive + Play for under $50. I am able to both charge and play any iPod and even my 2G iPhone which is great. I completely agree getting an extra AV cord so that you can use for other things. I've used mine for DVD players, Zune, and laptop. All of which work great.
    jnave
  • RE: Using an iPod in a Prius

    I've been running a USA spec iPod adapter in a VW passat for
    many years now. Once you get to the radio, the connections
    are dead simple. With some time and patience, I bet you
    could get the dash off of your Prius without the $tealership.
    For further customization, head over to proclipusa and get a
    custom made mount that will fit your car and then couple
    that to a tilt/swivel holder that has a pass through for your
    usaSpec cable and will hold your ipod/phone at the perfect
    angle while you drive.
    ch7
  • Could never understand the economics.

    I bought a Hyundai Accent. I bought the most expensive/fully loaded Accent they make. I also drive 26,000 miles per year. I did the math and it comes out as follows based on $4.00 per gallon gas and my 26,000 miles per year: For the Prius to pay for its higher cost through gas savings would take 7.75 years. Yes, thats years.

    So here is how you make your Ipod work.
    1. Sell the Prius. Some sucker will pay you a lot of money for it even used.
    2. Buy an Accent
    3. Get one of those old adapters that go in the cassette deck and connect to the headphone jack for $14.99 at Best Buy or get an FM transponder for $39.95 if you dont have a cassete deck.
    4. Put the rest of the money you got for selling the Prius in the bank.
    cornpie
    • understand this

      cornpie,
      One you factor in the carbon footprint of your Accent you can
      quickly see why many people like the Prius. Yes it will
      typically take up to 10 years to make it pay for itself in gas
      savings alone, but this is highly dependent on one's driving
      habits. There is a higher math here that is toward conserving
      limited resources, and the Prius is a step in the right
      direction.
      ch7
      • I disagree

        [i]There is a higher math here that is toward conserving
        limited resources, and the Prius is a step in the right
        direction.[/i]

        [url=http://www.smartplanet.com/news/transport/10001767/top-10-green-cars-are-all-diesels-prius-doesn-t-get-a-look-in.htm] Diesels get better MPG than Prius [/url]

        Note: I drive neither a diesel nor a hybrid. I've just always found it interesting that all this technology and all this hype still can't match the efficiency of a 100 year old engine.
        NonZealot
        • Yes and no.

          Hybrids are great for stop and go city driving. That's
          where they really shine. For highway driving, they're not as
          good as many other gas powered cars, and, as you point
          out, not nearly as good as many diesels.

          Side note: I recently rented a BMW diesel in Italy. It was
          very peppy, and a delight to drive through the hills of
          Tuscany. Diesel was cheaper than gas (I paid about 1.25
          Euro/liter), which isn't the case here. Based on my short
          time in that car, I'd be perfectly happy with a diesel.

          The article you linked to stated that they did the mileage
          tests on motorways at an average of 68 mph. This not
          where a hybrid would have an advantage.
          msalzberg
          • I drove from SLC Utah to Denver CO without stopping for gas

            An arrived with 1/4 tank on a Civic Hybrid.

            Hybrids are only bad on highway because drivers who like to over-speed and don't use cruise control, which distributes the power load better than your foot.
            wackoae
          • Ah, but would you have been..

            able to do the same in a non-hybrid Civic? You're already
            driving a fuel-efficient car to begin with, so again, the hybrid
            may not have actually been much help.
            msalzberg
          • Nope!!

            A normal Civic will get you about 350 miles per tank. A hybrid gets about 500 .... my personal record was 536 miles on one fill up.
            wackoae
          • Right you are

            [url=http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4284188.html] Jetta TDI vs Prius [/url]

            City driving saw the Prius win 44mpg vs 32mpg. Highway driving was nearly even at 45mpg.
            NonZealot
          • My Companys Suburbans get 500miles to the tank.

            We Transport railroad crews from our base in Nampa, ID to Pocatello, ID to the east or LaGrande,OR to the west. on one tank full. That's carrying 6 Large Adults with their luggage.

            No Honda, Toyota, etc can do that.
            Species8472
          • You could get 2 Priuses...

            and put three people and their luggage in each. You'd still
            use less gas, and get there on one tankful.

            Of course, if there's any non-highway driving, your
            Suburban's mileage drops to about 10 - 14 mpg (depending
            on the model), while the Prius' [b]rises[/b] to 48 mpg.

            But hey, it's not my money.
            msalzberg
          • I had a 1991 Jetta TD...

            ...with the 1.6l VW turbo diesel (0-60 same day) that averaged around 48 mpg combined city/highway when driven conservatively. I once did 1080km (675 miles) on a single full tank and put 49 litres (about 13 US gallons) into it when I stopped (Montreal to New York City by way of Boston). That's almost 52mpg (US gallons), and anyone who's ever driven in Boston can tell you that fuel economy is never very good in beantown.
            914four
        • There are lots of other technologies on the horizon

          that will leave today's hybrids as an evolutionary dead end. Better to save your money for a few years down the road when you will be able to buy something that will do a little more than just make you feel good.
          cornpie
        • The ideal combination...

          ...would be a diesel hybrid, but North America still resists clean (low sulfur) diesel, despite it's availability and success in Europe since the late 1980ies
          914four
      • Wrong

        With today's gas prices, the Prius/Civic Hybrid will pay off the price difference in less than 5 years.

        On top of that, they are more reliable than any other car (I had a Civic Hybrid for 5 years, only spent time in the shop for oil changes) and the depreciation is not that bad.

        Imagine a car that you use for 5 years, put in more than 70K miles and get $13K for trade-in. That was me when I exchanged my Civic for a Prius.
        wackoae
      • Not to mention...

        ...the carbon footprint of recycling the batteries. Since the batteries are good for 5 to 7 years, and cost about Cdn$ 9000.00 to replace (not to mention that there is no North American recycling facility for them so they get shipped to China), I'm not so sure that they are that great a solution. I think a mid-80ies Mercedes-Benz 300D (about US$10000 for one in excellent condition) with a bio-diesel conversion (US$ 1500.00 with auto-switchover micro-controller) would end up saving you more in the long run, and give you a better car. Most Mercedes-Benz from the 70ies and 80ies will easily do 800,000km (500K miles) without major work if they aren't involved in any major accidents and are properly maintained.
        We have a recently acquired 1983 240D (don't want to drive the Porsche in the winter) which while not nearly as peppy as a Prius is still a safer car according to our insurance adjuster, even despite the absence of airbags. She claims that a Mercedes 4 door has one of the lowest insurance costs to the owner and the Prius is among the highest, mainly due to their tendency to catch fire. We haven't ordered the bio-diesel kit since our planned supplier of bio-diesel isn't up and running yet, but we hope to move forward next summer.
        I do know (again from the insurance adjuster) that the Civic is a far better hybrid (they don't catch fire as easily for one) but the Prius outsells the Civic 10 or 12 to one because of it's distinct shape. I sometimes wonder if the average Prius driver's desire is to be green or rather to appear green?
        914four
    • Great solution!

      I've been looking for an iPod solution for years. My 2005
      Prius didn't even have the aux jack that my current 2007
      model does.

      As to savings, it always bugs me when people compare a
      $15,000 car with a $20,000 car or whatever. I mean, you
      could get a base model Yaris instead of the Accent, and
      save more money so why buy the Accent? :-)

      (For what it's worth, in the 17 months I owned my 2005
      Prius, I saved over $1200 in gas compared to the other
      $20,000 car I was considering based on mileage it had.)
      alsplace
    • Prius economics

      I understand the economics of the "hybrid premium" and don't delude myself in thinking it's cheaper (especially when gas is only $2/g here in NJ).

      For me, it's about using less fuel - and I love the extended range (~400+ miles) that the Prius gives me.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady