Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beater How-To: XM Radio Car and Home Docks for Cheap

Last week I bought a Jeep Cherokee as a utility vehicle and emergency daily driver. Since it looked like a JC Whitney catalog threw up all over the interior, I stripped out the air fresheners, Viper alarm, aftermarket cruise control and other miscellaneous doodads. In doing so I noticed the car was wired for an XM Radio. As the radio stations in Charleston send me into dry heaves every time I switch it on, XM Radio is a must in my opinion. I was given my first hit by GM rental cars, now I must have it.

Given previously activated radios have been reactivated for two months for free, I decided to give it a try. After going to Radio Shack and digging
around in my electronics bin, I found that if you have a car that is wired for an XM radio already and you can find an XM radio and car kit on craigslist (likely less than $20), you can have a car and home system for about $25. In addition to that, you won't have to buy the home kit for $80 or pay the extra radio fee of $10/month.

Hit the jump for a tutorial.

Here is what you will need:
  • Car wired for XM (if not already, you just need a spare antennae for this project)
  • XM Onyx Radio with Car Kit ($20 on craigslist or $50 new)

  • 1 male RCA jack with solder or crimp connections (check Radio Shack)
  • 2 female RCA jacks with solder or crimp connections (Radio Shack again)
  • 1 110AC to 5V DC power adapter from an old cell phone or other wall charger
  • Soldering supplies or a crimper

Here is what to do:
  1. Cut the plug end off of the power supply. Leave plenty of length off of the wall plug. You can throw away the small end.
  2. Strip the wires so that they can be soldered to the RCA jack
  3. Test the output with a multimeter to make sure that it's 5V output and mark the negative connection.
  4. Slip the boot on the wire first, then solder the ground wire to the outside shell of the RCA and the positive wire to the center pin.
  1. Do the same for the cigarette lighter plug and be sure to only use the adapter that came with the radio as it's a 5V power supply. Be sure to adhere to the same convention. The ground is the braided shield wire on the XM power adapter.
  2. Strip the wires back and solder them to the female connector, putting the boot on first. You should now have two power supplies; one AC and one DC with the same connector. Either should plug into the XM radio pigtail.
  3. Place the spare antennae from the car kit in your speaker cabinet or entertainment center along with the audio cable. Leave the AC adapter in the cabinet and carry your XM radio and dock from vehicle to cabinet when you want radio in the house.
At the end of this, you should have an XM Radio that you can use in the car and in the house with minimal trouble at a cost of $30, maximum. That is until late December, when they start charging for service again.

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