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Car adapters.

Has there ever been something so un-needed and silly?
Well... they might be on a par with trash compactors which were the rage until people realized a trash compactor didn't get rid of garbage, they made it smaller un-pleasantly in your kitchen until the compacted trash was too heavy to carry out ;)

Car Adapters, Belkin and Griffen, un-necessary iPod murderous junk

Now let's discuss car adapters;

I don't use one, the better approach to solve the "I need to listen to my iPod in my car" problem is.... earbud out to aux in on the car stereo or to use an iPod powered FM transmitter (Griffen iTrip or Kensington Micro-transmitter).

Car adapters
Car adapters come with price tags that are about $60. Belkin basically owns the market in these things, but Griffen is a strong second. They make two versions that are what everyone buys. You may have one that is not a Belkin but all sound like these:

1) one model has cigarette lighter adapter that you plug into your cigarette lighter and has an FM broadcast device that plays your iPod through your car radio.

2) another popular unit with college students has a cigarette lighter adapter that you plug into your cigarette lighter and it has a "cassette" that pops into the cassette tape slot on older car stereos. This device takes the analog sound signal and converts it to magnetic pulses that the cassette playback read "reads". Any idea why this is so popular with college students?

To the owner their primary responsibility appears to be amplifying the sound played through the docking port into it's FM transmitter or cassette playback system.

While in use though.... their primary responsibility is stepping down the 12 volts at 60 amps the car battery provides to the needed +5 volts the iPod takes in through the USB power connection on the bottom of it. As you look at your "car adapter" do you happen to see a replaceable fuse anywhere on it? The answer in *every case* is no. At an added manufacturing cost of maybe 11 cents US they have avoided putting an output fuse on the "car adapter" that could have taken the device off-line if the step down transformer's secondary windings had failed. What you get instead is a device built cheaply that throws full voltage at a full 60 amps into the little iPod that needs 5 volts at 500 milliampheres so it can step it down to the needed 3.7 volts for the battery that it draws from.

The failed "car adapter" because it's not fused cooks the logic board in the iPod when it goes. Interestingly, (as with docking stations) the manufacturer will never be held accountable for the failure that bakes the iPod because the only way to test it is to put a perfectly good iPod on it again and see if it takes that ritual sacrifice also.

In most cases the "car adapter" will never be revealed as the source of the problem, it just appears to be 'bad luck'.

Like docking stations, the second thing these "car adapters" do is recharge the battery continually. If you read elsewhere on my site about batteries what you learn is this.

1) the battery type is Lithium Ion and is used in your iPod, cell phone, laptop and about every new power tool. It delivers 98% of its max current to the last second so it is a good and stable power source.

2) These batteries reach 100% of their charge holding capacity in just 90 minutes on a charger, every second after that is over charging

3) They permanently loose the ability to store power in an iPod application at the rate of about 30% a year as the temperatures an iPod works at and is stored at change the nature of the battery's chemistry.

4) every moment that a Lithium Ion battery is overcharged it incrementally ruins the battery's ability to hold a full charge. The damage is permanent and it is incrementally additive. If you overcharge the battery by 1 hour one day and another 3 1/2 hours another day, you now have 4 1/2 accumulated hours permanent damage to the battery. Do this long enough and it doesn't hold a charge at all.

So let's discuss this as it relates to a "car adapter". The entire time it's on the car adapter it's being "re-charged". Leave it there all day for several days and you get a device with a battery life that is so short ultimately you can't actually use the iPod portably for any real time.

Does it make sense for Apple to teach their customers about Lithium batteries? No, they want to sell new iPods to less knowledgeable customers continually.

Does it make sense for the "car adapter" manufacturer to teach the new owner the nature of battery types and how it applies to docking station ownership? They probably don't think it's their place and why would they? They don't sell iPods or batteries, frightening off a customer isn't what their stock holders have in mind.

So just to paint it clearly, the concept you hold as the "primary responsibility" for these things is to play stereo music through your car stereo is about third most important thing they do.

Car adapters are evil, life sapping battery killing devices. You get 11 hours of play on a single 90 minute battery charge. Unless you have a daily commute that is 5 1/2 hours each direction, you don't need a car adapter. You just need to plan a bit better.

Call 707-544-4400


email me at with questions or to set up a repair.


Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, and Saturday & Sunday noon to 6pm.

I'm in Sonoma County... Northern California wine country,

    Frank Walburg
    2145 Service Court
    Santa Rosa, Ca 95403-3139

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