Thursday, September 12, 2013

Hands-Free Compliance on a Budget

Living in Illinois comes with certain challenges.

Along with paying higher tax rates, we must frequently deal with whatever "progressive" laws Chicago politicians choose to foist upon us. Recently, our wonderful governor signed a law that, as of Jan. 1, 2014, makes it illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone. Hands-free Bluetooth devices are allowed, however.

Anyone with kids knows cell phones are pretty well a daily necessity. Should I get dinner? Are you picking up the boy? Don't forget, we have that thing on Saturday.

Lots of short conversations from moving vehicles are the grease in the wheel of life. So, the cell phoning must go on.

Problem is my car is a 2006 Nissan Sentra. Seven years is like a century in cell phone technology. Back then, Bluetooth was a slang term for the earpieces Wall Street types were wearing.

In the olden days, car stereos could be swapped with ease. The hole in the dash was pretty much standard across the board. Today, plastic has opened up a world of possibilities for designers. The right dash kit makes all the difference.

So, I needed a Bluetooth capable radio in the Sentra. I think the first violation for "cell phoning while driving" is around $75. At that rate, the payback would be snappy.

On previous cars, I've used Best Buy and Walmart for my car audio upgrades. This time I turned to Crutchfield at my uncle's recommendation.

If you’ve got an audio project in the works (and some inkling on how to wire an electronic device), you need to check out Crutchfield. At their site, tell them what kind of car you have, and they’ll tell you what will fit.

The total cost for the project was around $130. I paid for the radio and they tossed in the dash kit and the wiring harness. At Best Buy, those two add-ons were $20 apiece. A car audio specialty shop wanted $70 for the dash kit and wiring harness. (But, hey, they'd install it for $1!)

Crutchfield charged me $129 for the radio and tossed in the dash kit (black plastic piece) and the wiring harness. That's about a $50 value. 

Plus, Crutchfield tossed in install instructions and free 3-day shipping. If you’re on a budget, like most families are, you should definitely check it out. I saved at least $50 on the project.

Here's why you need a wiring harness. If you don't have the proper one, you can wire it by snipping the end off each wire and reconnecting it. Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, does it?
Oh, and one more thing. I ordered an extra wiring harness because I was paranoid the one they included wouldn’t work. When I went to return it, they sent an email saying they’ll refund me the $15, just keep the harness. Awesomeness on top of awesomeness!

My favorite part of the new radio: I can hit the phone button and Siri asks me what I want. No more touching my phone while driving. (And, yes, I waited for Nirvana to scroll by just so you could see how cool I am.)

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