I have driven cross-country twice round-trip in the last year and have always hated plugging in my iPhone in to play my music. Up until now I have just dealt with it and never thought of an alternative. Today, my brother asked me if we can setup AirPlay in his car for his cross-country drive. I was dumbfounded; why didn’t I ever think of that? So we set off making this happen and turns out its easier then you can imagine. The easiest solution was centered around using an Apple Airport Express to broadcast a WiFi network in the car and use its AirPlay capabilities to stream to the car’s speakers. Here is what you need to get a basic setup going:

  1. Apple Airport Express
  2. Power inverter
  3. An iOS device to AirPlay from
A quick note about the power inverter. The Airport will not use more then 2-5 watts once it is running so do not go overboard with a power inverter unless you plan on attaching additional devices. For this project we used the smallest power inverter we could find which happened to be the Duracell 100Watt pocket inverter.

Later on, we might crack open the Airport and use a 5V/3.3V mod to attach it directly to DC power instead of converting back and forth however for now this was the quickest and easiest solution.

Once you get everything find a place in your car you can stash everything nicely. For us, it was in the center console under the armrest. There happens to be a DC outlet and a decent amount of space to leave the equipment in. Once everything is inside we used Apple’s Airport Utlity on my iPhone to configure the base station. The key to this setup is preventing the phone/tablet from relying on the Airport for internet. To accomplish this a few things had to be done. First put the Airport Express into bridge mode. This is found in the internet settings under Advanced (do not serve IPs and do not NAT). Second, use WEP encryption for the WiFi as WPA2 caused drops requiring frequent user intervention to restore audio. Also, be sure to have your audio cable plugged into the audio port on the Airport. With both of those options configured and everything plugged in you are ready to enjoy some music!

One thing to note is the Airport takes just shy of a minute to boot (software version 7.6.1) so be patient. Also, your WiFi settings on your phone might show a spinning dial next to your network name however you can safely ignore that since your base station will never assign an IP. You should never see the WiFi icon while connected to your car but rather a 3G icon (or 4G).

Lastly, Enjoy!

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