Automotive Electronics Accessories

Use accessories to stay entertained, informed and connected on the road.

Portable devices like MP3 players, GPS navigation and rear-seat video players are perfect for keeping you and your passengers entertained and headed in the right direction on your summer road trip. You will need accessories to keep them powered, recharged and integrated with your vehicle's audio system. Follow these simple tips to choose the right accessories for enjoying your portable devices on the road:

Tip #1: Power Up

Vehicle power adapters are a must to keep your electronics fully charged during your trip. Since more and more portable electronics - from MP3 players to digital cameras to cell phones - charge via USB, a USB vehicle power adapter may be perfect solution to keep your gadgets going. These universal chargers plug in a 12-Volt socket and provide one or more USB jacks for powering any USB device. Best of all, they keep your electronics juiced while minimizing the clutter and expense of multiple adapters.

Considering the number of devices that you and your passengers are likely to carry and use in the car, a vehicle power strip will ensure you're not fighting over an outlet. The strip turns a single 12-Volt outlet or cigarette lighter into two or more sockets for powering your portable electronic road gear.

What about electronics that don't use the 12-Volt DC electricity that most cars supply? Laptops and game consoles, for example, use household-style 110-Volt AC power. A DC-to-AC power inverter plugs into your car's 12V power socket or cigarette lighter and gives you a 110V outlet to keep all of your electronics powered up for the long haul.

Tip #2: Get Connected

Now that you have power, it's time to focus on connecting your electronics. Whether music from your MP3 player, turn-by-turn directions from your navigation system or text-to-speech narration from your e-book reader, you likely have several devices in your car that play some sort of audio. If your factory-equipped audio system lacks a "line-in" or "aux" connection, a universal FM transmitter is often the simplest and most affordable solution to play your devices through your car's speakers. Simply plug the FM transmitter into the headphone or audio outputs of any portable device, select an unused FM station on the transmitter, tune in your car radio to that station and – voila!

FM transmitters are perfect for audio, but what about taking calls on the road? A Bluetooth car kit is an easy way to add hands-free calling to your Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone. Most kits simply plug into your 12-Volt outlet and provide hands-free calling through a built-in speaker and microphone. More advanced units can display caller ID, let you control your phone with voice commands and can even let you stream your calls and music from your phone or MP3 player wirelessly to your car stereo.

Tip #3: Stay Organized

Keep your center console or passenger seat tidy while providing a secure and dedicated home in your car for your carry-in gadgets. As convenient as they are, portable devices can be distracting and hard to use if they're simply resting in a cup holder or on the passenger seat. Vehicle mounts are must-have accessories for devices like cell phones, MP3 players and portable navigation systems, securing them in a location that's easy to reach, see and operate. Mount styles include suction cup, beanbag and self-stick designs that easily adhere on your dash, vents or windshield. For the most flexibility, consider a "gooseneck" design that let you perfectly position your devices for driving or move them completely out of the way when not in use.

Staying organized is not only important while you're driving, but when you park your car as well. For security reasons, you'll definitely want to stow your portable devices when you leave your car. Cases keep your electronics protected and out of sight, and help keep your car interior tidy.

Before your next trip, make sure you have the right accessories to keep your devices powered up, connected and properly mounted. Doing so will ensure that you get the most functionality and ease of use from your portable electronics during your trip.