Written by by Ben Novakovic / Courtesy of Evolver.fmairport_express_in_car-591x443

Twitter software engineer Ben Novakovic, one of the guys who built We Are Hunted, which would eventually become Twitter #Music, is a clever person.

In his spare time, Novakovic devised a way to modify an Apple Airport Express so that it runs efficiently in your car, allowing you or any of your passengers to play the music on their phone — or even stream it using Rdio, Spotify, Twitter #Music,  or any other app.

This is awesome… at least until self-driving cars ruin the party.

It’s also not the easiest thing in the world, but that is no reason not to try it. And yes, we know, you can use one of those converters that turns your car’s “cigarette lighter” power source into a standard household plug, and simply attach the AirPort Express to that, allowing you to pull off this trick by simply skipping down to Step Eight of this tutorial, where you tweak your phone and AirPort Express settings. However, as Novakovic told us, in that scenario “you are essentially converting from 12V DC -> 110V AC -> 3.3V DC which is a bit of a waste really, and inverters get hot and are just annoying as they can be quite large.”

Good points.

If you are bold enough to pop open an Apple AirPort Express and modify its innards, here’s how to hack Apple AirPort Express to put AirPlay in your car, courtesy of our pal Ben. We edited his original post down a bit to clarify things for the non-technically-inclined, so if you want the unexpurgated version, go here.

I solved a #firstworldproblem today – wireless audio in my car.

Basically, I was fed up with having so many cables floating around and getting tangled, and I wasn’t happy with the compressed audio quality with Bluetooth, so I decided to come up with a better wireless audio solution.

Requirements:

  • AirPort Express – $99
  • Car with an aux input in the stereo and a free “cigarette lighter” power plug
  • Star/Torx screwdriver – $8
  • Regular screwdriver – you already have one.
  • USB cable – we all have spares of these too.
  • Some standard wires
  • 5V to 3.3V DC stepdown converter – $4
  • A soldering iron & some solder – $8
  • Super glue – $5
  • Cigarette lighter-to-USB converter: $5-$15
  • A little electrical tape – $5

 

1. Open the AirPort Express

Okay, deep breath. First, you’ll need to modify the AirPort Express so that it draws power from a USB cable, instead of its usual household plug. In this post to the North American Subaru Impreza Owners Club forum, user “enjoiful” describes one technique for this, which Evolver.fm paraphrases as follows (you might want to check out his or her photos too, for help with this part).

To pop open the AirPort Express, stick your regular screwdriver in the seams of the AirPort Express at the corners and try some twisting and prying motions. It should pop open easily.

2. Deal with the Boards

Unscrew all of the circuit boards from the AirPort Express. You can get rid of the L-shaped power supply, because we’re going to wire the USB power to the 5V-to-3.3V converter and use that instead.

3. Open the Cable

Cut the USB cable, and peel the wrapping towards the larger plug (the one that normally connects to your computer), because you want to keep that side. This will reveal four wires:

  • Green : USB Data
  • White : USB Data
  • Red : +5V DC
  • Black : Ground

 

4. Soldering!

usbcable_open-591x443

We are only interested in the red and black wires inside of that USB cable, because there’s no data coming over the USB cable. After threading the wires through the hole in the side of the AirPort Express (pictured above), solder the black one onto the ground of the AirPort Express (see photos below).

Then, connect the red one to the VIN (voltage input) wire of the stepdown converter, which is green in this photo, and tape around that connection like this:

red-591x443

The stepdown converter has an output wire leading out of it, which is blue in the above photo. Solder that to the power input of the AirPort Express, as pictured above.

Finally, solder the stepdown module’s ground wire (green in the above photo) to the AirPort Express’s ground. So, that’s two wires connected to the AirPort Express’s ground connection; they’re black and green.

When you’re done with all the soldering, you should be looking at something like this:

summary-591x443

Continue reading the last few steps over at Evolver.fm.