How To Add Satellite Radio To Your Car’s Factory Stereo – 3 Options

You don’t need a brand new car OR an after-market stereo to enjoy SiriusXM® Satellite Radio and the perks that come with it. Odds are good you can use a satellite radio adapter kit from VAIS (find them on our website here) to add satellite radio to your car’s original factory stereo.

But before you think this blog post is all about us and our products, we’re happy to share other methods you can use to add satellite radio to an existing factory stereo. Our goal is to make sure everyone who wants satellite radio understands they can have it without buying a new stereo.

There are three standard options for adding satellite radio to your original factory vehicle stereo – here’s what you need to know about each.

1. Buy A Stand-Alone Satellite Radio, Stick It To The Dash, And Then Run Some Wires

There are lots of inexpensive satellite radio units available – even SiriusXM offers a handful on their website. Most of these units are basically a little box that you stick to your dash, and then you’ll need to run two sets of wires:

  • One wire will go to your car’s electrical system for power. Most of the time, this is a plug that goes into your cigarette lighter.
  • The other wire(s) will go to an FM modulator, either placed somewhere in your car or sitting behind your dash.
Dash Clutter

This isn’t a picture of a satellite radio unit mounted to a dash, but it illustrates how cluttered things can get with just a unit and a power cord. Toss in one or two more wires, and you’ve got a mess.

The main advantages to this type of setup are a) it’s cheap, and b) it’s not permanent. If you don’t want to spend the money – or if you don’t want to permanently install a satellite radio in your car – this is a reasonable way to go.

However, a lot of people don’t like this type of setup long term. First, wires running around the interior of your car inevitably get tangled and messy. Second, electronics mounted on the dash are often stuck on with double-sided tape, which can fall off on a hot day. Third, this approach relies on the use of an FM modulator, which can be buggy (more on that below). Fourth, changing satellite radio stations requires working the satellite receiver “box” on the dash.

But again, it’s a very inexpensive way to add satellite to your car. For some situations, it’s a good choice.

A Note About FM Modulators

A lot of satellite radio adapter kits – especially the cheap ones – use something called an FM modulator to get the satellite radio signal from the receiver to your stereo’s head unit.

An FM modulator is a miniature FM radio station. It broadcasts satellite radio over a short-range. Your FM radio picks up the signal and plays it over your car’s factory stereo. Most people use FM modulators because they are inexpensive, but they have quite a few negatives. Specifically:

  • The transmitter is very, very weak. Any sort of interference will mess up the signal.
  • The transmitter usually isn’t very good in terms of sound quality.
  • Any sort of stray radio signal from your vehicle’s electrical system, neighboring vehicles, radio stations on nearby frequencies, or even your cell phone will be audible. High pitched whines, static, popping noises – these are all pretty common.

The best FM modulators will require you to remove your factory stereo, unplug the factory antenna, and then plug it into your modulator. The modulator then has a wire to plug into the factory stereo. We call this a piggyback style FM modulator.

Mod trouble

Of course, if you go with this style, you’ll have to remove the stereo from the dash, or pay someone else to do it. If you’re going to go to that much trouble, it might make sense to invest in a better solution.

2. Get An AUX Adapter Kit, Rig Up A Satellite Radio Receiver

Some newer factory stereos have an auxiliary input on the stereo’s face. If your vehicle has this, you can buy a satellite receiver unit, run a wire from that unit to the aux input, and then power the receiver. No FM modulator, no getting into the dash.

The main problems with this setup:

  • You still need to mount some sort of satellite unit on the dash of your car
  • You need to run two sets of wires – one for power and one for signal – from the satellite box on the dash to the AUX input and (most often) your cigarette lighter
  • You have to change satellite radio stations using the dash mounted receiver box
  • If you want to listen to anything else thru the AUX input, you have to disconnect your satellite radio

For some people, none of these problems are a big deal. But if the idea of wires and dash clutter isn’t doing much for you, this isn’t a good solution.

3. Install A VAIS Satellite Radio Adapter Kit

VAIS Technology offers two types of satellite adapter kits: one that you plug into the USB port in your armrest, center console, and dash or one that installs behind your vehicle’s dash. VAIS has a network of dealers that can install these kits for you in about an hour.

No clutter

All VAIS kits have the following features:

  • Seamless integration. With the kits that install behind the vehicle’s dash, you won’t see any boxes or wires. Everything will still look factory.
  • Factory-grade sound quality. Because our kits form a direct-wired connection between the satellite receiver and your factory stereo, there is no signal degradation. You’ll hear perfect quality satellite.
  • Control satellite radio with your built-in controls. Want to change satellite radio stations? Just push the correct button on the stereo (or on your steering wheel, if equipped). Want to control your presents and categories? Use your factory controls.
  • OEM quality that won’t affect your warranty. Many auto dealers use VAIS Technology systems to add satellite radio to vehicles that don’t come equipped with it from the factory.

Wrapping Up

Whatever option you go with, the important thing to know is this: You don’t have to replace your factory stereo to add satellite to your car. Don’t spend your money on an after-market stereo unless you want an after-market stereo.

Categories: Satellite Radio