Replacing the factory stereo unit or entertainment system with an aftermarket system is one of the most common modifications done to vehicles today. Simple systems play just audio, while more advanced systems can play video as well. Systems that play video use one or more screens to display the videos.
In order to entertain passengers in the back seat, or to entertain children on long trips, it is often beneficial to install a system that uses video monitors on the back of the headrests of the front seats. These systems can be quite complex, and often require professional installation. Finding the right system and then finding the right shop to install a such a system can be a hassle, if you aren’t familiar with automotive audio and video equipment.
By following a few simple steps, you can go from having a stock entertainment system in your car to having an aftermarket unit with video monitors mounted into the front seat headrests, in hardly any time at all.
Part 1 of 2: Finding the right system
Step 1: Decide on your budget. As with most in-car entertainment systems, video players come in a wide range of formats and are available with varying levels of complexity as far as installation goes.
Knowing your budget before getting into it is crucial to getting what you want without spending more than you can afford.
If you have children and want to keep them entertained in the back seat on long trips, consider getting a tablet and a mount for the tablet to put on the rear of the front seat headrest. This costs much less than even the economy-priced car entertainment systems, and a tablet can be used inside the car - or outside - to watch movies, read books, and play games.
Plan to spend hundreds of dollars on an in-car entertainment system, even if you are doing the simplest possible method, which is to install standalone monitors into the headrests. These systems cannot be controlled from the front of the car, and can only sometimes be synchronized to work together - but they are controllable from the rear seats and offer the same level of entertainment as a fully integrated system.
Having an entertainment system in your car that plays videos of various formats that can also display video in the monitors mounted in the headrests is optimal, but quite complex. These systems usually require custom installation and the receiver alone, the “brain” of the system that goes in the dashboard, will cost as much as one of the basic systems described above.
Step 2: Make a list of features that are important to you. When planning a purchase of headrest monitors, it’s important to consider exactly how you will be using the monitors.
For instance, if this video entertainment system will be for kids in the backseat, consider how easy the controls will be to reach and adjust for a small child. If you’re trying to entertain teenagers on long road trips, having audio headphone and headset plug in jacks will help keep everyone peacefully occupied, without arguments over the audio volume.
If you’ll be driving around several members of your family or an elderly person, you’ll want to make sure the screens are large and the audio is as high quality as possible for optimal hearing and viewing.
Some monitors are compatible with video game systems, so make sure that the systems you look at offer that feature if video game compatibility is something you desire.
Based on these considerations, brainstorm a list of features that you desire in a car video system, including the following specifications:
- The size of the monitors,
- HD+ display options,
- Audio specifications and options,
- Ease of use and convenience of controls, and
- Other options, such as formats and compatibility options, that may be important to you.
You can use this list to compare against potential options in the following steps.
Part 2 of 2: Choosing from your options as a consumer
Step 1: Research retailers and buying options. While many systems are available online, there are numerous advantages to purchasing components through a shop that can also perform installation.
If you need professional installation for the system you are looking at, talking to a local shop may result in getting a better deal with the cost of the components and labor being combined.
Local shops may also have components on hand that they recommend over the ones you would have otherwise ordered online. While this isn’t a foolproof way to go about choosing components, speaking to someone with experience can be a massive help.
- Tip: Be careful if you plan on buying used components for this installation task or any similar job . Since the electronics will be physically installed into the interior pieces of the vehicle, reliability is a big factor. If something breaks, there will be a significant amount of labor required to repair or replace it.
Step 2: Make a final decision. You’ve done the research and the legwork. Now, it’s time to make a decision: Which car video system with headrest monitors will you choose?
Remember, every car has their own technical requirements and every person has their entertainment preferences. Therefore, the entertainment system that works best in your vehicle will not work for everyone.
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what fits your needs and budget without skimping on quality. Luckily, if you follow the steps above, you should be educated and armed with consumer-savvy information that can help you get the most out of your headrest monitors and car video system.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Find a Car Video System with Headrest Monitors and was authored by Ian Swan.