Before the days of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and even before MP3 players existed, many people listened to compact disks (CDs) while driving in their car. CDs provided less commercials than the radio, and the option to pick your own music. Not to mention they didn’t require all the rewinding and fast-forwarding that cassette tapes did.
In fact, CDs dominated during the 1990s and early 2000s. So if you drove a car at all during that time, chances are you had a CD player in your car as well and enjoyed playing your favorites day in and day out through your car’s audio system.
But it’s likely been a hot minute since you even bought a CD, let alone listen to one in your car, amiright? So, for nostalgia's sake and to jog your memory, here are 20 things you more than likely forgot about those compact disk players that used to exist inside your cars.
20. They Were Originally Only Aftermarket Parts
Back in 1984, the Sony CDX-5 hit the market as the first CD player you could install in a car's dashboard. It cost a whopping $600 and lacked an AM/FM radio. Over time, CD players in cars became more the norm and prices for aftermarket players dropped as some cars started including compact disk players as standard parts.
19. Or You Improvised With Your Walkman
During a large part of the early days of compact disks, cars still included tape players and AM/FM radios only. Luckily someone invested this really smart gadget: a tape deck adapter that could hook up to your portable CD player and let you listen to CDs in the car.
18. You’d Strap Your CDs To Your Sun Visor
Unless you had the space to haul around all those hard, plastic CD cases, you likely kept a few in your car at a time in one of those fabric contraptions that strapped to your sun visor. You could then reach up and select a new CD when it was time to swap (hopefully at a red light).
17. The CD Would Sometimes Randomly Skip
Just like your good ole Sony Walkman, your car’s CD player could be a little sensitive at times. Whether you hit a pothole or slammed your brakes a bit too hard, chances are your CD would temporarily skip. And, inevitably, it would always happen at the best part of the song.
16. It Wouldn’t Always Read Your Mix CD
If you planned to burn that playlist from Napster or iTunes and listen to it in your car, think again! Formatting was always an issue, and those temperamental car audio systems were always very particular about which CDs they would read, especially if you tried to use one of those rewritable CDs.
15. You Could Only Listen To One CD At A Time
Unless you made a mix CD that included all of your favorite songs on one disk, your car’s compact disk player could only hold one CD at a time, meaning you were stuck listening to that entire album… unless you skipped through songs. Very few cars ever included multi-disk players since that would require lots of room.
14. Some Of Them Moved During Disk Ejection
While some compact disk players in cars were just a slot that you inserted and pulled disks out of, others actually mechanically lifted so you could eject the disk. I was never really sure why they needed to do this, but oh well. I guess there was a reason why that made sense?
13. They Made Weird Sounds
Every time you inserted or ejected a disk, car CD players would always make tons of noise. I guess it was something about all the mechanical parts required to pull disks in and spit them out? It’s definitely something we don’t have to hear with Bluetooth streaming, though… Thanks goodness!
12. Many Of Them Had Lights
If you installed an aftermarket compact disk player during the 90s and early 2000s, chances are it had some cool blue or orange lights on the faceplate. Full color dash screens didn’t exist back then, but we still made the most of what we had at the time, albeit cheesy.
11. The Faceplates Were Removable
Many aftermarket compact disk players that installed in your dash came with removable faceplates. Many people took their faceplates off when they left the car parked somewhere (especially at night) to avoid theft. After all, you didn’t want someone ripping out your CD player you just paid to have installed. Another thing we can’t do now with those massive console screens, amiright?
10. The Disks Would Sometimes Get Stuck
There was nothing worse than getting a disk stuck in your car’s CD player because there was virtually no easy way to get it out. There were a few tricks you could try, but sometimes you’d be left with the only other option: take it somewhere or remove the whole CD player yourself.
9. Sometimes The CD Player Would Randomly Stop Working
Like all electronics, sometimes car audio players would eventually crap out. This was especially true if you installed a fairly cheap aftermarket CD player that was never built to last in the first place. Luckily these were often easy to tear out and install a new one, but boy was it frustrating when it happened when you were broke!
8. Or The CD Player Would Drain Your Battery
Some aftermarket compact disk players in cars would end up developing a glitch after a while where they wouldn’t idle or power down after you turned off the car. Unfortunately, this meant the CD player would continue to pull power and eventually drain your battery, just like leaving your headlights on would do.
7. CDs Inevitably Ended Up Scratched
No matter how careful you try to be, compact disks end up scratched eventually. Because of the methods used to swap out and store disks in a car, though, scratches were nearly impossible to avoid. And, of course, your sensitive car audio player often didn’t like the disks once they were scratched.
6. When You’d Wipe Disks With Your Pants
Just like scratches, disks always ended up dirty at some point, too. When you’re driving, though, how can you effectively clean off that disk one-handed? The only obvious solution was to wipe them on your pants, right? I’m sure we all did that at least a time or two… or 50!
5. Everyone Loved Getting Ones With “Fancy” Screens
Eventually aftermarket CD players offered “fancy” screens that would read out info instead of just showing the track number like the old school analog systems. You could even program them to flash stuff as songs played, and it was pretty epic at the time, even if it’s not so cool anymore.
4. Everyone Loved Getting Aftermarket Sound Systems, Too
Eventually it wasn’t just enough to have a CD player in your car. You needed an aftermarket speaker system to go with it, too! After all, why listen to your CD in the car if you can’t enjoy it in full stereo with a thumping bass and cute little tweeters?
3. The Wires Would Sometimes Come Loose
Depending on how you did your aftermarket install, sometimes your audio wires would become loose or somehow disconnect. Luckily most players would easily slide out so you could get behind it and check the wiring, but sometimes that wasn’t always the easiest (or safest) task, especially if your car was running.
2. They Started Including Auxiliary Outs
As the iPod started taking off and smartphones became a thing, more and more car CD players also including an auxiliary out so that you could connect your MP3 player or phone to the car and play music that way. It was a great tool and required less work than burning a mix CD.
1. Car CD Players Started Disappearing About 5 Years Ago
Just like cassette players eventually stopped appearing in cars sometime during the late 90s, many car makers started cutting out compact disk players during the last decade due to declining CD sales and increased requests for Bluetooth connectivity. In fact, experts predict that car CD players will cease to exist altogether within the next few years.