Tom and Ray help one reader get "Sirius" about a radio problem.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1997 Ford Aspire, and I can't plug in my Sirius Satellite Radio adapter because my car lighter does not work. I changed all the fuses -- and got some other stuff working, but not the cigarette lighter. What can I do? I can't get your radio show on Sirius if I don't have a working car lighter! Is there a way to circumvent it and hook it up right from the battery? TWO professional mechanics have told me it's a systemic electrical problem, and I might as well buy a new car. I don't believe them. I KNOW there must be a way to get this thing to work. I did try to hook up my radio using two black wires, and smoke came out and the radio died. So now I use a boombox with D batteries for regular radio. But I need a way to get my Sirius radio working. Any suggestions? -- Laura

RAY: Suggestions? Sure. Make sure you have fire coverage on your car insurance.

TOM: There are several possibilities, Laura. One is that you do a have a systemic electrical problem. How many accidents did you have in this car? Systemic problems are often related to grounding. So, you might suggest to a mechanic that he run you a new ground from the battery to a solid metal piece of the car's frame. If you can still find one.

RAY: While you changed all of the fuses, it's possible that there's something wrong with your fuse box that's not allowing electricity to get to that fuse. So, you might want to have a mechanic look into that.

TOM: Or you could have a broken wire leading to the cigarette lighter. No amount of grounding or fuse-box fiddling is going to fix that.

RAY: So, if all else fails, or you don't feel like going through the trouble of diagnosing the real problem, you can always hook your Sirius radio adapter directly to the battery -- provided you put a fuse in the circuit. You'll have to find out what size fuse you need to protect your radio, but it's probably a five- or 10-amp fuse.

TOM: If you want to go this direct route, take the car to a car-stereo shop instead of a mechanic. This is their area of expertise. And while you're there, you can pick up a washing-machine-size subwoofer for the back seat. No Aspire owner should be without one of those.

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