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Choosing Head Units for Your Car

A finger pressing a button on an upgraded Ottawa car stereo system

Looking to Upgrade a Car Stereo in Ottawa? Start Right Here With the Head Unit

So, you’ve read the guides, know the terms, and are ready to start upgrading your car stereo. But upgrading all components all at once might not be budget friendly. So where do you start?

Why not start at the source of the sound itself? The head unit is the command centre for your sound system. When you start making upgrades, it’s worth it to start with the head unit to improve sound quality in your car.

Sure, you could upgrade your speakers first, but they won’t perform at their full potential with a middle-of-the-road head unit. You’re limiting your options further down the road with a stock head unit, after all. Plus, a new head unit gets you access to a wide variety of add-ons and upgrades beyond audio options.

Let’s take a closer look:

Features and Functions to Look For

Futureproofing

Even if you start with a head unit and leave other upgrades for a later date, keep those upgrades in mind. You’ll want a car stereo that gives the option to add quality components at a later date, after all. Think of this as future-proofing. Plan out your dream car stereo and start upgrading by buying the head unit. This’ll help take out a lot of the chance in the future. Look for head units with 3 high voltage pre-outs, usually rated at 4 volts.

Built-In Crossovers

Built-in crossovers allow you to filter out frequencies to different speakers; that is to say, tweeters, speakers, and subs will all get the right frequencies they’re designed for. Look for adjustable crossovers for added flexibility with your car stereo sound. Built-in crossovers also make it possible for you to build your sound system in steps over time.

Equalizers

Look for a head unit with a 5- to 7-band equalizer (EQ). The different band values refer to band frequencies that you can adjust. The more bands on an EQ, the more control you have to tune your sound system. But if you don’t know how to properly tune an equalizer, ask your local Ottawa car stereo experts for advice when upgrading your head unit.

Time Alignment/Correction

This is another adjustment feature to consider with head units. You can set the time alignment, controlling the time it takes for each speaker’s sound to hit your ears. This allows you to center the sound around you no matter where you sit in the car. The ideal adjustment is to have each speaker hit your ears at the same time, providing exceptional sound quality for all people in the car.

Volume Offset

This feature is especially useful if you plan to keep the stock speakers for a while. The stock amp in your car gets powered by your upgraded head unit. This can seriously increase the sound output you get from your stereo because you’re basically amplifying an amplifier. That said, this sound output can be too large when adjusting the volume knob in the smallest increments.

Another issue is that a new subwoofer will only be receiving a single amplification signal. But with the volume offset feature, you can match the stock amp with the new head unit amp, reducing the over-amplification and improving sound quality throughout your car stereo system.

General Features

Look & Feel

How the car stereo looks and feels will also be important. When choosing head units, ask for an overview of the functions and test them out to see if you like them. Touch the buttons, turn the knobs, and try to navigate the user interface, menu, operating system, and controls. If it feels too clunky or difficult to use, try another until you find one you’re comfortable with.

Ask yourself:

  • Does it match or complement your dash?
  • Do the illuminations match or complement the interior lighting in the rest of your dash?
  • Is the display easy to read—large enough and bright enough?

Tech Features

Make sure the head unit has all the tech features you want. These might include:

  • USB/Aux ports;
  • A2DP audio streaming;
  • MP3/WMA/AAC playback;
  • iPod® and iPhone® support;
  • Support for Android™ phones;
  • Satellite radio;
  • DVD playback;
  • Bluetooth® connectivity;
  • GPS navigation;
  • Support for Pandora® Internet radio and other app-related sources;
  • Touchscreen monitors; and
  • Security features such as security codes and detachable faceplates.

Next Steps

So what’s next?

If your current speakers are working, add an amp and a subwoofer for your next component upgrades. Subwoofers improve overall sound, even while still using stock speakers.

Subwoofers balance out sound systems by filling in the bottom end and creating a larger sound presence in your overall system. And with a crossover adjustment in your upgraded head unit, you can filter the bass out of the speakers powered from your head unit.

Even if you can’t upgrade your entire sound system at once, you can make a drastic improvement to your sound quality with a new head unit. And you can also enjoy the many convenient added tech features that come with head units today. Contact your local Ottawa car stereo experts for help choosing the best head unit for your vehicle.

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Car Stereo 101: Terms and Gear You Need To Know

Use our handy guide to upgrade car stereo in Ottawa!

Your Guide to Upgrading Car Stereos in Ottawa

With today’s technology, there are many possibilities for car stereo upgrades. You can improve sound quality, have a hands-free phone in your car, or opt for all the extra bells and whistles.

To save on manufacturing costs, many car sound systems lack quality components. This affects the sound quality of music and other audio in your car.

An upgrade of one or all sound system components will improve the quality of your car stereo’s sound.

Read this guide and contact car stereo experts for help upgrading car stereos in Ottawa.

Sound System Components

Head Units

The head unit is at the centre of the car stereo system. Found in the dash, the head unit is often referred to as the radio tuner or stereo. It’s essentially the brain of the stereo, where music is actually played.

It allows the driver to choose music, adjust volume, and control the entire stereo system. The head unit sends audio signals to the amplifier to help create sound. Head units with built-in amplifiers are also called receivers. Typically, a head unit features a display screen, CD player, AM/FM radio tuner, and in some cases satellite radio.

These units display the name of the artist and title of the song playing. Increasingly, head unitsThere are also aux and USB inputs and Bluetooth capabilities to connect devices. These are useful for hands-free phone use while driving.

Video head units—or infotainment systems—are becoming more popular in vehicles. These display a variety of information, including:

  • GPS navigation,
  • Rear-view video from a backup camera,
  • Climate control details,
  • Speed,
  • Fuel usage,
  • And a variety of other functions.

Video head units use LCD screens and may also play DVD and Blu-Ray discs. The type of head unit you choose depends on the features you want, not to mention the sound quality you’re looking

Amplifiers

Amplifiers receive audio signals from the head unit. Amps enhance and, you guessed it, amplify these signals so they can create sound through the speakers. Amplifiers do exactly what their name suggests!

To save space, many vehicles combine the amp and the head unit into one convenient piece of technology. There are trade-offs when using an all-in-one unit. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) audio systems frequently use separate amps.

Head units with built-in amps produce 5 to 15 watts per channel, on average. But for advanced stereo systems, a larger, more powerful amp may be installed in the trunk or rear of the vehicle. External amplifiers can produce 50, 100, or more watts, a significant increase compared to all-in-one units.

What’s the real advantage, though? It’s easy: external amps produce a cleaner sound at higher volumes. Stock stereo systems tend to distort as volume increases. As you increase the signal going through an amplifier, distortion becomes more likely.

Speakers

Amps also convert the electrical energy of audio signals into mechanical energy. This energy then causes the cone in a speaker to vibrate, moving back and forth, and displacing air. This in turn outputs the sound waves that we hear.

Car audio systems typically have at least four speakers, and these are usually full-range. While full-range speakers save on space, the sound quality is limited, so speaker upgrades are quite common. Upgraded speakers may include a sub-woofer, ideal for deeper and lower bass frequencies and response. They may also combine a woofer and a tweeter into a single coaxial speaker.

Testing Sound Quality

Not sure what part of your sound system needs an upgrade? Try this:

  • Sit in your car with the doors closed and the windows up;
  • Play a CD and turn up the volume—but don’t hurt your ears; and,
  • Listen for sound clarity. Do you need to adjust the treble? How is the bass quality? Is it hollow sounding? Is there distortion when you turn up the volume?

Any sound quality concerns can be addressed with a stereo system upgrade. And while you’re at it, consider adding on some extra features that you’ve always wanted for your car.

Upgrading Your Car Stereo System

If you’re on a budget, start by replacing the speakers first. You can easily upgrade components one part at a time. But you have to make sure they’ll work well with existing head units and future ones.

For video head units, it’s possible to upgrade the sound without touching the head unit. But consider the help of professionals for this type of work.

First, you will need to replace your speakers with premium speakers. These are made with long-lasting, high-quality materials. These will likely sound much better than your existing speakers.

Next, you’ll want an amplifier that uses speaker level inputs. Your existing amp probably uses line level inputs. The difference is that speaker level inputs allow for higher volume without distortion.

You can install sub-woofers to improve bass. And consider a digital sound processor to enhance the sound.

When it’s time to replace your head unit, consider the features you want. Make sure your head unit is suitable for your new amp and speakers.

You can replace the head unit on your own, but you must be very careful to avoid hurting the car’s resale value. If you do opt for DIY installation, you must look for the wiring harness that plugs into the factory wiring. Some will plug into your new head unit, making installation easier. But if your system needs rewiring, this job is best left to the pros.

Car stereo experts in Ottawa have a variety of sound system components to choose from. They can help you decide which components will suit your needs. Even if you want to install one at a time, you can ensure it’s done the right way with professional installation.

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Headlight Upgrades 101

Not sure where to start with HID headlights? Start here!

Everything You Need to Know About Upgrading to HID Headlights

Headlight technology has evolved over the course of the automobile’s history. Tungsten filament lights were the original headlights. And then, in the 1960s, Halogen bulbs became the preferred headlight option. Fast forward to modern day, and you will find high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights.

If your vehicle is older, chances are it needs a headlight upgrade. These upgrades improve how visible your vehicle is, especially at night. And, more importantly, they also improve your own visibility while driving.

Many drivers suffer from poor night vision, which makes them afraid to drive once the sun starts to set. But you can improve your vision with new HID headlights, driving with confidence at any time of day.

If you’re interested in upgrading with headlight kits, here’s what you need to know before you start.

Headlight Terminology

Alignment

Auto manufacturers align headlights on vehicles to the left or right. The alignment direction depends on which side of the road the vehicles will drive on.

For cars in left-lane driving countries, the alignment is to the left. Low-beam headlights face down and to the left. This lighting allows drivers to still read road signs without blinding oncoming drivers.

So, for countries that drive on the right side of the road, the headlights face down and to the right. But some cars have switches to change the direction of the headlights. These switch lighting from right-hand drive (RHD) to left-hand drive (LHD).

Auto Leveling/Load Adjustment

Headlights can adjust to changes in the vehicle’s height so as not to blind oncoming drivers. This is especially useful in trucks since the headlights are higher.

The headlights will dip down to avoid hitting drivers’ eyes. They adjust if there is a change in the weight of the vehicle. And also when the vehicle accelerates and decelerates.

Regulation Stamps

Regulation stamps determine if the headlights meet country-specific regulations. These safety regulations include light intensity and glare.

ECE stamps certify headlamps for Europe. They also apply to most industrialized countries outside of the European Union.

SAE stamps certify American safety standards. Canadian cars may have either ECE or SAE stamps. Refer to your provincial ministry of transportation regulations to verify. And speak with an auto expert to make sure your new headlights meet regional regulations.

Lumens

The number of lumens (lm) of a headlamp refers to the measurement of light output. For example, light output could range from 2100 lm to 3400 lm.

Projector Headlights

The light from these headlights projects outward. Since the light housing emits the beams, the light tends to be easier to control.

Reflector Headlamps

With these headlamps, the light from a bulb reflects off the sides of the housing. These headlamps can spread out light on the road from smaller bulbs.

If you have reflector headlamps and want to switch to HID, you should leave this upgrade to the pros. Amateur installation can lead to distorted light since HID lights project beams. It can also lead to failing safety tests.

Types of Headlights

Halogen

Halogen lights are glass tubes filled with argon and nitrogen gas. These bulbs also have a tungsten filament. The electrical current from a car will heat the tungsten, which in turn, will create light with the gases.

Halogen bulbs have been the most popular type of lighting for cars since the 1960s. But, they are dim compared to newer lighting types. Halogen headlights produce 1300 lm, whereas HID lights produce around 3000 lm.

Halogen lights are also not energy efficient and are very sensitive to several substances. For example, the oil from a person’s hand will reduce the lifespan of the bulb.

HID

Also known as Xenon headlights, BMW started using HID lights in the 1990s. And they have gained popularity amongst car manufacturers ever since. The lights contain gases and rare metals that emit a bright white glow with a blue hue.

This bright type of illumination has become standard for new cars. The brightness is now a part of updated safety regulations. These lights are up to three times brighter than Halogen lights. This gives drivers clear visibility of the road. This visibility allows for an improved reaction time to obstacles, especially at night.

HID headlights are also more energy efficient than halogen lights. Xenon lights use about 35 watts and place less of a demand on the vehicle’s alternator. Their lifespan is about 2000 hours. Xenon lights are generally more expensive than Halogen. But the cost of these lights has decreased over the years.

Remember: HID headlights installed on reflector headlamps will emit a bright, unfocused light. The beam becomes too high and wide, and poses a safety risk to other drivers. The wiring might also need modification for the HID lights to work well switching from high to low beams. So when opting for this upgrade, choose a professional retrofit.

For projector headlights, the projector lens and tube may not fit HID bulbs. So you might need modifications when upgrading. Professional headlamp installers can do this work for you.

Bi-Xenon

Most car models only use Xenon lights for the low beams and Halogen for the high beams. This is because Xenon lights are slower to turn on and off.

Bi-Xenon headlights use only Xenon lighting and create low and high beams by moving a shutter up and down. Bi-Xenon lights also only use two bulbs, whereas traditional Xenon headlamps use four.

To improve the intensity of your headlights, also consider restoring the headlamp lenses. This restoration is helpful if your car is several years old. Over time, these plastic lenses become cloudy, dulling the intensity of the light. But a restoration kit can remove the cloudy outer layer and polish the lens. The lenses will become clear so your headlights will shine brighter.

To improve your visibility on the road, consider upgrading to Xenon headlights. New headlights will make driving easier and safer, so you can drive comfortably day or night.

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Auto Remote Starters: Your Beginner’s Guide

Auto remote starters can help make even the snowiest day a comfort on your commute.

Everything You Need to Know About Convenient Remote Car Starters

Do frigid mornings make you wish you could step into a warm car for your daily commute?

For many drivers, chilly winters mean shivering as you wait for the heater to kick in, or wasted time scraping ice off the windshield. Think about how much time is added to the morning commute just from waiting for things to heat up! But instead of going outside to start your car in the morning, what if you could just hit a button? Auto remote starters heat up the car and help melt the snow and ice on the windows. The only shiver you feel is a brief chill as you leave your cozy home and get into a cozy car!

Auto remote starters come with a variety of functions to suit your needs, making your car comfortable for when you’re ready to get in, whether it’s 30 below or 30 above. For help choosing the best remote car starter for you and your vehicle, we’ve put together this handy guide to cover everything from features to installation and operation. Let’s get started!

Short Range or Long Range?

Automatic car starters are wireless remotes, usually in the form of key fobs, that send signals to devices in vehicles via radio frequency transmission. The effective range of each transmitter is usually listed in their packaging or product info and generally falls between 500 and 5,000 feet. Chances are, 500 feet is plenty for most uses; after all, your home and driveway typically aren’t more than fifty feet apart at most, right?

If 5,000 feet feels like too much, consider that that’s effectively 1.5 kilometers. Now think of parking in an office lot in the dead of winter. Seems a bit more appealing doesn’t it? Now think of signal interference. A 500-foot range suddenly gets cut in half when you consider physical space and interference. If you’re only starting your car when it’s parked in front of your home, a 500-foot range is plenty.

Think about usage, though, and how frequently you sit around waiting for a vehicle to warm up. If your car is parked at a further distance with plenty of interference, such in an underground parking lot, the longer ranges are ideal.

Remote Features

Basic auto remote starters are useful for starting your vehicle from various distances. However, some remotes pack in extra features for added convenience. Aside from starting the engine, you can opt for remotes that also:

  • Lock and unlock doors;
  • Open the trunk;
  • Turn on the heat or air conditioning;
  • Turn on rear-window defrost;
  • Warm up the seats; and,
  • Monitor the security of your vehicle.

Some remotes also come with programming capabilities, so you can schedule to have your car turn on at specific times of the day. This helps in the winter when extremely cold temperatures put your car at risk of not starting and you’re not planning on going outside.

If you want to warm up your car overnight so it will start in the morning, a programmed timer on your remote starter can do that for you. These features can make your car more secure, easy to use, and comfortable, so you won’t have to freeze in winter, or overheat in summer when you first get in your car.

Installation

Part of the remote system installation includes installing a box on the car’s ignition switch to receive signals from your remote. However, you should leave this installation to the professionals! DIYing this installation could void warranties on your vehicle. Leave it to the professionals. They’re experienced with the complex wiring systems of cars, and there are many factors that could affect installation depending on your car make and model.

Here are just a few factors that may complicate installation if you don’t have experience with this work:

  • If you have an older car, unequipped for add-ons;
  • Your car is hybrid, European, and/or has a stick transmission; and,
  • Your car has a security system—alarms, theft-deterrent modules—that needs to be bypassed during installation.

A professionally-installed, high-quality remote starter system will ensure the remote starter: works effectively; will not void your car’s warranty; and will not risk causing damage or problems with your car during or after installation.

Bypass Modules

Since many modern vehicles have built-in security modules, most cars require a bypass module in order to use auto remote starters. Anti-theft modules normally require your unique physical car key to be inside the ignition for the car to start. However, a bypass module tricks the engine, so when you press a button on the remote to start the car, it works as though a key is in the ignition.

And even though your car will be running without supervision, you won’t have to worry about someone stealing it. The doors remain locked until you unlock them, and the engine shuts off if someone happens to get in and press the gas pedal without a key.

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Everything You Need to Know About Car Window Tints

Car window tints in Ottawa offer unmatched style and plenty of helpful benefits.

Options, Benefits, Tips, and Much More About Car Window Tinting in Ottawa

There’s something undeniably stylish about tinted windows on a car. Let’s face it, it’s just cool! But did you know that tinting also provides a few handy safety features? Beyond making it harder for would-be thieves to peek at what’s in the back seat, car window tints provide additional protection from UV rays. That’ll also help keep your car’s interior looking great, too!

What’s more, tinting helps keep the heat out in the summer, saving you from roasting on sunny days. And in the event of an accident, window tint films help hold glass together, saving you from shards of flying glass. That also makes it harder for a thief to smash a window in.

But the number of tinting materials and options on the market can make it a challenge to sort through. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you pick car window tinting in Ottawa!

So whether you want to improve your car’s appearance, safety, or both, consider these options for professional car window tinting in Ottawa to help you choose the right tinting for your vehicle.

Tinting Quality

First things first: when you’re buying from a reputable dealer, you’re getting consistent quality in terms of product, regardless of price point. There are, of course, some fantastic options at higher price points, but you’ll still get to enjoy a range of benefits at lower price points, too.

As a rule of thumb, you can expect serious longevity and aesthetics at the top of the price range. Lower-quality tinting still gets the job done, but might not last quite as long. They’ll still last a few years before they need a replacement, though. It’s a trade-off, and one you’ll have to consider when choosing a tint.

Drop by your local car components shop for an estimate on window tinting. This isn’t a job you want to DIY! We highly recommend getting the tint applied by an expert. While you can save a few dollars by handling application yourself, if you’re not experienced with window tinting you should definitely leave this job to the pros. Professional tinting is worth it for that sleek, clean, professional look for your car.

UV-Reflecting Tint Films

If you’re going to upgrade your car with window tinting, you might want to consider UV-reflecting film for added protection from the sun. UV protection can block up to 99% of UV rays, keeping your skin and your car interior safe.

Prolonged exposure to UV rays puts you at risk of sunburns and (as a worst-case scenario) skin cancer. These rays also heat up the car’s interior, making them uncomfortable in summer months. Constant sunlight might also affect interior materials, subtly lightening or darkening certain tones of fabric or dash material. Car interior materials may even show signs of cracking over time when exposed to direct UV rays. UV-safe window tinting can help preserve your car’s interior for longer, keeping it looking good and preserving resale value!

Window Tints and the Law

It’s important to familiarize yourself with your province’s window tinting laws for your type of vehicle before choosing tint shades. Professional car detailers know the extent of these laws and help you decide which shades are best for your car.

These laws are in place to ensure road safety. At no time should a driver’s view of the road, surrounding vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians be obscured. So lighter window tinting is recommended for the driver’s side and rear windows. Also, police should be able to clearly see a driver’s face in case they are involved in an accident or a crime. A police officer may also notify drivers if they feel the car window tints are too dark.

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation recently changed tinting laws for passenger vehicles manufactured on or after January 1, 2017. For these vehicles, both the windshield and front windows (to the right and left of the driver) must have a minimum 70% luminous light transmittance.

Choosing the Right Shade

The tint shade you choose depends provincial regulations and what you want out of your tinting. If you only care about safety, reduced heat, and protection from UV rays, then you can opt for a clear UV-reflecting tint film. But if you also want to enhance the look of your car with darker shades, the following tinting options are also available:

  • Light Tint—improves inward and outward visibility by reducing excessing light and glare;
  • Medium Tint—improves privacy and style while increasing heat rejection;
  • Dark or Limo Tint—for the most privacy and excellent heat rejection.

While a limo tint may be appealing, remember to consult with professional car experts about the provincial tinting regulations for your type of vehicle.

Aftercare

Once you’ve upgraded your car with window tinting, avoid opening and washing the tinted windows for at least three days after installation to ensure the tint film is fully dried. Any moisture exposed to the edges of the tint before it dries may go under the film and cause bubbles to form. You may, however, wash your car during this time since the tint film is only on the interior side of the windows. When you clean your windows, use a soft paper towel or cloth and an ammonia-free cleaner.

Aside from improving the look of your car, window tints can protect you and your vehicle from heat, sun damage, and hazardous broken glass. So if you’re interested in upgrading your car, consult with the experts in car window tinting in Ottawa for help choosing the right tint shades for you and your vehicle!

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Why You Should Tint Your Car Windows in Winter

Auto Tinting Improves Your Winter Driving Experience

Auto car window tinting can help for winterDuring Ottawa’s cold winter months, driving can be a chore. Before you can even leave your driveway, you must warm up your car, clear your windows of ice and snow, and shovel your driveway. And once you are on the road, you have to deal with poor road conditions and visibility.

But did you know tinting your car windows can help ease the stress of winter driving? It can also keep you warmer during those cold days on the road.

Here are just a few reasons why you should think about auto tinting for the winter:

More Insulation

Window tinting and films provide a layer of insulation on your windows that help keep the heat in during the cold winter months. This extra insulation means it will take less time to warm up your car!

By tinting your car windows, you can start driving sooner on those frigid mornings, and your car will heat up faster so you aren’t shivering while you’re driving. A warmer drive will make for a better start to your day!

Better Visibility

Winter is a horrible season for road visibility and driving conditions. From snow squalls to the glare from the sun reflecting off the snow, it can be hard to see the road. The sun’s glare is worse in the winter, since the snow reflects the sunlight directly into our field of vision.

With poor This poor visibility makes it even more dangerous to be on the road during icy winter conditions. Auto tinting reduces glare from the snow and from oncoming headlights, so you can drive safer, especially when the roads are at their worst.

Less Fade

Not only does auto tinting protect passengers in the car from UV rays, but it also prevents the colours inside your vehicle from fading. This protection maintains the condition of the interior of your vehicle, so it will look new for longer.

Whether it’s winter or summer, you probably don’t want your car’s interior to fade. Car window tinting protects the inside fabrics of your car from the sun’s harmful UV rays. If you ever decide to sell your vehicle, its good condition will help with the sale price.

Although winter is long and dreadful at times, you can improve your driving experience with auto tinting. Not only will your vehicle be warmer and maintain its interior appearance, but you’ll be able to stay warmer, see better, and drive safer in even the worst winter weather.

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