What you hear as you drive can be the difference between a great adventure and a sorrowful wait beside the road. My first advice is to become familiar with what your vehicle sounds like when it is happy.
Take the time to drive with no radio, no talking and no other background noise. Get to know every bang and rattle that the car makes with the windows and up and the windows down. How does the air whistle, is there a panel that squeaks, how much road noise can you hear? If you know how the car sounds when it is happy, you will better be able to quickly identify an issue such as a flat tire or a rock caught in your brakes. Every so often, in each of my vehicles, I take the time to listen to them and only them as I drive, just to check in and confirm that everything is okay.
Sound systems today come with many options but I suggest you first make a list of what you want so you don’t end up buying all of the bells and whistles half of which you will never use. Do you want a GPS map system incorporated? Do you prefer to listen to cassette tapes, CDs, or music delivered through Bluetooth, SD card, USB flash drive or aux cable? What sort of music do you listen to? Do you need bass and how loud does it need to be?
I owned my Chev for 15 years before I installed a sound system. For 15 years I drove all over Australia listening to her and the road. Once I decided to install a system, there were a number of options to consider. The look of the stereo, what I needed it to be compatible with, my preferences for music and the dynamics of a small cab were all taken into consideration.
When it came to the Chev I wanted a stereo that looked as original as possible but allowed me to connect my iPod. I did not care for maps and I did not want to use my phone while driving so GPS and Bluetooth were not on my list. I bought a simple retro fitted unit that incorporated a CD stacker and aux input. It will never win a sound competition but it serves my purposes perfectly.
Once you have a sound system installed the next question is what to listen to. The first option is radio. It may be a sign of my age but I enjoy the ABC and talk back radio for short spells. The radio can also be very useful for road and emergency updates. Commercial breakfast radio is where intelligent conversation goes to die… avoid it at all costs.
Next you may choose to listen to music. Music is not a key motivator in my life and so I often find I get tired of my own collection but it can be a familiar comfort factor if you are feeling anxious or stressed. There are playlists in my collection designed for particular road trips in traffic, along twisty mountain roads or long highways. Music can be a strategy if you are feeling bored or dull. Singing along at full volume to your favourite tunes can boost your mood and increase your concentration but is not to be used as an alternative to proper fatigue management.
On a long road trip I love an excellent audio book or podcast series. The art is to find one that requires the perfect amount of concentration. Too boring and you will struggle to maintain interest. Too complicated and you will struggle to concentrate on the dialogue and the road. You can use your time behind the wheel to learn about a specific topic, to explore a new idea or concept, be motivated and inspired or go on a fictional adventure.
Finally consider communication options in your car. I always install a UHF 2 way radio so that I can hear the chatter from trucks and other vehicles on the road. They can provide invaluable updates and advice on road conditions and emergencies. If you must use a phone while driving it is essential that you install a hands free device utilising bluetooth. This isn't simply so you avoid an expensive traffic ticket from the police but also so your driving is more safe and considerate of others.
Whichever you choose, remember to first of all listen to your car. When your vehicle is happy you can make yourself happy with the ear candy of your choice.