Belkin Auto Kit (Review)

This was MINI Dee's first Christmas, and she made out pretty well. Not only is she fully protected with a new OEM Alarm, but her interior was cleaned up with the Belkin Auto Kit for the iPod. My girlfriend chose a great gift. Thank you, Katie.
Previous Setup:
I had previously installed the AUX input and used that to get sound from my iPod to the factory head unit. The problem was that my iPod's battery would die in about a half hour. Using a Belkin Mobile Power Cord to charge the iPod while connected to the AUX input would cause the AUX to temporarily stop working. It had something to do with isolating the ground loop, which required a ground loop isolator, but that seemed too messy of a solution. In addition to that, the entire set up was rather cluttered with an audio wire for the AUX input connected to one end of the iPod and a car charger connected to the other. What I needed was a simpler solution that took advantage of the AUX input and cleaned up the wires that were visible.

New Setup:
The install was rather easy: just plug it in and it's good to go. What was unique about this setup was that it had an integrated amplified audio jack output with adjustable volume, perfect for the AUX input jack. Now all I have to do is connect the iPod with the dock connection from the Belkin Auto Kit, and it draws the line level out audio signal from the iPod while it charges.

Other Added Benefits:
Every so often, I would forget I had the iPod in the car and accidentally leave it playing. When I would come back, I would find the Ipod's battery fully drained. With this new set up, that is a thing of the past. Now, when I turn the car off, it automatically pauses the Ipod and conserves the battery. What a great little feature!

Also, with my previous set up, the volume level of the Ipod was rather weak compared with the radio and CD volume levels. There was a possibility that you could blow out a speaker if you had the volume too high and then switched to the radio without turning the volume down. Not so with this new set up. Now the levels are comparatively matched, thanks to the integrated amplified audio jack output with adjustable volume. Another great little feature.

One last feature is the actual dock connector at the end of the charger. The fact that it is not symmetrical makes it very easy to connect the Ipod in the dark. Belkin seems to be good with things like this because the Belkin Mobile Power Cord also has a raised label indicating which side is up.

Some Drawbacks:
Overall, I am extremely happy with this new setup. It is much better than what I had, and the audio quality is very clear. There is a faint hum when listening at very high volumes, but it is hardly noticeable. Also, the overall price including the AUX input, might be a bit high. The Auto Kit is $40 and the AUX input is about $40. Some might be inclined to spend a little more for the OEM Ipod Adapter or the Ice Link Plus.


My Ipod Nears Its End

I have had a 3rd generation 10 gig Ipod since Christmas of 2003 and it has been great. No problems with it malfunctioning or anything rendering it unusable. Lately, due to the cold I suspect, my ipod has been having a little trouble lasting the full length of my morning commute. I timed it this morning and it lasted only 39 minutes from a full charge until it died on me. My commute is about 45 minutes, so I need to have the Ipod charged a bit to make it without it running out of battery power.

Back in September, I filled out the Ipod settlement. It had been delayed with an appeal of some sort from other "objectors," but as of December 22nd that has been dismissed. Hopefully I can get my $50 towards getting a new Ipod sooner rather than later. Any donations for my personal "ipod replacement" fund will be accepted as well. :-)

Hope everyone has a great holiday.


MINI Dee Full Spec List

2005 Mini Cooper S... aka "MINI Dee"

Manufacturer's suggested retail price (including $550 destination charge):

Dark Silver Metallic:

No Cost Options:
  • Roof and Mirror Caps in Black
  • Anthracite Trim
  • Black Bonnet Strips
  • Space Gray/Panther Black Cloth
  • Included

    Rear Fog Lamp:

    Combo #1 Premium:
  • Multifunction Steering Wheel w/Cruise
  • Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof
  • Automatic Air Conditioner
  • On-Board Computer
  • $1,350

    Combo #2 Sport:
  • Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
  • Front For Lamps
  • 17" Alloy Wheels (R98 Web Spoke) w/Performance Run-flat Tires
  • Xenon Headlights w/Heated Power Washers
  • $1,850

    Combo #3 Cold Weather:
  • Heated Washer Jets
  • Heated Mirrors
  • Heated Front Seats
  • $300

    Combo #4 Convenience:
  • Universal Garage Door Opener
  • Autodimming Rear View Mirror
  • Rain Sensor/Auto Headlights
  • $400

    Automatic Transmission w/Steptronic Paddles:



    My Mini Chrome Buttons including shipping (added 4.20.05 self install)

    Jensen 300W amp w/(2) 10" Subwoofers in Bandpass enclosure (added 4.22.05 self install)

    Door Edge Guards including shipping (added 4.22.05 self install)

    AUX Input including shipping (added 4.22.05 self install)

    Auto-Up Circuit including shipping (added 4.24.05 self install)

    R99 Silver Double Spoke replacment for R98 defect(added 10.26.05 dealer install)

    OEM Rubber Mats (added 11.9.05 self install)

    OEM Alarm (added 12.17.05 self install/dealer programmed)

    Belkin Auto Kit (added 12.26.05 self install)

    HD Dice iPod Integration Kit (added 5.8.07 self install)


    WMS 15% Reduction Pulley including installation by Randy Webb on MCSa (added 5.18.06 (7902 miles) @ pulley party)
    $120+$280+$85 = $485

    WMS HDI Intake installed by Randy Webb on MCSa (added 5.18.06 (7902 miles) @ pulley party)

    Milltek exhaust installed by Randy Webb on MCSa (added 5.18.06 (7902 miles) @ pulley party)
    $695+$170+$35 = $900

    205/45HR-17 Kumho Ecsta AST XL Tires From Tirerack installed by NTB on MCSa (added 8.25.07 @±19,000 miles)
    $337.32+$64.61 = $401.93

    Brake Rebuilt Kit From MiniCarParts.net installed by local shop on MCSa (added 10.8.09 @ 37616 miles)
    $254+$100 = $354

    Bridgestone Potenza G 019 Grid From Tirerack installed by NTB on MCSa (added 10.19.09 @ 37659 miles)
    $392+$83.96 = $475.96

    Replacement Battery From Autozone on MCSa (added 10.1.09 @ 37500 miles)
    $89.99 + 12.00= $101.99


    How I Got Hooked

    I first saw a mini cooper up close inside an Ikea as some sort of give away or promotion back in the Fall of 2003. It did catch my eye, but I was not in the market for a new car at the time, so I did not lose much sleep. I mentally filed it away as a potential purchase down the road, noticing the rather reasonable (IMO) sticker price, not knowing there was little flexibility with that number.

    I started falling for the MINI Cooper back in April of 2004 when I went car shopping for my mom. We test drove a number of cars including the VW Golf, Mazda 3, and a variety of other small hatchbacks. At the time, the Scion Xa had not reached the Chicago area, but would have been another on our test drive list. My mom ended up getting the Chevy Aveo, which was a new model for 2004, but she did consider the MINI. Some of the things that turned her off were the sporty nature and look, the lack of room of the interior, and the fact that it only came in a three door model (she wanted a five door car). The major turn off was the price, which was almost double of the Aveo.

    All good points, but none of those were issues for me. After test driving the MINI, I knew that I would get a Cooper as my next car. I felt that if I were to buy a Cooper, I would have to think of it as a premium sports car for a great price. At this time, the MCS was only available as a 6 speed manual, but a new MCS auto was on the horizon.

    Over the next year or so, I visited the dealer about once a week, test driving the CVT Cooper to get a feel of the car in general, and asking as much I could about the future MCSa; and, without the full support of my family, I went ahead and put a deposit for MCSa in October of 2004. The wait time was about two months, but I intended to take delivery in the beginning of April and did not want any surprise delays with delivery time. So I was put on the wait list and allowed people to go ahead of me as needed to get the car when I wanted.

    I ended up taking delivery on April 15th (tax day) just in time for some Spring motoring. I was extremely happy to say the least. Mini Dee was waiting in the show room, all nice and shiny. I even was offered to drive it out of the show room, but I opted not to for fear of hitting the door or something. My dark silver/black roof MINI Cooper S automatic had only 11 miles on it, if I remember correctly.

    Here's my original spec list:
  • Premium Package-sunroof, mfsw, auto A/C, and the OBC.
  • Sports Package-DSC, slack bonnet stripes, xenon headlights, front fog lamps, and wheel upgrade to R98 17" web spokes R99 silver double spoke wheels
  • Cold Weather Package-heated front seats, heated side view mirror, and heated washer jets.
  • Convenience Package-auto dimming rear view mirror, rain sensor, auto headlights, and the universal garage door opener
  • Rear Fog Light
  • Automatic Transmission with Agitronic Paddles
  • Gray Space Cloth Seats, anthracite dash

    Added Accessories:
  • My Mini Chrome Door Buttons
  • AUX input
  • OEM Rubber Mats
  • Original Auto Up Circuit from Ian Cull
  • 12/8/05

    White Roof, Black Stripes?

    Today was our first significant snow (over 4 inches), and MINI dee was all up in it. Since I do not have snow tires yet, she did not go far. After a few minutes back in the garage, the snow just slid right off. Here's some pictures. I even took a picture with her doing an impersonation of an old white haired Mr. T. Enjoy.


    MINI vs Mini

    I always wondered why some people would capitalize the word MINI, while others would not. After a little searching, I could not find a definitive answer as to why MINI is different than Mini.

    As far as I can tell, when someone writes about a MINI, they are talking about the new (2002-present) MINI, as opposed to the classic (pre-new design) Mini. I think it's fitting to capitalize the make of such a small car.

    I'll be sure to be a little more careful from now on.... I guess mini dee will have to be renamed MINI dee. We'll see how long that lasts. Here is a brief history of Mini cortesy of Outmotoring.com. Enjoy.


    MCSa in the cold

    Mark over at mdsbrain.com has observed a few odd reactions the MCSa had with presumably the recent cold weather. I personally have not experienced anything out of the ordinary, but then again, mini dee is kept in a heated garage and has never spent more than a few hours or so standing still in the cold. If I get a chance, I will let her sit out for a bit and relay any observations I might have.

    Quote from msdbrain:link

    The tranny shifts very strangely when cold. Like when driving slowly it will ride up to 4k rpm before shifting.

    I have noticed some jerky shifting occasionally, but I do not think its related to the cold because it also happens in the summer. It's one of those things that is rare and would be non-existent if I were to take her in for service.


    Heated Side Mirrors

    Now that its really cold around here, the heated side mirrors (and heated seats) are coming in really handy. I initially was a bit worried that I would not be able to tell if they actually worked since mini dee is kept in a heated garage. Also, I have curbed my winter driving since I don't think I could handle seeing mini dee so salty and dirty. I like to think she's hibernating for the winter.

    Anyways, during Thanksgiving, I took her out for a spin, noticing the close to freezing temps, not to mention the little extra kick due to the cold weather. For those in warmer climates, the mini has an audible and visual warning of potential freezing temperatures. When the temperature reaches 36 or 38 degrees, if I remember correctly, there is a distinct ping sound. It's a little different than the usual seatbelt pings, but along those tones. In addtion to that, the temperature flashes in your OBC for a visual warning. If the mini is sitting in cold weather at the start, the warning sounds before the seatbelt pings, so it may go unnoticed. Mini dee usually starts out in a warm garage then after a little while outside, she tells me its cold.

    So after a quick ride, I parked back in the garage and got out to feel the mirrors. The caps were frigid but the actual glass of the mirror was warm to the touch. It was very cool. There was no snow or ice for the mirrors to melt but it was nice to feel it working.

    In addition to that, I finally folded my mirrors in. I had never done that before, and I must say, it was funny. It was like mini dee was wiggling her ears at me. It gave me a good chuckle. Big thumbs up from DanC.