New Toyota Camry can do everything except play CDs

Dear Car Talk:

I recently bought a 2019 Toyota Camry. I knew that it did not have a CD player, nor was one available as an option. The salesperson assured me that I would be able to download all my CDs to a thumb drive and listen to them that way in the car.

Well, that was a pipe dream! I have not figured out a way to do that efficiently, and Toyota’s Entune System (and its “directions”) is mystifying.

My question is this: Is there any way to install an after-market CD player in this car? If not, is there any similar car out there that comes with a CD player? Thank you! – Janet

RAY: Wow, you really like your CDs, Janet! You're willing to dump a brand-new Camry just so you can listen to the Doobie Brothers. I admire that. But you won't have to dump the Camry, Janet.

First of all, we agree with you about Toyota’s “Entune” infotainment system. It’s miserably complicated, and lots of people have complained to us about how unintuitive it is. So, you’re not alone there.

And you’re not alone in wanting a CD player – although you are increasingly in the minority these days, as most people store their music on their phones.

The easiest, though not cheapest, way to get a CD player is to visit a reputable car stereo store. Look carefully at reviews and recommendations because it’s a business where quality varies a lot from store to store.

A good car stereo shop can either add a permanent CD player that they will mount somewhere for you, or they can even replace your Camry’s “head unit” (the stereo controller on your dashboard) with a whole new system that has a CD player built in. If only I could’ve replaced my brother’s “head unit.”

If you’re handy and prefer to do it yourself, just go online and search for “USB CD player for 2019 Camry.” You’ll find a number of options for CD players that plug into your car stereo’s USB port. Then, when you select USB as your “source,” your car stereo system will play whatever’s in the CD player. The player itself can go in the glove box, under the dash, or on the side of the center console, with self-adhesive patches.

But try a good stereo shop first. See what it costs to have it done professionally and cleanly. After all, it’s a brand-new car, Janet. It’s a little early to be telling your passengers to “watch the wires” when they get in.

This timing chain will not self-destruct

Dear Car Talk:

I realize that Hondas are considered to be very well made and reliable cars. However, I have always refrained from buying one because they were known to have “interference” engines and a timing belt instead of a timing chain. I did not like the idea that if I neglected to change the timing belt in time, the engine would “self-destruct.”

I saw in one of your recent columns that you advised one of your readers that they did not have to change the timing belt on their Honda Accord since it had a timing chain, not a belt. My question to you is this: Where can a consumer find reliable information such as this when considering a car purchase?

I have found that the car salespeople do not know and will tell you whatever they think you want to hear. – William

RAY: That's good to know, William. Next time I'm buying a car, I'll tell the salesperson that I want to hear there are no payments due for the first 80,000 miles.

You’re right that it’s not easy for an average consumer to get accurate mechanical information. Most salespeople are not mechanics; most of them will have no earthly idea whether the car has a timing belt or a timing chain. But the guys in the parts department will.

All you have to do is go to the parts desk, or call them up, and ask whether the year and make of the car you’re considering has a timing chain or a timing belt. If they don’t know off the top of their head, they’ll search their parts database for the belt, and if no belt comes up, they’ll look for a chain. Bingo!

Cars have been going back to chains in recent years. Chains were once seen as less reliable and more complicated and expensive to replace if they did break. But they’ve figured out how to make them last the life of the car in most cases.

And just because you asked, I looked it up and Honda Civics have had timing chains since 2005. Four-cylinder Accords have used chains since 2002. The only Accord that still uses a belt is the rare, six-cylinder version, which they claim should be changed at 100,000 miles.

We wish you happy, timing-belt-free motoring, William.

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