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Old Car, New Tricks: Compact Inverter – Schumacher X114


If you’re looking for an inexpensive power inverter and don’t want to sacrifice a cup holder or other interior real estate, the Schumacher X114 might be just the ticket — as long as you don’t mind a bit of noise with your power. 

Capable of putting out 140 watts of continuous power, the X114 has more than enough juice to drive a laptop or other small electronic device. To that end, it comes equipped with one 120V receptacle, and a 2-amp USB outlet for charging a phone, music player, or most anything else that can be charged via USB. 

This series details some technological features you can add to your old ride to make it on par with new OEM offerings. We’ll take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, brand recognition with websites, and readily available customer support.

Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.

After covering phone mounts with the iOttie Easy One Touch 2, Bluetooth speakerphone kits by digging into the Motorola Sonic Rider, and power inverters with the Energizer EN180, and heads-up displays with the Garmin HUD+, it’s time to think smaller and cheaper with the Schumacher X114 compact inverter.

Designed to plug into a standard 12V power outlet, the Schumacher X114 has a swiveling head for easier access depending on the outlet location and configuration, and includes a green LED indicator light to indicate all is normal in converterland. It also includes an internal surge protector, and comes with a spare fuse tucked away in the tip of its plug. Using it is simplicity itself — just plug it in and it’s ready to power your devices.

Like other power converters, the operating instructions warn against operating the X114 for more than two or three hours with the vehicle’s engine turned off to avoid draining or damaging your car battery. The instructions recommend starting the engine every couple of hours and letting it run for 10 minutes or so. If you fail to do this, the X114 sounds an audible warning once the battery gets low, and will shut itself off if that warning is ignored. 

Perhaps best of all, the X114 is sold on eBay for under $15 (currently sold out as of March 30, 2017), and it includes a two-year warranty.

However, there is one ear-piercing problem: It’s noisy. From the moment you plug it in, the Schumacher begins to emit a sort of metallic buzz, and it rises as its cooling fan comes up to speed. The noise never goes away. While not disruptive enough to prevent conversation or listening to music, we found the buzz annoying to the point where we just unplugged the X114 when it wasn’t needed. Other power converters we’ve used, including the Energizer EN180, can simply be left plugged in all the time, quietly going about their business without being heard. But the Energizer costs more, starting at around $32-$35. You pays your money and you takes your choice. 

The owner’s manual fine print warns of a possible “buzz,” which it says is normal. It also says that cheap sound systems may produce their own buzz through the speakers when the device is plugged in. We did not experience this in either of the two vehicles we tried with the X114, but the noise from the Schumacher was equally noticeable in both. Just to confirm, we called Schumacher customer service, who again assured us the noise is normal. 

Noise notwithstanding, the Schumacher worked well during our time with it, providing sufficient power for a phone and a laptop. Just plan on turning up the music while you use it.

What would you do with a $500 eBay Gift Card? We’re giving away three of them. Here’s how to enter to win.

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