How To Add Bluetooth To Your Car | Autance

Any car can have Bluetooth.

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How To Add Bluetooth To Your Car | Autance © How To Add Bluetooth To Your Car | Autance

Time Needed: 1-2 Hours, Difficulty: Intermediate, Cost: $20-$1,000+

Your car may have had a great stereo when you first bought it, but over time that can change. If it’s more than a few years old, there’s a great chance that it’s lacking modern features like Bluetooth, which can be a real drag when all you want to do is blast Soul Asylum from your smartphone.

Luckily, adding Bluetooth functionality to your car isn’t hard or expensive. In fact, the job can be done for as little as $20 if you’re ok with having an adapter kit plugged into your dash. Of course, you can also go all-out and spend as much as you want to add a custom stereo head unit. Car Autance’ editors have done it both ways and are here to help you get the info you need to get started.

Let’s dive in.

The Safety Brief 

Any time you’re working with your vehicle’s electrical components, it’s a good idea to disconnect the battery. It will help prevent shocks and damage to the components that you’re working on.

Furthermore, you’re reaching into your dash, so it’s a good idea to wear gloves to protect your hands from cuts and bangs. At the very least, you should use a flashlight to inspect the area you’re about to stick your hand into.

The Tools & Parts You Need 

If you’re changing out your stereo’s head unit, you’ll need a full complement of tools, but adding a universal Bluetooth kit to your car won’t take much.

The How-To Add Bluetooth To Your Car

Let’s get after it.

Universal Bluetooth Kit

Universal Bluetooth kits are, by far, the easiest and cheapest way to add Bluetooth to a car. This route assumes that you have an auxiliary input port on your existing stereo, however, so if you don’t, you’ll need to look at one of the other two methods listed here. 

Most universal kits have a small microphone or listening device mounted somewhere on your dash. It connects to your stereo using the auxillary port, and plays audio from your Bluetooth connection through that connection. The microphone allows you to make and take calls, as the audio will be played through your existing speakers.

Replace Head Unit

The most complicated, and permanent, way to add Bluetooth to your car is to swap out the existing stereo head unit for one that offers it. Depending on the vehicle, this can either be a fairly straightforward process or a very complicated one. In general, you’ll need to:

  1. Disconnect the battery.
  2. Use a panel popper or removal tool to carefully pry away trim pieces and plastic that surrounds the head unit.
  3. Remove screws or bolts that hold the unit in place and pull the stereo out.
  4. Disconnect wiring harnesses or plugs, being careful not to damage them in the process.
  5. Plug in the new stereo and reverse the installation process

It’s worth noting that some stereos are plug-and-play, which means you’ll be able to unplug one and plug in the other. That’s not always the case, especially if you’re swapping out the stereo in an older car, so be certain that you’re comfortable with splicing wires or adding wiring harnesses if necessary.

Vehicle-Specific Adapters

Some vehicles’ stereo systems have the capability to be upgraded with Bluetooth using an adapter that has to be plugged into the rear of the unit. Depending on the vehicle, these systems can look and feel exactly as if they were installed at the factory. Retailers like Crutchfield and Amazon sell kits for various vehicles, but it’s worth keeping in mind that you’ll have to do some installation work to get them to work properly. The process will vary from vehicle to vehicle, but generally, it includes:

  1. Disconnect the battery.
  2. Use a panel popper or removal tool to carefully pry away trim pieces and plastic that surrounds the head unit.
  3. Remove screws or bolts that hold the unit in place and pull the stereo out.
  4. Disconnect wiring harnesses or plugs, being careful not to damage them in the process.
  5. Plug in the wiring harness from your adapter kit in line with the stereo wiring. If you’re unsure of where to plug or which wires go where it’s best to study the vehicle’s wiring manual/maintenance manual or take it to a shop. 
    1. The kits are meant to be plug-and-play, but there is a huge level of variance in how different car models’ wiring and harnesses are set up.
  6. Find a suitable location for the included microphone.
    1. The sun visors or an out-of-the-way location on the dash are best
  7. Test system before reinstalling the head unit
  8. Replace head unit and carefully press any plastic trim pieces or panels back into place

The Car Autance Questionnaire

Car Autance answers all your burning questions!

Q: My Car Is Very Old. How Can I Add Bluetooth?

A: If your car is older, the best way to reliably add Bluetooth will be to swap out the stereo for a newer unit. If you’re unsure about how to do this, find a local stereo shop and ask for help or have them do the work. Depending on the vehicle, you may need a single-DIN, double-DIN, or custom-shaped stereo installation kit to make everything fit and work properly.

Q: How Much Does Adding Bluetooth Cost?

A: Depending on the method you choose to pursue and how you plan on having the work done, it can be very cheap or exorbitantly expensive. A universal Bluetooth kit can be had for as little as $20, but a full-on stereo replacement can cost up to $1,000 or more, depending on the product and complexity of installation.

Q: Can I Take My Bluetooth Kit With Me If I Sell The Car?

A: If you’re using a universal kit, absolutely. You’ll just need to unplug it and take it to the next vehicle. Taking a vehicle-specific adapter or stereo head unit with you will take a bit more work, but are possible as well. Just keep in mind that you should replace the stereo if you remove it. Nobody wants to buy a car with a gaping hole in the dash.

Video Tutorial on How To Add Bluetooth To Your Car

For all you kinesthetic learners out there, here’s a video from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources on how adding Bluetooth to your car works. Check it out. 

Best Places To Buy Tools and Parts to Add Bluetooth To Your Car

There are several online retailers that offer Bluetooth kits and products, so it can be difficult to choose the right one. We’ve grabbed a handful of our favorites to get you started. They include the Sumind Bluetooth FM Transmitter, the Besign Bluetooth Car Kit, and the Pioneer 6.2-inch Touchscreen Head Unit.

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