How to Integrate Smartphone Controls with an Older Vehicle’s Infotainment System?

March 19, 2024

Sometimes, you may feel dated with your older vehicle’s infotainment system that can’t match today’s tech-friendly cars. Fret not! There’s a simple solution for that—an upgrade. With the integration of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto into your vehicle, you can enjoy modern technology without breaking the bank. This article will guide you through integrating smartphone controls with your older vehicle’s infotainment system, taking you from cumbersome to cutting-edge.

What is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Before we dive in, let’s clarify what we’re dealing with. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are smartphone integration systems that work with your car’s existing infotainment system. They use your vehicle’s in-dash display to mirror your smartphone screen, providing easy access to apps, navigation, music, and much more.

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Apple CarPlay is obviously designed for Apple device users, while Android Auto caters to those using Android devices. Both systems aim to provide safer and smarter ways to use your smartphone on the road without causing distractions. They allow one to access various phone functionalities, such as calls, text messages, music, and navigation apps, all through the vehicle’s head unit.

Will Your Vehicle Support Smartphone Integration?

Not all older vehicles can support smartphone integration. However, many do, especially if they have some form of infotainment system already in place. So, how can you determine if your vehicle will support it?

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Your car must have a double-DIN head unit space. This is essentially a slot in your vehicle’s dashboard that measures 7 x 4 inches. If you have a single DIN slot (7 x 2 inches), you may need a new head unit to accommodate the smartphone integration system.

Other factors to consider include the age of your existing system and the level of technology it has. Some older infotainment systems may not have the necessary technology to connect with newer smartphone devices.

Picking the Right Aftermarket Head Unit

An aftermarket head unit is a third-party device that can replace your current infotainment system. If your current system isn’t compatible with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, an aftermarket head unit can be a solution.

When shopping for an aftermarket head unit, look for one that features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. This will ensure that you can switch between different phones – if you currently use an iPhone but decide to switch to an Android phone in the future, you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

You should also consider whether you want a wired or wireless unit. Wired units require you to connect your phone to the head unit using a USB cable. Wireless units use Bluetooth to connect, allowing you to keep your phone in your pocket or purse.

Installing Your New Head Unit

Once you’ve picked your new head unit, the installation process begins. Depending on your comfort level with car electronics, you may choose to install it yourself or hire a professional.

Start by disconnecting your car’s battery to prevent any accidental electrical shorts. Then, remove the old head unit. This process varies from car to car, so it may be beneficial to search for a guide specific to your vehicle model.

After the old head unit is out, connect the new one. This usually involves connecting a wire harness from your car to the new head unit. The wire harness typically includes power wires, speaker wires, and data wires for things like steering wheel controls.

Once everything is connected, test the head unit to make sure it’s working properly. If everything is operating as expected, secure the new head unit in the dash and reconnect the battery.

With the new head unit installed, you can now connect your smartphone. Simply plug your phone into the USB port or pair it with the head unit via Bluetooth, and your phone’s interface should appear on the head unit’s screen.

Making the Most of Your New System

After the installation of the new head unit, take some time to familiarize yourself with the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto interface. The more you understand the system, the more you can take advantage of its features.

Remember, the aim of integrating your smartphone with your car’s infotainment system is to make driving safer and more enjoyable. So, explore the features like voice control, navigation, and audio streaming to enhance your driving experience.

Finally, keep in mind that technology is always evolving. Regularly updating your smartphone and the apps it runs will ensure that you’re always taking full advantage of the latest features and improvements.

The Benefits of Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto

Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto offer great benefits for older car owners. Unlike wired connections, they eliminate the need for cords, giving you a cleaner and more organized car interior. You don’t need to plug and unplug your phone every time you get in or out of your car. Wireless CarPlay and Android Auto connect to your device as soon as you start the car, offering seamless transition from your home to your vehicle.

They also offer more flexibility. You can leave your phone in your pocket, bag, or anywhere in the car without worrying about reaching for it. This can drastically reduce distractions while driving. Furthermore, they enable passengers to control the infotainment system from their seats without needing to pass the phone around.

One thing to note though, not all head units support wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. So, when purchasing an aftermarket head unit, ensure to check if it’s compatible with wireless CarPlay or Android Auto if you desire this feature.

Considerations for Using CarPlay and Android Auto in Older Cars

While integrating smartphone controls can modernize your older car’s infotainment system, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the performance of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be influenced by your phone’s operating system. Make sure your smartphone’s operating system is up to date to ensure optimal performance.

Secondly, consider your data plan. Apps such as Google Maps, Waze, Spotify, and others consume data. So, make sure you have an adequate data plan to support your usage.

Lastly, remember that despite the convenience and advanced features these systems offer, safety should always come first. Even though they are designed to minimize distractions, using your infotainment system while driving can still divert your attention from the road.


Integrating smartphone controls with an older car’s infotainment system can be a great way to modernize your vehicle without incurring the costs of purchasing a new one. Through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, you have the possibility to safely use your smartphone features in your car, improving your driving experience significantly.

Whether you opt for a wired or wireless system, rest assured that either choice can bring a touch of modern technology that makes driving both safer and more enjoyable. However, remember that you need to regularly update your smartphone’s operating system and apps to keep the system functioning optimally.

In conclusion, with the right head unit, and the matching CarPlay adapter, your old car can become a tech-savvy vehicle, providing you with a seamless transition between your phone and car. So, bid adieu to the days of fumbling with your phone on the road, and embrace the future of the car infotainment system today!