A quick guide on the different ways to sync a phone to a car.
You need to know how to pair your phone to your car if you want to be able to use it hands-free. With an increasing number of US states introducing hands-free laws - and hefty fines for Americans not complying - you need to learn how to sync your phone to your car. The vast majority of modern vehicles will allow connecting your phone to the car in one of several ways to allow drivers to integrate their handset with their cars' infotainment systems so that they don't have to touch their phones while using certain apps.
Today's connected cars usually run on automakers' proprietary software and apps, incorporating many connected services. Examples of products in this space include myCadillac, Toyota Entune, and FordPass. Some upcoming cars might consolidate all these disparate technologies under the popular new Android Automotive system. Luckily, syncing your phone to your car is usually quite easy. Like our other useful how-to car features, here are some valuable tips on how to pair a phone to a car.
So, how do I hook up my phone to my car? This can be done in various ways, but using either Apple CarPlay for iPhones or Android Auto for Android phones,referred to as smartphone mirroring, is one of the preferred options. This mirrors your smartphone's screen on your car's infotainment display, allowing you to control its functions more easily.
First, the iPhone. You can sync an iPhone with a car via a Bluetooth car connection on cars supporting wireless Apple CarPlay or, alternatively, with a USB cable. In some cases, you can use either a USB cable or Bluetooth for a car-to-phone connection. For more information on Apple CarPlay, read this article.
These are the basic steps for how to connect a phone to Apple CarPlay:
How to connect a phone to Android Auto is somewhat different but achieves the same end:
Connecting a phone to a car via Bluetooth in this instance means that the car doesn't have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality, but does allow a Bluetooth connection to access your phone book, make and receive calls, and perhaps play music from your phone. Because each car's proprietary infotainment system is different, you'll have to check your user's manual to see how to pair your phone to your car and how to access your phonebook and music - if music streaming is supported.
Some older model cars might only have an auxiliary port to connect a device such as a phone. Luckily, how to connect a phone to a car with the aux port is very simple. You just connect your phone to the auxiliary port via the correct cable and set your audio system to its auxiliary or "aux" setting. How to play music from your phone in your car is then simply a matter of opening your music app and pressing play. Turn your phone volume halfway up and you should hear the audio on your car's speakers. It is generally better to adjust the volume via your car's head unit, as turning up the phone volume too high can cause distorted sound quality.
Besides being illegal in many states, operating a handset while driving makes for distracted and overly busy drivers that cause accidents. It's in your best interest to familiarize yourself with your car's hands-free system, pairing your cell phone to your car, and operating your phone through this interface instead. Our tips should help set you on your way, but your car's handbook will also contain the necessary information and instructions.
Aftermarket hands-free car kits are available at affordable prices, so everybody has access to Bluetooth car phones, even on old cars - so long as your phone supports Bluetooth. Such a kit usually consists of a Bluetooth unit that connects to your phone, a microphone, and a speaker, so you can make and receive calls. The audio is played through the kit and not your car's speakers. Opt for a good-quality product from a proven brand name, as the cheaper systems may lack certain functions and provide poor audio quality.
Your Bluetooth might not connect for various reasons. For instance, you may have forgotten to enable Bluetooth on your phone, since it drains battery even when not actively in use. This goes hand in hand with low battery problems. Aftermarket kits sometimes won't connect to devices with low charge. Distance shouldn't be a problem if you're in your car, since phones should detect your car when within 30 feet. However, there might be interference from Wi-Fi networks, or even other wireless signals. Last but not least, make sure your devices are still paired. Sometimes, connecting to multiple devices can cause your phone to forget some pairings.
You only have to pair your phone to your car's system the first time. From then on, when you get into your car, just be sure that your phone's Bluetooth is switched on and it should automatically connect to your car every time. There should be an indication on the infotainment system, on-board computer, or dashboard that the phone is connected.
There is a risk to syncing your phone to a rental car, because subsequent drivers could access the information that is left behind, such as contact information, addresses, and destinations stored in the GPS or navigation system. It is, therefore, recommended that you consult the rental car's instruction manual to determine how you can reset the infotainment system so that all your personal information is deleted before you hand the car back. This will differ from car to car.