Guide to Linking Devices to Your Car

Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
July 27, 2022
4 min read

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Linking your device to a Bluetooth-enabled car only takes a few minutes, and soon you can scream-sing along to “Life is a Highway” like my two-year-old does in the back of the car.

Depending upon the make and model of your car, you’ll either connect to your device via Bluetooth or directly with a USB cable. If you’re driving an older car from before 2004, you can use an auxiliary cable to play audio from your phone through your car’s speakers.

Link device via Bluetooth

Using the built-in Bluetooth system in your car makes for the easiest solution to link your device. Most vehicles made after 2004 include Bluetooth capabilities, so if you’ve bought your car in the last decade, just follow these steps to link your device:

  1. Start with accessing the Bluetooth menu on your car radio. Open the menu on your radio and select the Bluetooth pairing option. If you don’t see a Bluetooth option under settings, look for a Bluetooth button somewhere around your display. If you can’t find any Bluetooth options, check the owner manual for Bluetooth instructions.
  2. Once you get into the Bluetooth settings on your car, select the Pair a Phone option. Your car will either ask if you want to put it in pairing mode (select Yes), or it will start looking for discoverable devices. If you see your phone as a connectable device, go ahead and connect.
  3. On your phone/tablet, open the settings app and look for Bluetooth settings. If your car was set on pairing mode, you should see your car radio as one of the Bluetooth pairing options. If you do, select your car radio and follow the on-screen prompts
  4. If you don’t see your phone or your car radio as a connectable device, make sure that your phone/tablet allows for a Bluetooth connection. If you have Bluetooth options in the settings app of your device, double-check that the toggle bar shows green.

This is the green toggle you’re looking for on an iPhone or iPad. Look for a similar icon on an Android device.

Link device with a USB cable

If you own a fairly new car, you probably have a built-in USB input that does all the work for you. Follow these steps to link your device to your car with a USB cable:

  1. Look for a USB port around the center console of your car. It’ll look like a rectangular input.
  2. Grab a USB-powered phone cable that’s compatible with your device. If you use an iPhone, the cable will look like this:
  3. Plug the USB side into the USB port of your car, and plug the phone adapter into your smartphone.
Linking devices to car with USB cable

After completing these steps, you should see either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (depending upon your device) show up on your display. From here, you can play music and podcasts and make phone calls directly from your car display, or you can choose what you want to listen to on your phone. Either way, the audio from your smartphone should come through the car speakers.

With your phone plugged in, you can access all kinds of apps from your car display, including Spotify, Apple/Google Maps, and Apple Music. You can also make phone calls and dictate text messages without ever having to let go of the steering wheel.

Link with an auxiliary cable

If you don’t have any Bluetooth or USB connections in your car, you might be able to use a good old fashioned auxiliary cord. For this option to work, you’ll need an auxiliary headphones jack on both your car radio and your mobile device.

Most new smartphones have moved away from auxiliary headphones jacks in favor of different connection types, so you may need an aux adapter cable. But if you have an older device with an auxiliary jack, you can just plug a cord in between your phone and your car.

Auxiliary Cables

This is an auxiliary code. You’ll need a compatible input in both your car and your phone for this solution to work.

Note that an auxiliary cable only allows you to play audio through your car’s speakers. You can’t set up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto with auxiliary speakers, nor can you set up hands-free calling. This is just the classic method to get music and podcasts from your phone playing on your car’s speakers.

Best unlimited data plans for streaming music and podcasts

Whatever you decide to listen to while driving, you’ll likely need cellular data to stream it. Your car likely doesn’t have a built-in internet connection, so it depends on your phone to provide the data to stream music and podcasts, as well as power navigational apps like Google and Apple Maps. Check out our picks for the best cell phone plans to keep you connected while driving.

Compare top cell phone plans by provider
Provider
Best for
Our plan pick
Plan price (1 line)
Details
Overall coverage5G Do More$80/mo.
Bundling with internetUnlimited Plan$45/mo.
Cheap unlimited dataUnlimited Data Plan$30/mo.
Family planUnlimited Basic$80/mo.
(4 lines)
Overall performanceMagenta MAX$85/mo.
Under $20Unlimited Talk & Text with 18 GB Ludicrous Data$20/mo.

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Best unlimited data plans for streaming music and podcasts

Thankfully, it’s not very complicated to link devices to your car display. Here’s a recap of the three easiest ways to link your device to your car:

  • Connect with Bluetooth: Put both your phone and car radio in Bluetooth pairing mode and connect the two devices. You can easily do this by accessing the Bluetooth menu on your car display and opening the Bluetooth settings on your device’s Settings app.
  • Connect with a USB cable: New cars allow you to connect your smartphone to your car directly with a USB plugin. All you need to do is plug in the USB side to your car, and plug in the phone adapter side to your (you guessed it!) phone. You should see either Apple CarPlay (for iPhones, iPads, and other Apple devices), or Android Auto (for Samsung Galaxy and other Android devices) pop up on your display.
  • Connect with an auxiliary cable: If you have an older car that doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth or USB connections, you can try to connect an auxiliary cable between your car radio and your phone. Most new smartphones don’t come with an auxiliary input, so you’ll need to find a device that still offers an auxiliary port or get an adapter cable.
Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

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