Bluetooth comes pretty much standard on most modern cars. Not only does Bluetooth allow you to stream your favourite music from your phone to your car stereo, it’s also an essential part of a wireless hands-free phone setup.
Given the safety risks associated with using your phone while driving (not to mention the steep fines the cops can hit you with), the value of a good hands-free setup can’t be overstated.
So, what can you do if you drive an older car that doesn’t have an integrated Bluetooth system? Well, there are a number of ways you can add Bluetooth functionality to an existing car audio system.
The simplest way to install Bluetooth in a car audio system is with a portable Bluetooth receiver.
The receiver plugs directly into the auxiliary (3.5 mm) input in your car. Once paired to your phone, the receiver will transmit your music or phone calls through your car stereo.
Receivers are available in a selection of powering options including 12V-powered, USB-powered and battery-powered.
The downside to this system is that it’s an additional piece of equipment to plug in to your car and another cable looping around your cabin.These devices are also quite small, so there’s always the risk of dropping it and losing it under your seats.
Bluetooth receivers won’t work for you if your car doesn’t have a 3.5mm input jack, as a lot of older cars don’t.
An FM transmitter is one of the cheapest options when it comes to adding Bluetooth to a car audio system. These are great options if you drive an older car as they don’t require a 3.5 mm input jack to work.
FM transmitters plug into your car cigarette lighter and broadcasts a signal over an FM frequency. Then you simply tune your FM radio to the specific frequency that the transmitter is broadcasting on, and your radio will play whatever your phone is playing.
These systems are wireless, with the transmitter plugging directly in to the cigarette lighter.
This option does have flaws, however. The signal can be poor and may need to be adjusted to find a free signals you drive. It’s also common to have some background interference if you’re using it in a busy city.
Dedicated Bluetooth Speaker
Another option is a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. These are small speakers that you can mount to your car’s sun visor. These receive the Bluetooth signal from your phone and play it back through a small independent speaker.
These systems don’t require any car audio system to work and are usually battery powered, so there’s no wires.
Since these speakers operate with only a small speaker, they aren’t great for playing music and are really only designed for hands-free phone calls. Bluetooth speakers also tend to be more expensive than receivers or FM transmitters and have less functionality.
However, if you need a system that doesn’t rely on a car audio system, this could be the way to go.
Updating your car stereo head unit is the most expensive and complex option. However, if you choose this option you will come out with a brand-new car audio system with fully integrated Bluetooth capability and a range of other functionality and features. Going with a new audio system means fewer loose cables and less additional equipment in your car.
Unless you’re comfortable working with car electrics, be prepared to pay for professional installation on top of the purchase price of the new head unit.
Whatever your circumstances, there’s a way you can use Bluetooth audio in your car. Check out this list of Bluetooth car stereo kits and stream your music as you drive today.