How To Add Bluetooth To A Car

Here are three pathways toward hands-free calling and music streaming in your vehicle.

Benjamin Hunting | 
Jun 30, 2023 | 3 min read

Bluetooth calling in a carShutterstock

The convenience of having wireless Bluetooth connectivity in your vehicle can be worthwhile, and the added safety of being able to use your smartphone hands-free is often a legal necessity. Although older cars were unlikely to have Bluetooth capability right from the factory, there are several methods available to add this feature, ranging from inexpensive and simple to full stereo system revamps.

Here are three ways to add Bluetooth to any vehicle.

Cheap and Easy - the FM Transmitter

If you're adding Bluetooth to your car to easily stream music from your smartphone to your vehicle’s stereo system, then an FM transmitter can be a cost-effective way to get the job done.

These small devices plug into your vehicle’s 12-volt power outlet and connect to your phone via Bluetooth. They then take the audio received through that connection and transmit it over the FM radio band, allowing your car’s radio to tune it in like any other station.

Although this may be a simple and inexpensive way to add Bluetooth to your car, it does come with a few caveats. The compressor in the FM transmitter can have a negative impact on sound quality, and you might also have trouble finding a radio band that’s free from interference if you live in a crowded metropolitan area. Not all transmitters are also equipped with a microphone to allow for hands-free calling, either.

Wire It In

If your vehicle comes with an auxiliary (AUX) input, then you can also choose to wire in a Bluetooth adapter. Simply plug the adapter into the input, select AUX on your head unit, feed it power (via 12-volt or USB), and you can stream music directly from your phone. There are even battery-powered designs that make for a quicker installation, as well as units that come with a microphone to allow for hands-free calling.

However, an AUX input isn’t the only way you can wire into your vehicle’s stereo system for Bluetooth streaming. It’s also possible to use existing A/V inputs, or purchase a kit that attaches to the satellite radio or CD changer inputs. These latter types of Bluetooth adapters tend to be specific to the vehicle and take into account the design of their existing head units — they can be more complicated to install than other solutions.

Go Full Aftermarket Replacement

The most comprehensive method for adding Bluetooth to an older vehicle is to install a new stereo head unit. Bluetooth connectivity is a common feature on most aftermarket head units, regardless of whether your vehicle requires a traditional “single-DIN” design or a larger and more modern “double-DIN” setup.

Although replacing the entire head unit might seem like a considerable hassle, for older cars and trucks, it’s often comparable to pulling out the stock entertainment system and then using an adapter harness to connect the new stereo. On a double-DIN system, installation can be a little trickier, especially if the vehicle’s stereo surround is molded directly into the dashboard. Double-DIN designs also often come with a touchscreen and other modern features such as navigation, digital music file support, and satellite radio.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.