How to set up Android Auto in any car (2023)


Skip the expensive infotainment system. An Android phone and a few accessories will do just fine.

By Jared Newman

PCWorldMar 21, 2018 3:30 am PDT

How to set up Android Auto in any car (1)

Image: Google

Android Auto will work in any car, even an older car. All you need is the right accessories—and a smartphone running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher (Android 6.0 is better), with a decent-sized screen. Add a few handy apps and phone settings, and you can make your smartphone version of Android Auto just about as good as the dashboard version.

Android Auto wasn’t always this easy. When itdebuted in 2015, you needed either a new car or pricey aftermarket hardware to run Google’s infotainment system of the future.Google brought a standalone Android Auto app to smartphones the following year, allowing anyone with an Android phone to use the simplified menu system for music, navigation, phone calls, and messages. More recently, Android Auto added support forGoogle Assistantand all the same voice commands you’d use with a Google Home speaker.

Read on for the best way to bring Android Auto to your car. Once you’re up and running, check out Google’s Android Auto Help page for even more information.

Step 1: Get a car phone mount

Using Android Auto on your phone makes sense only if you can glance at the screen without losing sight of the road. Car mounts for this purpose cost around $20, and can attach to your phone’s dashboard, windshield, CD player, or air vent. Check out PCWorld’s car mount guide for recommendations.

In my case, I used an old Breffo Spiderpodium Tablet (currently $16.95 on Amazon), whose bendable arms fit snugly into my Nissan Altima’s air vents. The remaining four arms cradle my Pixel 2 XL securely when it’s inserted from above.

How to set up Android Auto in any car (2) Jared Newman / PCWorld

Step 2: Add Bluetooth to your car

Unless your phone needs charging, you shouldn’t have to mess around with cables every time you get in the car. Connecting your car to Bluetooth removes the extra bit of friction that might stop you from listening to music or asking for directions.

If your car already has Bluetooth built-in, you’re in great shape. Just pair your phone through the car’s infotainment system, and proceed to the next step. Otherwise, you’ll need some extra hardware to add Bluetooth to your car.

For cars with an auxiliary 3.5mm audio input, Bluetooth receivers are available for cheap. Mpow sells its Bluetooth Receiver (currently $14 on Amazon), though you may want to splurge for theBluetooth 4.1 Receiver ($18 on Amazon), which has a dedicated on-off switch. (The cheaper model requires you to press and hold a button to power it on, which is slightly less convenient.)

How to set up Android Auto in any car (3) Amazon

These receivers have built-in batteries, but you’re better off keeping them connected to a car charger. RAVPower’s tiny dual-USB car chargercosts just $8 on Amazon, and it allows you to charge the Bluetooth receiver via any micro-USB cable. Use the second slot to charge your phone on long trips.

Mentioned in this article

VicTsing Bluetooth FM transmitter

How to set up Android Auto in any car (4)

Don’t have auxiliary input? You can still use a Bluetooth FM transmitter, which grabs audio from your phone and creates a short-range broadcast for your car radio. The most popular pick on Amazon is the BluetoothTransmitter from VicTsing ($18 on Amazon), which has a dial for quickly selecting an open radio frequency. The car charger also has a spare USB slot in case your phone needs a boost.

Step 3: Automate Android Auto

Once you’ve got a Bluetooth solution and paired it to your smartphone, install the Android Auto app from the Google Play Store. But don’t stop here! The real magic happens when you create a rule to launch Android Auto when it connects to the car via Bluetooth.

Launch the Android Auto app, then press the menu button in the top-left corner and select Settings. Scroll down and select Autolaunch, then flip on the toggles for Autolaunch and your car’s Bluetooth connection. You may also turn on pocket detection so the app doesn’t launch prematurely.

To make your phone feel a bit more like an actual infotainment system, you can run Android Auto in landscape mode. Because I normally keep my phone locked in portrait mode, I used a popular $3 app called Tasker to automate the screen orientation. Download the app, then follow these steps:

  • Under Profiles, press +, then press State, then select Net, then select BT Connected.
  • Under Name, press the magnifying glass, then select the name of your car’s Bluetooth device.
  • Under Address, press the magnifying glass, then choose your car’s Bluetooth device again.
  • Press the back button in the top-left corner, then press New Task. (Creating a name for the task isn’t necessary.)
  • On the Task Edit screen, press +, then press Display. Next, select Display AutoRotate, then select On from the Set menu. Hit the back button in the top-left corner, then press the back button again on the next screen.
How to set up Android Auto in any car (5) Jared Newman / PCWorld
How to set up Android Auto in any car (6) Jared Newman / PCWorld

Your phone will now automatically disable rotation lock when it’s connected to the car. When the connection terminates, it’ll return to portrait-only mode and exit the Android Auto app.

Finally, you can prevent the phone from feeding audio to the car at low volumes with the free Bluetooth Volume Control app. After downloading the app, add your car’s Bluetooth with the “+” button, and set the volume to 100%.

Step 4: Get comfy with Android Auto

Android Auto is essentially a special version of the Android interface, with larger buttons, simplified menu items, and fewer distractions. The headphone icon provides quick access to compatible music apps such as Pandora and Spotify, the navigation icon provides directions from Google Maps (or Waze, if you’ve installed it), and the phone button lets you place calls.

In many cases, though, it’s easier to use voice commands. Hit the microphone icon or say “Hey Google,” then ask for music, directions, a phone call, or a text message. This works with all Google Assistant actions, so you can even dictate to-do list items, add calendar appointments, and turn down the thermostat at home.

How to set up Android Auto in any car (7) Jared Newman / PCWorld

One more thing: To curb distracted driving, Android Auto hides all notifications except phone calls and texts from supported messaging apps. For the latter, Google will only offer to speak the message instead of showing it onscreen. You can then respond by voice or with a canned message, created through the Settings menu. (By default, it’s “I’m driving right now.”)

When you’re finished driving, Android Auto should recognize that the Bluetooth connection has terminated and will exit the app automatically. But if not, tap the circle icon, then press Exit to return to your regular phone interface. Finally, don’t forget to take your phone with you!


How to set up Android Auto in any car? ›

How do I get Android Auto to run on my car display? For most compatible cars or aftermarket stereos, simply plug in your phone using a USB cable. If your car display supports wireless connection, you must pair your phone with your car's Bluetooth for setup.

How do I make my car compatible with Android Auto? ›

How do I get Android Auto to run on my car display? For most compatible cars or aftermarket stereos, simply plug in your phone using a USB cable. If your car display supports wireless connection, you must pair your phone with your car's Bluetooth for setup.

Can you put Android Auto in a car that doesn't have it? ›

To use Android Auto on your car display, your car needs to be compatible with Android Auto or have an aftermarket unit installed. Android Auto won't work on all cars equipped with a USB port. See this list of manufacturers to check if your car is compatible. Not all USB cables will work with all cars.

Why is Android Auto not showing on my car screen? ›

If Android Auto won't show on your car's display, remember that you must have a compatible vehicle (or aftermarket head unit). Even if your car has a USB port, it still might not support Android Auto. Check Google's list of Android Auto-supported cars and look for your vehicle.

How do I get Google Maps to display on my car screen? ›

On your Android, go to “Settings” and find “MirrorLink” option. Take Samsung for example, open “Settings” > “Connections” > “More connection settings” > “MirrorLink”. After that, turn on “Connect to car via USB” to successfully connect your device. In this way, you can mirror Android to car with ease.

Does Android Auto work over Bluetooth? ›

It's not possible to use Android Auto over Bluetooth alone, since Bluetooth can't transmit enough data to handle the feature. As a result, Android Auto's wireless option is only available on cars that have built-in Wi-Fi—or aftermarket head units that support the feature.

Does Android Auto require a special USB cable? ›

To use Android Auto™ over a wired connection, it is recommended to use a manufacturer-certified USB cable.

Can you do Android Auto without a USB? ›

It depends on how your vehicle is equipped. On some models, you can use Android Auto wireless without plugging in if you have a compatible phone. On other models, your device must be tethered by a USB cord to use Android Auto.

What is the difference between Android Auto and Android Automotive? ›

Android Auto mirrors your Android phone, while Android Automotive is a standalone operating system that doesn't require a phone to work. You can connect an Android phone or iPhone via Bluetooth for hands-free calling, but the phone itself doesn't run any apps or perform any functions beyond phone calls and texts.

How can I display my Android on my car screen? ›

Step 1: Download the Android Auto App on the Play Store and plug the dongle into the car. Step 2: Connect the Android to the infotainment system by granting access, and it will now mirror your Android screen to the car screen display.

Where to download Android Auto? ›

Go to the Google Play Store, download the Android Auto app and run it anytime you're on the road.

Where is car mode on Android? ›

Access settings
  1. On your Android phone or tablet, say "Hey Google, open Assistant settings." Or, go to Assistant settings.
  2. Tap Transportation. Driving mode.

Is Android Auto and Google Maps the same? ›

Android Auto will give you voice-guided navigation, estimated arrival times, live traffic information, lane guidance and more with Google Maps or your favorite navigation app. Say "Hey Google" or select microphone . Tell Android Auto where you'd like to go.

Can you install Android Auto on older BMW? ›

Note : BMW themselves do not support OEM android auto, if you have an android phone and want to retrofit android auto you need to select our IMI-1000 retrofit kit no matter which version of iDrive you have. By installing the IMI-1000, you will add android auto to your BMW.

What is Android Auto compatible with? ›

A compatible Android phone with an active data plan and 5 GHz Wi-Fi support. Wireless projection is compatible with these Android versions: Any phone with Android 11.0. A Google or Samsung phone with Android 10.0.

How do I add Android Auto to my Toyota? ›

On the vehicle's multimedia screen select Settings (gear icon) > 'Bluetooth® & devices' > 'Add another device' > 'Search for devices' Select your phone's name as it appears on list of discovered Bluetooth® devices. Check your Android™ phone for prompts and follow instructions on the phone.

Can you add Android Auto to Uconnect? ›

If your vehicle has a Uconnect® 5 system, Apple CarPlay®( Disclosure3) support and Android Auto ( Disclosure5) compatibility is included. Select Uconnect 4 systems (those with a 7-inch, 8.4-inch or 12-inch touchscreen) also include Apple CarPlay support and Android Auto compatibility.

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