So you've got a phone with Bluetooth, but your car stereo doesn't have the capability? Here are your options if you want to add Bluetooth to your car.
What is Bluetooth?
In short Bluetooth is a wireless technology for transferring data. Unlike other forms of wireless data transfer (such as WiFi) it only works over short distances. It's primarily used by mobile phones, computers and music devices.
Why do I want Bluetooth in my car?
Depending on your set-up, Bluetooth can be used for wirelessly streaming music from your phone through your car speakers. It can also be used for hands-free phone calls.
The beauty of Bluetooth is that once the devices are 'paired' (the simply process whereby you tell one device to talk to another) the connection is automatic.
So once you get into you car and turn it on your phone and Bluetooth-enabled device will automatically communicate with one another.
This will allow you to have hands-free phone calls and/or listen to music stored on your phone without having to plug anything in, or mess about with CDs, or cables.
How can I add Bluetooth to my car?
Fit a Universal Kit
Simple hands-free phone kits are widely available. These range from discrete standalone devices that you clip onto your sunvisor, to more advanced devices that are wired through your headunit and mute the stereo when you're on a call, and allow the call to come through the car speakers.
These are quick and largely hassle-free to set up – although the more advanced Parrot-type will require the headunit to be removed.
They generally only provide basic hands-free calls, and you usually have to spend over £100 to get a device that also includes music streaming, but for a quick, relatively cheap fix, they're ideal.
Fit a Bluetooth Adaptor
Adaptors are available which give your existing factory headunit Bluetooth capabilities. These do require the headunit to be removed, the adaptor to be wired in, and a microphone to be fitted near the driver.
But once installed it should be trouble free and work seamlessly without having to fit a different uprated headunit.
Fit a New Headunit
This largely depends on your car's current set-up, but the simplest way is to fit a new headunit which comes with Bluetooth capability.
These aren't expensive either, and Bluetooth-enabled headunits can be had for under $100. If you're fitting a new headunit you'll need to know whether it will fit.
The standard sized headunit is referred to as single DIN, a headunit that's twice the height is double DIN, and it's literally a case of swapping like-for-like. It's an industry standard measurement so they'll all fit.
Be aware that some older cars have a slightly unusual size which is referred to as 1.5 DIN – and for these you'll generally need to fit a single DIN unit and a fascia/surround blanking plate which will fill the gap caused by fitting a smaller headunit.
You can also get blanking plates if you want to fit a single DIN headunit in where there was once a double DIN unit.
Not all Bluetooth headunits are equal – so make sure that the one you're buying does what you want it to. Some will just stream music, and not work as a hands-free phone. So make sure you check the specs before parting with cash.
These days headunits are a doddle to fit, as wiring harnesses are widely available (these allow you to plug the car's wiring straight into the headunit's wiring, without having to mess about chopping wires.
You will need a separate harness if your car has steering wheel or stalk remote controls for the headunit – but the functions can be retained.
Finally - if you can find one there may also be the option of fitting a factory headunit from a model higher up the range which comes Bluetooth equipped.
In that case it's almost certainly going to be a 'plug and play' affair, with the advantage that you'll retain the 'stock' appearance of your dashboard.