How do I get Bluetooth® in my car?

Three ways to add Bluetooth capability to your vehicle


Robert Ferency-Viars

Robert Ferency-Viars is the managing editor for the Crutchfield car A/V learning content, and has been with the company since 1999. A Virginia native from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he loves spending time with his wonderful wife and sons, listening to music, writing, and playing games with friends. Robert's love for car audio began at 16 when he installed his first car stereo.

More from Robert Ferency-Viars

Bluetooth Logo

Bluetooth technology lets two devices communicate wirelessly with each other. It's most commonly seen in the form of hands-free ear pieces for cell phones and in wireless speaker systems.

By integrating this wireless functionality into your car stereo, you can hear callers' voices over your speakers, see incoming call information on your stereo's display, and make or receive phone calls without touching your phone. Some universal Bluetooth devices require no interaction with your car stereo. Most importantly, you can keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while talking to callers.

Many Bluetooth devices also make it possible to stream music from a Bluetooth capable smartphone, tablet, portable audio device, or other device to your car stereo.

There are three ways to use your Bluetooth device in your vehicle:

  1. a universal Bluetooth kit that works in any car
  2. a vehicle-specific adapter that connects to the factory radio
  3. a stereo with built-in or add-on Bluetooth capability

Option 1: Universal Bluetooth kits

Universal Bluetooth kits work in just about any vehicle. Some are simple, stand-alone devices with a small speaker and microphone that clip to your sun visor and don't interface with the car stereo at all. These are nice because you can move them from one vehicle to another. The downside is that their use is pretty much limited to hands-free calling.

Parrot MINIKIT Neo 2 HD

You can easily move Parrot's MINIKIT Neo 2 HD Bluetooth kit between different vehicles.

Other universal kits are wired to the stereo so that the music mutes when calls come in, and the calls play over your car's speakers instead of a tiny stand-alone speaker. Some of these kits also handle music streaming. The downside is that you have to remove the car stereo and connect a few wires in order to install the kit. It's a little more effort, but the result is worth it.

Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth kit

You can wire this Parrot Bluetooth kit to your car stereo and view caller information on its LCD display.

Option 2: Vehicle-specific Bluetooth adapters

A vehicle-specific adapter is an interface that connects to a vehicle's factory stereo. Installation typically involves removing the factory radio, connecting the cable to the vehicle wiring and the radio, and then installing a microphone for hands-free calling. Caller info shows up on the factory stereo's display and you answer and place calls using the stereo's controls. An included microphone clips onto your sun visor or mounts somewhere on the dash, and you hear callers over your stereo speakers.

This is a good option when you want to keep the factory radio. Although it involves some installation work, you end up with a Bluetooth system that's fully integrated into your car stereo for hands-free phoning. Many of these systems can handle music streaming, too.

USA Spec BT45-HON3

USA Spec created this Bluetooth integration package to work in select 2003-14 Honda and Acura vehicles.

Option 3: Aftermarket stereos with built-in or add-on Bluetooth capability

The final option for adding Bluetooth to your car is to install a new car stereo that includes Bluetooth or offers an adapter to include it. Depending on the stereo you select, you can control many of your smartphone functions from your stereo, and you usually get music streaming you can control, too. When you select a radio with built-in Bluetooth, you don't have to deal with installing a separate hideaway adapter box.

JVC Arsenal KD-X80BT digital media receiver

The JVC KD-X80BT features built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling, music streaming, and playing the audio from select apps.

Because of Bluetooth's popularity, it can be found in more and more new stereos. That means you won't have to buy the most expensive stereo to get one with this wireless technology. So, if you're buying a new car stereo anyway, keep an eye out for models with built-in Bluetooth capability. (Click here for a list of the current stereos that have Bluetooth capability built in.)

Easy as 1, 2, or 3

Adding Bluetooth technology to your car stereo can be easy. At the very least, Bluetooth makes it easier, safer, — and in a growing number of states, legal — to use the phone when you're in the car. As the applications for Bluetooth technology expand, it'll become even more useful in the car as well.

  • Eric Wilson from Bel Air, MD

    Posted on 5/9/2015 12:24:52 PM

    I bought a JVC stereo: KW-HDR720 from Crutchfield. How do I add Bluetooth capability to it!. What kits or adaptors do I need? I installed it into a 1994 Nissan Maxima with Bose system.

  • Frank from Cincinnati

    Posted on 5/9/2015 4:25:00 PM

    can a vehicles current nav sys be upgraded (software) that would add Bluetooth app?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/11/2015 10:35:21 AM

    Frank, We're not aware of any sort of software that will add Bluetooth to a factory system. You will need hardware installed, and to use hands-free calling, you will need a microphone as well. We have all-in-one options for any car as well as vehicle-specific options that require a bit more installation. If you'd like to go the vehicle-specific route, give us a call with your vehicle information, and an advisor will be able to help you with options.

  • Pete from Palo Alto, CA

    Posted on 5/11/2015 12:31:43 PM

    Is there an option 2 device specifically adaptable to a factory 2000 Lexus RX300?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/11/2015 12:48:56 PM

    Sorry, Pete. We don't carry a vehicle-specific kit for that vehicle, but there are a number of universal options for adding Bluetooth to your car.

  • Dave Delamere from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/11/2015 2:11:38 PM

    Eric, you can purchase and connect the JVC KS-BTA100 Bluetooth adapter to your JVC KW-HDR720 stereo for hands-free calling and music streaming from a paired Bluetooth device, such as your phone.

  • julian kimpton from shaw oldham ol28xa

    Posted on 5/18/2015 2:30:29 PM

    do any of these bluetooths fit nova sat navs and windows phones

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/18/2015 3:31:11 PM

    Julian, these adapters integrate Bluetooth into your vehicle. As long as the supported Bluetooth protocols on the adapter you choose match those supported by your phone or portable device, you should enjoy full Bluetooth functionality.

  • ken Voss

    Posted on 6/16/2015 1:00:35 PM

    Can a bluetooth car stereo talk to remote speakers (such as a jambox)?

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/17/2015 12:23:12 PM

    Ken, no, car stereos only receive Bluetooth audio from external sources. They don't transmit it. So, instead, you could use your music source (e.g., phone) to transmit audio to the Bluetooth speakers.

  • Ken Horne from Jacksonville, FL

    Posted on 6/19/2015 8:52:10 PM

    Hello, I'm interested in having Bluetooth installed in my 1997 GMC Truck. I have tried several different model that "Plug in" and sit over the visor and do not work.

  • Robert Ferency-Viars from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/22/2015 10:26:59 AM

    Ken, if you haven't been happy with "universal" style Bluetooth adapters, then you should try a wired version. These come in two types: universal to work with any car, similar to what you've already tried, but much more reliable, and vehicle-specific (option 2 in the article above). If one is available for your car, this is the best option. Before you purchase anything, though, give us a call and talk to one of our advisors. They can tell whether a wired adapter will actually do you any good, based on your experiences.

  • Richard from port royal

    Posted on 7/17/2015 11:41:34 AM

    I have a 2013 Malibu for two years now the Bluetooth worked fine. Now it disappeared from the radio how do I get it back with out spending money. The warranty ran out 100 miles ago

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/17/2015 12:44:58 PM

    Richard, your best bet is to give your dealer a call to see if it's something they can fix easily, even though it's not under warranty. After that, you could check out forums devoted to late model Chevy Malibus for any solutions. Beyond that, we do offer a variety of Bluetooth adapters .

  • Bill from The Villages

    Posted on 7/20/2015 7:43:57 PM

    My car is on star ready. How do I connect the phone??

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/21/2015 7:33:17 AM

    Bill, check with your nearest dealership or give OnStar a call. They should be able to help.

  • Mike Dougherty from Frankfort

    Posted on 8/2/2015 10:58:17 PM

    I just bought a 2015 Jeep Cherokee with the top end audio system and discovered that there was no CD player. Is there a "portable" remote CD player on the market that can communicate with my new Jeep via Bluetooth? If so, you should make Jeep aware of it because I am not the only one out here who wants to play CD's in my new car. I look forward to your reply.

  • Kristina from Parma

    Posted on 8/3/2015 7:06:43 AM

    I just bought a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan, the radio has all the buttons on it for Bluetooth, but it says UConnect is not equipped. Which of these methods do I need to do? I do not want to get a new radio as the radio I have is a DVD player as well....

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/3/2015 2:57:34 PM

    Mike, as a fellow fan of CDs, I can understand your pain. Unfortunately, we no longer carry portable CD players.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/4/2015 11:18:23 AM

    Kristina, regarding UConnect in your vehicle, you'd have to consult with your local dealer. Outside of a factory solution, the least expensive way to get Bluetooth in your car would be to install a Bluetooth adapter. Some are fairly simple to install. Alternatively, you could buy a new DVD stereo with Bluetooth, and we have harnesses that would allow you to retain the video functionality in your Grand Caravan. Give us a call at 1.888.955.6000, and advisor will be able to help you.

  • Eddie from New Castle, Delaware

    Posted on 9/10/2015 3:41:02 AM

    I need a Vehicle-specific Bluetooth adapter for a 2004 Buick Le Sabre. What model should I buy.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/10/2015 10:10:23 AM

    Eddie, we don't have a vehicle-specific solution for your 2004 LaSabre, but we do have universal solutions. Alternatively, a new stereo will get you Bluetooth and a variety of new features. If you have any questions, give us a call.

  • faisal

    Posted on 9/17/2015 10:58:31 PM

    I would like to add Bluetooth system on my Nissan Pathfinder SV 2015. Would like to keep the factory stereo system. What will be my best option.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/18/2015 12:52:38 PM

    Faisal, I've passed your information along to our sales department. An advisor will contact you soon to help you with options for your Pathfinder.

  • steve from harrisburg pa

    Posted on 9/18/2015 6:14:11 PM

    I am looking for device to bluetooth my samsung phone to my 2002 s55 amg with a nav system

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/21/2015 10:20:21 AM

    Steve, I've passed your information along, and an advisor will be contacting you soon to help. In the meantime, if you'd like to take a look at our Bluetooth integration devices, you can find them here.

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