Home How-To-Guides DIY CarPlay Hack: Adding CarPlay to Older Vehicles Easily and Cost-Effectively

DIY CarPlay Hack: Adding CarPlay to Older Vehicles Easily and Cost-Effectively

Posted: October 12, 2023

a car dashboard with various app icons on it

Introduction to DIY CarPlay Hack

With the advent of digital technology, navigating our world has been made easier. One boon is in onboard infotainment systems for vehicles like the Apple CarPlay. However, while newer model cars are almost certain to be compatible with systems like CarPlay, owners of older vehicles may find it challenging to incorporate this tech into their vehicles without major costs. This guide will outline some basic information about CarPlay, why it's popular, and how to cheaply and easily add it to any vehicle via a DIY hack.

Understanding CarPlay

Apple's CarPlay is an infotainment system primarily powered by your iPhone. Once your iPhone is connected to a compatible vehicle head unit, CarPlay allows you to view maps, play your favorite music, and access various applications displayed on your car's screen. It simplifies a host of functions you'd typically use your iPhone for into an easy-to-navigate system tailored for safe driving use.

Why is CarPlay Popular?

CarPlay is incredibly popular due to its user-friendly design and functionality that seamlessly melds with the iPhone's system. From offering hands-free chatting to effortless navigation, it ensures a safer and more comfortable driving experience. This system makes interacting with your digital world as simple as tapping your car dashboard.

Difficulty Adding CarPlay to Older Vehicles

Though CarPlay is highly sought after, integrating it into older cars can be daunting. Many may fear the high costs of buying a new stereo or spending countless hours ripping out their dashboard and working on intricate wiring. The good news is that adding CarPlay to older vehicles doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. A low-cost solution via an Amazon Fire tablet and a USB CarPlay dongle provides an effective way to enjoy the benefits of CarPlay without needing a complete vehicle reboot or breaking the bank.

Reasons to Choose Tablet Route

For several reasons, incorporating an Amazon Fire tablet as part of your vehicle's infotainment solution is smart. The tablet is an affordable and highly functional way to include key elements like navigational tools and entertainment apps, making hands-free operations possible. In addition, the tablet route brings the advantage of visual aesthetics, rendering a sleek, modern look to your car's interior.

Cost-effective Solution

Cost remains one of the primary driving factors why many car owners consider the tablet route for adding CarPlay to their vehicles. It optimizes functionality and value, delivering a top-notch infotainment experience without burning a hole in your pocket.

Incorporating Amazon Fire Tablet

The Amazon Fire Tablet, when seamlessly incorporated into your vehicle's dashboard, serves as an impressive operating device for CarPlay. It does not call for an intensive installation process or complex wiring. It simply plugs into the USB CarPlay dongle, making it an ideal, portable, and user-friendly device. Its large 8-inch screen offers substantial real estate for apps, maps, and media, offering a visually pleasing and immersive on-road experience.

Need for Wireless CarPlay and Easy Charging

Upgrading to a wireless CarPlay system provides a more cohesive and seamless driving experience. Ridding your vehicle of excess cords and wires adds to a cleaner aesthetic, allowing for better mobility and ease of use. Wireless connectivity also opens up the option for easy charging. For example, products like the Tozo W1 wireless charger are perfect for charging a Fire tablet for use with CarPlay. This way, your CarPlay system remains powered up and ready to go at all times, adding another level of convenience to this affordable hack.

Execution of DIY CarPlay Hack

Once you've committed to adding CarPlay to your vehicle using a tablet, the execution phase begins. The process involves selecting a suitable tablet, considering charging options, utilizing a wireless charger, choosing the right CarPlay adapter, and addressing tablet placement and wire management. Let's look at each of these steps in more detail.

Selecting Suitable Tablet

For a DIY CarPlay setup, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus tablet comes highly recommended. It features a sizeable 8-inch screen that displays maps, music, and other applications. The high-definition display ensures a crisp, clear view of your apps, making navigating or selecting music tracks easy while driving. The tablet is portable and doesn't require complex installation, which adds to its appeal.

Charging Considerations

Ensuring your tablet maintains a full charge is crucial, as it will serve as the operating system for CarPlay. Therefore, incorporating a robust charging solution is important for supporting extended usage times. Ideally, you should choose a charger that can provide fast and efficient charging.

Use of Wireless Charger

A product like the Tozo W1 wireless charger provides a perfect solution for keeping your Fire tablet charged. This inexpensive Qi charger is specially designed to accommodate fast charging, ensuring your tablet stays powered up during your drives. It's a much neater solution than multiple charging cables cluttering your dashboard.

CarPlay Adapter Considerations

Purchasing a reliable CarPlay adapter is key to this setup. The adapter essentially forms the bridge between your tablet and the CarPlay feature. The Ushilife CarPlay wireless adapter comes highly recommended. It allows for easy connectivity between devices and ensures smooth operation.

Tablet Placement and Wire Management

Ensuring the tablet is securely placed and easily accessible is critical for drivers. This may involve buying a tablet holder that securely fixes the tablet on your dashboard without obstructing your view of the road. Equally important is managing the few wires in this setup. Ensure the charging and USB dongle wires are neatly arranged to avoid distractions or discomfort while driving.

Experience with DIY Setup

Many users have found the DIY CarPlay setup using a Fire tablet and adapter efficient and effective. Not only does it transform a non-wired stereo system into a wireless one, but it also offers a modern look. The system works well for streaming music and using navigational tools, immensely enhancing the overall driving experience.

Option of Portable CarPlay Units

While the DIY setup holds appeal, you can also purchase portable CarPlay units specifically designed to deliver the CarPlay experience without complex installation. Some noteworthy products include the 7-inch touchscreen unit from Aphqua and the 9.3" receiver from Sixwin. These units are designed for ease of use, providing CarPlay services without the need for hard wiring into your vehicle's system.