If you have always wanted to know how to turn a tablet into a car stereo, this guide is for you.
You will acknowledge the importance of engaging in this project and the steps involved in successful execution as you read along.
No doubt about it, a standard vehicle stereo is great.
However, it doesn’t support all the functionality car owners (especially the tech-inclined) desire in their vehicles.
Usually, if people desire or want extended/advanced functionality in their vehicle, they would have to invest in essential components that support this upgrade.
For instance, installing a backup camera, GPS, and other essential components that fulfill their expectations and driving needs.
These upgrades come at a considerable cost, extending to thousands of dollars in some cases.
After numerous attempts to unlock or find a more reasonable/affordable means, the idea of using a tablet in place or a stereo comes into life.
Over the years, there have been numerous upgrades in Android tablets and iPad.
These devices are equipped with all of the functionality people desire in their vehicle, which stereos do not offer.
Today, the integration/installation of a tablet into dashboards instead of investing heavily in different components to improve a vehicle’s functionality is becoming widespread.
- How To Install The Tablet In Your Dash? (How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo/Head Unit?)
- 01. Remove Your Car Stereo
- 02. 2. Establish The Power System To Support The Tablet’s Operation
- 03. Audio System Connection
- 04. Plan The Mounting
- 05. Select The Interface
- 06. Check If Everything Is In Order
- Commonly Encountered Issues of How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo?
- The Regular FAQs of How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo?
Why Should You Use Your Tablet As A Car Stereo System?
The use of a tablet as a car stereo system comes with several benefits.
- Offers seamless interface
- Plug and play
- It eliminates costly investments in additional components (it comes with several features that you possibly do not have installed on your vehicle).
- For instance, a tablet can be used as a GPS navigation system. It also supports internet radio, FM radio, Music Player, and many more
- A tablet can be disconnected after each day’s drive, eliminating theft in the process. Also, it can be used outside the vehicle
- Setup is not complicated. Little connections or minimal manipulations are required
This section discusses the tools/materials and apps required to support smooth installation and use.
- A diagnostic app (Torque Pro is a great option)
- Play music app by Google
- Google Maps to support navigation
- AutoMate (functions as the home screen and controls all the apps on the tablet)
- An app for your FM radio (SDR Touch is a popular choice)
- Hotspot (for internet connection)
- Dash trim piece
- Bluetooth OBDII scanner
- Soldering Iron
- Silicon Glue
- Heat shrink tubing
- Wire Stripper/cutter/crimper
- Epoxy putty
The major cost is associated with the type of tablet you choose to buy or use for this project.
A tablet from the top brands, especially the latest models (improved storage and processing memory with various advanced features and functionality), will cost more.
On average, a top tablet may cost between $200 and $800.
The apps are free. All you need is an active internet connection to download them.
However, you may have to invest or spend a few hundred dollars for some of the materials required for this project.
On average, you should budget about $500 to get the missing tools/materials.
Once you have all the material/tools needed for this task, especially access to reliable and clearly written instructions.
You can complete the replacement exercise between 1-2 hours on average.
How To Install The Tablet In Your Dash? (How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo/Head Unit?)
In this section, we will discuss how to use tab/iPad as a car head unit.
Follow the steps below to initiate and complete the replacement/upgrade project successfully.
01. Remove Your Car Stereo
Since your dashboard already has your stereo installed in it, you will have to take the stereo out to accommodate the tablet.
For successful detachment/removal, go through the stereo’s manual for information on how to remove the stereo safely to avoid internal or external damage.
02. 2. Establish The Power System To Support The Tablet’s Operation
Although the tablet runs on battery, it can only power your device for a few hours before it runs down.
Hence, you need to create a power channel or a charging system to support extensive use/operation.
To achieve this, you may choose to establish the power system directly from your vehicle battery using a direct line.
Using the battery as your power or charging source delivers continuous power.
However, you can attach a switch to regulate the supply.
Another means or approach is the use of the fuse box.
You can easily connect a wire to any of the free/unoccupied fuses in the box.
The power supply can either be continuous or regulated (only accessible when the engine is on), depending on the fuse you choose/use.
Conversion hardware is an essential component in the mix, regardless of the approach or technique you choose to settle with (battery or fuse).
This hardware can be purchased from any electrical store around you.
This hardware steps the power coming from the battery down to a level within what your device can use, I.e. from twelve (12) volts of direct current, also known as VDC, to five (5).
The wire will be connected to the fuse box using the conversion hardware, which then delivers the power your tablet needs to charge its battery.
If you do not want to go through the stress of extending and connecting wires/cables to create a charging system or process or possibly want a cleaner installation.
You can go for any of the tablets that support wireless charging.
03. Audio System Connection
One feature that distinguishes a great head unit is the quality of sound it produces.
Although the tablet supports a music app (it comes pre-installed, or you can download and install it yourself), that is not enough.
You cannot just rely on the tablet’s speaker or audio system.
You must have the tablet connected to the vehicle’s speakers for the best sound quality.
To ensure your tablet can function similarly to the stereo (in terms of sound quality), you need to set up the audio system by performing a few connections.
For instance, you will need an amp to fine-tune and process the audio adequately before it is transmitted to the speakers for improved sound quality.
The amp and the speakers are connected using cables or wires.
You may decide to invest in a new set of speakers or still do with the ones that are present in your vehicle.
04. Plan The Mounting
Usually, the ideal thing to do when you decide to replace your stereo with a tablet is to eradicate the stereo.
However, some car owners prefer to still have the stereo in their vehicles due to how complicated the removal of the stereo/head unit maybe, or possibly keeping the system intact in case they decide to sell their vehicle someday.
If you decide to install the tablet without removing the stereo, this reduces the mounting challenges significantly.
There are various installation spots and options you can consider.
You can simply position the tablet on the dashboard or make use of a cup holder.
Also, there have been situations where people decide to place their tablets across the stereo.
You can adopt this interesting mounting technique since it allows you to operate the tablet just as you would use your stereo.
Irrespective of the mounting approach you choose to settle with, ensure it is convenient ( support easy use and control).
Avoid positions/spots that may lead to distraction while driving or may limit viewing experience.
Also, ensure your tablet is well-positioned to allow easy and unrestricted access to the USB charging cable.
If you decide to use the AUX cable, you also need to factor it in when deciding on the mounting spot or technique to adopt.
05. Select The Interface
This is where you select or choose how you want your tablet to display and respond whenever you launch any of the apps.
For best performance, you may choose any advanced launcher, most importantly an app specially designed for automobiles.
An interface like this supports uncompromised access to personalized settings and displays, allowing easy operation while driving on the road.
Asides from arranging necessary features and functionality in an organized way to support easy use and access.
Make sure you avoid colors that may result in distractions.
06. Check If Everything Is In Order
Now that everything is in place (starting from the mounting to the settings), the next step is to check if everything is intact.
Ensure the cable connections are intact. A multimeter will do most of the jobs.
Check if the voltage/current and the audio connections are in excellent conditions.
Most importantly, the amp specifications must be ideal for your audio output to avoid any damage.
Also, check the grounding to ensure it is solid enough to prevent unexpected limitations in performance.
Commonly Encountered Issues of How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo?
- Tablet doesn’t support streaming
- Inability to access high-quality navigation
- No voice command to support search or read out notifications
In most cases, the issues listed above are experienced due to poor/inactive internet connection or when the tablet can’t connect to the internet.
While choosing a tablet to buy for this project, ensure you check the available internet connectivity options.
Some tablets are designed to support 3G and/or 4G, while others use Wi-Fi alone.
You have to get this option right. Know the type of internet connectivity your tablet choice supports.
- USB Audio not accessible
This component is not available on all tablets.
Its availability is totally dependent on the tablet’s software version.
For instance, Android tablets running on a software version less than 5.0 do not have the USB Audio native.
As a result, you may have to settle for a custom ROM that supports it.
However, going this route or adopting this technique is a bit complicated since you will have to root your tablet in the process.
In the end, this approach may void your warranty.
The Regular FAQs of How To Turn A Tablet Into A Car Stereo?
01. How Do I Choose The Proper Mounting Technique?
There are several mounting techniques that you can adopt when replacing your stereo with a tablet.
We have listed the most popular and effective options in this guide.
However, if you do not drive your vehicle often.
You may choose a mounting technique that allows you to detach and reattach your tablet easily.
This way, you can use the tablet inside & outside the car.
02. When Do I Need A Mounting System?
If you are considering a permanent installation (removal of the old stereo).
You may consider a compatible or adequate mounting system.
This mounting system will then be integrated into the dashboard.
03. What Important Tip Should I Consider During Tablet Mounting?
For every new connection during the setup or installation process, make sure you conduct the necessary test to identify if everything is working as expected.
Do not leave the required routine checks until the end of the project.
Also, ensure all the wires from the old stereo are well packed or appropriately stored to avoid clusters.
You can make use of Plexiglass for this purpose.
04. Where Can I Get The Tools/Materials Needed For The Replacement Exercise?
All the tools/materials we have highlighted in this guide to support the installation/replacement exercise can be purchased on Amazon.
Alternatively, you can visit any electrical/hardware stores around you.
05. How Easy Is The Replacement/Installation Process?
Usually, the installation/replacement process would be easier for someone who has experience or understanding of a related project.
For instance, stereo replacement or upgrade.
If this is your first time working on this type of project, especially if you are thinking of removing the head unit.
The process could be tricky.
We advise you to reach out to someone who has successfully performed the transition (stereo to tablet) on their vehicle or an expert.
However, if you decide to mount the tablet on your vehicle without removing the stereo from the dash.
You should be able to complete this exercise independently by following the instructions/steps involved.
We hope by now, you know how to turn a tablet into a car stereo.
However, it doesn’t stop there. For best performance, ensure you only install and make use of apps that you are comfortable with.
This way, your driving experience will be improved, and it also eliminates any form of distractions along the way.
Also, your mounting position must aid the easier and safer operation of the vehicle and tablet simultaneously.
Organize your favorite apps using the best interface for automobiles you can find around and enjoy the best experience that comes with it.
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