As most drivers know, “infotainment” generally means “in-dash navigation system with limited function and old maps.” Soup up your car’s outdated software with an upgrade module and a powerful computer you already own--your smartphone.
WARNING: Disconnect the car battery before installation, negative (black) terminal first. If you start sizzling, you've grabbed the wrong one.
Time: 4 hours
• VAIS Tech or Parrot kit
• Adhesive-backed Velcro
• Plastic or Velcro zip ties
1. The VAIS Tech kit (for Toyota and Lexus) uses the factory touchscreen, while Parrot’s universal kit includes a separate screen. Both require you to remove the car’s central dashboard panels.
2. Use adhesive Velcro to mount the kit’s module well away from heating vents. Try putting it on the passenger side of the console, inside the console, or in the glove compartment.
3. Route the wires: Y-harness to the head unit, video harness to the touchscreen. Use zip ties to bundle these cables with the wiring behind your dash so they don’t swing around.
4. To plug in your phone, run an AV cable and either a mini USB cable (for Android) or Lightning cable (for iPhone) behind the dash to the module. The flat type fits well between dash panels.
5. Program setup varies for different kits. Consult your car’s manual, and follow the activation instructions. Then, reinstall the dashboard panels.
6. The new operating system borrows your phone’s data connection to let the module’s apps navigate, play music, and more.
This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title "Hijack Your Car's Infotainment System."