Add Bluetooth To Your Old Car Stereo For $25!

Add Bluetooth To Your Old Car Stereo For $25!


When you choose to daily drive a used car
which is more than 20 years old, you’ve pretty much accepted the fact that there’s going
to be a few modern necessities you’re going to have to do without. And more often than not, the problem exists
right here with the stereo. If ya lucky, your car might have a CD player
– but when was the last time you ever purchased or burnt one of these? Or even worse, your only external source of
music might have to come from one of these… the cassette tape. Eurgh.. But the biggest issue here doesn’t really
relate to the media that you’re using. The main issue is of course a complete lack
of bluetooth audio streaming. The ability to stream your favourite tracks
from sources like Spotify or YouTube is an absolute godsend in today’s modern world. And to drive a vehicle without this ability
is like stepping back into the stone ages. Now of course it is extremely easy to upgrade
your car’s head unit. You just have to pop down to your local automotive
parts store and pick up any number of head units which they have available. But to me the biggest issue with these head
units is they look utterly shit in any car built before the mid 1990s. So, if you wanted to keep your car’s existing
head unit, you probably think your next step would be to buy one of those FM transmitters
which plug into the cigarette lighter. Or perhaps even worse, one of these cassette
tape adaptors – which leaves you with an auxiliary wire hanging out of your car’s head unit. Like a tapeworm out of a dog’s ass. But the problem with both of these options
is they rely on dated technologies to get your music into the head unit of the car. The audio quality suffers as a result, and
you’ll never truly be happy. But what if I told you there’s another option? After one relatively simple and cheap mod,
that you could stream audio directly from your iPhone or Android device into your car’s
head unit. Let me show you how. Okay. Here we are with the head unit from my 1993
Ford Fairlane. It was manufactured Alpine and was available
as a premium sound head unit back in the day. It has a cassette tape slot but also a 6-stacker
CD player in the boot. So I think it’d be a real shame to have to
throw this in the bin just so we can get bluetooth audio streaming – which is how the inspiration
for this mod came about. So how does it work? Well let’s get this thing open and take a
look. Now on the top here you’ll see that we have
the cassette tape module. When this is in operation it reads the left
and right audio data off the tape, and then sends it down to the mainboard of the head
unit, where it is then amplified and sent out to the speakers in your car. The idea of this mod is that we’re going to
hijack those audio channels, and then splice in a new audio signal of our own. And we’re going to do it with one of these. This is a universal bluetooth to auxiliary
audio receiver, which can be had for around $25 Australian dollars on eBay. You’ll probably find a few different options
available online – and so long as the model you’re looking at is a bluetooth receiver,
outputs via a standard 3.5mm auxiliary plug, and has positive and negative wires so you
can hardwire it into your car – it’ll work absolutely fine. Once installed, you’ll be able to pair this
thing to your smartphone and then stream audio to it directly from the app of your choice. If we cut the end off the 3.5mm plug, you’ll
see that we have 3 different coloured wires – and the thing to remember here is that the
white is your left audio channel, red is the right audio channel, and black is the ground. The ultimate goal of this mod is to essentially
find on the tape drive, where the left, right and ground circuits are, and then splice these
wires onto it. Finally, we’ll also have to tap into a power
source, and the job will be done. Now before we begin, I just want to say that
I am not an expert when it comes to electrical work, or best practises for modifying electrical
circuits. But even someone like me can easily do this
mod with a few simple tools. You’ll need perhaps a couple of small screwdrivers
to get into the unit itself. It’s handy to have a small set of pliers just
incase. You’re going to need a soldering iron to join
the wiriing. Also some heatshrink tube to ensure everything
is well insulated, and perhaps some tweezers just incase you need to get access to some
really tightly packed wiring. So as I mentioned earlier, this mod revolves
around hijacking the tape drive’s audio channels, so we’re going to need to pull it out. This one is held in with 4 small screws… Alright, here we go. So I’ll set the head unit aside for now. Now if we have a look at this tape drive you
don’t really need to understand how it all works, so don’t be too daunted by how it looks. But you need to trace back the channels, uh,
and the easiest way to do that is to find out where it connects to the mainboard of
the head unit. So this one does it via this 17-pin connection. If we follow these circuits up the board,
you’ll notice only half of them roughly connect to this board on the top, which is connected
to the tape drive itself. So instead of 17 possibilities you’re looking
at roughly 7 instead. In order to find out which circuits are the
right ones to use you can do a couple of things. You can go on to Google and type in some of
these codes which you find on the unit itself. You might be lucky enough to find a wiring
diagram, or some sort of pin-out diagram to work out which circuits you need. Or you might get lucky and see there is a
little L and an R beside two of the pins – this will help you determine which colour wiring
you need to put on which pin. And just a quick disclaimer here before we
continue. The instructions from here on out in the video
are specific to the exact tape drive I have here in question, and the procedure that you
may have to perform will differ depending on the brand or model of the tape unit you
have. You may have to solder your wires directly
to the circuits on the tape drive. Or even on the head unit’s mainboard itself. If you’re having trouble tracking down which
circuits you need, you can also plug the head unit back into your car and start prodding
around with a voltmeter to test the voltages of the circuits you’ve found on the tape drive. Any circuits with voltages running through
them are not the ones you need – and if you can find 3 in a row which do not have any
voltage running through them it’s certainly a good place to start. In my case I got lucky by Googling some of
these codes. The first one here is ground – where I’ll
need to connect the black. The second one is white – which is the left
audio channel. And the third one is red for the right audio
channel. Okay, now that we have the board on the end
here loosened, you can actually get a really good look at that ribbon cable with the 7
circuits being transferred between the boards. So the 3 that we want are these first 3 here. So I’m actually going to cut this ribbon cable
up to the third circuit. So now that I’ve cut the 3 circuits out of
the clear ribbon cable here, I’m now going to cut down inbetween each of them, so that
I can sort of separate them off. So what we’re gonna do now is strip back some
of this clear plastic so we can get access to the wire(s). If you do a little cut on each side of the
wire, you can usually just pull the plastic straight off. And it’s given us a nice little length of
wire on each one to solder on the wires from our bluetooth receiver. However, before we do that we need to work
out where the wiring from the bluetooth receiver is going to come through the casing of this
head unit, and connect into these 3 wires. One thing to consider about that is the actual
size of this bluetooth receiver. In my Fairlane there’s a fair amount of space
below the head unit. So what I’m gonna do is actually poke these
wires up through this hole here. The location you choose for the wiring to
enter the unit is particularly important, because you’ve gotta remember that once the
tape drive is back in place – if the wiring comes out directly underneath this thing it
might be quite difficult to fit it. So what I’m gonna do is just keep the wiring
coming through there and pull this thing aside. And I’m also gonna strip off some of the wiring
here. Now I am far from the world’s best solderer,
but I think even that turned out alright. So now we’re just going to put the heatshrink
down over these connections so that they don’t short out on anything. The heatshrink I’ve used here is probably
a little bit big for the wiring, but it’s still on there pretty firmly so it’s not going
to go anywhere. Now that we’ve got our wiring soldered on,
I just need to put this board back to where it needs to be sitting, and bend these little
mounting brackets back into place. This mod revolves around head unit thinking
that there’s a tape being played in the drive. So in order to make that happen you can actually
get a proper tape, strip the insides out, and then have it permanently loaded inside
the drive. Or alternatively, and I think this is a better
way, you can simply remove any springs from the drive unit itself, which will allow it
to sit down in the loaded position without a tape fitted. So I’m just going to use the tips of my scissors
to pull that spring from its little seating, and remove it. And then we need to do the same with this
one here on the top. After those two springs are removed, you should
be able to push it down so that it’s in the loaded position. This will trick the head unit into thinking
there’s a tape fitted, and it’ll attempt to play it. Now that that’s done, we can fit it back into
the head unit. With the module mounted, we can now work on
powering it up. When it comes to powering this bluetooth module
you’ve got 2 different options. The first is to join red to red – the red
wire is a constant power source which means it’ll be running even when the vehicle is
turned off. I am not personally comfortable with because
it may drain the battery if the vehicle is not driven for extended periods of time. So my preferred option is to join it to the
yellow, which means it’ll only receive power once you’ve turned the key to the “accessories”
notch. So I’ll be splicing this red wire on to yellow,
and for the ground wire you simply have to find the black wire in the harness, and then
attach that one to there. And because I can’t get heatshrink around
these I’m simply going to wrap them in electrical tape. Once the power for the bluetooth module has
been connected, we can now put the head unit back together and install it into the vehicle. And that’s the end result. Now the process may differ depending on which
head unit you’re working with – but the end result is going to be the same. You’ve got the bluetooth module which needs
to be hardwired into your head unit’s wiring harness. And you have your 3 signal wires – your white,
red and black, which need to be attached somewhere on to the tape module inside. It’s really as simple as that – so let’s go
try it out. So! We’re back in the Fairlane with our new bluetooth-enabled
factory head unit, and from the outside it looks as though nothing has changed – which
is the real beauty of this mod. Because I’m able to retain the existing 1990s
facade, but with a little bit of modern technology thrown in. Let me show you how it works. So firstly, I’ll just switch it on. So here we are on the radio mode. If we swap to tape mode… and the drive will
start playing the imaginary tape, which is not in the drive. So, if we grab our phone and go to the bluetooth
settings, you’ll see that there is a new device available called ‘Sky International’. The name of your bluetooth module will differ
depending on where you’ve purchased it from. So let’s go ahead and try to connect to that. Pairing. Okay. So that noise we just heard was the bluetooth
module confirming that this phone has now been paired. So we can now try and play some music through
it. Now for this example, I’m going to be using
a royalty-free song track from Soundcloud – because I don’t want YouTube to hit me with
a copyright infringement. So here we go! The great thing about this mod is that all
of the settings on your head unit will continue to work as normal. Such as ‘LOUD’… which ups the bass. Or you can play around with the bass… or
treble settings independently. Now of course this bluetooth receiver will
basically play any audio out of your phone, so you can switch to an other app such as
YouTube, and it’ll work perfectly fine. So there you have it. Fully-functioning bluetooth in your car for
under $25. Now I imagine there’s going to be a few of
you in the comments section which are going to have a rib at me about my soldering skills,
or ways I could have done it better. But in the end, I’ve had a system like this
running in my car for more than 2 years, and it has worked absolutely fine. So what did you think? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll
see you next time.

About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. If you're about to comment something like "Just buy a new bluetooth headunit for $10 from X" you're missing the point. This video is for those who want to retain their factory headunit so their dash looks stock standard, but are interested in enabling bluetooth audio streaming without using FM transmitters or bluetooth/wired tape adaptors. FM transmitters or bluetooth tape adaptors "do the job" and if you're happy using those, that's awesome. But they're passing your audio through the FM band or through the head of the tape drive, and the sound quality may be affected.

    Also, as stated I am not an expert when it comes to electrical work, but the mod outlined in the video has worked brilliantly for a number of years. Thanks for watching.

  2. Hi, what happens if you get a call? Does the phone hope the mic sound comes from the bluetooth module as well, or does it only play the incoming sound and keeps the mic on the phone in operation?

  3. Nicely done. If I'm killing the cassette deck, I'd perhaps kill the power to the motor also. Just to add to this, if you ever need a home hi-quality record player amplifier, magnetic tape decks do a great job if the record player has a magnetic cartridge; then just send the output of the cartridge to the tape head input. The frequency response is incredible; nice crisp treble and clean bass.

  4. Or you can buy Baseus Handsfree USB Aux Bluetooth Adapter for 10$ from Aliexpress use the aux and a usb from charger or if your stereo or car has one and not mess with the internals. Just plug and play. Also it has a mic so handsfree.

  5. I don't get it. How have you only 9k subs? I mean your video, editing, sound quality is awesome and the content is great too.

    Keep up the work👌🏻

  6. Excellent video with good info. However it is quickly becoming universally known to tell people to "Do a web search" instead of G..gling something. That company gets enough free advertising as it is. Go Aussie Youtubers!

  7. Neat solution. But I'm lazy and wanted digital radio too…got a nice BT receiver with a built in digital tuner that outputs stereo FM.. Also plays from SD card. 45aud..works for me and no work for me.

  8. Well done, sir. But too many things higher on the priority list with my 23 year old Chevy. It's a failure whack-a-mole. If I fix the stereo, I won't be able to hear when the rear end falls off.

  9. That seems like an awful lot of hassle for what it is honestly. You said you had a 6 deck CD changer in the back too wouldn't it just have been easier to burn those six discs? Especially since they dont need touched again after. Plus each disc holds 80 minutes of whatever music you want, so unless you listen to crap ton of music that would take a long time to go through.

  10. Good information. I have a large stereo in the back of my RV that is 1989 technology. Been using the tapeworm dogs butt contraption for years and it's a pain. Going to put one of these in that radio so I can listen to my Android Music throughour the entire Coach. 14 speakers from tip to tail and outside. Rocks when it's working good, but the phone has to be next to the radio. What's the range of reception of the bluetooth?

  11. Dude, that video was AWESOME! I'd take a rib at you for soldering but I've watched dozens of how to solder videos, and Yours WAS WAAYYY BETTER!!!! Kudos on video quality and CLARITY:)

  12. If you wouldn't have cut the ribbon and just soldered it to the board u would have been able to use the tape deck still if needed at some point

  13. there's a mp3 modulator with Bluetooth now. Plug the modulator to cigarette lighter socket, set modulator frequency to radio's empty channel and then connect modulator Bluetooth to your phone.

  14. Great Idea, great Video , but how do I modify a CD-Drive?
    OK, I think I can find the points to solder the red, white and black Cable.
    But how do I tell my Unit, that there's a CD in, when there is no CD?

  15. What a brilliant idea!
    But why didn’t you mount the Bluetooth unit inside the headunit?!
    I thought because you were going to retain the cassette function, but you cut the wires.

  16. Can you please give the name of this unit, been looking on Ebay and cant find it..if its unbranded, maybe a item number or something of that nature?

  17. Guess you don't know that auto reverse casetted decks (almost any of the) have to have the takeup reel turning or it will spit out the tape. Too bad, so sad, not rad.

  18. And you've lost complete use of the FM radio, and if your sitting there listening to music with the car off the tape drive motor is running all the time causing unnecessary battery drain. The gutted tape shell would be much better option

  19. Hello, dumb question but—
    Would it be possible to make a cassete tape with bluetooth already in it. It would be powered by the L/R spinners.

  20. Going to attempt this on my 2009 Rav4 which has a built in auxiliary 3.5mm audio jack… In one of the worse places I've ever seen; has completely ruined a cheap little Bluetooth to 3.5mm jack receiver I bought (external use, no cables) just from repeatedly knocking into it and ruining the port on the receiver. Should be pretty easy considering I'm going to/from the same type of port, but am just now going to render the aux port in the car useless in favor of Bluetooth audio streaming

  21. "Relatively easy" certainly is relative. I could probably do it, I've used soldering irons and the like, but honestly it seems like way too much work for too little benefit. The car I currently drive has a CD but no tape, and it's all factory and a pain in the arse to get at, if I'm going to go through that I'll just go to a shop nearby and have them slap in a new head unit, probably a double-din with a screen. But I'd really rather just keep using IEM's anyway. Better sound, and noise isolation from the road hum.

  22. yeah sometimes you can get lucky as the changer controls are aftermarket jvc or kenwood and have rca adapters etc… ford vw often did this

  23. Did a similar install of a Sky International BT module. Works great for awhile then it locks up. Have to totally disconnect the power from the radio to get it working again. Also the audio quailty was horrible.

  24. Have you tried putting a cassette inside playing it? I still use cassettes in my own car (I know it's weird and super obsolete). I would imagine it would? But maybe if you play a cassette and bluetooth at the same time the audio would just cut out?

  25. what about the buzzing noise coming from the unit as when i tried to do a mod like this by putting in a 3.5mm jack input through a tape headunit then playing music there was a buzzing noise

  26. I wouldn't have ruined the originality of the car stereo that way. What if I want to use the tape drive again? A better solution would have been to install a switch to choose to use tape or the external source. Also tapping directly into the tape input is not ideal, tape input is preamplified and thus if you feed it with an high level signal then you must maintain a low volume on the source, and thus introduce a lot of noise. A better solution would have been to tap directly into the source selector IC of the radio, skipping the tape preamplifier so it's safe to put an high level signal, with a switch to choose the external input.

    Another option would have been since that radio had external CD changer support to tap into that, this way you wouldn't even had to open the radio and you would have done a simple to revert modification.

  27. For me I don't have the "hate" of a cassette tape as apparently other people seem to have!!! And OK sure you can store a TON OF MUSIC on your phone if you have a decent SD card installed in it!!!

    BUT if you own a 20 year old or even a 30 year old or older car, there IS ONE PROBLEM with Bluetooth that everybody seems to ignore which is what to do with a dead cell phone when you get to where you are going?! Older cars DID NOT HAVE USB charging ports installed in them!! And unless you have one of the cigarette lighter adapters your phone WILL be dead by the time you spent a hour traveling to the next nearest town in a car with NO charging ports to charge your device!!!

    And don't get me wrong here, I love some technology when it actually makes "logical sense" to own it or use it!! BUT my crappy ass smart phone is great for making phone calls as long as I am first OUTSIDE, and within range of at least ONE cell tower….like I say my phone though a smart phone is junk. BUT my cell phone eats through battery life like a starving dog would tear through a bag of puppy chow!!! Playing music on my phone is even worse….as I can kill my battery in my 4 year old smart phone in just 45 minutes and my 1985 Ford F-150 DID NOT HAVE USB Charging ports or a working cigarette lighter in it to speak of!!

    So where I am going is I chose "Option D" I bought a CD deck for it, for just $75 at Walmart (JVC Brand CD Head Unit) that would play MP3 Data disks!!! Which I say this all the time, BUT Apparently I am the ONLY SMART PERSON ON THE PLANET when you compare me to all these YouTube videos that "disrespect" both CD and Cassette Tape format!!! Because my JVC KD-S17 deck WILL PLAY MP3s directly from any DATA DISK that is formatted as a normal data disk. And with that being said, a standard 700 or 800 megabyte CD-R will hold as many as a 150 songs on it or sometimes MORE depending on the sample rate (320 KB, 192KB, 160KB and so on) of the songs ON that disk!!! PLUS my JVC CD Deck has a Aux Input on the front of the unit so I can plug in an MP3 player via a patch cord, which my MP3 player has a 4 gigabyte SD card for it, so I can store a few THOUSAND SONGS FROM THAT AS WELL if need be on a long trip!!

    My point is that you DO NOT ALWAYS have a place to charge your phone in an older car, and some cars are just not as "tech friendly" 20 years ago as today's "gadget mobiles" are!!!! And people like myself REFUSE to buy the junk disposable cars of today, first because it is cheaper and easier to just own a car I can actually WORK ON and fix if it breaks down along the side of the road, and secondly I can't afford a $30,000 cheaply made Ford Focus when a $500 beat up old Pick Up WILL get me where I am going first and secondly haul a load if I need to move something and thirdly has MORE POWER than a four cylinder over priced crap mobile Chevy Aveo!!

    My second point is this "What good is a dead cell phone when you break down or you are in an accident, just because you wanted to listen to music in your car instead?" Sure there is a bit of "convenience" to not having wires hanging out of your dash board, or having a MP3 player sliding all over your dash board. But how many times have I borrowed somebody's crappy Ford Focus to realize it only has ONE CUP HOLDER because the other one is stuffed full of crap that I can't even PUT MY CELL PHONE IN to start with anyhow…..which brings me to another point, Not all cars from 20 or 30 years ago HAD cup holders in them…..so again what a lousy idea to add Bluetooth to some stereo systems at times!! Because you still have no place to put your dead cell phone anyhow!!!

  28. How about for someone who only has a built-in 6 disc CD Changer in their head unit which is faulty? Could this work with that?

  29. I thought that was great! Of course there’s always something someone feels they would have done differently but the fact of the matter is you brought to the table what was important… an idea worth sharing! The one thing I was wondering is if it was really necessary to cut the three lines. I wonder if it was possible to just solder straight to the chipboard. Regardless great video excellent ingenuity!

  30. This video was super handy for me since I have a 96 fairlane. Head unit is slightly externally but internal PCBs and wiring shown in this video translates right over. Cheers!

  31. Cool! When I modded the stereo on my 2000 Focus I just wanted an AUX input, but I wasn't able to find an appropriate place to solder it since the amplifier in the unit is expecting a signal from a cassette tape, not an amplified signal meant for a set of headphones. I tried connecting it there and it sounded horrendous. So I did end up using the tape adapter but I couldn't notice any sound quality issues. I glued the tape door shut and mounted the aux port and a toggle switch to tell the unit that I've "inserted a tape", which I did by finding the switch that is pressed when a tape is inserted. This made it easy to switch between tape and radio (since I like listening to NPR). I'm sure there is some little black box that will convert a phone's headphone jack signal down to a line level but I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible. I only had to buy the toggle switch and the headphone jack, already had a tape adapter to sacrifice since it would be permanently installed.

    Another tip for someone that isn't really experienced in modding stuff is don't completely reassemble everything before you have tested it! Just make sure it's put together enough to function safely.

  32. Just bought a BA Falcon Ute and was wondering what that weird black square box was, until I watched your video lol gonna try the Bluetooth on it now! Cheers mate

  33. I would have just loaded in the cassette to aux adapted, routed the cord 3.5mm connection from that internally through to the Bluetooth receiver, to save all the soldering.

  34. You're soldering could use some improvement, it looks like mine! Great video! i may do this in my 87 Grand National, I currently have one of those ugly head units in it.

  35. Yeah, I love this. I have a 96 roadmaster wagon with a similar function. But your install is cheaper, cleaner, and cooler. I used an inline FM modulator and Bluetooth adapter. I’m looking at modding my 94 F150 for similar function. I’m going with your method. It’s slick. Another benefit of this setup vs an aftermarket Bluetooth head unit is that the stock stereo is a true theft deterrent. Nobody will break into a car to get a factory 90’s radio. Well done.

  36. Great video! My only suggestion would be to buy a small blue tooth module from Amazon "F6888" for around 10 bucks, and a small electret microphone. Wire the module in as you did and route the microphone out to the steering column. This way you get hands free calling as well as the music. ಠ‿ಠ

  37. Cool Video, I think you should have left the tape functionality though. I wonder if you could have soldered the wires directly to the board and used a dummy cassette.

  38. That is a great little mod for anyone who owns a classic car and does not want to run a modern head unit with Aux in,I myself will be trying this in my mk2 escort

  39. using a bluetooth receiver board from ebay is around $2 and doesnt come in that large box … its a small circuit board that fits inside the head unit itself

  40. However if your wanting an actual sound system (with subs and what have you) I would suggest looking for an aftermarket head unit that you like as those usually push more power, have more outputs to play with, and also tend to have better audio customization

  41. This is exactly what i need, i think. My 2005 ford fiesta only has a cd player. Could this work with one of those or will it only work with cassette player head units?

  42. can we connect this device to the cables of the cd changer?cd changer is defective.and on cdc safe mode. (ı don't have cdc code)why not a bluetooth instead.:) help me please.

  43. lucky one, the odds of making this work are a bit low this way… anyways, to retain the tone, volume and FM radio you can do a thing, instead of tracing the lines that may refer to unequalised head signal or else, you can google the chip part number of the cassette player (exactly the cassette one), there is quite likely a schematic for that chip and you just need to find L-Out and R-Out from it, cut the traces on the pins, hook up the new device and voilà

    googling the imprinted part number or serial number of mechanisms or component boards doesn't give much results, googling the chips instead it does, especially the audio ones (dunno why)

    a cheaper solution would be to buy one of those panel mount BT receivers, they are cheapish and work at 12V (search for "bluetooth 12V mp3"), you can get rid or the plastic panel and retain the circuit, solder it and place it inside the cassette slot (there's space) but adding some tape to insulate it from the metal… the only dubious thing is if they start as BT or other (like USB or SD, bcs they have those) there's a remote included and i think you can select the starting source (but i'm not sure, in case there's the remote)

    or you can buy a dedicated naked BT module but they don't work at 12V and you need a regulator, that's even cheaper

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