(Not)Apple CarPlay


Last week we picked up the new-est car we’ve ever owned - a 2015-plated Fiat Freemont - which uses a “U-Connect” sound/navi system. I’m still working out if software upgrades may enable it to use CarPlay… but “out of the box” it easily talked via BlueTooth to an old iPhone that I loaded up with my 5,000-odd iTunes library. Instant easy access to every song we own.


Then I got back into my 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser, with this radio…


…and I think to myself… surely I can at least get it to play my 60-odd “Faves” playlist as an MP3 CD…?

So I pull out the manual, have a flick through… and viola - right there in black and white - MP3 compatible, but with a list of required compatibility specifications a few pages long. Woot!

Burn a disk using iTunes. Start the car, put the disk in, and - ERROR - disk ejects.

Burn a disk using a burn folder in the desktop, and - ERROR - disk ejects.

Burn a disk using Toast, its own “MP3” disk option - ERROR - disk ejects.


Get Info on the disks, shows that they are all using MacOS file systems. The manual says it needs to be ISO 9660 format. Search through Toast’s menus, righto - data disk offers an ISO option.

Burn a disk, take it out to the car, finally feeling optimistically smug… and - ERROR - disk ejects.


Re-re-re read the manual… and it dawns on me… the manual is for 3 different radio models… 1 of which plays MP3’s… 2 of which - including my “REK” model - do not.

Deflated… Burn an audio-only disk, with about 18 of my favourite songs… Yay. It plays. 4 more disks and I’ll have them all burnt…

Moral of the story - make sure you read your manuals carefully and don’t expect too much from old tech.



Much easier to buy an FM broadcast gadget, which is what I did (Belkin Tunecast). Can listen to music, audiobooks, whatever, via the car speakers. And take and make calls if I absolutely must. But, I rarely do that anyway.


I had a Pioneer MVH-Z5050BT unit retrofitted to my 2006 Commodore wagon. It has Apple CarPlay, but I had trouble over and over again getting my iPhone to connect. I had to revert the unit several times to the original settings to fix the problem. Then I found a firmware update for the Pioneer and since then my iPhone connects first time every time. So always keep the firmware up to date.

BTW CarPlay works really well and you can even reply to text messages while driving via Siri.

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Cheers :slight_smile:

I had an FM modulator back in my Nissan Z… from memory it had a box that you connect “in-line” between the antenna and the radio, and it then also had a 3.5mm mini-din connector to plug an audio source in… Works much better than the ones that your car’s antenna has to “pick up” the signal itself.

Now that CarPlay is kind of an option (for the Fiat), I’m hopeful I can get it going :slight_smile: Sounds like it’ll be a lot easier to use than not having it.

Facing a similar challenge with the Mitsubishi 380 standard head unit. It has ISO 9660 MP3 CD compatibility, but I’m burning replacement CDs every time I want to add a track or make an alteration to the playlist. The standard unit (Fujitsu Ten) has a secondary connector for steering wheel controls, and that requires a secondary controller in addition to the replacement head unit. Around $500 in components, assuming I purchase them new.

I’m thinking about installing an FM modulator, or disassembling the head unit to modify it to accept an audio input. I’d ideally replace the optical drive with some kind of ATAPI/IDE to SD/USB hardware emulator, but none exist at this time. (Although there is one for SCSI, and several for classic game consoles, so it remains a possibility.)

Another option I’d forgotten about - installing a head unit from a newer model Mitsubishi, provided the connections are there and the steering wheel control protocol is the same or similar.

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You lot do like to make things hard for yourselves, don’t you. You must enjoy fiddling with stuff. Me, I take the easiest option. Sure, I wouldnt mind having CarPlay, but what for? My phone works perfectly well plugged into the Belkin (which also keeps it charged) and tuned to the appropriate FM station on the radio. KISS.

I could upgrade the car’s stereo entirely… but… although I wanted a PT Cruiser for many years, now I have one… but am also in the position that we’ve become a dual income family for the first time in 11 years… I’m thinking I may upgrade in a few years…

@kyte - Belkin certainly make some good gear, but as for radio - K Rock baby! :slight_smile: KISS will do when we are out of range of the Geelong transmitter.

On the bright side - the MP3 disk does play in the Fiat… though yes @iMic - annoying cos it’s missing Steppenwolf’s compulsory car song.

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I’m all for OEM, but I’m also a tinkerer and if you’re in the car enough a new head unit is well worth the investment to not have cable and adaptors floating around. I have used CD to tape adaptors, FM transmitters and analog in at different times, but inevitably I end up ripping it out and doing it more neatly. That and I strongly believe that bluetooth for your phone is a must have today.

Being a single DIN head unit that’s not built into the AC controls etc swapping it out should be a pretty straight forward task. A quick google turns up things like this, although it’s always worth making sure you get all the right bits for your particular model.

It looks like you need a facia kit, wiring harness (if you don’t just want to hack up the factory one) and an antenna adaptor.


Personally, I’m a Pioneer fan, but pick your own poison and you can get something for under $200 very easily with built in bluetooth, USB and apparently lots of other features I’ve never even considered. You can probably even pick up something off gum tree for next to nix since USB and Bluetooth have been around forever at this point.

I upgraded an older Pioneer AVIC (which is a Nav unit) to pretty base model Pioneer with CarPlay. Being many years newer the unit is much more responsive than the old one and the Bluetooth now works much better (and concurrently connects to two phones without having to manually switch between them when they ring) so that alone was worth the cost for a daily driver.
CarPlay itself is very nice, sometimes a little buggy when using non Apple apps (like Waze or Google Music) but usually works well enough. Do you need it? No. But if it was a double DIN unit I’d say to it anyway if you’re thinking of upgrading. Single DIN CarPlay is possible… but expensive! So I’d probably stick to Bluetooth + a decent hard mounted dock connector.

On hard mounted docks. I’ve used these for years with good results. I hate vent mount so have always looked for something else.

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I installed a Sony CarPlay unit in my Corolla in January - the standard Toyota one had issues with iOS 7 and later bluetooth + USBs with more than 1000 MP3s + it was annoying converting iTunes files to MP3 constantly.

Before and after -


A lot of reviews recommended Pioneer head units, but personally I thought the interface + physical design of the units looked very aftermarket, where as the Sony has a more simple menu and design that looks less aftermarket.

I’m still on my Green P’s, because I was late to get my license so I can’t actually use CarPlay till I get my fulls in June, but it looks great!

Having bluetooth streaming + Digital Radio is great and I will be adding a reversing camera soon (once I overcome the anxiety about doing it!!)


Now that we have a - touch wood - reliable family car, the Cruiser will, in theory, only be running me to / from work 5 days a week - about 100 - 150 minutes all up. Ah - and, when I look at it like that… it’s quite a lot of time.

Might have to do some investigating… :slight_smile:

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Pretty much. I like simple solutions to problems, but too often take a complex route to get there.

A self contained head unit, with local storage, not dependent on a phone or wireless connection. Super simple to implement, some reverse-engineering and modification of the stock circuit board required.

(I’m becoming painfully aware of how weird I must come across to others.)


My car - a Ford Escape from about 2010 - has an aux option on the sound system but no way of accessing it. I have been using an FM transmitter. I discovered however that there is a line-in socket that the aux setting uses. Problem is that the socket is on the back of the unit and therefore inaccessible without major dash removal. What numpty though that was a good idea?

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Yes. Ford!

Mazda. Ford Escape of that era is a rebadged Mazda Tribute.

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11yo - I like having a CD in the car.
Me - Why?
11yo - Well, when you get back in the car, it just starts playing from where you were.
Me - Ah.
11yo - The radio doesn’t do that.
Me - Yes, true that.

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Not simple enough, apparently. I had not used it for months and now find it no longer works. It works to charge the phone in the car, but the FM transmission is now defunct. iOS updates have screwed it for me I suppose. Still dont want CDs in the car.