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iPad as Head Unit: Transforming Your Car’s Audio System

by Mike
Published: Last Updated on 12 minutes read

As car technology continues to advance, the head unit has become an essential component in most modern cars. A head unit is a unified interface that controls your car’s stereo system, GPS, and other features and settings. While many cars come with a built-in head unit, not all do. This leaves many car owners wondering if they can use their iPad as a head unit.

The good news is that you can use your iPad as a head unit, and it offers a bigger display and a lot of functionality. However, installing an iPad as a head unit can be complicated and difficult. Instead, you can fit an Apple CarPlay head unit which is purpose-built for cars and has similar features and layout to an iPad. In this article, we will explore how to install your iPad as a car stereo, tips for having a built-in iPad as a car stereo, the benefits of using an iPad as a head unit, how much it costs to install an iPad as a head unit, and options for mounting your iPad on your car dashboard.

How to Install Your iPad as a Car Stereo

If you’re looking to replace your car stereo with an iPad, it is possible. However, you’ll need to start with a mounting kit. In this section, we’ll outline the steps to using an iPad as a built-in head unit, tips for having a built-in iPad as a car stereo, the benefits of using an iPad as a head unit, and how much it costs to install an iPad as a head unit.

Using an iPad as a Built-in Head Unit: Steps

To use an iPad as a built-in head unit, you’ll need to find an iPad dash kit that is compatible with your car. The kit should include the plastic mount body, the iPad, and some magnets that will connect it to the dashboard. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place a plastic sheet on the tray, and then place the iPad on the plastic sheet in the tray.
  2. Connect the cable that is in the dashboard through the plastic tray so that your iPad can be mounted onto the dash. You will also join the magnet by placing it in the place where it will be attracted to its circuit.
  3. Find a kit that connects easily to your car system, and you will have your iPad with its bigger screen. This makes the Maps feature excellent for directions.

You can also play music, see your messages, and take calls. However, this will not come through your car’s audio system unless connected via Bluetooth. This is the biggest downside to using your iPad as a car stereo system.

Tips for Having a Built-in iPad as Car Stereo

Here are some tips to keep in mind when using an iPad as a built-in head unit:

  • Make sure that you have your iPad plugged into a power source so that it remains charged.
  • Ensure that the cable behind the iPad that is connected to your car audio system is neat and free of any twists or knots. We would recommend a high-quality cord such as the CarPlay lighting cables we suggest.
  • Avoid getting the iPad wet, as this can ruin it.
  • Don’t place any pressure on your iPad because it can break. Instead, make sure that you use a kit and mount it where it won’t crack or break.
  • Get a screen protector for the glass.
  • Remember to remove the iPad when not in the vehicle, as car radio theft still occurs.

Benefits of Using an iPad as a Head Unit

There are many benefits to using an iPad as a head unit. You can listen to your music library, use apps such as iHeart radio or SiriusXM, and any streaming services that you subscribe to, like Amazon, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud (Not available on CarPlay, so thus is a bonus to use your iPad), and more. You can also use your maps apps, such as Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps, and have a large display with directions when driving in unfamiliar territory.

This can make it easy for you to get where you are going or to find a store where you need to stop; as long as your iPad is connected to the internet via its data plan or by personal hotspot, you’ll be able to do all the amazing things your iPad can do while on the open road. It can tell you the weather (similar to CarPlay weather apps), and show you your text messages and your calls. In addition, you can use Siri so that you don’t have to touch the screen. You can download other feature-specific apps, such as gas buddy, which will tell you the best prices for gas near you and if there are wait times.

How Much Does It Cost to Install an iPad as a Head Unit?

The cost of installing an iPad as a head unit varies. You can pay anything from $100 for an iPad install, or you can pay around $800 or more to have someone install it professionally. People often decide to install an iPad as a head unit because it does a great job. The simple way to install it is to get a mount that holds it in place. This is very inexpensive, and you can do it yourself. However, you can also remove the current head unit and replace it with your iPad. This is much more involved, but there are custom kits that you can use to install the iPad directly into your dash.

iPad in Car: iPad Dashboard Mount

When it comes to using an iPad as a car stereo, hard mounting your iPad into the car may not be the best option. Instead, it may be worth considering getting a dashboard mount. This will allow you to easily remove the iPad from your car so that it doesn’t get stolen or so that it can be used somewhere else.

Woleyi Telescopic Dashboard Car Tablet Mount

One of the best dashboard mounts for iPads is the Woleyi Telescopic Tablet Mount. This car suction cup mount features an adjustable telescopic neck with an adjustable length range of 3.5-7 inches. The sturdy arms and stable ball joints make it more durable. This universal dashboard tablet holder for car has adjustable side clamps that extend from 4.7 in to 10.2 in, compatible with all 4 – 13 inch smartphones and tablets. The WOLEYI Car phone tablet mount won’t scratch or damage your device due to the soft silicone padded surface.

iPad Pro & iPad Mini as Car Stereo

Using an iPad Pro or iPad Mini as a car stereo is also possible with the above options. However, it is important to consider if you’ll have enough room in the dash for each option. An iPad Pro will take up a lot of space on the dash. With the Woleyi Telescopic Dashboard Car Tablet Mount, you can enjoy a hands-free and safe driving experience while using your iPad as a car stereo.

Final Words

wired carplay connection for comparison vs wireless carplay

In conclusion, while it is possible to install an iPad as a head unit in your car, it may not be the best solution. If you want to use your iPad as a driving aid, it may be better to use a tablet mount instead of hardwiring it in place.

There are many car-specific stereos available that have Apple CarPlay installed, which have similar features to an iPad and are more well-suited to the in-car experience. These stereos provide a more seamless integration with your car’s existing systems, and are designed to be used while driving.

It is also important to consider the long-term implications of hard-mounting an iPad in your car. If you plan on selling your car in the future, a potential buyer may prefer a traditional stereo system over an iPad dash mount, which could impact the resale value of your car.

Ultimately, the decision to install an iPad as a head unit in your car is a personal one that should be made based on your specific needs and preferences. We recommend weighing the pros and cons carefully before making a final decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What apps are available to turn an iPad into a car head unit?

There are several apps available on the App Store that can turn an iPad into a car head unit. Some popular options include CarPlayer, CarBridge, and Car Dashdroid. These apps offer various features such as music playback, navigation, and phone integration.

How can we connect an iPad to our car’s audio system via Bluetooth?

Connecting an iPad to a car’s audio system via Bluetooth is a straightforward process. First, ensure that your car’s audio system is in pairing mode. Then, on your iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth and turn on Bluetooth. Select your car’s audio system from the list of available devices, and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the pairing process.

Are there specific dash kits recommended for mounting an iPad in a car?

Yes, there are specific dash kits recommended for mounting an iPad in a car. Some popular options include the Scosche MagicMount Pro, the iOttie Easy Smart Tap, and the RAM Mounts Tab-Tite. These dash kits offer secure mounting solutions for iPads of various sizes.

What are the best practices for using an iPad as a display in a vehicle?

When using an iPad as a display in a vehicle, it is important to ensure that it is mounted securely and does not obstruct the driver’s view. It is also recommended to use a screen protector to prevent glare and fingerprints. Additionally, it is important to keep the iPad charged and to avoid leaving it in direct sunlight for extended periods.

Can an iPad be integrated with a vehicle’s steering wheel controls?

Yes, an iPad can be integrated with a vehicle‘s steering wheel controls. This can be achieved using an adapter such as the iDatalink Maestro, which allows for the integration of aftermarket head units with factory steering wheel controls. However, it is important to note that not all vehicles are compatible with this type of integration.

Is it possible to use an older iPad model for CarPlay or similar functionalities?

It is possible to use an older iPad model for CarPlay or similar functionalities, but it may require additional hardware and software. Older iPads may not have the necessary hardware to support CarPlay, and may require an adapter such as the CarLinkit Wireless CarPlay Dongle. Additionally, some apps may not be compatible with older iPad models.

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