How to Connect USB to Car Stereo?




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The best way to make sure your car stereo is up to date with the latest features and technologies is by connecting it to a USB. But, how to connect a USB to the car stereo? Let’s find out.

Generally, to connect a USB cable to the car stereo, you need to locate the USB Input socket on your car stereo or dashboard. Next, Plug one end of the USB cable into the USB Input of the car radio and the other end into the phone. Finally, set the car stereo source to the USB Input.

Tip: USB in the car adds extra functionality to your car stereo, like playing music from any of your portable devices or charging your smartphone while driving. 

One thing to remember, though, is to make sure the wire you are using is of high quality and able not only to transfer a large amount of data but will also allow you to charge your phone quickly.

The wires I have been using for a while are heavy-duty AINOPE, but check out the large selection of quality USB wires on when looking for something more specific.

In the article below, I will cover USB connections in car audio with various connection types you can use.

How to Connect USB to Car Stereo?

Step 1: Check for a USB port in the Car Dashboard.

The first step is to check for a USB port in your vehicle dashboard. Most car stereos have an input for USB devices.

If you cannot identify the USB port, look for the labeled “USB” since the port is hidden at the front panel in some stereos.

If you find the letters, the USB port will be next to them.

Step 2: Get a USB cable.

After locating the USB port, you need to get a USB wire.

When selecting your USB cord, you need to go for the one that supports multiple uses. The best USB cables are those that come with several capabilities, such as support for media as well as fast charging.

Make sure to get the good quality USB 3.1 wire which also supports the fast transfer.

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Step 3: Plug in the USB cable

Plugging in the cable to the USB port of your car stereo, although it may seem straightforward, can be tricky at the first attempt.

The most common issue is to find out whether the USB cable should go facing upward or downward, especially when the USB port is placed in the radio vertically.

Usually, the side with the USB symbol should be facing up when inserting the cable. However, in some rare cases, the opposite is true.

In either case, remember that you should not use extra force to try and force the cable into the USB port as it may damage the cord or even your car stereo.

If the USB stick does not get in one way, turn it and insert it the opposite way.

Step 4: Connect Your USB Audio source.

Your audio source can be your smartphone, tablet, or another type of portable gadget. Connect the other end of the USB cable to your device.

Afterward, you should change the audio source setting in your device to “play via USB.”

You are now ready to enjoy listening to your music and podcasts through your car audio system.

Step 5: Play Your Favorite Music or Podcast

With your car’s dashboard, you can select the song or podcast you want to play.

Most cars’ stereo comes with a clear display with easy-to-operate buttons or a touchscreen interface that makes choosing your music an easy task.

Simply select what you would like to be played and enjoy the music as you drive around.

Why Should You Connect USB to Your Car Stereo?

You may be asking yourself, why bother connecting USB to your car stereo in the first place?

Well, there are several advantages of connecting USB to your car stereo.

Better Sound Quality

Using a USB connection in your car stereo provides the best sound quality.

USB does not lose audio quality as it will simply read the file, pass it on to your audio system, and play it in its original format. 

With auxiliary cables, the audio files are converted to analog and then back to digital format every few seconds to make an interference-free signal, leading to poor sound quality.

The same happens with Bluetooth v1.0 and v2.0 as its audio transmission degrades the original quality. 

Charging Support for Your Portable Device

Imagine receiving the annoying text from your phone that you are low on power and the battery is about to die.

In such circumstances, you find the idea of charging your phone wherever you are appealing to you.

Most car stereos come equipped with a USB in-built charging port, and this is a lifesaver when you need to charge up your device.

Simply plug your smartphone into your car’s stereo USB port, key the ignition, and you will be able to charge your smartphone and any of your portable devices.

Firmware Updates

The USB system is essential when it comes to updating your stereo firmware. To update to the latest software, you need to:

  • Visit your car manufacturer’s website through your computer.
  • Download the available updates.
  • Transfer these updated files to an empty USB stick.
  • Take the flash drive and plug it into the USB port in your car.
  • The files will automatically begin updating your car stereo firmware, and you will get to enjoy all the latest functionality of your audio system.

Have Multiple Input Options

The best thing about USB is that it provides many options to utilize your car stereo fully.

It offers the best support for digital media and allows you to connect to your HD radio player, audiobook, or even an external CD player. 

It is always nice to have alternatives for expanding your car stereo potential, and USB provides precisely that.

How to Add USB Port to Car Stereo?

If your car radio does not have an inbuilt USB port, you will have to install one. But, don’t worry, as it is pretty easy, and I will show you how to do it in the following few steps.

Step 1: Get an FM Transmitter

FM Transmitters are becoming more and more popular today.

With several FM transmitters available in the market, it is essential to choose the one that perfectly suits your needs.

You should look for an FM transmitter with a noise-canceling feature, which helps in reducing the amount of background noise you hear.

Another thing to consider is if the transmitter comes with a car battery charger so that you can continuously use it in your car.

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The best FM transmitter should provide superior sound, offer a wide range of applications, and have adequate playtime.

Step 2: Plug in the FM Transmitter

Plugging in your FM transmitter to your car is relatively easy. Simply locate the cigarette lighter socket in your car dashboard and plug the FM transmitter into it.

Make sure that the positioning of the FM transmitter does not affect you in any way while driving your car.

Step 3: Program Your Car Stereo

Once you have the FM transmitter in the lighter socket, the next thing to do is program your car stereo using the following steps:

  • Turn on the ignition.
  • Change the car stereo mode to FM
  • Search for an open FM frequency not in use in your area

Step 4: Set Your FM Transmitter Frequency

After you have located an open FM frequency on your car stereo, you should power your FM transmitter and tune it to that same frequency.

You can now use the FM transmitter to stream your music and audios from your device, and it will broadcast on that open FM frequency through your car audio system.

Step 5: Maximize the FM Transmitter Full Potential

Most FM transmitters come with several features.

The most common is the USB ports that you can use for various functionalities, such as charging and transferring media control from your device to your car’s stereo.

You can also listen to directions, stream your favorite podcast and listen to your audiobooks. 

Every FM transmitter has its unique capabilities, and it is the easiest way to transform your car stereo to resemble a modern-day audio system.

Know the Different USB types in Your Car Stereo

Most aftermarket car stereos support different USB types.

Not all manufacturers use the same USB port type, making it hard to find one compatible with several different devices.

Fortunately, the two most common USB types used in car stereo are the USB-A and C.


USB-A is the classic most commonly known traditional USB type available.

It has been around since the late 90s and has gained popularity among technological gadgets. It is primarily used in chargers and transferring data between portable devices and computers. 

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USB-A is rectangular shaped, and it goes into the USB port in only one way. This feature has been its major downside since most people struggle to fit it in the USB port. 

However, USB-A has also undergone several upgrades, with the v3.0 series being famous for its faster data transfer speed of up to 5Gbit/s. 


The new USB-C port is considered the future of data transfer and charging. Therefore, it is commonly known as simply Type-C.

It is rounded across its edges, making it easier to fit into a USB port in whichever way you put it in.

USB-C is quickly gaining popularity among the smartphone industries. 

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Support for this new type has been increasing because of the faster charging and better data transfer capabilities, and recently this has been a dominant USB type in the market.

Most modern car stereos provide a Type-C port, making it possible for anyone with an iPhone or Android device to integrate them seamlessly onto their car audio system without hassle.


Both these connections have equal ability to connect to any compatible device.

In either case, you need to check with your car stereo manufacturer and see which USB type is supported. You also need to get the one that will be more compatible with most of your devices. 

If you are using iPhone or high-end smartphones, you would be better off with USB Type-C.

On the other hand, if you use an older or classic device, you should go with USB-A. 

However, if your car stereo has one type and your portable device has the other type, you can use a USB adapter to integrate them. Nowadays, with the help of adapters, it is possible to connect any USB type and enjoy its contents!

Should I Upgrade or Update the Car Stereo?

While it’s true that upgrading or updating your car stereo is a great way to make the most out of what you’ve got, there are two main concerns: 

Should I upgrade or just update it?

It mostly comes down to what you want and how much money you are willing to spend to get your car stereo up to date.

Updating your stereo with devices like FM transmitters can provide similar capabilities and features to modern stereos, but you will have to deal with two separate gadgets.

On the other hand, with a new modernized car stereo, you will have all these features, making you seamlessly enjoy your audio system as you drive around.

Either way, it is essential to note that USBs are necessary for our everyday life, and we have to connect our car stereos to them in whichever way possible.

Frequently Asked Question

Why Won’t My Phone Connect to My Car via USB?

Sometimes, you may have followed all the required steps and still find that your phone won’t connect to your car via USB.

In such circumstances, you should try the following:

  • Check if the USB cable is connected correctly to your car stereo.
  • Unplug the USB cable and then plug it in again.
  • Look at the USB user manual and see if it is compatible with your phone.
  • See if you have enabled access to the USB in your phone.
  • If your phone still doesn’t connect, try restarting it, then connect it to the USB. Sometimes, bugs in your phone system may prevent it from connecting to your car’s stereo.

Can I Use the USB Port in My Car to Charge My Phone?

The car you drive can make a world of difference when charging your phone.

Some vehicles support the charging of phones through the USB port, while others do not have this feature.

It also depends on the age of your car. Most modern vehicles support phone charging through the USB port.

You should consult with your car’s manufacturer to see if this feature is available in your car model. 

Why Does My Car Say USB Device Not Supported?

If you are using an Android phone, ensure that your car settings have enabled Android Auto.

Simply go to your car settings, and under smartphones, select enable Android Auto, and your USB device will be supported.

Why Is My USB Not Working in My Car?

Several factors can make your USB stop working in your car. If your USB suddenly stops working, you should check for the following.

  • Check if the USB area is clean and free from any dust.
  • Inspect the USB port to see if it is loose and might need some maintenance.
  • Try switching off your engine for some time, then turn it on again.