How to Use My Android Tablet as a Portable Car Head Unit?

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There are times when we want to invest some money to improve the situation of our car, but in this economy, that might not always be possible. Advanced technology has introduced many different additions that can be made with the car’s head unit.

But what if you can get all of that at a fraction of the price using an android tablet?

So, there are a few steps you need to take and a few apps you will have to install before you can actually put the tablet to good use. But, in the end, you really will be able to utilize the tablet for your car.

Things You Will Need

Before you can get on the task, there are a few preconditions that need to be met. And in this case, you will need a few tools and then install a few apps so that you can achieve the same result as a top of the line car head unit.

First, let us go over the list of materials you will need:

  • A screwdriver (pliers would do as well)
  • Plexiglass
  • Glue for silicone
  • Epoxy putty
  • Tubes that shrink in heat
  • Wirecutter
  • VOM or multimeter

There are also a few apps you should have, and they are:

  • Your phone needs to have a hotspot so that the table is able to connect to its internet
  • Google Maps is a must if you plan to use the tablet as a GPS
  • A music player app
  • An app that plays the radio

How to Install the Tablet as the Car Head Unit?

For the most part, we know the things we will require in our quest to use a tablet as a favorite android auto head unit. But there are many steps you will need to take before you can actually use the tablet. It might seem to be a complicated process, but if you follow the instructions to the letter, then it will be easy.

Step 1: Take the Old Unit out

Before you can install something new into your dashboard, you will have to get rid of the old one that came with the car. These head units usually come with an instruction manual that has detailed information on both the installation as well as the removal of the unit.

So, here, rather than just trying to pull it out and damaging the wires inside, you should do what the instruction manual tells you to do.

Even though the process might be slightly different for various head units, the basic will be the same. You will have to remove screws of the dashboard that hold the unit to it. The car stereo will also have to be removed and unplugged from the unit so that the new one can be installed.

Step 2: Create a Charging System for the Tablet

All tablets need a charge in order to run. Without power, you will not be able to turn the device on. So, you must make sure there is some type of power source for the tablet.

There are a few things you can do in order to achieve your desired results. The first possible solution would be to get power from the car battery; you can do so by getting a direct line.

If that is the step you want to take, then you can use wires to draw the power into the tablet. For this, you will need to use hardware for conversion; this you can get from just about any hardware store. It will be used to connect the wire to the fuse box, which will draw the power for the tablet.

Now, the other solution you can put to use getting a USB cable, that is something that all tablets accept into their charging port. You can hook that up with the converter, and that should do the job just fine. If not, then there is always the option of wireless charging, given your tablet has the feature.

Step 3: Fix up the Audio System

A car’s head unit is not complete without the right audio system. How else are you going to listen to your playlist on your way to work or classes? The tablet itself does have the music player app you downloaded, but that will not do if you are not able to connect the tablet to the speakers.

For the audio system to be complete and ready to play music the same way your stereo would play, there are a few things you need to connect to the tablet. An amplifier is needed to process the music or audio, that will add better quality sound to the music.

From the amplifier, the sound has to reach the speakers through which the sound is going to come out. This process will need some wires and cables to connect the parts to one another. You could choose to get new speakers, but there is also the option of using the ones your car came with.

Step 4: Plan out the Placement

So, this step of the process varies from person to person, and in different situations, your task will be different. If you plan to keep your original head unit, then you do not have much to worry about when it comes to the mounting and placement.

You can just place in on the dashboard. The only thing you have to worry about here is if you are able to see the screen well. Placing the tablet over the car stereo would also be a good option, that will be easy to work with and see. Just make sure you do not get distracted by the visuals on the tablet.

Another thing you might choose to do here is to place the tablet in a way so that it can be removed and be used at home, as well. Many will opt for this option if they do not use their cars all that often.

But, in all this, there is always the option of taking the original head unit out and replacing it completely with the tablet. But this will make things more complicated.

While you decide on the placement, just keep in mind that your tablet needs to have access to a USB cable for charge and an AUX cable at times. So, you have to mount it in a way for easy access to both the cables.

Step 5: Choose a Theme

This step is not all that important, and you can completely choose to forgo this. It is basically just choosing the interface of the tablet that you will be using as your head unit now.

You might want to use a different theme for your tablet that goes more with your activity. There are certain themes that are made for cars. This might make the whole thing easier to use and more accessible while you are on the road.

Just try to make sure the one you use is well organized so that you do not get busy trying to find the item and take your attention away from the read. Also, avoid too many bright colors, that might be a distraction.

Step 6: Make Sure It All Works

Once you have everything set in place, your next task would be to check and see if all of it is running smoothly or not. By that, I mean, you have to check all the connections as well as the cables to see whether they are all doing what they are supposed to do in your audio head unit.


If this is your first time working with your car, then things might feel a little complicated. So, it would be best if you consult with someone beforehand. But if you choose to keep the head unit and follow the instructions, then you shouldn’t have any problems.