Upgrading Audio in a 2010 Honda Fit Without Replacing the Factory Radio – Part 1

I recently bought a 2010 Honda Fit Sport. It’s a fun car to drive. It’s a little loud at highway speeds, but I like it quite a bit.

The problem is the 2010 audio system. This is the higher end Fit, but does not have the navigation system. I looked for a used one of those, but could not find one. Just saw a picture of one. This version has both a USB and mini plug aux input for audio. It does not have Bluetooth or much of a screen to communicate much of anything.

It doesn’t sound bad for an 11 year old audio system. But I use bluetooth all the time. Going back to a wired audio connection isn’t ideal.

In previous cars, I would just rip out the stock stereo and replace it with an aftermarket one. This car is a little bit more complex than my older ones.

The dash and radio is more integrated. Instead of a separate radio, which can be easily removed, the center console has this weird oval shaped entertainment area. It has hazard lights, air vents and the climate controls are placed around the edges.

And, it looks like removing it requires more than just popping the bezel off and removing a few screws. Now, Amazon sells complete replacement units. but they are Chinese made radios, with terrible reviews and reliability.

Of course, you can buy an aftermarket stereo kit. In addition to being more complicated than other cars, it makes your dash look odd. You can see an image of the kit below. I’ve decided against it.

So, the first thing I tried was adding Bluetooth. The easiest way to do this, for me, was to use an Amazon Echo Auto device I had. The Echo Auto can connect to a radio through Bluetooth (which I don’t have) and a mini stereo cable. Then you connect your phone to the Echo Auto.

In essence the Echo Auto becomes a Bluetooth bridge between your phone and the stock stereo.

Aftermarket Stereo Kit
Amazon Echo Auto in use.

The Echo Auto comes with an air vent mount, but I wanted it a little lower profile, and didn’t want to block two of the only 4 AC vents in the car. I bought a CD slot mount from Amazon. I also placed a magnetic mount for my phone on the air vent.

Overall this works pretty well. Except the air vent blows right on the Echo microphone. And there are a lot of cables visible.

When I start the car, the Echo powers up, and my phone connects automatically. It can take a few seconds to fully connect. But it’s not bad.

As someone who uses Audible, it’s pretty cool to just start the car, and say, “Alexa, play my audio book” and have it pick right up where I left off. Or play my Amazon music playlists. Or, you can just play audio from your phone and the Bluetooth bridges right into the stock stereo.

So, I’m good? No, of course not.

After the wreck that totaled my Matrix, I had a rental car. For the first time I had access to Apple CarPlay, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. Plug in the phone and all the relevant functions are displayed. Hands free control. Maps navigation.

I want that. But, the only way to get it is through an aftermarket stereo, right? And not a cheap one. It would be a $300ish one.

I started looking at the CarPlay Dongles for Android stereos. I was trying to find out if I could get a cheaper Android aftermarket radio and still use CarPlay. Turns out, you can. You can download an app, hook up a dongle, plug in your iPhone and use CarPlay on an android stereo. Any Android stereo using software version 4.4.2 or later.

But that still means ripping up the dash. I’d rather not.

One morning, I woke up and had this crazy thought… can you use these dongles with any Android device? Could you use it with an Android tablet?

Yep. You can. I’m not the first to wonder about it, and won’t be the first to do it. There are several posts, blogs and videos talking about the process. It’s the same as loading it up on your radio. The challenge is charging the tablet wheel using the dongle.

Here’s what I will need:

Android Tablet- The Kindle Fire, which costs just $50, will work. You can use almost any tablet. But unless you’re going the eBay-from-China route, the Kindle Fire is probably one of the cheapest solutions. I happen to already own a Kindle Fire 7.

Apple CarPlay Dongle- These can be pricey, but I found a wired version from Carlinkit for about $40 on Amazon.

Tablet Car Mount- I’m not sure which of these I will buy. There are several that run between $20 and $30 on Amazon. These mount in the CD slot. I want one that will be solid, and hang lower than an air vent mount.

OTG Charging and USB Cable- The Kindle Fire will only last a few hours. I need to find a cable that allows me to plug the power cable into the tablet and attach the dongle via USB. This seems to be a challenge for most trying to do this sort of thing. One guy said he had a cable that would not add charge, but would hold charge while plugged in. Driving around town this won’t be an issue, but on long trips it will be come important. I’ve got one in my wish list that claims to be able to charge and pass USB signals at the same time.

In the meantime, the Echo Auto will work until I can get it figured out.