Pairing a Phone in a Rental Car

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Pairing a phone to your own car’s Bluetooth can be an frustrating exercise, but the challenge dials up when you’re trying to pair a phone to a car you’ve just rented.  We cover the basics, and provide a guide to every available manufacturer’s online pairing instructions.

Pair Your Phone Yourself

The first option is to pair the phone yourself.  We’ve provided vehicle-specific links to phone pairing guides for every vehicle manufacturer at the end of this article, but for the most part, pairing a phone is fairly intuitive on most cars:

phone pair 600 step 1


Step One:  From your phone’s main screen go to settings.  On an Android phone, it is usually a pull-down swipe from the top right corner.  On most phones, the settings icon is a little gear symbol.  Open the settings menu.  Touch the Bluetooth tab or icon.  It should open up.  Look for a box to tap (or check) that says “Only visible to paired devices.  Tap to make visible to other devices.”  Tap it.

Step Two:  With your vehicle running or in the “On setting” go to the vehicle’s main menu screen on the infotainment system.  Next, you will try the “Communications” or “Phone” tab.  Try “Phone” first if it is listed.  Normally, a phone menu will appear if you tap it.  Look for “Pair new device.”  If that menu is visible, you are almost done.  If not, tap a few of the options.  Take note of the “Back” button on the car’s infotainment system and return back to the main menu if you are not successful.

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Step Two and a half:  If you didn’t succeed yet, don’t despair.  You are less than one minute into this.  Try the “Communications” or “Bluetooth” tabs if “Phone” did not work.  Look for “Pair new device.”

Step Three:  If you found anything mentioning “Pair…” tap it.  Now, get your phone back to the Bluetooth menu.  You might have to re-open it if it went to sleep.  You are almost done.  The phone’s Bluetooth screen will have a “Scan” or “Search” tab.  Tap it.  You need to have the phone and the vehicle both searching at the same time.  It’s easy.  Once they both start to look for each other simply watch the phone.  You may have to scan down the menu a bit, but in a few seconds the phone will show the new connection option.  It will be called “Uconnect” or “Mazda” or whatever the vehicle’s system is called.  The vehicle will also say it found your phone.  You are 10 seconds from done.  Tap the new connection shown on the phone and if the car’s screen is asking you to confirm the new device tap “Yes,” or “Pair.”

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Step Three and a half: Some annoying cars ask you to set a password, or to confirm a password the vehicle chooses.  Just read and follow along.  If it wants you to confirm a password, just do it.  You will never need it again.  If the car is telling you to pick a new password, just choose anything you want and input it.

Step Four:  Most vehicles have the ability to pull your call history and phonebook from your phone into the car.  Unless you are a celebrity, you will be saying yes when prompted, BUT HOLD ON!  Do you see that little box shown on the phone that says “Never Ask Me This Again?” Check it then tap “Yes”.  Otherwise, your phone is going to ask you a question every time you start the car.  A second message just like that first one may also appear on the phone asking if you want to display your messages on the vehicle’s screen.  We suggest, “Yes” or “OK.”  You can always opt to ignore them later.

Get Help Pairing Your Phone

If the above didn’t help, and you can’t deal with the owner’s manual, help can be as nearby as the rental counter. If that’s not a solution, swing by the local dealership for your brand of vehicle you rented.  Most dealerships have well-trained staff that can help you.  Usually, it is just one small thing you are missing and the pairing is easy with help from the dealer’s good folks.

BONUS -MUSIC! – Pairing your phone to use hands-free for calls is great, but the process is the same to pair your phone so that you can listen to music if you have iTunes or any other type of music stored on your phone.  Just be sure to check off “Phone and Music” or “Phone and Media” if the car’s system asks what you want to be able to do with Bluetooth.  It is usually the default, so don’t worry about it.  Once you are paired, give Pandora a try.  It is free to sign up and to get the app.  Challenge yourself!  You can do it!

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You Don’t Have To Give Up Holding The Phone

A neighbor once told me she prefers to hold her phone when the kids are in the car.  That seems ridiculous, but one can still pair a phone and then opt to hold it and not use the hands-free.  Every phone allows the call hands-free call to be transferred back to the phone device.  Look for the option on your phone and you will then be able to accept a call hands-free, and then opt to keep speaking on the hand-held phone if you prefer (while parked we hope.)  In case it is not obvious, you can answer and hang up on a call without taking your hands off the steering wheel.  The universal buttons are shown below.

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Manufacturer-Specific Links to Phone Pairing Instructions

If you have specific questions about pairing your phone with a particular brand of vehicle, we’ve compiled links to phone pairing guides at the OEM websites that will help you. If the instructions aren’t obvious on the site, we’ve added a note:

Alfa Romeo
BMW (Note: BMW has Bluetooth info in the Owner’s Manual at the model level, so start here)
GMC (Note: GMC doesn’t have a specific area on the site showing pairing info. Refer to Chevrolet above)
Land Rover
Maserati (Note: Maserati doesn’t have specific info, just a PDF of an owner’s manual)
Porsche (Note: Aside from downloading Porsche’s Digital Owner’s Manual app, there wasn’t any obvious info on Bluetooth pairing on Porsche’s website)
Smart (Note: Smart only has links to PDF manuals on the website)
Subaru (Note: Navigate to the “Bluetooth Compatibility” link about halfway down the page)