Sat. May 18th, 2024

CarPlay is one of those modern conveniences that’s hard to live without once you’ve experienced it. That’s why it can be pretty frustrating if CarPlay isn’t working as it should.

Warning: Don’t try fixing CarPlay while driving. Pull over so that you can safely solve the issue without being distracted while driving.

Make Sure CarPlay Is Enabled

The first time you connect your iPhone to a car with CarPlay, your car should walk you through the setup process. This isn’t necessarily always the case, especially if your car is used and the previous owner has changed some settings.

While we can’t provide instructions for every vehicle, if CarPlay doesn’t automatically engage make sure you don’t need to specifically hit the “CarPlay” option within your vehicle’s entertainment unit. You may need to dig through your car’s preferences to enable CarPlay or have it automatically engage when a compatible iPhone is detected.

"Allow CarPlay While Locked" setting in iPhone Settings.

On your iPhone head to Settings > General > CarPlay and select your vehicle, then make sure “Allow CarPlay While Locked” is enabled. This will prevent CarPlay from disengaging when your iPhone locks.

Wired CarPlay? Disconnect and Reconnect

Sometimes, CarPlay disappears for no reason. Other times, it simply doesn’t initialize in the first place. One way to solve this is to force your car to start CarPlay again by disconnecting the USB cable from your device and reconnecting it.

This only works for wired CarPlay setups. It’s also worth checking both ends of the wire to make sure that the cable hasn’t slipped out of your car’s USB port.

Wireless CarPlay? Reset Your Connection

Wireless CarPlay is slightly different in that it should “just work” when it detects your phone is nearby. If things aren’t working as advertised, you can try resetting your connection between your car and iPhone by toggling Airplane Mode on and off.

Airplane Mode enabled in Control Center on an iPhone.

You can also head to Settings > Wi-Fi to make sure that Wi-Fi is enabled, then tap on the CarPlay network and make sure that “Auto-Join” is enabled.

Restart Your Phone

CarPlay is an extension of your iPhone’s operating system, presented in a car-friendly skin. If there’s a problem with iOS, there might be a problem with CarPlay. You can rule out crashes and bugs by restarting your iPhone as you normally would.

Option to restart an iPhone with Siri.

The easiest way to do this is to just ask Siri to restart your iPhone.

Enable Siri When Locked

CarPlay depends on Siri to work, so you must make sure Siri is enabled on your device. To do this, press and hold the “Side” button (the same one you use to lock or wake your device) until you see the Siri symbol appear at the bottom of the screen.

If you’re asked to enable or set up Siri, follow the instructions. On top of this, make sure that Siri can be accessed when your device is locked under Settings > Siri & Search by enabling the “Allow Siri When Locked” toggle.

Check Airplane Mode, Bluetooth and VPNs

This mostly applies to wireless CarPlay, but it’s worth a shot even if you’re having problems with a wired connection. Make sure that Airplane Mode is disabled by swiping down from the top-right corner of your iPhone screen and looking at the airplane icon that appears in Control Center. If it’s orange, tap it to disable Airplane Mode.

A VPN app showing that it's disconnected.

While you’re there, make sure that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are enabled (the relevant icons should be blue). Lastly, a VPN connection can interfere with CarPlay, so consider disabling your VPN using your VPN provider’s app if you’re having trouble (a VPN can even interfere with wired connections).

Replace Your USB Cable

If you use CarPlay over a USB cable, you should regularly check the cable for breaks and frays. Connecting and disconnecting your iPhone every day can take a toll on the cable, so it’s worth switching your cable out with a spare if you’re having trouble to rule it out as the cause.

A cracked and frayed Lightning cable you definitely shouldn't use.
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

Apple recommends using an Apple-branded cable, but I’ve had success with a very short Beats-branded cable that I got with a pair of old headphones with no issues. That said, the type of cable can make a difference, so avoid the cheapest flimsy cables.

Upgrade From Lightning to USB-C

If you’ve just upgraded your iPhone to an iPhone 15 or later, you’re also going to need to upgrade the cable you use with a wired CarPlay connection. Apple switched from Lightning to USB-C in all iPhone models produced in 2023 and later.

Apple USB-C to Lightning Adapter

To save some money, consider reusing your old cable and adding a Lightning to USB-C adapter instead (just make sure it can transfer data).

Audio Problems? Switch Source and Back Again

One problem I have on a semi-regular basis with my CarPlay-enabled Volkswagen Golf is a lack of audio after connecting to CarPlay. I’m not sure what causes the issue since it seems to happen randomly, but it appears that the car becomes confused between “Voice Control” and “CarPlay”, effectively muting any audio coming out of the iPhone.

The fix is a simple one: switch to a different audio source using your entertainment unit (like the radio) and then head back to the CarPlay interface and tap “Play” to start playing music or a podcast again. This seems to signal to the car to switch to CarPlay as a source, fixing the issue until the next time it appears.

Another reason you might not be able to hear music or podcasts is because your car audio is muted, so make sure you crank the volume just to make sure.

Kill Any Problem Apps

Since CarPlay is an extension of your iPhone, the apps that appear on your display when using CarPlay also happen to be extensions of the apps installed on your iPhone. So if you’re using Google Maps to navigate, the Google Maps app on your iPhone is putting in the work.

This can result in issues if that app in question crashes or bugs out. The easiest way to solve this issue is to kill the app as you normally would. On a modern iPhone that means flicking up from the bottom of the screen and holding until you see a list of apps appear, swiping through the list until you find the app in question, and then flicking up again to “throw it away” and terminate to process.

You can now launch the app and try again. Crashed apps can cause all sorts of issues, from wonky behavior to black unresponsive screens.

Update iOS (and Maybe Your Car)

Updating your iPhone can help in a myriad of ways, from adding new features to fixing pesky bugs. If you’re experiencing regular problems with CarPlay, make sure that your iPhone has been updated to the latest version of iOS for the best results. You can do this under Settings > General > Software Update.

On top of this, many cars now receive over-the-air software updates. These updates add new features and fix old issues, even those associated with CarPlay. If you have a modern vehicle, try updating it using the relevant menu to see if it fixes your CarPlay problems.

“Forget” Your Car in CarPlay Settings

Lastly, you can effectively forget your car within your iPhone CarPlay settings so that the next time you connect to CarPlay, it will appear as a brand-new car. To do this, head to Settings > General > CarPlay and select your vehicle. Use the “Forget This Car” option to wipe the slate clean.

"Forget" a car in CarPlay settings to start over from scratch.

Be aware that when you next connect to CarPlay, you’ll need to set up CarPlay again from scratch. This includes things like your wallpaper, home screen layout, and any settings you might have changed.

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By John P.

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