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Notes on configuring late-model Toyota car stereo Bluetooth

My wife has a 2011 Toyota Corolla, with a car stereo with built-in Bluetooth support. Oddly, I'd like it to work with all of my family's random Bluetooth devices. Some of these devices are smartphones; a few are just audio players. Unfortunately, the monkey or team of monkeys that designed the firmware for Toyota's fine piece of stereo equipment seems to have built an odd chimera that is almost impossible to configure for Bluetooth without extensive experimentation. This post is the notes resulting from that experimentation… First thing to understand is that there are two somewhat separate BT subsystems in the Toyota stereo: BT hands-free device and BT audio player. The key word here is "somewhat". One might expect one of two models: either the two subsystems are entirely independent, or they are really pieces of the same subsystem. The truth appears to be in between these two extremes. Thus:

  • Configuring a smartphone separately as a BT hands-free device and a BT audio player causes failures (although the cause of those failures is not made obvious).

  • Configuring a smartphone as just a BT audio player will not allow it to be used as a BT hands-free device.

The key turns out to be to configure a phone (smart or otherwise) solely as a BT hands-free device. First, delete any existing references to the target smartphone in both the audio player setup and the hands-free setup. Second, delete any pairing the phone thinks it has with the stereo. Third, go through the phone setup process for the hands-free setup (only). At some point during that setup, there will be a question about using the phone as an audio player. Answer yes if the phone can/should be used as an audio player, otherwise no. Finally, try to connect the phone to the stereo. If all is well, you should have your phone set up properly. Repeat for other phones.

For non-phone BT audio devices, set them up using the separate BT audio player setup. Non-phone devices are the only kind of devices that should use this setup mode.

The final thing to note is that (as far as I can currently tell) the stereo is dumb about connecting automatically. If you have just one BT device in range, it will still not be connected with by the stereo unless it is the "currently selected" BT device. You can select what device to connect to from the appropriate menu: phone setup for phones, audio player setup for audio-only non-phones.

If you set all this up just so, it seems to work OK. I guess.

One final caveat: none of the BT setup can be done while the car is in motion. So plan to spend 15-20 min in your driveway before using your new BT device with the stereo. Have fun! Fob