From an Australian user.
I love my Mazda 3 Maxx. It’s a pretty damn good car, considering it’s a little 4 cylinder. You know what’s shit about it though? Mazda’s Infotainment system. It works for the most part, but it’s not particularly fun to use, and it’s glacially slow at even the most basic tasks. Both Apple and Google have their own in-car software solutions that are vastly superior to MZD Connect – and yet Mazda have dragged their heels in porting Android Auto (or CarPlay, for our Apple brethren) to either new or existing models. Oh, they said they would – but they haven’t, and they probably won’t fit it to older vehicles (whether paid or not).
Fortunately, you can install Android Auto (along with a host of other tweaks) onto your current Mazda 3, so long as you have the Infotainment system head unit. This is a bit of an arduous process filled with scary warnings. I’m going to try to simplify the information for you.
Before We Begin
The Mazda 3 Revolution Forums is the place to learn about this stuff. Unfortunately, it’s also a complete and utter mess of threads, posts, and mixed information that takes ages to trawl through. This is actually not a straightforward process. The actual installation is, but things can go wrong, or there can be incompatibilities, and other random bugs that just appear without anybody knowing what’s wrong. If something odd happens, that’s your first port of call.
You must be running a firmware version above 55.xxx! If not, these won’t work and they will brick your head unit. How do you know what version you have? Start the car, go to Settings on the head unit, and then About. Select Version Information. This will display the “OS Version” as a string of numbers. My Australian Mazda 3 was on 56.00.513 4A N. If your version starts with 30, 33, or something other than 55 or up – do not attempt to do any of this.
You must NOT be running firmware version 59.00.502. Mazda deliberately blocked updating from the USB ports to stop people applying these tweaks with this version. The only way to install tweaks from this version is to gain access to the unit itself and wire up a serial interface. Mazda may upgrade your car when you take it in for a service – and any tweaks already applied WILL NOW BE STUCK IN PLACE. Note – There is a method of avoiding this if you have not upgraded to .502 yet – it involves installing Autorun and Recovery scripts, but I don’t yet understand how they work so I haven’t provided a guide here.
DO NOT FACTORY RESET THE HEAD UNIT. It’ll brick it.
There are some major risks in performing this: This includes, but probably isn’t limited to:
- Temporarily bricking the unit (fixes may require significant technical knowledge)
- Permanently bricking the unit (voiding its warranty)
- Getting blacklisted by Mazda dealers (allegedly)
- Disabling or interfering with normal software functions
- Odd software behaviour, including instability
- Tweaks and Android Auto should be removed before you take the car in for a service (otherwise Mazda will probably know what you’ve done)
If you brick your unit, it’s not my fault. This is all experimental.
While Android Auto mostly works as intended, it’s still sort of buggy. The biggest issue (making and answering phone calls) has been largely fixed, as has the reversing cam bug, but it isn’t a flawless release and sometimes still breaks. For example, occasionally I have to reboot the unit to get Android Auto to work again after turning off the car. Android Auto also seems to run at a lower screen resolution. If you want to use Android Auto, this is the price you pay.
Why do I want to use Android Auto anyway? If you have an Android phone, it’s way better than the default MZD Connect software. For a start, you get Google Maps right on the display (including traffic!), notifications pushed to the display, Google Assistant (including access from the steering wheel!), and Google Music also works natively. It’s just plain better than anything Mazda has come up with. Android Auto basically turns the head unit into a second screen for your phone. Also the software package below allows you to install a few tweaks (like enabling the touch screen while driving, and disabling disclaimers) which you might find useful.
What You Need
Before we begin, we need to assemble the troops.
- A Windows PC, or a Linux PC. People have varying degrees of success with Macs, because they tend to hide essential files.
- Mazda AIO Tweaks.
- Android Auto 1.05 – Mazda AIO Tweaks actually includes a download link for this, so I won’t include it here
- A USB stick formatted as FAT32 (if you don’t know how to do this, you probably shouldn’t be following this guide)
- Mazda vehicle with an Infotainment system running an appropriate firmware version (e.g. no less than 55, and not 59.00.502)
- Your phone’s USB cable and the phone paired by Bluetooth (required for Android Auto)
- An Android Phone with Android Auto installed (iPhones need not apply)
Preparing the Software
- Ensure your USB drive is formatted as FAT32
- Install Mazda AIO Tweaks
- Select the tweaks that you want by clicking the left box beside each option. I recommend the following:
- Touchscreen While Moving (enables touch screen while vehicle is in motion)
- No More Disclaimer (speeds up the boot)
- Android Auto Headunit App (if it is now on 1.05 – if not, skip it)
- Note also that when first launched, AIO Tweaks will have a dotted box with red text on the right sidebar informing you about AA 1.05 – with a download link. Download it and keep it somewhere for the moment
- Click START COMPILATION (green button at the top)
- This will generate a folder on your desktop and give you the option to copy directly to the USB drive – do so
- The USB drive is ready to do!
Installing the Tweaks
- Plug the USB stick into your car’s USB ports
- Turn the car on (accessories mode is fine)
- Initially it looks as though nothing has happened – MZD Connect boots per normal and works like always – wait a few minutes (literal minutes)
- Eventually a box pops up informing you that the tweaks package is loading with an OK prompt – tap it
- Follow the on-screen prompts and warnings – many of them after the first 3 or so will automatically dismiss. Sit patiently and wait for it to finish.
- When it’s finished, the car will automatically reboot – remove the USB drive after the prompt says it’s safe to do so
Congrats! It’s installed! Hopefully the unit didn’t brick. If the AIO package you got included Android Auto 1.05 (or above), you’re basically done. If not, read on.
Installing Android Auto
Android Auto 1.05 comes separately, because AIO Tweaks has not yet been updated with the new build (at time of writing). You have to manually copy it to the USB drive to get it to install
- Find the archive you downloaded from within AIO Tweaks
- If you had issues finding it in AIO Tweaks, read the first post here VERY CAREFULLY to find it.
- Extract the files from within the AA-v1.05 folder to the USB drive’s root directly
- Do NOT simply put the “AA-v1.05” folder in the USB root directory; it probably won’t work
- Repeat the install process: plug into the USB port on the car, start the car, wait for the prompts, follow, and let it reboot.
- Android Auto is now ready to go!
Using Android Auto
- Your phone must have a bluetooh and USB connection to the car (yes, both of them)
- Your phone must have Android Auto installed
- When you plug in your phone via USB, Android Auto should start automatically
- The safest way to do this is to wait until your phone finishes importing contacts – then plug in via USB (and Android Auto should start automatically)
- If it still doesn’t work, launch it manually from the car by going to the Applications screen (far left option from the Home screen).
- With AA launched, you can now interact with it on the touch screen
- If you enabled Touchscreen While Driving, just touch the display
- The command dial also works
- The Voice Commands button on the steering wheel will launch Google Assistant
- Forward/Back on the steering wheel controls music
- If you lose focus (which may happen when you make or receive phone calls, making it look like the screen has frozen):
- Press the HOME button (above your command wheel)
- Relaunch Android Auto on the car
And that’s pretty much it! Hopefully it keeps working for you.
Whenever I go to launch Android Auto, I get the Credits Screen/Black box with text saying “Can’t connect to head unit” but I can see Android Auto running when I turn the car off. If you get this problem, reboot the unit by holding MUTE + NAV for a few seconds. This will reboot the unit, terminate Android Auto and let you relaunch it.
Android Auto doesn’t automatically launch. This can be a bit fiddly. The failsafe (well, mostly failsafe) method is to only connect via USB once you see that all contacts have been imported from the phone. Once that’s done, plug in via USB and Android Auto should launch.
When I put the USB drive in and start the car, nothing happens – no matter how long I wait. Firstly, check that you’re not running firmware 59.00.502 – if you are, you’re out of luck unless you can rig up a serial cable. Otherwise, the most likely scenario is that you haven’t properly copied all of the files to the USB drive; under Windows ensure that Hidden Files are visible. Linux shouldn’t have this problem at all. Mac tends to be a colossal pain in the arse for this and I strongly recommend you just use Windows instead. Also check that they’re placed in the root (top) directory of the USB drive, and not in a subfolder. Also make sure the drive is FAT32.
When I get a phone call, it looks like the screen freezes. This is a known bug (and one that an extremely talented coder has been working on). To fix it: press HOME and relaunch Android Auto from the Applications menu. The call shouldn’t drop during this process.
It slows down, gets sluggish, or crashes when I’m using a bunch of stuff. The less you can run on AA, the better – because it’s already trying to run AA on top of the regular MZD Connect bullshit. Push it too hard and it’ll crash. Alternatively, if you have the navigation SD card inserted – pull it out. It’ll stop the navigation app from chewing precious memory, and potentially speed up the unit too.
I’m going for a service at Mazda, what do I do? Remove everything by using the AIO program, but this time select the right box (goes red when clicked) and re-run the drive on the car.
I have another issue. Go to the Mazda 3 Revolution forums, because I have no idea.