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Android auto and head units for RV navigation and entertainment systems


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Many folks don't like change and others do. In another thread Dan was asking about Navigation and everyone was talking Garmin units as the preferred way to go. I disagree and here is why. Rather than change the topic there I thought that having it separate would make it easier to find.

Dan, I have used both Garmin units and even the Delorme's units in the late 1990s that worked sometimes on a laptop. I used Garmins for several years daily for steel building site visits for about three years in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas.  Back then the phone Nav did not exist and even in the first ten years of smart phones they were was essentially in their navigation infancy.

When I grew up we were always swapping out our car audio systems and now my son is doing the same with his audio/Navigation, and streaming head units systems. Our cars had them already.

I would choose Android Auto over all the several thousand-dollar head units. I have seen advertised today. I do not do Apple so cannot comment on Apple Car Play but some of these do Apple too.

I think folks need to look at head unit change options today because full capability head units are available for under $300 that do much more and better than before. Garmins cost close to that or more. The Garmin 780 posted costs $399.99 retail and on Amazon $319.

Above I have read about the screen size making phone based Nav hard to use. We have not used our phone screen for Nav since we bought the Subaru in 2019, and the EV in 2020.

My requirements, besides not trying to see my smaller phone screen for navigation while I am driving are:

1.      A head unit with a big enough screen for me and the little 5” screens don’t do that for me.

2.      SD card and/or USB slots for my already ripped to digital music to use when on trips for no ads and no fade or searching for stations.

3.      Built-in streaming services that use the phone for the Data connection. But not all the time and for trips I want to use my already made up SD Cards with 128 GB of mp3 ripped music.

4.      Both radio and SD card capabilities because we have our music digitized and have several 256GB SD cards setup with music for each car. I like to set it to shuffle so I hear B sides of my favorite music.

5.      Good resolution for Nav.

6.      Backup camera required unless already installed in a separate screen.

I’m going to post a three YouTube videos below with two folks that own them in RVs, and their opinion and how relatively easy they are to install or have installed. I tried to pick ones that have the same price or less than Garmin units. I leave it up to you if you need want other features but the videos are RV installations, and reviews. There are lots of choices but these looked good with a search.

The takeaway last video is about Android Auto and your always up to date smartphone for connections, Nav, and media..

The first one is portable and can be used with several vehicles if you buy additional mounts. Just like a Garmin but has a bit bigger screen which can be positioned anywhere you want.

The other is a replacement head unit that goes in your dash.

"In this video I will be reviewing the Carpuride 10" wide screen wireless Android Auto & Apple Carplay device. If your vehicle is not equipped with a navigation system or bluetooth connectivity, this device will allow you to add these features to your car. With the large display, you can use navigation apps like Waze and Google map. You can also listen to your Spotify music. In this video, I will show you how to install it and pair your phone to this device."  $279.99



From seven months ago: Wireless Android Auto and Wireless Apple CarPlay with Android for under $300! Eonon Q03Pro $159.99 on Amazon




From three months ago: Latest Android Auto Review, tips and tricks! You won't believe what it can do!!!


I think we have moved beyond just phone screens and/or GPS units. Our in-dash Nav units now are way easier to use and see than our Garmins or phones alone were and came in our cars from the factory. Aftermarket head units have gotten to be as good, and not as expensive as a few years ago. Here is a video on tweaking Android Auto -

Here are the most useful settings you should change in Android Auto, both in its developer settings and the main options page.:


Safe Travels!




Edited by RV_
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  • RV_ changed the title to Android auto and head units for RV navigation and entertainment systems

I will continue to use the Garmin RV until a head unit comes along that will let me enter the height and weight of the RV so that it will route me around low overpasses or bridges that can not bear the weight. With the lifetime map updates I can keep the maps up to date. I also do not totally trust it, nor do I totally trust Google maps, so when I have my route I look it over using Google Earth or a paper map or both. 

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When we rented cars in Hawaii we used Android Auto using a USB cable from our phones for navigation.  Strangely we don't use it as often in our car, but have.  I think it is because the Ford Navigation screen shows more than we see on the same screen with Waze or Google Maps, so we navigate with the phone and keep watch where we are on the Ford screen.

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Yep different hardware head units and Apps are different. You have built in Nav on your head unit. I have not paid for that in the forester just Android Auto whoich works great on its screen. My Tesla has Nav built in and the screen is excellent for everything built in as well as Nav because it is standard in it and my connectivity in it costs about ten bucks a month for 4G Internet access. But today they all get you there.

I wrote this so RVrs could see that their phones are sufficient for Nav and for folks with Travel trailers class B, Pop Up trailers can make do with Android, as they rarely are tall enough to worry. Of course some may be today. I have no idea about iPhone navigation apps

And of course it was not until Clinton in 2000 unscrambled our GPS Satellites that we could even use GPS outside of the military, and at first they were way to expensive. We did not even have cellphones until we came off the road full-time in 2003 and became part-timers. In late 2006  I got a Garmin for work driving a 100 mile radius of the ArkLaTex. Phones had little to no navigation we knew about until after 2007 with smart phones. Heck I used mine for only music on an SD card so we had no ads, only our music, and no dead zones.

So in my experience we had no problem using an Atlas but still never trusted if a clearance looked iffy or just paved even on the bridges.

I found out you can't trust clearances posted in apps and even in person!  You still today need to be cautious on close clearances. I was cautious and snuck up on ones marked OK but close. A few with Lynn outside watching from the bridge berm so she could see if it cleared or not. We only took detours a few times and had to back up once. If mismarked and not reported to whoever monitors bridge clearances for the Nav App makers for trucks and RVs, even with RV apps you still need to be aware.

"Pay Attention But That Sign May Be Old

When you see a clearance sign, don’t ignore them. They are there for a reason and that is to protect you and your transport from harm. And because those signs may not have been updated after the last repaving job, take six inches off the clearance level. That’s SIX INCHES LOWER than what the sign declares.

Also, note that various bridges have different clearance signs for different parts of the bridges. The middle of the bridge usually has the highest clearance level, but in mountainous areas it may be one side or the other. Go with the highest clearance area for your safety.

If there is a bridge that you’ll just barely fit under and you don’t have any other option, go SLOW. Take a deep breath and move like a sloth under that bridge. By going slowly you’ll avoid unexpected bounces from uneven road surfaces that might have you grazing or hitting your roof. And don’t be surprised if you do have to back out and find a different route. Be prepared with safety equipment such as flares, neon triangles, etc., if you get stuck even before reaching the bridge. You may need extra notice to other drivers that you need to back your way out of potential disaster.

Bottom Line

Any damage you incur, will be your fault. Unfortunately, that’s the reality. The authorities won’t care about your excuses if you hit a bridge. Your RV’s height comes with special responsibilities."   https://www.roamingtimes.com/2017/04/23/rv-height-clearance-tips/#:~:text=The Federal Highway Administration sets bridge clearances at,However%2C remember that states have their own restrictions.

So we slowed or stopped to check out any iffy clearances. But at most places that allow RV parking there was never an issue like in National parks with some exceptions on secondary park roads. We never had smart phones when we were full-time 1997- 2003 because Apple and Android smart phones came out ~ 2007. We had no smart phones or GPS because the GPS satellites were still scrambled by the government in 1997 when we started out. So we planned our trips the day before on paper and Lynn had our giant Rand McNally Road Atlas out as Navigator. (Still have it as a memento our routes are marked on it) Back in those days we had CB radios (KAAY7082 The Connecticut Yankee) and they were SSB units in case of an emergency on the back roads of Alaska etc to shoot skip. 

However on major highways and in cities where there are semis we relaxed a bit with them.

Then from 2004/2008 with a short break in the middle we used Garmins and bought the lifetime updates but for some reason the updates became too big and failed a lot or stopped working so we got into Google navigation apps finally ~ 2010 to date.

Early on I found out that in some cases the folks who pave roads forgot to report the changes in clearance when they put a 4 inch layer of new asphalt. So being 13' tall to the top of our Maxxair Vent covers so we decided later with our two smaller rigs we never went back to them. 

I just don't trust the reporting system for secondary roads. We weighed ~ 12.2-12.5k pounds so would pay attention to bridge weights except on highways.

Our phones are three and one year old so we never have issues just plugging them in when using the Subaru. But the Subaru has a hitch for small trailers but can't tow anything more than a teardrop ~ 1200 pounds or less. I have no hitch on the Tesla.

Conclusion, if your RV is smaller you still need to measure your clearance on the RV. For newbys here is how you do it in a 44 second video:


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