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Gear: How a rental car can become a hands-free experience

No hands-free Bluetooth in your car? This Kinivo kit can transform nearly any vehicle -- even a rental

If your rental car doesn't have hands-free connectivity, consider Kinivo’s simple plug-in upgrade, which lets you stream music, listen to navigational directions, receive phone calls and use voice commands by way of your mobile device and the car’s speakers.

The car's stereo must have an AUX input audio jack (common as of 2006), and your mobile device must be Bluetooth enabled.

The Kinivo “command center” is a 1 1/2-inch-diameter disk-shaped push-button device. It plugs into the car's power outlet.

With the cables hooked up and the car stereo set to AUX, the Kinivo disk will automatically go into pairing mode when your car starts, blue and red LEDs flashing. Pair your phone and you're good to go, once you have familiarized yourself with the disk's multiple push-button functions.

These include answering and ending phone calls, activating voice commands (if available on the phone), playing and pausing music (either stored on the phone or from an online service, such as Pandora), and, if desired, pairing one additional electronic device.

Two small buttons on the side of the control disk let you skip forward or back between song tracks. Volume is adjusted using the car stereo and/or phone controls.

The sound quality, as with all such devices, will depend on your speakers, your phone and the quirks of reception and transmission.

Info: Kinivo BTC455 Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Kit costs $49.99.

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