Hardware Software

How do I play music using the SD card reader in a VW Golf?

VW Golf
Golf break: listen to MP3s in your car (Image by cono1 from Pixabay)

For the past few years, I’ve been staring at the SD card reader in my VW Golf (2011) and thinking I must get round to putting my MP3 collection in the car. This morning I finally did it. If you want to transfer your music collection to the car, here’s how to do it – and some of the pitfalls to watch for.

To listen to your music collection in the car, you’re going to need the following:

  • An empty SD card (you’ll likely need a 16GB card or larger to house a decent collection)
  • Your music stored in MP3 format
  • An SD card reader in the car’s entertainment system (mine is positioned just below the screen in the centre console)

The second of these has proved a bit of a gotcha for my collection. Because most of my CDs were ripped in the iPod/iTunes era, they were in Apple’s AAC (.m4a) format. That means they don’t work on my 2011 vintage VW Golf, which only wants to play MP3s.

The good news is that you have a mixed collection of formats (as I have), the Golf will simply ignore any files stored in other formats and still let you play the MP3s. There are also all sorts of tools that will allow you to convert unprotected AAC to MP3 – I’ll probably come back to this at a later date. Probably.

To transfer your music collection to the SD card, pop the card into the computer where your music is housed – you might need a USB card adapter if your computer doesn’t have an SD card reader slot. Go into Windows Explorer or Finder on the Mac and then open the SD card location, and make sure to delete any files that might still be lingering on the card. Now find your music collection (in a separate Windows Explorer/Finder window) and simply drag it onto the SD card. This won’t move the collection from where it’s stored on your computer – it will simply make a copy on the SD card. Depending on the size of the collection (mine was 21GB), this may take some time.

Once your music collection has finished copying to the SD card, make sure you properly eject the card before removing it from the PC/Mac. On a PC, right-click on the card’s name in Windows Explorer and click Eject. On a Mac, click the Eject icon that appears alongside the card’s name in Finder.

How to play music from the SD card

The card reader slot is positioned just below the screen in my VW Golf, as shown below (yes, the car needs a valet).

Pop the card into the reader and it will start playing music automatically. However, it plays the songs in alphabetical order of the artist.

That’s probably not what you want to happen. To find the artist/album/track of your choice, you have to press the ‘Selection’ button in the bottom-right corner of the touchscreen. You can then navigate through the list of artists/albums by clicking on the little file icon in the top-left corner, using the scroll menu to select what you what want.

Happy listening.

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.


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  • Just followed your comments exactly, all my music is now on the 32gb SD card.
    But as soon as I put it into the card slot on my Golf it reads every track on it then says “SD card not readable?”

  • Which type of sd card should I use for Jetta 2014 whether Sdxc or Sdhc and how much storage is sufficient 32 or 64gb