The Ultimate Guide to Ford SYNCLast Updated August 8, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
The Ford SYNC infotainment system allows users to make hands-free calls, stream music, and text while driving (safely of course). First designed by Microsoft, and sometimes called Microsoft SYNC, this system is mostly intuitive once you know the basics. When used effectively, SYNC makes your driving experience safer and more entertaining.
This guide will walk you through how to set up and use your SYNC system. It covers vehicles that have the SYNC, SYNC with MyFord, and SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation systems. We also have guides for SYNC with MyFord Touch, SYNC 3, and SYNC 4 and 4A. If you aren’t sure which system your car has, you can find out by using our SYNC versions guide.
SYNC’s primary function is to make your phone accessible without creating a driving distraction. To that end, it makes things like calling someone as hands-free as possible. Additionally, SYNC helps you operate many non-phone features, like your radio.
There are several versions of the first SYNC generation. These include SYNC with MyFord and SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation. Each of these systems is a little bit different.
SYNC with MyFord has an upgraded screen. Instead of the standard two-line display, it features a 4.2” color display. You’ll also find a similar setup to this in new Ford vehicles with the base SYNC option. SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation includes an even better display and several premium features, like navigation and Sirius radio.
Regardless of which version you have, the first step to using SYNC is pairing it with your phone.
- Hands-Free Calling with Caller ID and Conference Calling
- Bluetooth Media Streaming
- 911 Assist
How to Pair Your Phone with Ford SYNC
To get started with SYNC, you need to pair your Bluetooth-enabled phone. You should only need to go through this process once per phone.
- Turn your phone on and start your vehicle.
- Enable Bluetooth in your phone settings and make sure the phone is discoverable.
- On the SYNC system, hit the phone button.
- Select “Add a device.”
- SYNC will prompt you to select “Okay” to begin pairing.
- Search for SYNC on your phone and enter the PIN SYNC provides. It will be a six-digit number.
- SYNC will then guide you through more set-up options for your phone preferences.
Once you exit, your phone and SYNC will be paired. Now, you can start exploring the features of SYNC.
Can You Use SYNC without a Phone?
Most of SYNC’s features rely on having a phone connected. Obviously, you can’t make calls or listen to texts without your phone.
But you can still control your radio with voice commands, and you can access media via USB or Bluetooth. So, if you happen to have an old-fashioned iPod housing your music, that will still work.
How to Control the SYNC System
SYNC operates through voice commands or buttons. It’s helpful to be familiar with both, so you’re prepared in all circumstances.
On your steering wheel, you’ll find buttons that allow you to control most of the SYNC functions. These are helpful for when you can’t remember the right voice command or aren’t able to speak for whatever reason.
Each of these buttons will be represented by either a word or an icon.
On your center console, you’ll have a couple more buttons. You already used your Phone button to pair your Bluetooth phone. It also can be used to download your contact list and adjust your Bluetooth and 911 Assist settings.
The Media button scrolls through music on your connected media source.
You can also control your SYNC system with your voice. This is not only a convenient option but also a safer one. After all, two hands on the wheel is better than one. Most of the commands are fairly intuitive once you’ve grasped the general pattern.
We’ve included tables in the phone, music, and navigation sections below that contain the relevant voice commands for those features.
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How to Use Hands-Free Calling and Texting
Hands-free calling and texting is one of the most important features of SYNC. It offers the convenience of being in constant contact without the distraction that goes along with it. To take advantage of this feature though, you’ll have to go through some setup first.
Transferring Your Contacts to SYNC
To use voice commands without memorizing anyone’s number, you’ll need to transfer your contacts from your phone to your SYNC system.
- Make sure your phone and SYNC are paired.
- Select the Phone button on SYNC to get to your phone menu.
- Scroll down until you see Phone Settings, then select it.
- In the Phone Settings menu, you’ll find an option for Phonebook Pref.
- Once you’ve selected that, there will be an option for auto-download.
- Select “Download Now” and wait while the phonebook downloads.
When it’s finished, SYNC will display “Phonebook Downloaded” across the screen.
Turning on Automatic Contact Downloads
Once you’ve paired your phone and transferred your phonebook, SYNC will ask if you want to turn on the automatic download feature. This will ensure your SYNC system stays up-to-date with any new numbers you add to your phone. If you want, go ahead and select “Yes.”
You can also access this option again from the Phonebook Preferences menu.
You can store up to 2,000 entries in your contacts, so there’s really no reason not to select automatic contact downloads. It’ll only save you time later.
How to Listen and Reply to Text Messages with SYNC
If you’re just interested in the text reading and reply features of SYNC, you don’t need to download your phonebook to use them. You can begin taking advantage of this feature as soon as your phone is paired.
- Make sure you have your text notifications on.
- When a text message comes in, you’ll hear an alert and a message will show on your center console.
- Press the voice button and say “Read Text Message.” SYNC will then read the message out loud.
Reply by selecting one of the preset messages on the center console screen. These include such favorites as “I’m on my way,” “Stuck in traffic,” and “lol.”
For more complex answers, you’ll need to park and use the radio controls to send a text. But at that point you may as well use your phone instead.
How to Enable 911 Assist
If you’re involved in an accident where airbags are deployed, it’s possible you won’t feel up to calling 911 right away. 911 assist uses your paired phone to place a call to the nearest 911. SYNC then shares details of the accident with the operator to get you the help you need as quickly as possible.
911 Assist is set to “OFF” when you first get your vehicle. That means to take advantage of this service, you first need to turn it on. You can do that by pairing your phone and following these steps:
- Press the menu button.
- Select SYNC Apps.
- Find and select 911 Assist.
- Select “On” from this screen to enable 911 Assist. To disable it in the future, select “Off.”
If you choose to turn 911 Assist off, you’ll be prompted to turn on a voice reminder. This reminder will alert you that 911 Assist is off every time you power up your vehicle.
Phone Voice Commands
One important tip for using voice commands is to pause to give the system time to process your request. So, instead of saying, “CallJohn” really fast, you’ll want to say, “Call,” (pause) “John.”
|Call [Contact Name]||Calls named contact|
|Phone > Dial [#] > Dial||Calls number|
|Phonebook > [Name]||Displays phonebook entry|
|Phone > Call History||Displays full call history|
|Phone > Call History > Missed||Displays missed call history|
|Phone > Connections||Displays phone connections menu|
|Phone > Connections > Bluetooth [On/Off]||Allows you to turn your phone’s Bluetooth feature on or off|
|Phone > Connections > Connect [Phone]||Allows you to connect another named phone to SYNC|
|Phone > Connections > Delete [Phone]||Allows you to delete the pairing to a phone|
|Phone Menu > Phone Name||Displays phone name on SYNC display|
|Phone Menu > Setting Set Ringer Off||Turns ringer off|
|Phone Menu > Setting Set Ringer On||Turns ringer on|
|Phone Menu > Setting Set Ringer [1,2,3]||Changes SYNC ringtone|
|Phone Menu > Battery||Check battery level|
|Phone Menu > Signal||Check signal strength|
|Mobile Applications||Launch mobile applications via SYNC AppLink|
|Go to Privacy||Switches audio from car speakers to phone|
|Hold Call [On/Off]||Puts a call on hold or picks up the call|
|Mute Call On||Mutes a phone call|
|Unmute Call||Unmutes a phone call|
|Join Calls||Allows incoming call to join a phone call already in progress|
|Phone Menu > Phone Setting Message Notification [On/Off]||Lets you turn on or off notifications|
|Read Message||Reads text message|
How to Play Music and Other Audio with SYNC
Though SYNC has a lot of options related to productivity and safety, entertainment is also important. SYNC offers a few ways of accessing your favorite music, podcasts, and more.
- AM/FM Radio
- Bluetooth Streaming
- USB-Connected Devices
- SYNC AppLink
- CD Player (Option)
- SiriusXM Radio (Option)
Obviously, AM and FM radio is standard. Depending on your vehicle model, CDs may also be an option. With a Bluetooth-enabled phone, you can stream from your favorite app, whether that’s books on Audible or music and podcasts on Spotify. USB options include media players, like iPods, or flash drives loaded with your favorite tunes.
SYNC AppLink allows you to access select smartphone apps using voice commands. Some of these apps include Pandora, Spotify, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio, but new apps are being added continuously.
If you have SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation, you also have the option of listening to SiriusXM.
Voice Commands for SYNC Entertainment
To change your input for playing music or other media, select one of the following options. You can select manually by scrolling through the media options, use the media button on the steering wheel, or hit the voice button and state the source you’d like.
- USB 2
- Bluetooth Audio
|Help||Calls named contact||Calls named contact|
|Play All||Plays all songs from device||USB|
|Play Track||Plays a particular song||USB|
|Play Artist||Plays all tracks by an artist||USB|
|Play Genre||Plays all tracks in a genre||USB|
|Play Album||Plays all tracks from an album||USB|
|Play Playlist||Plays tracks from a playlist||USB|
|Play Previous/Next Track||Skips to previous or next track||USB/Bluetooth|
|Repeat On or Repeat Off||Turns repeat on or off||USB/Bluetooth|
|Shuffle On or Shuffle Off||Turns shuffle on or off||USB/Bluetooth|
|Similar Music||Plays similar music||USB/Bluetooth|
|What’s This?||Hear the title and artist of the current track||USB|
|AM||Tune to AM frequency||Radio|
|AM 1||Access AM 1 preset menu||Radio|
|AM 2||Access AM 2 preset menu||Radio|
|AM [530-1710]||Direct tune to an AM station||Radio|
|AM Preset [#]||Tunes to an AM preset||Radio|
|AM 2 Preset [#]||Tunes to an AM 2 preset||Radio|
|FM||Tune to FM frequency||Radio|
|FM [87.7-107.9]||Direct-tune to FM station||Radio|
|FM 1||Access FM 1 preset menu||Radio|
|FM 2||Access FM 2 preset menu||Radio|
|FM Preset [#]||Tune to FM preset||Radio|
|HD [1-7]||Tune to HD channel||Radio|
|Preset [#]||Tune to preset selection||Radio|
|Mobile Apps||You’ll be prompted to say an app||SYNC AppLink|
|List Mobile Apps||Lists all available mobile apps||SYNC AppLink|
|Name of App||Starts the named app||SYNC AppLink|
Ford SYNC Navigation
SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation was a premium upgrade available on select vehicles. The base SYNC versions and SYNC with MyFord do not have built-in navigation. If your setup doesn't look similar to the one pictured below, you can skip ahead to the next section.
Adjusting the Navigation System’s Volume
If you want to turn turn the volume of the navigation system down, or mute the voice altogether, there are several ways to go about it.
Method 1: To adjust the volume of your SYNC navigation system, wait until the unit begins speaking. Then use the volume knob or controls to turn the volume up or down.
Method 2: To mute the navigation commands, you can press the voice button and then say “Navigation voice guidance off.” To turn voice guidance back on, just say “Navigation voice guidance on.”
Method 3: You can also adjust the volume through the touchscreen controls. From there, select navigation and then settings. In navigation preferences, you’ll find an option called “guidance mute.”
Updating SYNC Navigation Maps
Ford updates their navigation maps every year. Whether or not you need to update your maps that often is up to you.
In order to update your system’s maps, you’ll need to visit the Ford Map Update site. From there, select your vehicle from the drop-down menu and a list of available maps will show up.
While later SYNC versions have SD card maps available, SYNC with Voice-Activated Navigation systems use a series of discs. Thankfully, these discs come with an install guide to walk you through the whole process.
You will have to pay for the map updates, but the cost varies depending on your vehicle’s year and model.
Navigation Voice Commands
As with the phone or music commands, be sure to pause to give SYNC time to process your request. The “>” symbols in the table below represent natural places to pause during each command.
|Navigation > Voice Guidance On||Turns voice guidance on|
|Navigation > Voice Guidance Off||Turns voice guidance off|
|Destination Address > [Address]||Plots directions to that address|
|Destination Intersection||Gives you directions to an intersection|
|Destination P.O.I. > *Follow Prompts* > Name > [Name]||Takes you to a point of interest (like a restaurant) when you know the name|
|Destination P.O.I. > *Follow Prompts* > Category > [Category]||Takes you to a point of interest when you don’t know the name (like a fuel station)|
|Destination Nearest P.O.I [Category] > *Follow Prompts*||Takes you the nearest point of interest within a category|
|I’m Hungry||Gives you directions to restaurants|
|Destination Home||Gives you directions to your home address from your current location|
|Destination Work||Give you directions to your work address from your current location|
|Destination Favorites > *Follow Prompts*||Get directions to a preset favorite destination|
|Destination [Name]||Get directions to a named destination|
|Navigation > Play Nametags||Hear all the available named destinations|
|Destination Previous Destination > *Follow Prompts*||Get directions to a destination you went to previously|
|Navigation > Show Map||Shows map on the touchscreen|
|Navigation > Show Heading Up||Show current vehicle heading at top of map|
|Navigation > Show North Up||Shows north at top of map|
|Navigation > Zoom In||Zooms map in|
|Navigation > Zoom Out||Zooms map out|
|Navigation > Zoom In Minimum||Zooms map in as close as possible|
|Navigation > Zoom Out Maximum||Zooms map out as far as possible|
|Navigation > Zoom Street||Zoom to street level|
|Navigation > Zoom City||Zoom to city level|
|Navigation > Zoom State||Zoom to state level|
|Navigation > Zoom Country||Zooms to country level|
|Navigation > Zoom to [Distance]||Zooms to a specific elevation|
|Navigation > Show Destination||Shows destination on the map|
|Navigation > Help||Hear navigation commands|
|Navigation > List of Commands||Display navigation commands|
|Navigation > Show Next Waypoint||Shows the next waypoint on the map|
|Navigation > Cancel Next Waypoint||Cancels the next waypoint|
|Navigation > Show Route||Shows the entire route on the map|
|Navigation > Detour||Changes the route|
|Navigation > Cancel Route||Ends navigation|
|Navigation > Show Turn List||Shows directions in a list on the touchscreen beside the map|
|Navigation > Voice Volume Decrease||Lowers the volume of the navigation voice|
|Navigation > Voice Volume Increase||Raises the volume of the navigation voice|
|Navigation > Repeat Instruction||Plays the upcoming turn instruction again|
Ford SYNC Updates
It’s a good idea to make sure your SYNC software is up to date. To check, you can go to Ford’s SYNC update page and plug in your VIN number. If you set up a Ford owner account, your VIN will be saved the next time you want to check.
If there’s a software update available, you’ll see a notification.
For SYNC systems, you have the option to take your ride into a dealer for the update or install it yourself using a USB drive. Most of the time, doing it yourself is easy.
How to Download SYNC Updates
Before you get started, make sure you have a USB drive with at least 2GB of free space for the update files. The drive should also be empty, so make sure you move any other files over to your computer and delete them from the USB.
- Download the update file from Ford’s SYNC update page.
- Extract or unzip the dowload file to your USB drive. You can also extract them on your computer and then drag the files onto your USB drive.
- Eject the drive from your computer.
- Turn on your vehicle and your radio.
- Make sure your phone is disconnected from the system. Then, plug the flash drive into your car’s USB port.
- Press the phone button.
- Select “Return.”
- On the next menu, select “Advanced.”
- Select the option to install the application. SYNC will detect the files on your USB drive and ask if you’d like to install it.
- Once you’ve hit okay, SYNC will let you know that your download is in progress. This step takes about ten minutes. SYNC won’t recognize your devices until the install is complete.
- 10 minutes after that, you’ll see a message that says “installation complete.” The system will then reboot.
- Once you see the “Installation complete” message, you can press “menu” to exit. Once that’s completed, remove your USB drive.
- Pair your phone again after the update.
How to Report a Successful SYNC Update
Once a new SYNC version has been installed, you should report the installation to Ford. This doesn’t really do a whole lot for you or your car, but it does show Ford that people are still using your SYNC system and still want updates for it.
- Plug your USB drive back into your computer.
- Go to Ford’s SYNC USB update page and scroll down to "Step Three: Confirm Update."
- Click on the button to "Browse for log file."
- Select the XML log file in the SyncMyRide folder on your USB drive.
- Confirm your file selection to finish reporting the update.
Over time, you may notice that your SYNC system and phone aren’t connecting quite as well as they used to. This can cause lagging and random disconnections. Here are a few things you can try if you’re having connection issues.
Re-Pair Your Phone with SYNC
The first thing to try is turning your car off and then on again. If that doesn’t work, try doing the same thing with your phone. If they still aren’t pairing correctly, then you may want to start fresh with a new pairing. To do this, you’ll need to delete your phone’s existing connection.
- Press the Phone button.
- Scroll to “System Settings” and hit “OK.”
- Select the option for “Delete Device.”
- Choose your phone from the list of devices to be deleted.
- Delete SYNC from your devices list In your phone’s Bluetooth menu.
- Pair your phone to SYNC once again like you did the first time.
Perform a Master Reset
If unpairing and pairing your phone does not fix the problem, it might be time for a SYNC master reset.
- Delete SYNC from your device’s list in your phone’s Bluetooth menu.
- In the SYNC system, use the arrows or seek buttons until “Return” appears on the screen.
- Select “Return” and then scroll through the options till you get to “Advanced.”
- In the Advanced menu, you’ll find the option for “Master Reset.”
- Select “Master Reset” to change the system back to its original factory settings.
Just be aware that everything you’ve saved in SYNC will be erased, including your contacts and recent navigation points.
Discontinued SYNC Services
If you’re looking through your owner’s manual, or reading about SYNC online, you may come across some additional features. Unfortunately, a few of these have been discontinued, and are no longer supported.
For a short time, SYNC Services was available as a subscription service. It cost $60 a year and allowed you to ask your SYNC system for news updates or sports scores. It also offered turn-by-turn directions.
SYNC Services was discontinued in 2018.
Vehicle Health Report
SYNC also used to support vehicle health reports. These were provided on 2008-2016 Ford models that were equipped with SYNC. Basically, it offered a quick analysis of some of the more common aspects of vehicle upkeep. These included things like oil life, mileage, and engine status.
This service was discontinued in 2018. Ford now encourages owners to visit their Ford dealer for a Vehicle Health Report.
Getting the Most Out of Basic and Early SYNC Versions
Looking through Ford SYNC’s features can seem overwhelming at first. In reality, most people only use a handful of them. Once you’ve found the features you use the most, you’ll quickly become used to the controls.
Ford’s infotainment system is designed to make your vehicle feel custom-tailored to you. By making sure you set it up correctly and learning the voice commands, you’ll have an easier time getting the most out of your system.