Hey all! It's been a while since someone posted any vehicle install pics in this forum, so I thought I'd catch you all up on a little project of mine. I started it earlier this year, but now have it almost completed. Some of this was previously posted on another forum, so I apologize in advance if something doesn't make sense or seems out of context. I'll fill in any gaps, and answer any questions you may have.
I started with a car dock for my phone attached to a Bracketron mount. I'll be able to tether the phone's internet access with the Android tablet I'll be using as a head unit.
I'm going to be using a rooted Nook Color, and in order to fit it in place, I needed to move the HVAC controls. After pulling the center bezel off and looking around, it appeared that the controls could be moved down after a little cutting and duct modification. Here is the end result after fabbing a pair of new brackets. I've still got to make a new surround to fill the gap.
In addition to the Nook, I'm adding a Hifonics HFEQ. This will allow me fine control over the signal being sent to the amps. I can switch between inputs and use it as the main volume control.
The approximate position of the Nook...
I'm using a tablet mount from RAM, and I've got to figure out a good way to mount it. That's coming up soon!
Now one last thing. I have a bluetooth OBDII reader installed for the Nook. I reversed the plug and bent it up slightly to keep it out of the way. I'll be able to use an Android app called Torque to read all relevent Jeep data.
Update time! I needed to get the Nook mount in place, and modify the center bezel. I had a lot of options when it came to mounting, but I wanted to keep it simple, and by default reliable. If it won't take abuse, it's not worth putting in a Jeep. So, I decided to utilize my existing Quadratec iVault. It has served me well for the past year or so, and now it was getting a few more holes... The idea was to eventually make a storage compartment behind the face, and use the face itself to hold the RAM mount. Now, I do realize that nothing is ever truly safe in a Jeep, but there are times I need to stash something quickly while running in to a store. The Nook itself would likely get put in there.
So, let's start with the mods. Due to the mounting points in the RAM, I needed to move the existing iVault lock to the left. I drilled a hole, and shaped it with my Dremel. This was the result.
Now I needed to make a few holes for the RAM mount.
Now finally the mount and iVault face are bolted together.
It was time for a test fit. As you can see, it attaches nicely. Now one could argue about the aesthetics of it's spacing away from the the bezel as it is, but it works well for me. It's within easy reach, and most importantly, nothing is blocked. That was a priority here. I've seen installs where the vents are unusable, or the HVAC controls are inaccessible. That may technically work, but I couldn't live with it. There was no way I wanted to sacrifice any function just to do something cool. That's also the reason the Nook isn't more tightly integrated into the bezel. It needs to be easily removable, and make for easy maintenance should it be needed.
Now, let's take a look at the Hifonics EQ. It's very easy to use in this location, but I'm not sure the pic is doing it justice. I have to do something about the gap above it though. I can't just shove a fill plate in there and call it good. I've got to fix it the right way. You can see the hole I added for access to the iVault lock.
So, it was time to do a little cutting. I've got everything marked out and ready for the Dremel.
After the cuts...
Let's clamp that piece in place...
I cut a piece of plexi to fit behind the hole, and epoxied it in place. Once the epoxy cures, it will get smoothed out with a fiberglass reinforced Bondo.
After a few light layers of Bondo and subsequent sanding, I gave it a quick shot of primer. Here you can see the fresh primer still in the process of drying. A few more coats and it will be like glass. I dare you to say it doesn't look completely OEM.
The last thing I did was reassemble everything to triple check fitment. It all looks good, so it's on to mounting the EQ solidly, and getting a fill plate made for the HVAC. Then it's painting and final assembly!
Well, after not doing much for a week, I tried to be productive last night. I swapped cases on my Nook Color to something more appropriate for the Jeep. I still need to get some hardwiring done, and also build custom touch contacts for docking. I'm just waiting on some parts from Mouser.com.
When I last left off, I was waiting for a few parts to arrive. Once they did, I set out to make the Nook easily docked in the Jeep. A lot of the more expensive tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, make docking a breeze. Of course you have to spend nearly twice as much on the tablet to do so. That would defeat the purpose of doing this mod in the first place. Affordable and durable are 2 very important criteria here, and I've got to stick to the concept.
So, let's address the power issues first. The Nook needs to be able to be charged once it's in the cradle, and there's no way I was willing to plug/unplug in a power cord every time I wanted to take it in or out. The tablet is supposed to simplify things while bringing more features. If I can't accomplish that, then I was better off leaving a regular head unit in place. I wanted to just grab it and go.
Getting power to the Nook started with one of these. It's a micro USB plug with a board and solder points. You can see a test fit with the Nook in the cradle.
Next I had to mark out a small area that needed notching. This would allow the USB plug to seat fully in the Nook.
After the notching...
Okay, so now it was time to figure out a way to mount the plug to the cradle. I needed something simple, strong, and clean. I decided to bend some plexi and cut it to size.
Now that I had a mounting system in place, it was time to wire the plug. The method you see below allows for a USB extension cable to be added easily to the cradle.
In the next update I'll finish the power dock, and move on to a revised dash mount (I'm never satisfied!)
I've got a sneak peek at the almost finished install here. The biggest addition is stainless steel bar that now sits in front of the EQ. This bar will help protect it from bouncing and stray objects or people. The bar also serves a secondary purpose. It does a pretty good job of hiding the EQ from anyone peering in the windows when the top is on. Although I didn't get pics of the process, the bar is fastened to aluminum plates that are epoxied behind the bezel. It's pretty strong, and certainly isn't going anywhere.
It may be subtle, but you might also notice the tablet and mount are now sitting closer to the dash than in previous pics. I redesigned the mount and made it more secure while giving it a cleaner look.
With most of the work done, I'm now going to focus on a few smaller details. I'll cover that and finish this update in an upcoming post.
Touch contacts... I've mentioned them several times in the past, and now I've finally got a few pics to show you what I'm talking about. First though, my reasoning for implementing them. For it's price, the Nook Color is a brilliant piece of hardware. It's solidly built, and has a better screen than most tablets over twice it's price. The cheaper cost makes for a few missing features compared to other tablets, but when you consider this is marketed as an e-reader, it's pretty understandable. I've mentioned how I couldn't justify spending more on an Android tablet that would see some potential abuse. So, I had to get creative to overcome what the Nook was missing, particularly a docking port of some kind. If you've got to plug and unplug cables into the tablet each time you get in and out, it becomes a huge pain. You've already seen me fab a micro-usb connecter into a tablet dock. Now it was time to move on to the audio.
I've used these touch contacts from Mouser.com on other computer modding projects, and knew they would be perfect for what I'm trying to do here.
One of the most important aspects of this mod, was that I wouldn't have to change anything on the Nook itself. I wanted to leave it structurally intact. Should anything happen to the Nook, and I need to get it replaced, I won't have to redo any of my work. It also means I could sell it if I want, and not affect it's value in anyway. The Trident case I chose for the Nook is a critical part of this mod, and was bought specifically with this in mind.
Here I've found a flat, open area, and marked it for cutting.
A little time with the Dremel and a file left me with a perfect fit...
Up next, was a custom cable made from an angled 3.5mm plug and length of USB wire. (I only needed 3 conductor wire, but chose to use this due to it's increased thickness.)
Although I didn't take a picture of it, to fit the cable in the case, I drilled a small hole in one end, and used the Dremel to create a very shallow channel behind the case to route the wires to the touch contact. I soldered the wires to the contact, and put the case on the Nook.
As you can see above, the fit is excellent, and the function is even better. The case is removable without harming the Nook, and I've not compromised functionality in anyway. When the tablet is out of the Jeep, the contacts are unobtrusive, and should I need to use headphones, I can simply unplug without affecting anything.
Up next, the dock will get some contacts of it's own...
As promised, the dock now has contacts. It couldn't have been simpler. I cut a rectangle to fit the touch contacts, epoxied it in place from the back, and soldered on a 3.5mm plug. The dock was reinstalled in the dash, and I was done!
So, what now? We'll I plan on taking some video of how easy it is to dock, and some of the tablet's basic features. That should give you some idea of how well things really work together, and why I really love this setup.
Thanks! It is very solid, and a great solution overall for a vehicle like the Wrangler. Any other vehicle and I would have integrated it into the dash itself. It didn't make sense to do that here, but I wanted to make sure it was more custom than 'just throwing a dock on the dash.'
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