May 23, 2017

∴ Getting my iPad Off my Lap in the Car

Here’s a useful, easy project that took all of a half-hour to complete, and yielded a handy car mount for my iPad.

We use an iPad for navigation when Kelly and I take to the road. Whichever one of us isn’t driving has Waze running for traffic updates, ETA, and the occasional peek at a weather radar, social media, and email. The downside is that one of us winds up with an iPad in their lap for the trip.

I use Waze on my daily commute, too. It’s saved me from waiting through more than a few traffic jams. Until recently, though, I’ve used it on my iPhone mounted under the rearview mirror. That works ok, but the small screen makes it difficult to see much further ahead.

Installed tablet tray

I bought a floor-mounted tablet tray to resolve these shortcomings. The idea is simple enough – a long, flexible connecting rod with a foot on one end and a spring-loaded tablet mount on the other – but the installation depends on the vehicle it’s going into.

I was wary about how much room this arrangement would take up, how imposing it would be on the passenger, and how sturdy it would prove. We were about to set out for Galveston, Texas, for a cruise – perfect test case!

The tablet mount I chose is made by Arkon, and sold on Amazon. It has an open-foot mounting bracket at the bottom and a swivel-mounted, spring loaded tray at top. The long rod connecting the two is 18-inches of aluminum and takes a little elbow grease to bend to the right shape, ensuring a sturdy mount with a tablet attached. They also make a 22-inch model, for vehicles with a taller center console.

Installation was easy. The kit comes with a bracket and screws if attachment to the floor pan or center console is necessary. In my case, though, my first effort was to locate the front-left bolt securing the passenger seat rail to the floor. There are usually four such bolts, one at each corner of the seat. The bolt was exposed in the car we were driving to Texas, which made installation a snap. I later moved the tablet mount to my car, where a trim piece had to be removed to gain access to the bolt.

Open-toe foot bolted into place

A ratchet and socket had the bolt and washer backed out a quarter-inch in a few seconds, enough to slip the open-toe mounting bracket under the washer. I hand-tightened the bolt, then went about bending the connecting rod.

I put a bend in the bottom to bring the rod up against the center console, and another at the very top to allow the tray more tilt toward the driver. I wanted the iPad to directly face the driver to eliminate reflected glare coming in through the windshield.

I put one more bend at the bottom, tilting the tray toward the front console as far as I could without interfering with any controls. A little more tweaking of the bend near the top had the iPad right where I wanted it.

Removing the entire mount once I hade the basic shape, I gave the foot a little more bend toward the driver so the flexible connecting rod would lay more firmly against the center console. Re-mounting it, I secured the bolt with the ratchet and socket.

Mounted unit with power cable attached

One last detail: power. I have a two-port USB power adapter that plugs into the twelve-volt accessory socket, with an Apple Lightning cable. Using a single-hole punch I put a small hole about a half-inch from either end of the flexible covering that slides over the connecting rod, facing about halfway between the driver and the rear of the car. I popped the small Lightning connector end of the cable into one hole near the foot of the installation, threaded it up through the flexible covering and popped it back out the hole near the tray. I drew out enough cable to make a strain-free loop into the edge of my iPad, leaving the rest neatly looped alongside the center console.

The result is a mildly obtrusive plastic tray laying close to the front console, but out of the way of the passenger’s legs. The electrical connection is tucked neatly away, particularly with a tablet installed.

Our trip to Galveston proved the tablet mount a handy addition to the vehicle. We were able to use Waze much easier on the iPad’s larger display. The tray swivels and turns, so the passenger (we swapped back and forth several times each day to avoid fatigue) was able to use the tablet for mail, browsing, and texting, as well. Vibration at the top of the mount was minimal due to the passenger seat pressing against the connecting rod.

INstallation complete with passenger seat pulled into normal position

I’ve since transferred the tablet mount to my car for my daily commute. Using the tablet for Waze in this position is no more a distraction than changing the radio station, and given Waze’s voice warnings, a glance down is all that’s needed to verify traffic or road trouble ahead.

This was a simple, inexpensive project that’s proven useful. It’ll be unbolted and moved to my next car when that day comes.

#tablet #tray #car #mount #iPad #project

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