Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Dashboard Accessory Mount

Just a couple of miles on a washboard road is all you need to convince yourself that you want all your dashboard accessories firmly mounted and easily visible.  I have gone through a significant number of phone and tablet mounts that either vibrated terribly, or just failed to hold on to the items in question.  After a couple of iterations, I finally solved the problem in our Astro van by just bolting a length of T-track to the dashboard

This had enough space for phone, tablet, and Garmin inReach mini, and easy to move things around and reconfigure.

The worst part about driving the new rig home from Arkansas was that there was no easy place to keep my phone within view for navigation and podcast control - so I knew I wanted something similar.

After 13 years with the Astro van and the absolutely abysmal aftermarket support - meaning everything had to be custom-made, I'm getting addicted to the whole idea of just being able to buy model-specific accessories off the shelf.  To whit, I grabbed an F-series Dash Mount from Builtright Industries. Once it hand, it looked like it would fit the dash-top tray really well, but that meant it was a little narrower than I needed. The slotted holes looked like they'd give a little bit of adjustment, but I figured getting a wrench onto the underside of the thing for tightening stuff down would be nigh on impossible once it was mounted on the dash.

(stock photo from Builtright)

As it happens, I had some T-slot leftover from the Astro, and figured the two would combine Voltron-style in just the way I needed.

I also have a pathological aversion to having USB cables draped all over the dash, so I picked up a dual 12v outlet tent and got to work pulling cables to an unused slot in the factory fusebox. Given how fast mobile device charging technology moves, I still prefer to just wire-in dedicated 12v sockets and then use good quality low-profile USB adapters, rather than hard-wiring in USB power. This gives me a lot more flexibility if/when I come across something that uses a weird adapter or the cellphone world develops yet another competing charging standard.

The Ford's dash tray pops out, which makes it easy to create all the necessary holes.

The extra width on the T-slot makes it easier to fit everything in with a tablet - I left a small gap on the left side just big enough to slide the 1/4-20 hex head bolts in and out, just in case I want to reconfigure later.

Everything fits nice and low into the tray and onto the dash. I'm still sorting through my USB cables to get all the nice short lengths to get everything wired up without any wasted slack.

It's hard to photograph, but even as short as I am, from the driving position, none of this protrudes into my view of the road except for the tip of the inReach antenna. I also picked up a new Wireless-charging RAM mount for my phone.

Long term, that RAM mount with wireless charging pad turned out to be hot garbage.  The spring was overly tight, so it required two hands to get the phone in place.  Worse, the alignment of the charging pad was a bad fit for both my Pixel 5 and Pixel 7 phones, so it rarely was keeping my phone charged when using navigation.  

I have since swapped to using a Takform motorcycle phone mount, with the same 1" ball scheme as the RAM mounts.  It works well in both portrait and landscape modes (though some Android Auto apps go a bit wonky in landscape), and holds the phone very securely.  The only drawback is having to plug the USB-C cable in.  Like a chump.

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