Introduction: Make a $2 Adjustable Smartphone Car Mount in 10 Minutes

Picture of Make a $2 Adjustable Smartphone Car Mount in 10 Minutes

Do you ever wander the aisles at store after store looking for just the right thing to hold your phone/GPS/mobile device while you're driving?  There are tons of these on the market but I've never managed to find one that worked in my oddly shaped Scion XB.  In California you can't mount anything to the window, and my window is far out of reach anyway.  Belkin makes a charger/mount that goes in the cigarette lighter but that puts the phone by my knee - definitely unsafe for driving.  Giant bean bag sliding around the top of the dashboard seems like a silly waste of space.  Some "cradles" are ridiculously larger than the device you're trying to hold.  Suction cups pop off at the most inopportune times. And who wants to put glue or holes in you car?

Luckily for me, the original (super boxy) XB has an assortment of odd "spaces" in the dash.  These make a perfect place to attach a rock solid, quick and dirty $2 mount that'll take less than 10 minutes to make from stuff you likely already have around the house.  This mount is adjustable and easily completely moveable/removable without harming your car in any way.  It can also be adapted to any hold any mobile device that weighs about one pound or less.

Note:PLEASE ALWAYS DRIVE SAFELY.  My mount works perfectly for me.  Your mileage may vary.
Do not attempt to use this mount if it in any way impedes your ability to drive with total concentration on the road or if it's use would be illegal in your location.  
The way mine is positioned it does not block my view of the road at all but is right at my fingertips and close enough to the windshield that I can keep my eyes on the road at all times.

Step 1: Locate a Suitable Mounting Location in Your Car

Picture of Locate a Suitable Mounting Location in Your Car

Go to your car.  Take a look at the dash.  See if you have any goofy vacant spaces like mine.
They should ideally be no at least 1" but no more than 2" tall and at least that deep.  3-4" wide will suffice.

Make sure that the spot you choose is well clear of the steering wheel, vents and any critical controls. We don't want to create a driving hazard! 
Take some measurements from this spot to where you'd ideally like to place your mobile device so you'll have an idea what size parts to buy.  I chose the center of the long upper space in the pic.

If you have no such spaces then I'm afraid this 'ible most likely won't work for you.
But if you do, hurray!, read on.

Step 2: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials

Get thee to the plumbing section of your hardware store and buy (if you don't already have):
  1.  a 1/2" PVC Tee coupling - make sure that the center opening is threaded.  The other two don't matter.
  2.  a 1/2" PVC Street Elbow - it should have male threads at one end and female threads at the other.
  3.  a 1/2" PVC Nipple of whatever length will suit your car/height/posture.  This is basically a tube male threaded at both ends.  They're super cheap, about 50 cents so if you're not sure just get a few different lengths so you can experiment.  I'm 5'9", slouch slightly when I drive and the 7" nipple is just exactly perfect for me.  You'll also be able to make height adjustments in step 4.

Test screw all three of these together before you leave the store to make sure they all have the same threading and fit together!  If you care about aesthetics try to match the interior of your car.  Mine is black, black, black so I chose the black and dark gray parts where available.  You can of course paint the final product or bedeck it with ribbons, jewels and decoupage if you so wish.  

If you feel like going for a super-heavy-duty-manly look then feel free to use 3/4" or 1" fittings instead.  For a steam punk flair try copper fittings.  Just make sure all the threading matches.

You will also need:  
  4. heavy duty plastic coated wire (I had "multipurpose wire" lying around, not marked but seems to be about 14-16 gauge)  
  5. adhesive backed craft foam - half a sheet or so should do it for a Scion XB.  Use whatever color makes you happy.  I happened to have a bit of red, it looks silly but cost nothing.

  either scissors or an X-acto knife and straight edge
  needlenose pliers with wire cutter jaws

Step 3: Fit the The Anchor

Picture of Fit the The Anchor

The PVC Tee is the anchor of the whole contraption. You will wedge it into the chosen mysterious space in your dashboard.   Sheet "craft foam" is perfect as it is a dense foam that will compress slightly and allow you to achieve a snug fit.  If you don't have the self adhesive variety you can use regular sheet foam but you'll need some double stick tape or foam adhesive.

Measure the length of the arms of your TEE and cut strips of craft foam to that width.  
I needed 6 total strips 3/4" wide cut off the 11" side of the craft foam to achieve a snug fit.
Peel off the backing paper and wrap an equal number of strips around each of the opposite ends of the PVC TEE (adhesive side to the PVC).  I used 3 strips per side.  Press the foam firmly as you go to get a nice clean finish.
It will look like a funky little cannon when you're done.

Step 4: Attach the Other PVC Parts

Picture of Attach the Other PVC Parts

 Thread the street elbow into the foam-free middle tee:  I tightened mine up till it was just snug but not all the way down.  This allows me to adjust the arm once its in place and easily take the whole thing apart whenever I want.

Thread the nipple into the street elbow: same deal, just till it's snug is easier for me but you can tighten this one as much as you wish.

Step 5: Fashion a Cradle for Your Device

Picture of Fashion a Cradle for Your Device

This is where the plastic coated wire comes in.  If you don't like your device for some reason feel free to use regular galvanized wire, old hack saw blades or any other bendable material you have lying around.  Or you can put shrink tube on regular wire.  The plastic coating is just there to keep your phone pretty instead of all getting all scratched up when you put it in the mount.

Cut an18"-24" piece of wire and, using the pliers, fashion a suitable cradle for your device.  
This may require a little experimenting to get something that works best for you.
I wanted a minimal but secure hold that left all the buttons and ports clear for ease of use and charging so I ended up with this "loops on opposing corners" approach.  It looks funky but is incredibly sturdy and easy to use.  I can swing it around my head without any fear of the iPhone flying to it's death.  The phone also snaps easily in and out very quickly.

The whole thing is cleaner and sturdier if you can manage to make it out a single piece of wire.

Once you have the gripping part sorted out, DO NOT CLIP the excess wire.  Form the excess wire into a a downward pointing "tail" that fits snugly into the open tube end of the previously assembled PVC nipple.  To make a snug fit, fold the wire a couple times with a bit of "spring".  The plastic coating will also help it grip in the tube.  If you can manage to get both ends of the wire in this tail - all the better as there will be nothing poky or scratchy to harm you or your device.  If you can't get both ends into the tail then tightly curl and crimp the errant end with your pliers and tuck it somewhere out of sight.

Push the cradle tail firmly into the open end of the PVC nipple and assembly is complete.  
Test fit your device in the cradle and swing it around to see if you are satisfied with it's sturdiness.

Alternately - if you already have some kind of holster or other commercial cradle device feel free to use that instead of making your own from wire.  Or heat form thick plastic sheets/carve from wood/any other craft you have skills to utilize.  Fashion an appropriate way to attach it to the nipple tube.  Gravity is your friend.  So is friction.
Example: if you use a belt clip type holster already you may be able to just slip the clip into the nipple tube or put a small wire loop on the end of the nipple that can hold the clip.

Step 6: Install in Car

Picture of Install in Car

You'll need no glues, holes or modifications of any kind to the car to install the mount.  Simply wedge the foam covered Tee end of the contraption firmly into your previously selected dash space and adjust to your liking.  

That's it.  Really.

On my original Scion XB I have about 14" of space left to right so it's easy to locate the perfect spot.  I placed mine just a bit right of center to the steering wheel.  This visually clears the speedometer and puts the phone right at my finger tips without impeding steering at all.  The mount can be easily moved at any time.

Bonus feature:  The street elbow creates an adjustable joint.  The mount arm can be easily moved to a different angle or folded out of sight when not in use without removing it from the dash.

In drive testing I've found this mount to be completely rock solid on even the bumpiest roads.  It holds the phone firmly for one handed touch screen use and doesn't shift at all.  If yours is a bit loose then add more layers of foam strips to the PVC tee.

This is also easy to adapt to multiple devices by simply making multiple cradles.  You can even have nipples of different lengths to accommodate different positions as they are super easy to swap out.

Enjoy and drive safely!


bn81159 (author)2011-12-19

I have a 2011 Scion XB

edjsage (author)2011-12-13

Great instructable!  I borrowed your idea to use coated wire in my version of a car mount here.  Thanks for the idea!

dchall8 (author)2010-01-20

Very clever.  I need to mount my GPS so that it's removable.  This might work!!

edjsage (author)dchall82011-12-13

You could give my design a try too if you are looking for something to easily slide your GPS in and out.

byoung3 (author)2011-10-02

i made a couple of additions in order for my ipad to fit on it... i didnt need the foam though, my opening just stretches. ill probably replace the elastics with something more sturdy and reliable

akoutdoors (author)2011-01-12

funky lil cannon.... epic description... great 'ible!

a1ik (author)2010-01-22

Here is another approach . It also charges the phone and connects it to the car's stereo and video, but it requires expensive cable. Ditch the cable and the cradle become almost free. Y can use photo tripod's head to attach it to your dashboard.

niftycurly (author)a1ik2010-01-22

 It's very slick and pro looking a1ik.  How did you attach the tripod mount to the dash?

a1ik (author)niftycurly2010-01-22

I had to remove the central peace (black plastic) of the console, drill holes in the plastic, attached the mount using mechanical screws, and assembled everything back. I had to remove this black plastic anyway permanently attach USB power adapter behind it and organize the cables. Fortunately it takes just two screws and 30 seconds to remove or reinstall this plastic face.

P.S. I wanted to tell that I really liked the design shown in the original post. It is very simple and cheap and after all does what it is designed for.

Coliopteran (author)a1ik2010-07-18

That is a very slick design a1ik. niftycurly: I came up with a mount that works by wedging thin tabs into the seams between molding pieces on the dash. It doesn't require taking anything apart, screws or glue. Maybe it could be adapted for what you need.

Coliopteran (author)2010-07-18

Very innovative and easy to assemble. I love the position right in front of the steering wheel. I couldn't think of a good way to mount my phone there in my car so I ended up putting it at about 3:00. I wish I had seen this earlier.

justin_ (author)2010-06-25

xB1 owners unite! Haha, I am making one of these this weekend. I don't need a mount but I have always wanted to do something with those worthless dash holes.

JohnMcConehea (author)2010-05-13

this is a really neat idea but since I don't have an ipod yet until the 14th I won't know if it works for me or not but i am already building it.

kktmsrini (author)2010-05-13

Very nice

Dramanatrix (author)2010-02-26

 I made one of these for my phone (I have the Motorola DROID)...pretty easy, very cheap.  I couldn't find any self-adhesive crafting foam so I used foam with double stick tape and it worked beautifully.  Also the wire is a little tricky, but once you form the cradle that works for your phone it is very secure.  Thank you SO MUCH for posting this!!

digimancer (author)2010-02-15

 This is functional.. But oh soo silly.. I dig.

Doctor What (author)2010-01-19

 Neat, creative idea!  Unfortunately I don't have any recessed areas in my dash, or I would definitely give it a shot!

apexad (author)Doctor What2010-01-25

My Jeep Liberty has no recessed areas, but it does have a large handle in front of the passenger seat.

I previously bought a bracketron thing from Best Buy that attaches to your vent, but my vents could not handle the weight, and they'd popout.

I thought about getting a $30 windhshield mount, but thanks to this tutorial, I saved myself $25 by getting a PVC Pipe, a 45 degree angle bracket, a T-bracket, a 90-degree bracket, 2 male adapters, and a u-bolt.

Pictures and a quick write up are here

mrfilbert (author)2010-01-22

Great information, as I have both a smartphone AND a 2006 Scion xB

FazJaxton (author)2010-01-22

Great idea!  I really need this for my satellite radio receiver.  You might be able to use some sugru or other moldable substance to make a really snug fit for your device.

niftycurly (author)FazJaxton2010-01-22

 I'd pondered some alternatives for that - I have access to a huge variety of tools and materials - but when the El Nino storms started this week I just needed to get a quick solution in the car and I was so surprised at how well the wire works that I thought I'd share.  Even if it does look wonky :)  
With a little more investment of time & $$ "friendly plastic", Thermoflex, Sculpey Bendy would probably work really well.  I considered casting a silicone mold as well. 

niftycurly (author)2010-01-22

 Thanks for all the positive comments everyone.  I really appreciate it as this is my first instructable and I really tried to make a it a quality one.  If you do happen to make one of these or have improvements please post a comment or pic  :)

firehiker (author)2010-01-21

don't use hack saw blades. they are NOT flexible!
I may try this when my suction mount finally gives out!

fruitkid101 (author)2010-01-21

Great Idea! I'm sure to try this.

stephenniall (author)2010-01-20

Nice ! shame ive already built one out of pvc Yours probably would've suited better (i added aligator clips so mine clipped to an air vent

randofo (author)2010-01-19

I prefer to drive with these glasses.

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More by niftycurly:Make a Griffin AirCurve Adapter For iPhone 4 With SugruSimple Shearling BootsMake a $2 Adjustable Smartphone Car Mount in 10 minutes
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