Introduction: Universal SmartPhone Car Mount

Picture of Universal SmartPhone Car Mount

I use my smartphone as my navigation device when I travel with my car. After having owned several commercial smartphone mounts I can assure you I was never completely happy with them. They have a tendency to wiggle around or being a real nuisance to get the phone into it. The last I had was one of these extremely sticky silicone pads with slots in it where you can put your smartphone into it so it stands upright. That one was quite good. But when my girlfriend got a booklet-style leather smartphone cover for x-mas (not very forward-looking of me...) she couldn't use it in the car without taking the cover off. So I decided to build something I had long thought of. Complaining is for everyone else, hackers should act.

What you'll need:

  • Scrap wood roughly 300 mm x 100 mm x 8 mm (I had some black MDF / fiberboard lying around)
  • a small hinge
  • a pull spring
  • some screws, glue
  • a Dremel tool with add-ons or a router (with some practical thinking you can cheat there..)
  • something to mount it, depending on how you want to mount the holder (I cannibalised a silicone pad)

Note:

This holder is meant to be mounted onto a roughly flat surface on your dashboard. If you're looking for a mounting option for your front window, this is not it!

I show the easiest order in which to do the steps. When you look at the pictures you'll see that I applied the silicone after I put everything together. That's because I thought of silicone too late.

Step 1: Cut the Pieces

Picture of Cut the Pieces

I cut three pieces of MDF with the following dimensions:

  • Top plate: 150 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm
  • Bottom plate: 130 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm
  • Nose: 9 mm x 90 mm x 8 mm

The nose gets glued to the top plate with a distance of 5 mm form the edge. This distance will help you later on to use it one-handed. When the glue has set, secure it with two small countersunk screws. This part will secure the top edge of your smartphone.

Step 2: Making the Grooves

Picture of Making the Grooves

Using a Dremel tool with a parallel cutter add-on and a wood milling bit (or a router etc.) make a groove into the bottom plate that is a bit broader than your smartphone including your case. It doesn't have to be a tight fit, we come to that later. This groove will secure the bottom edge of your smartphone.

Should your scrap wood be too thin to make a decent groove, you can do the same thing as with the top board and glue two nose pieces to build a groove.

Make a second groove into the top plate (on the side where the nose is). It shouldn't get covered by the hinge and has to be a bit longer than your spring. You can see in the picture that I did a horrible job. The Dremel has a life of it's own and wants to go in a certain direction. If the force is not with you all the time, it will not do as you ask, young Jedi!

Once finished with cutting and grooving, sand everything to your liking and remove the dust.

Step 3: Apply Silicone

Picture of Apply Silicone

Tape everything you don't want to be covered in sticky silicone! Use surgical gloves to apply the silicone. Once applied, you can dip your finger into soapy water tho make the silicone surface smooth. Take care on the edges, you don't want to have any residues sticking out.

Once finished, remove the masking tape gently and you should have nice edges. Let it dry over night.

Step 4: Attach the Hardware and Put It All Together

Picture of Attach the Hardware and Put It All Together

Now this will be a bit tricky. Be careful to position the hinge very precisely. If it is tilted, the jaws won't be parallel when opened. Depending on the material you use, you can use screws and mount the hinge and the spring directly into the wood. I didn't have small enough screws, so I used bolts and nuts. I countersunk the nuts into the wood, so they wouldn't stand out too much.

Attach one side of the hinge first. Then attach the spring to both sides. Finally attach the second side of the hinge. This will make the process much easier.

Step 5: Make It Even Prettier

Picture of Make It Even Prettier

There was some leather left-over piece lying on the bench. I used punch letters (after making the leather wet) to make the holder look a bit nicer. There are tons of options that will make your holder unique!

Step 6: Attach a Mounting Option

Picture of Attach a Mounting Option

I have a Skoda Yeti that has a nice flat part on the dashboard. This smartphone mount is made to be attached onto a roughly flat surface. If you don't have any, you'll have to screw it to something or even out the surface. I mentioned the sticky silicone pad I used earlier. I used scissors to cut away the notches that held the smartphone until I got a flat pad. You can buy the flat ones on ebay or at most hardware stores. I attached it to the smartphone mount with some well placed staples.

Another option is to simply drill a hole and screw it to the dashboard.

There you are. You have a universal smartphone mount that will hold almost every phone on the market. It works with no cover, a shell cover and also with a booklet-type cover. It's astonishingly easy to operate with just one hand and very low profile when not in use.

If the evolution of displays continues to grow and the phones get bigger and bigger (didn't work out so well for the dinosaurs...) you might want to make the jaws longer (didn't work out so well for the T-Rex as well... sorry, had to.), so you can use it with tablets as well. Enjoy.

And please post a picture if you replicate it/ alternate it.

Comments

SpankyO (author)2016-01-29

Really enjoyed reading over this Instructable. I'm still on my first "DUMB PHONE," ( I refuse to call a tool smarter than the user ) and have always used Grip Liner, Its soft and you can toss it on the dash and anything with any weight to it will stay put. Attaching "Grip Liner" to the bottom is a cheep and readily available way to stop the sliding. Thank you for sharing this.

dtextor (author)SpankyO2016-01-30

Thanks for the kind words!

Mark 42 (author)2016-01-14

Nice and simple.
You can get spring loaded hinges.
I'd leave it ugly so no one will want to break a window & steal it.
Or use the head of a large plastic dinosaur if you want to be fancy - but that will really tempt thieves.

dtextor (author)Mark 422016-01-14

Dinosaurs are always an excellent idea, they make everything closer to perfection. :D

About the hinges: I used stuff I had lying around from other projects. However, I searched for spring loaded hinges and couldn't find some that "force the hinge to be closed instead of open". Could you post a picture/link if you know of some that could be used? It's too late for me, but others might profit.

Another option I thought about is to use two wooden clothespin as hinges/spring combo. That would work alright. Initially I wanted to design a nice 3D printed holder that everyone could easily replicate. No hardware, just two plastic parts that act at the same time as spring element. However, since temperatures on the dashboard can easily exceed 100 degrees celsius those parts would start to flow and eventually melt.

Mark 42 (author)dtextor2016-01-15

http://www.hardwaresource.com/hinges/stainless-steel-hinges-hardware/butt-strap-tee-hinges/small-spring-butt-hinges-stainless-steel

Google "small spring loaded hinge closing"

dtextor (author)Mark 422016-01-30

Thanks for the link. This would make the construction very neat. I didn't stumble upon them (they are nonexistent in my country..) but ebay or amazon would surely help out.

elicitone (author)2016-01-29

Love the simplicity... one thing to add incase you wanted it put it in "portrait"... cut a small slot on the bottom in the front so you could still connect the charger.

That is if the port is on the bottom of the phone. :)

dtextor (author)elicitone2016-01-30

Good idea. I never need that but having the option is always nice. I guess to use it in portrait mode one would have to make the jaws quite a bit longer.

Fab Muchada (author)2016-01-29

Can be use as car tire stopper also?

dtextor (author)Fab Muchada2016-01-30

Yes. Once.

jeanniel1 (author)2016-01-23

Great idea - clever and so simple. Yeah, the silicon pad really helps - I used to have a phone cover that was all silicon till the makers must have discovered it worked too well, and discontinued it.

AnthonyN32 (author)2016-01-15

Fun to read the run through of this!

dtextor (author)AnthonyN322016-01-15

Nice that you appreciate it! :D

arkon476 (author)2016-01-14

This is a great way to hold your phone (in the proper orientation) while recording video for a family party or the like.

Set it up, get it started, place it on a table, mantle, etc.,then let it run.

dtextor (author)arkon4762016-01-14

Hi, thanks for the comment. If you face the phone the other way around that would perfectly work. If not, the backside of the mount would partly appear on the picture/movie.

arkon476 (author)dtextor2016-01-15

LOL! Well, I figured facing the camera lens out would go without saying.

But, you're right. A good Instructable shouldn't assume anything. :-)

SRQ Sid (author)2016-01-14

Great idea. Suggestion: If a table saw is available, a groove could be cut on both the top and bottom with the blade tilted 15 degrees or so to lean the grooves towards the hinge. With a phone in the jaws the grooves would be about the right angle, 90 degrees or so, to the phone. This works fine in my head, your actual mileage may vary.

Thanks dtextor!

dtextor (author)SRQ Sid2016-01-14

In my head that works too. Good idea. The used material just has to be thick enough to enable you to cut a groove that really holds the phone secure. Good point!

Pernickety Jon (author)2016-01-14

Thank goodness! Someone else who has trouble with a Dremel. I've never been able to get it to cut or router under my control, even with guide attachments etc. For me, it isn't much more than an expensive mini grinder/ polishing tool (for which it is very useful!) Great idea for the phone mount. I'll try it myself - sans Dremel.

dtextor (author)Pernickety Jon2016-01-14

Actually I have to disagree there a bit. I do really love my Dremel. It can do so many things I wouldn't be able to otherwise. Of course she (Dremel) is sometimes a bit thickheaded and reacts a bit unpredictable, but that's to be expected of such a beauty.

On the serious side: It really helps while routing not to go straight for the final depth. Starting with one mm at the time will reduce the tendency of the router bit to wander around. I'm just not that patient all the time.

Tanzer26 (author)2016-01-14

Very nice. I voted for it. I like another's comment for spring hinges. Do be careful where you place in relation to airbags in your vehicle.

dtextor (author)Tanzer262016-01-14

Thanks for the vote and good point about being cautious where you place it! In my case I placed it in the middle and on top of the dashboard where no airbag should reach. Thanks for the warning.

GabrielB47 (author)2016-01-14

Bravo veramente una buona idea !!!!

dtextor (author)GabrielB472016-01-14

Grazie mille!

Laral (author)GabrielB472016-01-14

D'accordo

spark master (author)2016-01-14

sweet simple elegant, most importanta

FUNCTIONAL

dtextor (author)spark master2016-01-14

Thank you! That's exactly what I had in mind.

WilmerC4 (author)2016-01-14

Can i just buy urs ?

dtextor (author)WilmerC42016-01-14

:D sadly no. My car still needs it and I'm absolutely happy with it. However, it really is an easy project. If you don't have the tools you can always let the guys at home depot or the friendly carpenter next door cut the parts for you. The rest is easy work for a lazy weekend.

Laral (author)2016-01-14

This would make a great dashcam mount or tripod mount.

Afzal cassim (author)2016-01-14

Cool it is!

vmarquez (author)2016-01-13

Very cool.

studleylee (author)2016-01-11

I like!!!!

dtextor (author)studleylee2016-01-11

Glad you like it! :)

thijsv (author)2016-01-11

Clever thinking!

dtextor (author)thijsv2016-01-11

Thank you!

manuelmasc (author)2016-01-11

Cool! Voted

dtextor (author)manuelmasc2016-01-11

Thanks for the vote, appreciate it!

seamster (author)2016-01-11

This is a great little design for a phone mount. Very simple but appears to work perfectly. Good stuff! :)

dtextor (author)seamster2016-01-11

Thank you. It's actually so simple that it just works. I'm quite happy with how it turned out.

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