Introduction: Cheap and Easy IPod (or Gadget) Car Mount

About: I rather like "to make" than "to consume". I've been programming for iOs for a while just to see if I can. I love making cases and pouches for my gadgets, but currently it seems I'm running out of projects. Bu…

I recently bought an iPod touch and a protective case to go with it.
While using the iPod in my car, I really found it inconvenient to change tracks while driving. You can only skip songs after pressing the home button first, then swiping across the screen to unlock the player. First of all, I had to get the iPod from the passenger seat; I then have to fiddle with it until I have skipped to a song I like. And everything while not paying too much attention on the road, which actually is what I’m supposed to be doing while driving ;-).

So I thought about an iPod mount for my vent in the car.
I already had plans in my head on how I wanted the car mount to loo like and work when I stumbled over a (admittedly ugly not so pretty, picture 2) generic $10 car mount for electronic gadgets and thought I’ll give that a try.

Well, that didn’t go too well.
As I use my iPod with a protective case, it didn’t fit within the car mount. So I modified that one to make it fit. Then I wanted to attach it to my car’s vent and found out that the attachment fixture didn’t fit my vent. Well, here I go.

So I finally decided to put my car mount plan into action to get a car mount that fits my device perfectly while also being able to get the design I wanted (picture 1; I may have to update the car mount if I buy a Q-peel case or an armor-like case; I just love the look of the more bold cases).

Excuse me for not having image notes added so far, but I was working at a PC where I couldn't tinker with my internet browser's settings. So I couldn't save the notes and gave up.
I'll probably add the notes later, but if you have questions, you can also pm me. I'll try to help the best I can.

Step 1: Parts and Tools Needed

Parts needed:
  • Scrap wood (the sort of wood that kids use with hack saws, with a thickness of approximately 4 mm).
  • Rubber band (to attach the car mount to the vent)

Tools needed:

  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Callipers (not really necessary but really helpful)
  • Handsaw
  • Wood glue
  • Pipe cleaner (or some sort of wire)

Step 2: Marking Up 1, the Base-plate

  • Lay your iPod (or gadget) on top of a piece of scrap wood that fits the size of your iPod (picture 1)
  • Use the pencil to outline the outer dimensions of the device
  • I also marked the devices ports (headphone jack, dock connector, buttons) so I know where to put the holding-brackets in a later step (picture 2)

I later shortened the base plate to a length just around the position of the volume buttons as I found that length gives enough support for my iPod. This also made the car mount less obtrusive and bulky if I don’t have my iPod with me.

Step 3: Marking Up 2, the Holding-brackets

  • Measure the height of your device, including the thickness of the scrap wood (just lay the iPod on top of the scrap wood and measure from the top of the device to the table top, picture 1)
    Be careful: you either have to add the rubber band’s thickness to this measurement, or you may have to make grooves for the rubber band in the base-plate
  • Mark the measured height on the scrap wood (picture 2)
  • Mark the width of your holding-brackets (choose a dimension that fits your needs, picture 3)
  • Add another 4 mm to the heights dimension for the top-plates of the holding-brackets (picture 4)
  • You need a total of 4 holding-brackets with top-plates to prevent the iPod from falling over, and one bracket without top-plate at the bottom of the car mount

Step 4: Cut Out the Base-plate and the Holding-brackets

No pictures here, but I assume the title of this step should be self explanatory.
Just try to get the edges as straight as possible to save yourself from too much sanding and filing later.

Like stated in step 2, I shortened the base-plate to about 3 ¾ inches.

Step 5: Marking Up 3, the Base-plate Cuts

  • Like stated in step 1, I shortened the base-plate to about 3 ¾ inches (picture 1)
  • After taking a measurement of the width of the adjustment knob of my car’s vent, I decided to make the cuts in the base-plate about 1 inch long (picture 2) and positioned approximately ¾ of an inch from the outer edges (picture 3)

Step 6: Cut and Sand the Base-plate

  • Make the cuts with a saw according to your marks on the base plate (picture 1)
  • To round the edges of the cuts enough as not to damage the rubber band later (and so it also fits better as a straight saw cut is a little narrow), insert a piece of sandpaper into the cuts perpendicular to the cut, then bend the sandpaper to one side (picture 2) and slide it through the slot until you get a nice smooth edge. Repeat in all directions and on all cuts.
  • The final result of the sanding efforts (picture 3)

Step 7: Test Drive the Base-plate

I just wanted to make sure that my idea really works, so I tried the base-plate on my microphone stand. It also shows that cutting and sanding the slots was sufficient for my rubber band to fit.

Hey, there are many uses for this sort of iPod mount. I can see it working on stage for bands, for bikers (if an adequate rubber band is used), etc.

Step 8: Assembling the Holding-brackets

  • Lay the longer parts of the holding-brackets on a flat surface
  • Put some glue on the top-plates and attach them to the longer parts. By doing this on a flat surface you get nice right angles.
  • Wait until the glue is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

You can either finish off the brackets by filing and sanding them to the shape you like, or you can do this after the next step.
(The top plate of the 5th holding-bracket was glued on accidentially. I did this at a time when I wasn't sure if I need a top-plate for it.)

Step 9: Assembling the Car Mount

  • Put the iPod on the base-plate and lean the holding-brackets against the iPod to see if the height of the holding-brackets is sufficient (as you can see, the bottom holder doesn't have a top-plate, picture 1)
  • Glue the holding-brackets to the base-plate
  • Wait until the glue is completely dry
  • File and sand the edges of the holding-brackets and base-plate to your liking. I decided to put the finishing touches on the car mount after everything was assembled. The complete assembly is much better to handle than the little holding-brackets. But this totally depends on what tools and work space you have available. In my case, I have done all filing and sanding on the balcony on a beach chair :-) while temperatures were close to freezing. I was also going for an absolutely sanded finish with all rounded edges, but as it was so cold, I decided that a “rougher”, more “edgy” look was great, too.

Step 10: Finished Car Mount

These are pictures of the finished car mount, just to give an impression of the mount.

Step 11: Fixing the Car Mount Onto Your Car's Vent

  • Completely close the vent on which you want to install the car mount (you certainly don’t want the rubber band to fall into the vent’s duct, picture 1)
  • Insert the rubber band into a vent slot above and beside the control knob (picture 2)
    Be careful, you won't be able to get the rubber band around the control knob. You can only insert it on the left or right side of the knob.
  • Form a hook from the pipe cleaner (or wire) to pull the lower end of the rubber band out of the vent below the control knob (picture 3)
  • Attach the car mount to the rubber band (picture 4, I tried to “stiffen” the car mount by using 2 rubber bands first, but as I forgot to take the thickness of the rubber band into account and also didn’t make some grooves in the base-plate, I couldn’t fit my iPod. So I removed one rubber band again and it’s now a perfect fit.)

Be careful not to break any vent or control knob parts. You don't want a broken vent...

My car mount is held pretty firm to the vents adjustment knob and to the dashboard at the lower end of the car mount. So I didn’t have to add additional supports. But to make the mount tighter, I’ll probably attach some self adhesive foam to the car mount’s base-plate so it “squishes” in between the vent slots a little. This should further improve the fitting.

Step 12: Final Pictures and Test Drive

I had a little test drive after attaching the car mount to the vent, and it held up pretty well.
It didn’t twist around while driving and even while operating the iPod it didn’t twist around much (I guess it didn’t move more than any other "off the shelf" product that attaches to a vent).

If you happen to make a car mount like this for a player not being a touch-screen unit, some additional support for the base-plate may be needed (due to the harder button presses needed to operate the gadget). The easiest being some foam between the base-plate and the vent.

One final CAUTION:
Leave the vent closed at all times when using an electronic gadget with the car mount or the car mount only. You don’t want any electronics or rubber bands being fried or frozen (depending on your AC-setting).

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