Introduction: Rotating Car Mount for IPhone Out of Recycled Electronics and Garage Junk

About: I reckon I was a maker before I knew we were called such. Growing up, my dad and I spent countless hours welding, cutting, banging, sawing, hammering, and "adjusting" things out in his shop. Other than my aw…

While preparing for a long road trip, I decided to to make a couple of mods to my pickup for system monitoring and convenience.  After adding a USB port in my dash for iPhone charging, i added an OBDII wifi dongle and downloaded an engine monitoring app (Rev2).  Next, I got to work on the mount.

I was more than miffed to find out that the only option for mounting it in my pickup (other than a universal "squeeze" style mount) was to buy a $30 mount from Lifeproof that is useless without purchasing another $30 mount from a third party.  I set off to make my own mount using recycled items as well as other odds & ends.

Step 1: Parts & Tools

  • Old PCB
  • Aluminum flat bar, 1" x 5" (more or less)
  • Aluminum angle, 1" x 3" (more or less)
  • Aluminum threshold, about 3" cutoff
  • Assorted screws from autopsied electronics
  • Nylon washers
  • Zinc washers with neoprene on one side
  • Thread lock solution
  • Drill or preferably drill press
  • Drill bits and countersink
  • 1/4" forstner bit
  • Metal files (triangular, mill second cut, and smooth)
  • 00 steel wool (for burnishing the aluminum)
  • Table saw
  • Bench vice
  • Square
  • Propane or MAPP gas torch
  • Ball peen hammer

Step 2: Getting Started

I found a PCB that had lots of interesting traces on the portion I wanted to use.  I outlined my phone and cut the PCB down on my table saw to the proper proportions.  In my case, the width was critical for fit, but the height was arbitrary.  I ended up with an approximately 3" x 4" plate.

Step 3:

The scrap aluminum threshold was cut down the middle on my table saw (with the use of a sacrificial push block that kept my hands well away from the blade).  This yielded two pieces that mirrored each other.  Clean up the edges on the PCB and the aluminum with the file to make them more comfortable to handle.

Step 4: Upper Cradle

Take the flat bar and place it in a vice.  Use a square to get the vice jaw perpendicular to the bar.  This is important because you are about to put a permanent 90 degree bend in it.  I marked the aluminum with a triangular file so the mark wouldn't get obliterated or rubbed off.  This file also removed some of the material from the inside of the bend, making it easier to get a crisp angle.

Using a torch, heat the aluminum where you are going to bend it (whatever you do, make sure it fits your phone).  After you have the aluminum heated up some, begin pulling and hammering the bar until you get a 90 degree bend.  I used a piece of 1/4" MDF scrap as a buffer so my hammer didn't FUBAR the aluminum.  It is important to heat the aluminum.  In my experience when you put sharp bends in aluminum without pre-heating it, you are destined for stress failures and a poor quality end-product.

Step 5: Lower Cradle

To accomodate my LifeProof case's port cover on the bottom, I used a 37mm forstner bit to cut a half-round out of the PCB bottom where it intersects with the lower cradle / aluminum angle piece.  I also cut a section out of the aluminum angle that matches up with the half-round and gives me more room to open my charging port.

(Sorry, got too involved and didn't get pics of the half-round drill-out.  See pictures on next step and you will understand what I mean)

Step 6: Cradle Assembly

Drill the appropriate holes to hold the lower cradle on the PCB.  One on either side was sufficient.  Make sure the screws you use are low-profile so your device doesn't get snagged or scratched taking it in/out.

After attaching the upper and lower cradles, I drilled out the side pieces and placed them in the assembly.  I did not have a tap for screws this small, but most of my screws were steel.  With a dot of WD-40, they tapped the aluminum nicely themselves.

Step 7: Now to the Truck

On my dash, I had two odd sized cubby holes that I rarely used because they got more narrow toward the back.  I took my dash apart and removed one of the cubbies.  I fashioned a 1/4" thick MDF face plate and attached it to the cubby with angle brackets (two on top, one on the bottom).

Once I decided on where I wanted my iPhone to be mounted, I cut a piece of the aluminum flat bar and bolted it to this face plate.  In the photos, you will see I used a series of ten washers to act as a standoff bushing for the two mounting screws.

After I was satisfied with the strength and feel of the mount, I re-installed the cubby in my pickup and reassembled the dash console.

Step 8: Attaching the Cradle to the Mount

For this design, I wanted to make sure I could take advantage of the screen rotation on my iPhone.  After trying a couple of things, I found this worked best.

I placed the two neoprene faced washers metal to metal.  The nylon washers' inner diameter was slightly bigger than the metal washers' outer diameter.  I placed three nylon washers on the outside of the two neoprene faced washers, then ran my shoulder bolt through the holes.  See the diagram for a visual on this.

The metal washers provide the majority of the friction required to keep the phone from rotating freely.  I tried it without the nylon at first, but it had a slight wobble that I was not happy with.  After I added the nylon washers, they provided a lot of stability and made the wobble go away.

It is IMPORTANT to use thread lock on the shoulder bolt.  If you don't, repeated rotation from portrait to landscape will back out your mounting screw.  You can find thread lock at a home improvement or hardware is expensive (about $8 for a tiny tube), but you only use a drop here and a drop there, so you can use it on future projects.

Step 9: Finished Product

Part of this project entailed repairing my audio jack while the dash was off.  I had knocked the cable before and broke the cheap plastic connector inside the dash.  I now have a lower profile 90 degree adapter so I have less chance of re-breaking it.

 I could have made the cubby partially open for use, but it was awkward in size and I didn't use it anyway, so I just blocked it off completely.  I painted the faceplate with high temperature black grill paint...not because I wanted it to withstand 800 degrees, but because its finish matched the matte plastic of the cubby almost exactly.  I chose this spot to mount my phone because it did not block my vent or any controls on the AC or stereo.  It is clear of the gear slector and all controls whether in portrait or landscape orientation.  I can easily see my Rev2 gauges when that app is in operation and that keeps my lead foot light(er).

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Thanks for checking out my Instructable!  I know there are a thousand car phone mount DIYs out there, but this one suited my style and needs best.  If you make one based on my design, I'd love to see a pic!

This is part of an ongoing series of mods I want to do to my pickup.  I appreciate any suggestions and feedback any of you may have.

Car Audio Challenge

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