Removable IPad/Tablet Dash Install




Introduction: Removable IPad/Tablet Dash Install

I bought a 1991 Mazda Miata about a month ago and there was a hole in the dash where the head unit went and although it had an HVAC controller there was no working heat nor AC. Instead of buying a headunit to replace the old one and just keeping the HVAC controller and other piece I just ripped it out and decided to do a project I've wanted to do for years, an iPad dash. So I ripped it all out and came up with the following solution, enjoy!

What do you need?

iPad/Tablet: Any tablet will work for this install although I focus on an iPad throughout 99% of this will crossover.

Rivet Gun
1/8" Drill Bit
3/16" Drill Bit
Pointed Tap
Small Circular/Square Tap
Painters Tape
Sheet of 8 1/2 x 11" Paper
Block of Wood
Dremel & Blades

Thin Sheet Metal (This can be steel or aluminum, and there is a middle point to this. You don't want to thin nor too thick, I will update with the exact thickness of mine soon.)
1/8" Rivets & Washers (Type depends on if you use steel or aluminum, I used steel.)
Heavy Duty Snaps (I got mine from Hobby Lobby.)

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Step 1: Modifying the Tombstone

In this first real step you will be modifying the dash panel (called the tombstone) that normally houses your HVAC controller and head unit, in my case I have no heat, AC, or anything relating to it left in my car so I decided to cover the head unit panel as well as the HVAC controller panel for a project later on. Okay I'll tell you! The area that used to hold the HVAC controller will be where my push starter and switches for lights, an additional radiator fan, and anything else will go such as NOS maybe? ;) In the mean time let's just focus on the iPad install. I will say this here as well as later but if you intend on riveting your tablet case directly to the sheet metal and skipping using snaps then consider mounting the sheet metal on the outside and rounding the corners to around the same size as your case to give a clean look and that likely will eliminate this step for you entirely however this will give the cleanest look in my opinion.

  1. Remove your tombstone from your vehicle. In my case this requires removing the center console first in order to pull it fully out.
  2. Grab your Dremel and lay the tombstone on its back, preferably on a towel as to not scratch anything. This is one of the places I would encourage having a second pair of hands to just make sure nothing moves around while cutting.
  3. Take the 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of paper and determine how big you want your sheet of metal to be prior to cutting the tombstone as to not remove too much. (If you do remove more than needed it's not a problem, just time that could have been saved. You will need to do this anyway later to determine how to cut your sheet of metal.
  4. Once you know how much needs cut away simply cut it all out and Dremel it smooth.

Step 2: Cutting the Metal to Size

  1. Now that the tombstone has been modified if you did not use the sheet of paper to measure how you need to cut the metal earlier take the opportunity to do so now.
  2. With the size of the piece now needed you are able to cut, take the Dremel and cut along the line or lines that you drew in sharpie from measuring.
  3. Fit the sheet of metal in the tombstone to see whether or not you have made the correct cuts and if you have proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Drilling and Riveting to the Tombstone

Most of the projects I do that should probably be done precisely and during the day tend not to be, of course that's how I installed my wing crooked on my car last year but nonetheless! Now that you have your modified tombstone and sheet of metal cut you can attach the two together. If you intend on riveting your tablet case directly to the sheet metal and skipping using snaps then consider mounting the sheet metal on the outside and rounding the corners to around the same size as your case to give a clean look.

  1. If you're a stickler then make sure to measure exactly where you want your rivets to be, we simply used the sheet of paper and some painters tape from the last step and went for what looked even.
  2. Once you know where you want your rivets to go and have marked them first drill into the tombstone with the 1/8" drill bit. For our application we went with six rivets, three on either side. We probably could have gotten away with four and we could have done more than we did but this just seemed to be the best look and strength factors to us.
  3. After you have drilled into the tombstone you can hold your sheet of metal up in where you want it to mount and mark the holes with a sharpie.
  4. When your holes are properly marked on the sheet of metal you can take it to somewhere safe to drill, tap the marks, and drill through with the same bit. For us we drilled through the metal into a wooden block and that worked well.
  5. Now that you have your holes drilled into both the tombstone and the sheet of metal you are ready to attach them with rivets. Take your 1/8" rivets and put them long ways into the rivet gun. With a rivet in the gun push it through your first hole and put a washer on the other side. About two squeezes later and you should have your first rivet done! Continue this process on each hole until complete.

Step 4: Attaching the IPad/Tablet Case

Here is were you have to make a bit of a choice. I said before that the snaps are optional because they are, they really aren't needed. You could very easily finish here by riveting the case for your tablet directly to the sheet metal however I went with a slightly different option with snaps. It would be very difficult to do this without snaps because of mounting the sheet metal behind the tombstone, if mounted in front of the tombstone this would be an easy way to do the install. Either way you choose it will end up nearly flat against the tombstone giving a more professional install look.

  1. Determine how you will attach the snaps. This is important because you may need to flatten the edges of the mount that you use on your tablet case in order to properly fit your tablet in the case with it mounted up. In our case we mounted the inner part of the snap to the sheet metal with rivets, and the outer part of the snap to the back of the iPad case with flattened out backings that we hammered in.
  2. Mark and drill four holes in your tablet case, in our example we used a 3/16" drill bit as that was the size of our snap backing.
  3. Line up the holes in your tablet case with where you want to mount it to the tablet and mark where to drill on the sheet metal.
  4. Tap and drill with a 1/8" bit into the sheet metal for your rivets.
  5. Crimp/flatten the edges of your snap backing and put the backing into the tablet case with the back side facing up, then put the outside of the snaps on the tablet case and hammer them in with a small square or circular tap.
  6. Now that your snaps are attached to the case it's time to attach the inside of the snap to the sheet metal. Take your rivet gun put a rivet in and rivet through the front of the inner snap to the front of the sheet metal where you drilled those last holes.

Step 5: IPad Installed!

You have reached the final step of mounting your iPad or other tablet that you decided to use for this project, celebrating, but it's not over yet! Yes, we've gotten the device mounted to our dash and in a quick release system that can be easily taken off and with you yet won't just fall off while you're driving but we still have more work to do. We haven't even touched the wiring yet to have it fully functional and in fact I haven't yet either! I will be ordering the electronics that I need and updating everything with pictures and links to exact tools and parts used later on this week when I have more time off of work. Until then think big and build bigger! If you have any questions, comments, ideas, feedback, or anything else pertaining to this please don't be afraid to contact me or post on this Instructable. Thank you to my good friend and neighbor for helping me out with this project as well as others and thank you all for taking the time to check out my work! More Instructables will be coming from me soon as I do more and more things to the car!

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Such a simple idea, looks great. I was looking at upgrading my stereo but think this is a much better solution.


    3 years ago

    True @blkhawk however velcro doesn't tend to last long in a car where I live (San Diego/Phoenix) it's too hot and un sticks to things constantly. I actually didn't think about plastic/plastic rivets but that's a good idea too.. Thank you!!


    3 years ago

    You could have also use plastic and plastic rivets instead of sheet metal and Velcro instead of those buttons but I must say that your end product looks professionally made. Congratulations on a job well done!


    3 years ago

    Thank you! Make sure you post a photo of your install here after! (: