Over the last 10 or so years I’ve acquired various notebooks and tablets to use as navigation aids for our Cruises after digital mapping became available and affordable, but I’ve always had an issue with mounting these devices on the dash of my Patrols. The problem is that with ever more curved and aesthetically pleasing interiors provided in modern 4WDs, there are fewer and fewer places and means by which to attach accessories to a 4WD dash, or elsewhere for that matter. Given that the use of electronic navigation devices by 4WD owners is almost ubiquitous, it’s odd that no manufacturer has really given much thought as to how 4WD owners could mount such devices and provide suitable mounting options. So it’s always been Heath Robinson to the rescue.
For many years I used a RAM mount to hold my Fujitsu Lifebook P1600 on the dash, but it had real issues because of the rake of the windscreen, such that you had to set the mount quite high on the dash, which subsequently obscured vision to a significant degree. So when I bought a Gigabyte 10″ tablet some years later, the RAM mount would never do and so I made up a mount from a commercial product that served me well. However, the Gigabyte recently started to play up, with the screen going haywire at the most inopportune times, so I decided that it was time for a new tablet. To that end, I ended up buying a Microsoft Surface 3 tablet which, technically, is a 10″ tablet like my old Gigabyte, but because it’s in a body that also accommodates a larger screen in another model, it became a problem for my existing tablet holder. The existing mount would just hold the tablet, but I had to elevate the holder to such an extent that the tablet now obscured vision. So I needed yet another mounting solution.
So after some searching on eBay, I came across a promising looking ‘tablet holder’. Now this tablet holder was designed to hold a mobile phone, tablet or similar on a desk, not in a vehicle, but looking at its design and the fact that it was made from alloy, apart from the tablet holder itself, I could see some potential in this device. Taking a punt, I ordered the tablet holder and didn’t expect to see it until after our February Cruise. Surprisingly though, it arrived well before the cruise, giving me plenty of time to work out how to put it to use. The tablet holder actually turned out to be a very well made device, much better than I anticipated and I immediately changed my existing plans for something far more practical.
After lots of pre-arrival pondering (I’d been thinking about all the options since ordering the holder), it turned out to be a very easy task to re-purpose the mount and make it suit the console of my Patrol. After several measurements, I cut off a piece of the foot and made sure that it fit the console (actually the pen holder on the console as seen in the earlier photographs) ready for the next stage. After some further measurements, I cut the main arm in two and used double-sided tape to hold both parts together to test its position in the pen holder and also to assist in drilling the attachment screws. Once that was completed, it was time to take the console fascia out and do some further remodelling.
I wanted the mount to be easily fitted and removed, but it also had to be strong enough to hold the mount and tablet, and not vibrate on rough roads. Vibration would not only make the screen hard to see, but would eventually break the console and perhaps the tablet holder itself. So I had to fabricate a bracket that would sit inside the console, hopefully attached to some solid mounting points behind the console. Luckily for me, there were three mounting points that were ideal for this purpose. If I’d had some steel plate, I would have bent the attachment points from the plate, but the alloy wasn’t malleable enough to allow this, so I just used steel brackets. And to make it as easy as possible to attach and remove the mount, I wanted to be able to use bolts to hold the tablet mount in place and allow easy fitment from the outside of the console. It did take a bit of measuring, fitting and remodelling before things fitted well, but it was worth the effort.
Once the bracket was fitted and the console fascia could be properly installed, I drilled pin holes through the bracket, the console pen holder and the tablet mount foot, so that everything would align reasonably well. Once this was done, I installed a couple of Rivnuts into the bracket so that once the console was assembled, I could use bolts to mount the tablet holder using the Rivnuts under the pen holder. I can now easily install and remove the tablet mount and simply put a couple of shorter bolts into the exposed holes to keep them covered. The mount is very sturdy and allows me to move the tablet in various angles to hopefully keep glare off the screen. The other good feature is that I now also have access to the small storage box in the dash, which was blocked by the previous mount.
After going for a test drive on our excellent (cough, cough) rural roads, the tablet held up fairly well. It had no more vibration than the previous tablet mount when on potholed or corrugated roads, where vibration is most prevalent. Like with my in-cabin camera setup, it’s really only on such roads where you notice minor vibrations and once in slow going low-range, this disappears. That said, I felt that the tablet still sat a little too high for its own good, so I re-did the mount and lowered it to a better position. With the shorter arm it feels sturdier as well.
The final aspect of the tablet mount were the cable connections. It needed power, as well as connection to the GPS and a mouse (to make some adjustments easier on the tablet). So to facilitate that, I bought a four port USB 3.0 adapter, which will reside in my phone holder and to which I can connect all the necessary peripherals with ports to spare, such as for transferring files from my camera to a portable HDD.
Overall, it took me maybe three hours to put this together and while there were a few minor details that needed fixing or cleaning up, overall it’s turned out quite acceptable. But I wasn’t fully happy with the appearance, so did some cosmetic fixes and painted most of the alloy a satin black so that it would blend in somewhat better than bright alloy. The only thing was the annoyingly glaring ‘Apple’ white of the holder itself, so I covered it in vinyl wrap to make it less in your face. Originally none of this would have mattered, as I was planning on removing it when not in use, but then I discovered that it will also hold my mobile phone and do it so much better than the current mount, so it’s likely to stay.
I’m pretty happy with the outcome so far, but I’ll only find out how it holds up after our Cruise that’s coming up shortly, so after that’s completed, I’ll add an update as to how the tablet holder performed on more than just Victoria’s outstanding rural roads network.