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theksmith

A Basic Tablet Setup for GPS & More

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a few weeks ago, Aimee told me that she wanted "that too" pointing at the tablet in my Jeep. i asked her "why?" and she said Pandora, maps, traffic, and just because it's neat. those are good enough reasons for me, and so i present...

 

MiniMe gets a tablet!

 

i'm documenting the install here because we wanted to keep it fairly simple and inexpensive, which i think are the primary goals for most folks considering a tablet as a dedicated GPS replacement.

 

 

the target - a 2005 Jeep Liberty (KJ) Renegade:

 

IMG_0809.JPG

 

 

goals/requirements:

 

- on-road maps/navigation/traffic

- mp3 and streaming audio

- offroad maps

- simple and fairly cheap

- easily removable so that tablet can be used daily outside of the Jeep too

- no permanent visible modifications to the Jeep

- don't lose FM radio capabilities

- landscape mounting (Aimee's specific request, she said she thought it looked silly mounted in portrait orientation)

 

 

continued...

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step 1, choosing a tablet...

 

 

WiFi-only or cell plan?

 

based on the requirements of streaming audio and real-time traffic, we decided to get a tablet with a cellular plan. we're already on a Verizon shared/family type plan, so adding an extra device wasn't that costly.

 

the alternative would have been a WiFi-only tablet and using Aimee's phone as a hotspot for it to connect to. the main downside there is that running your phone as a hotspot chews up it's battery quickly so you don't want to leave it enabled all the time. so then you need to turn on the hotspot every time you get in the vehicle and then connect the table to it - too much trouble since she wanted internet connectivity all the time.

 

 

iOS, Android, or Windows?

 

we felt that Android devices sit right in the middle of the spectrum in terms of cost and capability, so we didn't really give much thought to the alternatives.

 

 

So which one?

 

off we went to the Verizon store to see what was new! we settled on an LG G Pad 8.3 LTE (review here...) for the following reasons:

 

- it met my minimum feature requirements of being from a major manufacture, having GPS, bluetooth, and a microSD slot

- 8" tablets are a great size for carputers as they give you plenty of screen but don't overwhelm the interior like a 10/11/12" can

- it was on special for $99 with no activation fee! (currently $199, which i think is still a good value).

- i had just switched my phone to an LG G2 and was very happy with it, and the G Pad is basically the tablet version of that

 

gpad.jpg

 

 

 

continued...

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continued...

 

But...but...but I just heated up the popcorn....

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mounting the tablet

 

the 05 Liberty is a fairly compact vehicle, so there's only so much dash space available...

 

05renegadeinside.jpg

 

if Aimee had let me mount it vertically, then i probably could have started with the PanaVise or ProClip USA bracket - neither of them require any permanent visible mods.

 

panaviseliberty.jpg proclipliberty.jpg

 

also, i ran across a really neat mounting product that uses your existing CD player. this would have been super simple and put the tablet in a great spot, but then Aimee couldn't use the factory FM radio or easily adjust the volume :(

 

satechicdslot.jpg

 

so that pretty much only left above the center A/C vents as a suitable location. i've never had good luck with suction-cup window mounts and the Arizona sun (even the high quality ones)... so i knew i'd need to make some sort of custom bracket to base the mount on. that wrecked the "super simple" part of this, but i was still determined to keep it somewhat straightforward.

 

i still would need some sort of "cradle" to hold the tablet that was easy to get it in and out of. unfortunately LG doesn't make a dedicated car mount, and my favorite other manufacture for that sort of thing (RAM Mounts) didn't have a specific cradle for it either. so i went looking for something a little more svelt than the universal mounts RAM had available.

 

i found the Satechi universal dashboard tablet mount, and thought it had a really clean look to it so ordered one not knowing exactly how i would use it with a custom bracket yet.

 

satechismalltablet.jpg

 

it turned out that i accidentally ordered the one for larger tablets instead of small. the small one would have gripped the sides of the G Pad correctly, but the large one wouldn't hold the tablet at all - it was too big to grip the tablet sides, and yet wouldn't expand far enough to grip the tablet lengthwise either - darn!

 

 

continued...

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But...but...but I just heated up the popcorn....

 

;) i'm working on it...

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sidetracked from "simple"

 

because of ordering the wrong cradle, i got completely off-track from the "simple" theme for a bit - but i promise that i do get back to that overall...

 

i didn't want to return the mount, so i got inventive. it was nearly long enough to hold the tablet lengthwise... hmm. only one end was springy, so i managed to pop up the back cover just a bit and then pull out the stationary end without springs flying everywhere, yay! it was only held in with some sort of tacky adhesive.

 

IMG_2315.JPGIMG_2314.JPG

 

i glued it back in partially extended to make the opening bigger. i used 3M plastic emblem adhesive from Autozone. we'll see how well that holds up - it seemed like mix between contact cement, Goop, and something more aggressive. it smells like ABS pipe cement, so i thought perhaps it would actually melt into the plastic and form a good bond.

 

IMG_2317.JPGIMG_2316.JPG

 

and this is where i got "fancy"...

 

now that i wasn't going to be gripping the sides of the tablet, i thought it would be neat to make the mount into a full "dock" with integrated charger connection so that Aimee wouldn't have to go through the routine of getting it into the cradle and then also plugging/unplugging it each time. this goes back to the requirement of it being a removable tablet for daily use outside the Jeep.

 

the first thing i needed was a down-angled micro usb cable, Amazon to the rescue as usual! once i had it in hand to check fitment, i found that i needed to Dremel out the end of the Satechi cradle to allow the connector to fit correctly in the tablet's charging port.

 

IMG_2318-001.JPG IMG_2323.JPG

 

IMG_2325.JPGIMG_2331.JPG

 

i needed some way to affix the connector that would hold up to pushing the tablet into the dock and pulling it out. i briefly considered some sort of little strap with screws, but then decided if i had a plastic housing to cover it and glued the crap out of the whole thing it might work out. but where to get a small black plastic housing?

 

i found an elbow for sprinkler pipe that seemed about the right size and turned it into what i needed with the Dremel and a sander.

 

IMG_2320.JPGIMG_2334.JPG

 

IMG_2338.JPG

 

with the tablet in place, i glued the cable a bit first and let it dry. then i glued the housing around it and then filled it up with glue. i had to fill it a little and let it dry and then repeat several times so that i didn't end up with glue just running out everywhere. i used the 3M glue again for all this. again, i guess we'll just have to see how this holds up long term.

 

IMG_2345.JPGIMG_2358.JPG

 

 

continued...

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side trip over, back on task!

 

time to take apart some dash! i wanted to hide wires as much as possible for a clean install.

 

the center bezel around the stereo and climate controls is just held in with clips and prys right out.

 

IMG_2410.JPG

 

there are 2 climate control wiring harnesses to disconnect and the cigarette lighter... then you can optionally remove the vacuum lines connector from the climate control or there's enough slack to leave it hooked up and work around the bezel.

 

IMG_2413.JPG

 

remove 4 phillips screws and the radio will slide forward.

 

IMG_2419.JPG

 

then i forgot to take pictures of removing the top dash cowl piece. you have to take off each a-pillar trim piece by removing 2 screws inside the grab handles on each side. then the front of that dash piece is clipped so you can just pry upwards to disengage those clips. it also has rear clips that come out by pulling the whole piece directly toward you (away from the window) with a very slight upward motion also.

 

once that piece was out of the way i could fish the USB power cable from my cradle/dock down into the area behind the stereo (where i would eventually wire in an extra 12v outlet).

 

the plan for the cradle was to use the entire Satechi assembly somewhat as intended. i thought creating a custom bracket to give it a smooth place to suction onto would be the simplest approach.

 

i had a piece of aluminum sheet just the right size to come out from under that top dash cowl piece and provide the platform for the Satechi mount.

 

IMG_2584.JPG

 

it was a little too flimsy feeling just screwed in under the cowl piece, so i added some screws to the front to act as legs for it. i need to get some little rubber caps from Ace Hardware to put on the bottom of the screws so they don't scratch the dash. and of course i will be painting this all black to blend in better.

 

so here's the first problem i encountered:

 

IMG_2589.JPG

 

i expected the trim piece to bow upwards around the metal plate, but not to this extent. if i had someway to make a really tight "s" bend in the metal then i could avoid this... but i don't!

 

with a closer look i realized there were some plastic ribs on the underside of the trim piece that were hitting right on my screw heads and holding the piece up so high. i nibbled those off with some side-cutters.

 

IMG_2596.JPG

 

IMG_2604.JPG

 

that let the trim piece fit down a little better, at least engaging all of it's clips now.

 

IMG_2605.JPG

 

i removed the protective cover from the sticky backed suction cup on the Satechi mount and slapped it on for a test fit. supposedly it's the type of sticky that you can wash and let dry to rejuvenate, so i figured i could still reuse it after i took it all apart to paint my bracket.

 

IMG_2611.JPG

 

so i'll skip ahead and tell you that i'm not happy with the mount after having done a test drive...

 

there are several pieces to the Satechi that have slight movement and all combined that adds up to it not feeling rigid. i think it would be completely fine for most folks in a street-only vehicle, but i have no confidence that it would survive a long drive on a gravel road with heavy washboards. i'm also concerned that something is going to give while taking the tablet in and out repeatedly.

 

the actual spring cradle portion of the mount is surprisingly one of the most solid feeling parts. so my plan is to keep the cradle portion and just attach it directly to a metal "L" bracket which will then attach to my platform bracket... or i may re-create the platform so that it has the "L" part all as a single piece of metal. either way, i believe this will work for a few weeks of on-road use till i get finished with some of the other details.

 

 

continued...

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Please tell Aimee i love her choice of steering wheel cover.. & K, i want "that too":D

IMG_2611.JPG

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Please tell Aimee i love her choice of steering wheel cover.. & K, i want "that too":D

IMG_2611.JPG

 

that was one of her mother's day gifts! :)

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Nice! Can't believe you turned it into a docking station, but then again, I can.

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