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Dash Mounting a Nexus 7 – #ProjectN7 by @mr_bridger

One thing that’s bugged me for a long time is the lack of Android based in-car entertainment systems. Android is the perfect platform for this, its open source, very customisable, and lends it self well to cloud based music apps and internet radio. Manufacturers only need to build some hardware and then slap Android on it! So why are there so few?… this got me thinking… could I make my own?

I was sitting in my car, a 1995 Toyota Celica, playing games on my Nexus 7, and just decided to offer it up to the dash. the screen is almost a perfect fit into a double DIN aperture. this had potential! i did a quick sketch on my Galaxy Note 2 of how i thought it could look..

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I ordered a spare dash panel off eBay, and set to work, tweeting my progress on the #ProjectN7 tag. Fortunately for me, the rear of the dash panel had a rib all around the Double DIN slot that almost exactly matched the frame size of the Nexus 7. the first step was to remove some ribs and then sand / grind back the plastic from where the Nexus 7 was going to sit. i did this with wire cutters, just for the extra control.

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This took a bit of trial and error, as i didn’t want to accidentally take too much off, or damage the clips that hold the panel into the dash. but eventually i got to a point where it would actually fit in and sit flush with the front.

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The next step was probably the most difficult, as i had to remove the central section of the air vents, as this is where i needed to move the head unit to. This bit would be on show so i had to be really careful trimming and with a little sanding i got it as good as i could hope.

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With the Panel as good as i could get it, i had some other problems i needed to address… namely the fact that i now had no way to power the tablet, or get the audio out of it, as the wires would come out directly where the clip was that retains the dash panel! i do have a fair bit of electronics knowledge, so set about finding a broken Nexus 7 to take some required bits out of. there seems plenty of broken screened ones on eBay!

Once the broken one arrived, i removed the back, battery and lots of tape and shielding to remove the Power/Audio PCB and associated ribbon cable. this was to be used so i could move the micro USB outside of the tablet, without damaging the one in the tablet. This will not come out without taking out the battery and pulling off lots of shielding, so it definitely would affect warranty!

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Next up is the power button. One issue with the Nexus 7 is that it powers down when flat (no surprise there), but when you plug it in, it only goes into charging mode. Without a power button, there’s no way to turn it on!?!?! Wrong! there is a Fastboot command that you can issue to the bootloader to make the tablet power on once plugged it.  “fastboot oem off-mode-charge 0” makes the unit power on the instant its connected to AC. “fastboot oem off-mode-charge 1” returns to normal state,  so fitting an external switch isn’t 100% necessary, but i decided i wanted one anyway. I’m using Tasker to switch the unit on and off  with the ignition, but having the external switch is a handy addition.

To do this i carefully removed the power switch PCB from the broken Nexus 7 and then peeled off the top layer exposing the contacts. i then (carefully) soldered two wires onto the board, what would be run to an external switch. i put a dab of hot melt glue over the solder joint to help relieve any strain on the wires,  and then ran them in a loop to avoid strain, then back out of the original power button hole.

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For the power / audio connectors, i carefully opened the zif socket and taped back the original flexi ribbon, then i inserted the one from the broken Nexus and, as luck would have it, it runs straight out of the volume button hole. this was then taped so it didn’t get snagged on anything

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I used Hot Melt glue to secure the Power / Audio connectors to the back of the Nexus7, mainly as it was easy, and also because i could glue the USB cable in place too, damaging the back cover isn’t really an issue to me as i now have a spare from the broken one :-) i angled the 3.5mm Audio jack up slightly so the cable wouldn’t be running straight down at the heater controls once fitted. i then put a matt screen protector on to stop glare and make it look more of a factory fit.

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So the Nexus 7 was all wired ready to be put into the dash panel,  question was… how! My old trust friend the glue gun came to the rescue again. its not the best i suppose, but I’m very limited for space, and brackets would have nothing to screw into. I decided to put masking tape around the whole tablet, to make sure no glue got onto the front bezel, i then glued it in place.

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in the mean time, i was back in the car, getting the head unit into the right place. this took lots of trial and error, a lot was done before gluing the tablet into the panel, just to get the alignment right, having the bog hole helped. with a few brackets and screws i got the head unit into place. i also took the opportunity to fit my power button in a nice convenient location.

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all i needed to do was make up some blanking plates to cover up the end of the aperture. i found an old plastic case and made these up pretty easily.

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All was left was to wire in the switch, and put the panel in the car! I bought a AUX+ cable to 3.5mm jack adaptor for the audio (KCE-237B for my head unit, an Alpine CDE102Ri), and i wired in, behind the dash, a 12v USB car adaptor. This was a 3 Amp version, so has more than enough juice to keep the Nexus 7 topped up. I also wired in the illuminated green ring on the power button into the dash illumination circuit so it comes on with the headlights. Time to fit!

And here we have it!

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Hope you like it! I’m really pleased with it. I’ll do another post soon with a few details of the homescreen / launcher and other tweaks i have used software side. :-)

Ross … aka @mr_bridger

About Ross Mclardy

  • Athea Kong

    Just amazing…

  • http://twitter.com/flibblesan Simon Osborne

    Hope you don’t mind but I just had to share this on reddit! http://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/17bm09/really_nice_nexus_7_car_installation/

  • Glen Yerkey

    Not bad

  • Ryan Norris

    Going to try this

  • Nny

    Looks great! If I may make a suggestion you could always make the clock port a vent later so you still have an outlet for the heat/ac in the console area. Seems superfluous and a bit dated compared to that awesome tablet interface.

  • http://twitter.com/claye Claye Stokes

    Nice work! Hope it doesn’t get too hot or cold where you live – I couldn’t block those vents in my car, I need them. If you use your heater, are you worried about overheating your head unit?

  • statto

    Loving the Knight Rider interface. :-)

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  • spamelita

    what about leaving this in the car in extreme temps? wouldn’t a warm summer essentially ruin the phone?

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  • Kay-Michael Köhler

    Great job!

  • Simon

    soI’m guessing your going to carry a mifi in the car with you do that you can have the nexus connect to the internet for navigation maps/routes?

    • MrChrisDruif

      There is also a 3G version. And I failed to see the mention which version he’s using in his car =)

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  • http://twitter.com/android_waze Belgian Android

    You should look into an OBD connector too (bluetooth), gives a lot more info than just the speedo with an app like Torque https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.prowl.torque&hl=en

    • RB

      Cant use that in this version of the Celica it doesn’t have an OBD conector.

  • Zenón Monge

    Nice setup

  • ilparduino

    That’s pretty awesome, maybe if you need those air vents where you live, you can use a N7 with a data plan and pandora or another radio app, combined with an amplifier that supports aux-in. Or simply find another way to hide your stereo, maybe in the glovebox…

  • Bigwavedave25

    Very nice! I really want to pick up a second used N7 now to retrofit in my car now. Awesome writeup!

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  • Happy

    That my friend is some fantastic work indeed!!

    I want one for my GT4 dash :O)

    Will you make another one for me ?? :O)

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  • BigHawk

    Ross you exceeded the threshold on the “You Rock” meter and topped the “Cool Sh!t That Wont Happen If You Cant Check Your Girlfriend” list. If you don’t like this your an Afghan rebel (your camel wants this in its hump)!

  • Jason Clelland

    Looks great, I wonder if Android has an app that would allow streaming of radio on the Nexus 7. Maybe Iheart radio. I live in AZ and would find it very hard to sacrifice my air vents, especially during our summer months just to have a radio, and maybe I could add a usb using the Nexus media importer app and then just listen to my mp3 on my thumb drive. Thanks for sharing, you have sparked some great ideas. BTW where can we find the Knight Rider theme interface?

    • grit

      you can just use a simple/cheap bluetooth audio receiver (or a more expensive bluetooth enabled car radio) and wire it to an amp. BT-audio is standard supported by android

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  • Deca

    Now you need to find out how to tie it into the climate controls.

  • PurpleWombat

    Looks great; well done. Where the stereo has remote controls, people could always consider placing it in the glove box or some other close location rather than losing the air vents. I’ve seen this done in other DIY installs. Also, there’s the option of using a Bluetooth Audio connector – basically uses a 3.5mm plug to connect to the AUX port on the front of the stereo. May save some people some trauma from connecting inside the Nexus. Of course, doesn’t solve the power issue, but one less thing to worry about, especially if the stereo is in the glovebox. I’d also echo the OBDII via Bluetooth comments. Once again, great DIY install. Congrats

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  • ThatGuy

    Did you end up using the broken one or your pristine one (with pieces from the broken one) as the Nexus in the Dash?

  • starmutant

    good luck getting the insurance company to pay out…

  • Charmie Pujalt

    Awesome!

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  • Grit

    Great job, I’m worried about the glue gun though. I would have taken some power-fix or something, it’s elastic, available in black ( ;-) ) and can withstand high temperatures. Would be a shame if the Nexus fell out while pushing the screen on a hot summer day.

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  • Mick

    How do u transfer files to the nexus 7 in this particular installation?
    USB, not available.
    WiFi, only when car is close to house??
    Bluetooth, tediously slow.

    Please elaborate.

    • Jason Urquhart

      Google drive ;)

  • Michael Kanciruk

    Nice work !, My first instinct is too always knock the extra compartment with cigg lighter down below to make space ..but moving all the controls for ac etc, and extra plastic molding that would have been needed, prob more of a headache. Also I’ve noticed with doing away with the vents, would probably would not be too much of a problem in that if your car has also side ones on the left hand driver side and right passenger side, if you close off the middle ones anyway, more air comes out the sides anyway.. now controls from steering wheel to keep intact or interface with 7, might be more tricky :)

  • Eugene

    where did you buy the external power button??

  • Abo Pinkhasov

    can please explain how do you charge the tablet?

    is it being charged at all times?> or only when the car is on?>

    thanks

  • barnz

    One problem with Nexus 7 in the car is that that if you wear polarized
    sunglasses, the screen becomes blank in landscape mode (as per this installation). You can only
    read the Nexus 7 screen with polarized sunglasses if you have it vertical / portrait mode.

  • Marius

    Man. this is sooo cool!