iPhone Mini Dock DIY

| by Ken | in Automotive, Technology 2 Comments »

I saw a number of so-called “mini-docks” listed on Amazon and eBay for the iPhone.  The problem is that they were too inexpensive!  Well, the real problem is that you can’t get a Apple certified lightning cable for as cheap as these mini-docks were running.  And that means that the lightning connector would not work with the Apple iOS without jailbreaking, etc..  In other words, the mini-docks wouldn’t be an easy charging solution.  And all I wanted was an easy charging solution for my car.

I’ve been using the Waze app more often now and I find that it really burns up the battery in the iPhone.  I can’t really fault it for doing that because it is using all the resources to save me time on my trip – i.e. more battery usage means less time in traffic.  So rather than turn off some of the phone’s features or not use Waze and end up spending more time in traffic, I’ve been hooking the phone in to my car’s lighter socket through a USB charger.  It charges successfully but it makes it harder to position the phone such that I can see the maps while driving.  Since the charging cable goes in the bottom, that means I have do landscape and the landscape mode puts the wire across where the shifter goes and makes it unstable resting in place.  I felt I could come up with a better and more stable solution.

I started off just looking for something to mount the phone to charge it but quickly became enamored with the idea of also getting audio output to my car stereo.  So basically, I wanted an iPhone mini-dock but one that worked with an Apple approved lightning cable.  I came up with a plan that uses basic parts and ends up with a decent looking homemade Apple dock that works with the iPhone’s case on.  And I also skipped using the visible lighter socket for a neater look.

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My 2001 Audi S4 isn’t new but I still love driving it.  And I’m holding off replacing it until a car comes along that meets my current needs.  (But that’s another post.)  For now, I’m happy to drive it and even improve on it.  As I wrote in another post, I’ve been needing to charge my phone in the car more frequently than before.  But I wanted the charging system to be a little nicer looking than the various wires draped across the console and connected to a lighter socket.  As you’ll read below, I was able to install an iPhone mini-dock in my car, and I think it looks pretty good here on the dashboard.

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For a while, I’ve been driving my 2001 Audi S4 with “Air Bag” lit up on the dashboard.  Obviously, it indicated some sort of problem but I wasn’t sure what it meant.  I assumed it involved big money so I figured I would postpone it for a bit and try to not crash in the mean time.

I had the car in for service for something else and asked them to check the codes for the “Air Bag” light.  The shop said that they got two codes – one for the driver’s air bag igniter and another for the control module.  They tried clearing the codes but got a response from the control module of “command not found”.  They said that they couldn’t tell if there really was a problem with the driver’s air bag because when the control module is faulty, sometimes it returns bogus problems.  So we’d need to start with replacing the control module.  Okay, how much?  I’m sorry, what?  $1100 for the module and hundreds more for labor?  Let’s hold off on that!

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I started hearing a bit of a hiss-buzz from the left front door speaker in the Audi S4 (B5). Uh-oh – I know this sound. But why are my speakers blowing now? And why on the AM newsradio station of all things? Well, I guess the medium band of AM makes things more boomy? And apparently, my speakers are just old enough for that to happen.

A little Googling, however, and I discovered that there were a number of people with the same issue.  And I enjoyed reading about the lousy original equipment speakers.  I’ve never been a fan of Bose, considering it always overpriced – sure they have some interesting technological developments, but generally others do it better and for less.  So it was interesting to disassemble the door panel and dig out the speaker to investigate it.  The magnet was huge and heavy which is good and especially impressive considering it is only a 4-inch speaker.  Also, there’s a really nice rubber surround that seals up the speaker to the door well.  But then the speaker itself had a paper cone which just seems like a really poor choice for a car door speaker on a high-end system.

I focused on two forum posts to do my speaker replacement.  I used both one at AudiForum and one at AudiZine.  In both cases, they went with Infinity replacement speakers because they are the only easily available aftermarket speaker that operates at an impedance lower than 4 Ohms.  And since the factory unit is expecting that kind of load, using a speaker that had a higher impedance would have resulted in too low a volume (and possibly wearing out the amplifier which is no spring chicken).  Also, the Infinity speakers are better quality and better sounding speaker than the original.  The only downside to the new Infinity speakers is that they are “2-way” speakers with a tweeter concentric in the bass driver whereas the original speaker was only the bass driver since the tweeter is up near the window.  Theoretically, I might end up with too much tweet compared to the boom but after some thought I decided that the additional tweet wouldn’t be a real problem.  So I didn’t bother modifying the new speaker to clip the tweeter or to remove the connection to the existing separate tweeter.

The AudiForum post recommended cutting up the original speakers and using the frames of the originals as a base for the new ones.  But the AudiZine post managed to do it without cutting up the speakers and I figured that would be both easier and less destructive.  And I was in a rush to get it done on the last nice weather day of the year.  (Snow in the forecast.)  My replacement went pretty well.  I probably should have put in more time to do some silicone sealing but I didn’t have the time (or the silicone).  I did want to reuse the speaker mounts and the rubber surrounds, though – that was of primary importance to getting the sound correct and not ending up with rattling.  So I managed to screw the new speakers into the old mount using the screw in the inner most (deepest) corner of the mount.  The original speakers were thicker so the screws didn’t need to go in as deep.  It takes a little extra effort to tighten the screw down in the original hole.  Then, I marked with a pencil where the flanges of the new speaker were too long to fit in the mount and used pliers to bend the metal there back and forth until it snapped on the line.  With the new speakers fitting in the mount and one screw hole lining up, I drilled a second screw hole in the mount on the only place where a new speaker flange still had enough hole and the mount had enough plastic.  I would have liked to get a third screw in but there just wasn’t space for it.  The mount screwing into the door with the rubber surround will have to be enough to hold it together.  The wire clips fit fine – the smaller one was a little loose so a slight squeeze on the pliers made it just tight enough to hold on.

I replaced only the broken speaker on the driver’s side first and then cranked up the stereo.  My test track was Anthrax’s “In The End”.  And I played it loud.  Woo hoo!  It sounded awesome.  Well, from the driver’s side.  The passenger side now sounded tinny and hollow.  Wait.  That means even before the driver’s speaker broke, it sounded tinny and hollow?  And I never realized it until I got a better speaker in there?  Wow!  I happily replaced the passenger door speaker the same way and repeated the test.  “In The End” sounded awesome.  Hooray!

2001 Toyota Camry Leaks

| by Ken | in Automotive 1 Comment »

The significant other’s Toyota Camry has had a number of leaks through the years.  It’s been really frustrating to get in the car and discover the floor splashes when you step on it.  It has happened periodically for years.  The following is what I did to figure out where the problems were and what I did to fix them.

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