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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First a quick mention about a two previous customizations.  I had outfitted the car to work with a Nokia cradle.  I had removed passenger cup holder (under the arm-rest!) and replaced it with the Nokia cradle for the old 5100/6100 series phones, and even it hooked it in to the car’s audio system masquerading as the Audi OEM cell phone system using the headliner mic and door phone speaker.  That was supercool at the time.  And if that work hadn’t predated the existence of this blog, you can bet that customization would be proudly linked here.  I’ve had a number of phones since the last one that would work in the cradle and I never bothered upgrading the cradle to newer tech – partly because I could never get the mic to work well and partly because I realized that cradles like that weren’t something phone manufacturers were bothering with any more.

The other prior customization was more straightforward: installing an adapter in the trunk where the CD changer would have been installed that had an audio input which would allow you to connect any MP3 player.  All I had to do was install a “Blitz Safe” Type I in the trunk and connect it to the CD changer connector, then run an audio input wire up to the console.  When you switch the radio to CD changer, it would then take the input from any device you plug in.  Brilliant device for its time.  I ran the wire to the backseat ashtray and coiled it up in the ashtray so it was hidden most of the time and I would simply unwind the wire to bring it to the front seat when I wanted to use it.  (To show how long ago this was, the audio player I used was a Rio S10!)

Now, the Nokia cradle has been merely a dust magnet for 5 years but I’d still occasionally use the audio connector for long road trips, preferring to load the iPod or iPhone with music than bring a pile of CDs or rely on radio.  And now that the iPhone is used more than the iPod and now that I don’t need the Nokia cradle, it seemed to make sense to remove the cradle and make that the home for the iPhone.  I could move the audio connector from the backseat ashtray to that location easily.  So all I need is a better way to hook in power to the phone.  The lighter socket is right there in the console, so I figured it would be easy to tap in there.  All I’d need is a USB receptacle that gets its power from the car – so presumably a receptacle with a power conversion unit inside.  Seemed like it ought to be easy to find.

It was not.  I eventually found a YouTube video describing how to install a Nissan Juke USB jack in a Ford Focus.  That meant that there was a part that I could press into service but it would require some less than pretty hacking.  Further digging and I stumbled on some eBay USB jacks that included audio connectors.  Nice but the back side of them was always a USB plug, meaning I’d need to still supply the charger some other way.  Through another YouTube video, I eventually found a device that seemed to do exactly what I wanted – only it was only available from Australia.  I thought about ordering anyway, but was a little worried about it not being what I had hoped it would be.

Okay, so if I can’t easily get the device I want that does the charging and the audio, maybe that’s not such a big deal.  I can always just bury a USB charger inside the console and then I have many solutions available to me.  In fact, there were so-called “mini-docks” on Amazon and eBay that would allow the iPhone to just plug in.  I thought that was cool – a low-nonsense approach to plugging in the phone in the car and I would just need to connect the audio connector to the connector I already had.  And for the USB cable, I’d still need a dedicated USB charger to bury in the console.

But wait, if using the phone for navigation is one of the reasons for plugging the phone in to a charger, why would I want to hide the phone under the arm-rest?  I realized I had a classic case of being too used to something:  “That’s where the old phone went so that’s where the new one will go” is a dumb reason to put something somewhere.  I realized I’d be better off with it on the dashboard.  And I think I could put one of those mini-docks there pretty easily.  Ah-ha – now I’m getting somewhere.

I had the mini-dock in my Amazon cart when it clicked that the dock was really cheap – cheaper than most Apple approved lightning cables.  I better check to see if this cable is Apple approved.  (If it is not, iOS will refuse to charge with it defeating the whole purpose of this effort.)  I never was able to confirm that the mini-dock was not approved but I was able to confirm that it was not labeled as approved.  In other words, if it isn’t labeled as approved, it isn’t.  And therefore, that shot the whole plan.

But now with the idea of what I wanted on my dashboard in my head, I was hung up on getting something like that working.  And that is what led me to make my own out of an Apple approved cable, an audio cable, black plastic, and glue.  See the full post for details on how I built my mini-dock.

Okay, with the mini-dock created, the integration with the Audi wasn’t too bad.  First I removed my Nokia cradle customization.  And I researched how best to pull apart the console.  (I had done it all before, but it was a long time ago.  I should also note that I did this in conjunction with a repair to the Air Bag Control Module.)

Next, I did some research on where best to tap into the power on the Audi.  I realized that the lighter socket in the console was always on, even when the key was removed from the car, so I didn’t want to tap in to that circuit.  I found some online detail about where to tie in to a switched hot.  The 75X terminal is the location to tie in.  Which is funny because it was only a month ago that I found a strip of paper on the floor of the car with these weird labels on it and it wasn’t until I saw the picture in that post that I could figure out where it was supposed to go.  I used some adhesive tape to put the paper strip back and then was able to make my positive connection from the fuseholder to this terminal.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t just use an empty fuse location in the existing fusebox but the inline fuse is accessible from above the fuse panel so it functions in about the same way.

The ground was easy – on the wall of the car below left of the 75X terminal.  Easy to spot when you have the 75X terminal visible.

I placed the lighter socket behind the dashboard using zipties to secure it to one of the dashboard mounts.  Primarily so it doesn’t rattle but also to make sure that it doesn’t come loose.

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The audio cable that I had previously installed from the trunk was long enough to run through the console to behind the dash so I was able to simply plug that in.  I understand that there may be better ways of hooking in to an Audi radio, like possibly removing the connector from the back of the radio and plugging in a different device.  That may well be cheaper than the 10+ year old way of doing things that I already had working in my car.

If you like the idea but not my implementation, here are two alternatives to consider.  Here’s a description about how to tear apart a USB charger and use the jacks directly for mounting on a blank plate.  You’d probably need to still use my info above about where best to tap into power and ground.  And here’s one similar but using the hole in the arm rest of the 2001 B5 Audi that is normally used for attaching a phone handset.

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