DIY: Do It Yourself
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|11-09-2013, 03:55 PM||#1|
Mod: Integrated Armrest iPhone/iPod dock
I'm always listening to music or podcasts when I drive. I use my iPhone 5, but there's never really been a good, convenient, affordable solution to this. Bluetooth's theoretically perfect, but the sound quality's never been up to my standards. Auxiliary sounds great, but you lose any and all steering wheel integration. USB interfaces with the wheel and sounds the best, but nobody really likes this:
A solution does exist for this: spec.dock It solves the problem beautifully... for $184.00. There had to be a better answer.
...meet ELEGANT DIY SOLUTION:
I started looking for places within the car to route a hidden USB cable to connect to my Mediabridge. The end connector needed to be easily accessible to quickly connect my iPhone when getting in & out the car, and reasonably secure to protect my phone. To my delight, the inside of the armrest was (almost suspiciously) perfect! It was rubberized, secure, convenient, and the perfect size:
With only a little bit of cutting, the result is a flawless, solid, almost OEM-looking iPhone dock inside your armrest:
This DIY is EXTREMELY forgiving. I was very worried when I began that I'd make a mess of the armrest interior. But the construction is such that the rubber lining covers up any & all drilling imperfections, and also puts plenty of tension to hold the connector rock-solid. "Perfect every time." The only other external cut you'll make is invisible after reassembly.
If you've ever considered a spec.dock, are in any way disappointed by Bluetooth, or you're just sick of putting your $600 phone in a cupholder: consider this DIY. I've been driving with it for about 6 weeks, and it frankly feels as natural as anything you'd pay BMW to install.
Let's get started!
Start in the backseat. Open the rear ashtray cover and pull out the ashtray and insert.
Under the ashtray you will find two plastic screws and grommets. Lightly unscrew these. There's not much holding them in.
With the screws out you'll be able to remove the entire roller assembly. Pull out the cable on the right-hand side to fully remove
Unscrew the two metal screws under the roller assembly
You'll now be able to remove the entire rear trim assembly, revealing the armrest springs on the side. Route the ashtray cable out the side of the assembly to fully remove
The rear of the armrest should resemble this
Make your way to the front seats. Remove whichever insert you have from the center console. The cup holder/coin tray removes as shown
Move forward. You now have to remove the shifter boot. There are a few options:
Manual transmissions: I believe you simply pry up the leather boot around the gear lever.
Steptronic transmissions: I believe you have to pry up the panel around the leather boot
Older, non-step autos (like me): You'll need to remove the shifter handle to remove the shifter plate. The procedure is simple: grab the handle and pull like hell (pictured). Advice:
Automatic transmissions: pry the shifter cover up with a screwdriver
Regardless of transmission, you'll end up with a view similar to this. (Automatics: feel free to put the lever back in and shift back into park.)
All that for these two screws. Remove them.
Remove the parking brake boot. Put your fingers under the edge and pry up. Extend it as far up as you can.
Now you can remove the entire center console. Grab the sides and pull it straight back a few inches.
My 15-year old plastic hasn't held up very well.
Last step for this is to remove the door lock/hazard switch. Pop it up from underneath and unplug the cable.
Remove the entire center console assembly up and through the parking brake. The more you engage the lever the easier it is to remove. Be sure the ashtray cable n te rear does not catch.
Put it in a safe place.
Be careful of these clips under the rear ashtray. They're needed for reassembly, but mine had long-since split in half. Keep track of them.
Back in the front: move/tilt the seats back to reveal two springs (either side). Twist them slightly with your pliers to remove. (Don't worry. They're VERY easy to put back in)
One of the springs
With the springs removed, using your finger, pull out the the two plugs from either side. (Note the easily misplaced rear-ashtray clips and rear ashtray cable at the top of the image)
The armrest cover can now be removed
Tilt the armrest straight up and unclip this trim piece
Tilt the armrest back down and remove these two trim pieces (either side). My 15-year old plastic again didn't hold up and these almost fell off. Yours will probably need to be unclipped.
Pull the armrest out. I put these two plastic covers back in for safekeeping. Let's move inside.
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|11-09-2013, 03:56 PM||#2|
The bottom half of the armrest, with the rubber insert, on my kitchen counter.
Flip the armrest upside-down and unclip this small tab
Run a screwdriver/guitar pick/your fingernails along the edge and undo the clips holding the rubber insert in. I recall 5-6 (quite secure) clips.
The bottom armrest and rubber insert. Again, an iPhone 5 fits perfectly.
Start with the lower armrest piece. There are two large plastic ribs. You need to cut a large (~3/4-inch) channel through the righthand one. Use the image as reference. It doesn't matter how you do this, so long as it resembles the image above. (I used a drill to make a series of holes, broke the plastic between them with snips, and smoothed it all out with a file.)
Place your iPhone in the tray, and note where you want the connector to be
It's time to drill. Make the hole the same size as the white plastic Lightning connector itself. Notes on drilling:
Before you try the fit, thread the Lightning cable through this convenient slot in the lower armrest.
My photography suffered here. Keep drilling and cutting and trimming until you can push the Lighting connector all the way through the hole/slit. Pull it COMPLETELY through until just the cord is threaded in the hole.
Now here's the trick: push the connector back through the hole. It'll be much harder this time. Here's what's happening: the stretched rubber layer is being pushed into the hole, rolling up BETWEEN the plastic and connector. This tight layer of rubber does two things:
You can see now why I said don't worry about the drilling. The tray looks perfect, and I wasn't even following a guide.
Once you have the Lightning connector how you want it, it's time to snap everything together. It should resemble this.
This part's a little tricky. You have to thread the cable through the channel you cut earlier, pull out the slack, and snap the two armrest halves together. (You'll see why you the channel had to be cut so deep. The top half has another rib that comes down, which would slice the cable in half!)
Eventually you'll get the halves together. When you do, the armrest'll look completely normal, apart from the innocent-looking Lightning connector! The cable should exit out the convenient slot.
During reassembly I realized I needed to cut another small slot. I recommend NOT cutting this slot out of the small semi-circle plastic piece. Cut it the same armrest insert. No reason to mar another bit of trim.
Reassembly the opposite of disassembly! The springs are extremely easy to put back in. The cable should be like so
Push the USB connector through this convenient hole by the shifter
Pull the cable through. It's perfectly safe in my automatic, but I don't know if manual transmissions have this kind of empty space, or if it'll tangle up the gear lever. Consider running the cable under the outside trim of the footwell if you're concerned.
Pull the cable through another convenient hole under the ashtray. My ashtray was already gone (nonsmoker). This compartment is my little connectivity center. The female USB and Aux connectors from my Mediabridge run here.
All done! This is one of the best things I've ever done to my car. The end result is looks completely invisible, clean, and professional.
Before doing this I was a little worried about the convenience. What if I want to change the song? What if I get a call? I'd felt a lot of regret after buying a Mediabridge too. This mod has eliminated all worries I'd had about it, and completely justified my Mediabridge purchase. The phone still connects via Bluetooth, so I have total voice control from my steering wheel ("Play [artist, album, song, playlist]", "Call [person]", "Get me directions to [location]"). It's wonderful. And if I get a call, the Mediabridge automatically switches to Bluetooth and shows caller ID on the radio! Press the steering wheel to answer/reject, and the music plays again when you're done! It looks so natural, the uninformed just think my BMW has really, really good phone integration
If you have a Mediabridge or similar, I really, REALLY recommend this mod to you. It's so incredibly convenient, sounds so good, and is so cheap/easy to do. It just takes time.
|11-09-2013, 09:07 PM||#3|
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: new england
My Ride: 330i
Kudos on the well documented install. Two questions:
1. Is the weight of the entire phone being held up by that lighting adapter? If so, over time I would expect this could cause problems with your iphone..
2. Does the MediaBridge by default, work with the bmw steering wheel (track up/down, answer/end call, siri), or need additional accessories to fully work?
I'm asking because I believe over at BavAuto their depiction of using siri was to initiate thru the home button - not the steering wheel.
|11-09-2013, 09:46 PM||#4|
You do, however, have to enable Bluetooth on your iPhone. Your Mediabridge will switch to the Bluetooth input automatically if a call comes through or you trigger Siri, but it automatically switches back to USB immediately afterward. One of its many little quirks.
Last edited by andrewgrohs; 11-09-2013 at 09:48 PM.
|11-11-2013, 11:42 AM||#6|
Join Date: Aug 2010
My Ride: 02 M3
Good work man! I did the same except my satellite radio receiver is there
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|diy, dock, iphone, mediabridge, mod|
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