Generally speaking i’m a minimalist with my car and I don’t like to have a lot of extra devices, cables or items hanging around. When I do add something I think a lot about what I want to accomplish and how it will look and function. I did that with my dash cam install and when I wanted a car mount I went through the same process.
Why get a car mount?
People have a number of reasons for wanting a car mount for their phones or tablets, but for me it came down to two reasons:
- A better/alternative routing/guidance approach than is available in the car. Tesla is improving the navigation system pretty quickly but sometimes the directions it provides are not great and its lacking some important features like waypoints.
- The ability to get social/live updates of traffic, accidents, etc. While Tesla has added traffic based routing and will reroute you based on traffic it provides no details of what’s going on on the road ahead. With apps like Waze you can hear about accidents, traffic stops and the like in advance. While I don’t really speed, the live reports of police locations may also be very useful to some and can often replace a radar detector in reasonably populated areas.
Car Mount options
There are a wide variety of ways of mounting devices in your car. I had a few criteria that drove my selection:
- Not permanent – can be removed without leaving any permanent marks on the car.
- Stable – will not slide around, shake, etc as I launch the car and otherwise drive my Model S as it should be driven. This eliminates the bean bag type mounts and a few others.
- Within (but not blocking) the drivers field of vision – I don’t want to take my eyes off the road to know whats going on. Something on the floor, center console (if I had one), cupholder etc. would not work.
- Doesn’t block my view of the beautiful 17″ display, my normal dash display and also doesn’t interfere with the passenger’s view of the same things. Aesthetics are important.
- Doesn’t block the vents providing me precious heat or cooling.
After some research I found the Nite Ize Steelie for about $20 on Amazon.com. I added it to my Secret Santa list and got it as a gift this Christmas.
The Steelie has a definite downside — it comes with two pieces that stick to the different surfaces. The sticking is provided by 3M VHB foam adhesive tape which does a great job.
For the install, one piece goes on your dash and one attaches to your device. The attachment on your device is fairly small but it definitely adds thickness and edges. You can attach the piece directly to your device or to a case, but once its on its going to stay on for a long time. The install is not permanent but its not temporary either. Personally I would not want that piece stuck on my phone and digging into my leg or showing in my pocket.
For my use this wasn’t a problem. I have a spare iPad Mini with 3G that I keep in my Model S at all times. I use it for reading/killing time at Supercharger stops or when waiting to pick up the kid, etc. I can use it in the car or carry it with me into a coffee shop and its always online. Its also much faster than the built-in Tesla browser and can play videos. This spare device was the perfect victim for the dash mount and an extra thing stuck to the back of it wasn’t a concern for me. If it was I would have researched some vent mounts more but i’d have concerns for the weight of an iPad vs. a phone going down that path.
On the dash side you install something that looks like a metal ball. This is a big and powerful magnet (that they swear will not affect your device). The key with this ball is getting it placed where you want it such that your device will be well positioned. Take extra care around safety of this — don’t place it on anything that will interfere with airbags etc.
For my use I found that placing the ball on the left side of the dash display in line with the leftmost edge of the vent and just at where the surface goes flat as you come up from the lower dash was the right location. In this spot my iPad Mini sits at just the right height and can be angled slightly towards me and doesn’t interfere with the door or significantly block the vent.
One of the great things about the Stellie is how fast you can attach and detach devices. Just grab the device and place it on the ball. They line up easily and it grabs hold. To detach just give it a slight tug. Your device won’t come off during hard launches or turns but it will come off easily when you tug on it. Another great feature is that you can angle and move your device while its attached giving you quite a bit of flexibility in positioning. For my use this has been a great solution.
Removing the Steelie involves using some dental floss and sliding it between the Steelie part and your dash or device to get the 3M adhesive to let go. I tried this and was successful at removing both. You’re not supposed to re-use the same adhesive after detaching (they have replacement adhesive for this) but for a one-time test it was fine for me.
I keep my iPad plugged into power and tucked along the right side of the drivers seat. There it keeps charge and is out of the way. I have a black charge cable and a black magnetic “smart cover” on it to stop it from getting scratched and which make it nearly invisible in the car. If I stop at a Supercharger I can easily grab it and run.
When it looks like I need extra traffic or routing help I unplug the cable, flip off the magnetic cover and slap it on the Steelie mount and i’m ready to go. I don’t provide power when its mounted as the battery charge will normally be sufficient to handle the need. If I did want to give it power in this location i’d make use of the 12V adapter I created since that plug is right below this mount location minimizing the cable run.
If I just want to hear about upcoming alerts without seeing them I can just turn on the device and leave it near my seat and out of the way. I prefer to have the alerts come out of the devices speaker so they don’t interfere with my music etc.
This solution can obviously be used with any car and is not specific to the Model S. Interestingly, Abstract Ocean is offering the same product on their Tesla-specific site. They seem to have a mix of things made specifically for the Model S like their great screen protectors and then generic items that also work well in a Model S. Their current price is about the same as Amazon’s but you may want to check the difference in shipping charges (especially if you have Amazon Prime).
Randy Dunn said:
What kind of magnetic cover are you using? The one I have ends of floppy. Thanks…
Just the standard apple smart cover (not case) for the iPad Mini.
Randy Dunn said:
Thanks and thanks for what you do. Your blog and reviews are invaluable for new Tesla owners.
Thanks. Great to hear.
I spoke to Nite Ize. They say if you ever remove this, it could very well leave a discoloration on the dash where the adhesive mount was affixed. That’s a no-starter for me.
Interesting I thought the packaging said otherwise but I could be wrong.