Apple iPad “Head Unit” Tablet Mount Upgrade For the 5th Gen 4Runner
If there’s one thing all 4Runner owners can agree upon, it’s that the factory head unit on the 5th Gen needs help.
Let’s be honest, the screen size is small, the resolution poor, and the features are scarce and outdated. The one consolation is the updated screen (added in 2019) and the addition of Android Auto and Apple Car Play for those who picked up the most recent 2020 model. But for those stuck with an older model 4Runner, we’re forced to upgrade the unit or to make do with the Windows 95 of car radios.
When I first got my 2018 TRD Off-Road – I was not impressed with any of the “Tech Features” the salesman kept trying to highlight. Coming from my wife’s 328D and my old GMC Sierra, none of the tech in the 4Runner was impressive. Everything just seemed dated by about a decade (in typical Toyota fashion), but the most disappointing was the useless navigation screen and radio unit (advertised as one of the highest tech things in the vehicle). I knew it had to go.
But what to replace it with? There are a few decent options out on the market including the cartrimhome T9 out of China that drastically improves screen size, resolution and adds Android Auto and Apple Car play for around 5 bills, as well as the Alpine Halo 9 that improves on much of the same for about 15 bills MSRP. Being bougie old me, I had been leaning toward the Alpine for a while. A long while. I just couldn’t seem to pull the trigger.
Alpine Halo 9 or the iPad?
I kept making the fiscal comparison between the Alpine Halo 9 and an iPad. Both were around the same amount of money, but the iPad just seemed to do so much more and was portable. Improved audio quality was not a priority of mine so any increase in the output the Alpine had overstock was moot.
What I wanted was a better resolution and better functionality. With an iPad, I could stream music or play from my library, I could pull up better map software and even use Off-road/Trail GPS apps such as Gaia GPS. In addition, an iPad would drastically help me at work as a construction superintendent where I often office out of my vehicle.
Having it mounted and secure, I could pull up plans, send out emails and multitask without having to tether a laptop and play the “balance the laptop on the steering wheel” game. I was sold.
So What Now?
Now that I had a plan, I had to figure out how I was going to do it. I didn’t favor the typical iPad mount that attaches to the passenger seat bolt since it sets up your device all in your passenger’s business. I wanted something a little more “finished” and simple.
Luckily, a buddy of mine had mounted his iPad Pro to his Audi to use in a similar fashion and he turned me to some WizGear Magnetic Mounts, which ended up working out quite nicely. Check out how I did it below:
Mounting an iPad On Your 4Runner’s Dash
Tools & Materials
- WizGear Universal Twist-Lock Air Vent Magnetic Phone Mount with Swift-Snap (x2): Check Price
- Piece of Industrial Strength Hook and Loop Velcro (x1): Check Price
- Apple iPad (or Any Tablet, I used a Gen 4 Apple iPad Pro 12.9”): Check Price
- (Optional) Tablet Case (The thinner the backing the better, You want to make sure you’re getting the most adhesion from the magnets and not insulating them with a thick heavy-duty case.)
- Finally, add a screen protector cover over the front of the iPad
WizGear makes a ton of magnetic mounts for electronic devices.
I knew I wanted to mount the iPad to the AC vents since this gives us the best position on the center console and is the easiest to install. I had a few challenges I had to overcome: I had to support a significant amount of weight using flimsy AC vents, had to find a way to offset the tablet to clear the volume and tuner knobs since the 12.9” is WIDE, and finally, I wanted to protect the vehicle surfaces as best as possible.
WizGear Universal Twist-Lock Air Vent Phone Holders with Swift-Snap Mount
I ended up choosing 2 rectangular WizGear Universal Twist-Lock Air Vent Phone Holders with Swift-Snap Mount over the other mounts available online. The mount is two pieces where the base mount uses rubberized prongs to attach to the AC vent louvers (some of the mounts out there do not have the rubberized prongs and can result in marred surfaces).
Rather than relying on pure spring tension, the prongs on this mount are secured with a threaded plastic nut, which ensures a solid hold. The upper part of the mount consists of the magnet face and a ball mount that is also secured by a plastic nut.
This allows you to pivot and tilt the magnetic face for more viewing angle options. The size and design of this specific mount gave us the ability to overcome weight, clearance and surface protection challenges.
The mounts come with a few magnet options:
- 2 Rectangular Magnets with Adhesive Backing,
- 2 Rectangular Magnets without Adhesive Backing
- Circular Magnets in the Same Configuration
I opted for the larger rectangular magnets with adhesive and stuck those to the inside of our iPad case. I installed one mount per AC vent on the center console carefully positioning them to clear the tablet camera and to sit in a manner where the of the mount rested on the center console. Doing this helped mitigate our weight concerns as it helps distribute the weight of the tablet and doesn’t rely solely on the strength of the AC Vent louvers.
Tips For Installation
Before you install your tablet, make sure to cut off a small section of velcro/hook and loop with adhesive backing and stick to the bottom of the plastic trim piece directly under the factory LCD screen. Do the same with the bottom of the tablet where the two surfaces will meet. This will eliminate any vibrations you get from the tablet and will add another layer of mounting security to ensure that the tablet stays put.
So far, I’ve tested on pretty rough pavement and driven around town and have had no issues with the tablet moving. How it will perform off-road is TBD though this thing is pretty hard to pry off with two hands. I honestly think it’ll be fine.
Once you’ve taken care of the Velcro, then you’re good to go! Install your tablet and Voila.
I’ll be testing this mounting solution over the next few months in different environments and will be tweaking it as needed. I don’t drive with an iPad mounted 24-7 nor did I intend for this set up to work perfectly off-road (if it does, great).
The purpose of this solution was more for everyday use and for work. I’ve paired this unit with an Apple Magic Key Board And it has proven to be super powerful tool day-to-day. What do you think?