Despite the old adage, “If it works, don’t fix it,” I have never been able to keep my hands off of things that aren’t broken. That’s bit me in the ass more times than I’d like to admit, something I was well aware of when I decided to “improve” our new Nissan Versa. I’m not sure if that decision makes me fearless or just stupid, but whichever it is I went in anyway. I guess it’s time to talk about what happened.
I mentioned in my initial write-up that I was unhappy that the Note SV doesn’t come with a built in navigation system and that I was shocked, yes shocked, that it’s not available as a factory or dealer add-on, either. It’s probably a sign that I’m getting old but, despite having used them to navigate around Japan for the last three years, the idea of using our smartphones’ navigation apps just didn’t occur to me. Once the members of this site (should we start calling you the Besters and the Brightesters?) set me straight, however, I realized I was going to need some sort of mount.
My last foray into the world of cell phone mounts resulted in the purchase of a couple of spring-loaded armatures that stuck, via suction cup, to a plastic pad I glued to my dash. That worked well enough, but I absolutely hate sticking things to the inside of my cars so, this time, I decided to try something different. The solution I arrived at was the Veckle CD slot magnetic car phone holder, which I got through Amazon for just for just $10.99. It may not be an option if you listen to a lot of CDs, but that’s not something I do much anymore so the Veckle works well for our purposes. I simply slipped it in, turned the plastic knob that secured it into place and that was it. Total install time, about 5 minutes when you include sticking the flat magnets that were thoughtfully included to the back of your phone’s case. The only point of caution I can advise you on is not twisting the knob that secures the mount into position so tightly that it cracks the fascia on the stereo.
The next addition was something that I installed in the Town and Country when we moved to Japan – a Dash Camera. Although we have never been called upon to use it as evidence for any sort of accident, I enjoy the feeling of security it provides and thought having one in the new car would be a good idea as well. Since I liked the one we have, I bought another of the exact same model, a Spy Tec A119, through Amazon for $79.95. The basic installation was simple, I added a 32 GB Micro SDHC memory card and stuck it to the windshield. Routing the wires took a little more time because I wanted to make the install as clean as possible. With that in mind, I tucked the power cable into the leading edge of the headliner and ran it over to the passenger side door where I slipped it in under the rubber weatherstripping. I followed the edge of the door down to the bottom of the dash, and then tucked the wire up and out of sight under the glove box until I reached a point where it could be plugged into the accessory power outlet via a double USB adapter that can serve both the camera and the phone.
The result is clean and simple and setting up the A119 was easy. Because the Note’s accessory power outlet is switched, the camera turns on and off with the car. On startup, it makes a noise to let me know it has powered on and gives me a 15 second look at what it’s seeing via a small display on the unit’s back. When the screensaver kicks in, the screen goes dark and the unit is absolutely out of sight, out of mind. Spy Tec’s literature says the camera records at 60 frames per second at 1440p via a wide angle lens, which sounds impressive but I have no real idea what that means. What I can say is that when I have pulled out the memory card and played the video on my computer, the video is crisp, clean and very fluid. Total install time, about 45 minutes when I include the time it took to run the wire exactly the way I wanted, and maybe another 15 minutes playing around with the menu to get the camera dialed in.
With the easy things out of the way, I turned to what would be the most difficult part of my day – driving lights. I opted for a kit from Spec-D Tuning that included mounts, clear driving/fog lights with bulbs and all the electrical parts that I found at Walmart.com for just $65.95. The kit itself is a complete package and you can see from the pictures at the bottom of this article that he result looks like a 100 percent factory addition. The install, however, was a major pain in the ass.
To begin with, I had to remove the entire front fascia from the car, much of it secured by the sorts of finicky plastic clips that I have come to hate over the years. Since I didn’t have whatever special tool the factory might use, I took my time and was as gentle as possible with a small screw driver and a pair of needle nose pliers. To say there were a lot of clips would be an understatement. It took about two and a half hours to get everything removed but, fortunately I managed to get the front off of the car without breaking anything.
The install was no easier. To begin with, the pile of parts I had received were a jumble of different shapes and looked like an unsolvable puzzle. Nothing looked like it would fit with what I had. The lights were the right shape, but bigger than the blanks I had popped out of the mounts and for a moment I had visions of me with a cutting wheel making everything work. But after looking at it for a while, I noticed a clip on the backside of the fascia that seemed to fit the mount and, when I matched those two pieces up, everything else just fell into place.
The lights suddenly fit into the mounts. The mounts matched up to the back of the fascia via the aforementioned clips and a couple of bolts provided in the kit, and the too-large lights mated up to the back of the holes in a way that, while still too large from the back, looks perfectly normal from the outside. The kit worked perfectly with absolutely no modifications required. The wiring harness, too, went right together and after I had the wires run the way I wanted them I had the whole font put back onto the car without any issues in about an hour.
But then I hit a roadblock. The wiring needed a place to run through the firewall and there was just no way I could see that might make it work. In the old days, that would have been the easy part of this whole operation. I’d have found a grommet with wires running through it, added this one new wire to the bundle and been home free, but the Note is just too compact of a package to allow me this simple fix. The wiring bundle was wrapped tight and it passed through the fire wall into the car’s cabin somewhere behind the engine in a place that I just couldn’t access.
After pondering the situation for a while, I decided the solution was to route the wire alongside the hood latch cable, which actually runs from the engine bay through the fender, briefly into the wheel well and enters the cabin via a point behind the inside fender liner. Although it sounds simple, getting it through required all my skills as a good, old fashioned wire-fisher but with time and more patience, I got it done. Once I was on the inside, I connected the final wire, slipped the switch into the stock position and plugged in the socket from behind. The result looks entirely factory and the switch even lights up to let me know when driving lights are on. Total time spent, between 5 and 6 frustrating hours but the end result looks great and works well.
And that’s where the additions to our new Nissan will end. No aftermarket radio, no bass tubes, no spoilers, no ski racks, no neon kits and no whatever else is out there. We just wanted a few extra things to make the car more user friendly and, with the exception of the driving lights, our additions were easy to install. The whole thing was a rousing success and the little car is just that much nicer for the things I have done. The best part is, even though everything already worked, I actually did, for once in my life, manage to “fix” something without making it worse. I should probably go buy a lottery ticket while I’m on a roll.
Just for the record, I chose all the items I used on my own and purchased them with my own money. No promotional deals were struck and I don’t expect any sort of reimbursement from the manufacturers. I’ve given you the names and prices of the actual products as a point of reference and if they sucked I’d have told you straight up.