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Adding a Ram Mount to the #%@#$@! A-pillar

November 1, 2017.

I've always hated the A-pillars in my truck. Actually, it's the trim I hate. And I've hated it since I first tried (and failed) to remove it several years ago to run the wire for a microphone from my head unit up to the rearview mirror.

See, to remove the A-pillar trip, you also need to remove the grab handle. And for some reason, in 1997-2000 Tacoma's, the grab handle is attached with two M6 screws (no hex head) with a JIS head. That JIS head looks a lot like a Philips head, but it isn't, and I of course don't have a JIS driver.

So I use Philips, and hope.

Or rather, I generally try to avoid removal.

In fact, several years ago when I failed at removing the grab handle because I could tell the screw head was going to strip, I even went so far as to purchase some M6 socket button head screws that I could use to replace the OEM ones. But I never installed them because, well, that would require messing with the A-pillar.

But today I decided it was time to mount a 1" Ram mount ball on the driver side A-pillar. I needed it for some communication equipment, and frankly, it was time to fix the problem once and for all.

I was able to get the first screw out! The head didn't look great, but it held long enough to back out. Maybe I could do this.

But the second head was already a bit mangled from my attempt years ago. Almost immediately, it completely stripped out. Semi-expected, I retrieved my drill, a bit to drill out the head, and my screw extractors.

But then there was another problem. I couldn't fit the drill+bit into the head of the screw because the steering wheel was in the way. So, out came the steering wheel…which of course also means the airbag had to come out, and I risked re-installing the steering wheel "off-a-tooth" when putting it back on.

Then, I drilled out the head of the screw and screwed in the extractor.

And then, even though I'd used a small extractor, the head broke off. At least that mean that the grab handle was free! Of course, it also meant that I still needed to get the screw shank out. So it was back to drilling and "extracting." Except the extracting didn't work - I just couldn't get the screw to back out. Eventually, I drilled out enough of the shank that it just "fell out." And by that point, a couple hours had passed, and tools had been gathered.

The next step was to remove the A-pillar trim, so I could run wiring cleanly to the Ram mount. I did everything by the book - went slowly, pried carefully. I only broke one clip. "Meh success," I guess. #%@#$@! A-pillar

Now it was time to figure out how to attach the Ram mount. It wouldn't "just fit" because it's an M8 bolt, so I was either going to grind down and rethread the bolt, or I was going to drill out the A-pillar a bit more and re-tap it for the larger M8 bolt.

Ultimately, I decided to re-tap the A-pillar which ended up being a good (easier) idea.

Then, I ran some wires - a USB cable for power, and shielded CAT6 for the Ham radio - up from the dash and behind the A-pillar trim using a fish tape, and then re-attached the trim without incident. I also notched (by melting, which worked great!) the trim just a bit so the cables could snake out behind the grab handle.

And then, it was time to attach the Ram mount. I needed it to be slightly prouder than it would naturally sit, and a stainless steel nut, ground down slightly to fit within the grab handle, was just the ticket. Here's how everything went together, and then it screwed right in.

In the end, I'm super happy with the result. It looks amazingly clean and is going to be perfect for either a cell phone or Ham radio controller.

#%@#$@! A-pillar. Glad I should never have to deal with it again.

One Comment

  1. Brandon
    Brandon February 25, 2021

    I avoided that nightmare when I had a new stereo system installed in 2011 in my 2002 Tacoma with a handsfree microphone. I had forgotten all about it until I decided to install my new UltraGauge MX 1.4 on the A pillar. I was ready for battle but the screws came out easily. I did the easy peasy dance and love my new UltraGauge location so I easily monitor my Tacoma's vitals when driving. A pillar was easy peasy. LOL !

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