Insight Armrest
How I Installed An Armrest On Our Insight


This is a simple project, and one which every Insight owner using the car for long-distance will appreciate.  Husco Engineering makes all sorts of aftermarket armrest kits, and has just introduced the H10X, a version for the Honda Insight.  I found out about this product on the Yahoo Groups Insight mailing list.  If you're an Insight owner and haven't visited the list, you should check it out.  It's where I learned about the Rostra cruise control, as well.

Total installation time for me was about two hours, but as you'll see, I added a neat little feature to my armrest and that took some wiring and additional disassembly.  The stock armrest alone could be installed in about an hour..

Getting Started

The big issue for the armrest was that it had to be useful for both me (I'm 6' 2" tall and drive with the seat all the way back) and my wife (5' 4" tall, and she drives with the seat almost all the way forward!).  The Husco product seemed perfect, because unlike other armrests, it slides forward and backward to accommodate different drivers.  The first job was to locate the armrest on the handbrake cover between the seats, and be sure it was in the right position for both drivers.  Once I had it in the proper position, I used a Sharpie pen to mark the location of one of the mounting holes on the handbrake cover.

Now came the time to make the one major modification to the armrest that I wanted.  For some reason, car designers have a talent for making "convenience" features almost totally unusable.  In the case of the Insight, it's the 12V accessory outlet, which is located directly above the passenger-side cup holder.  If you have a can of soda in the cup holder, you can't have your cell phone (or any other device) plugged in!  Our Saturn has the same problem!  What's the deal with car designers?  You would think they'd have a focus group to catch things like this...

Anyhow, my idea was to install a second 12V outlet on the armrest's passenger-side support strut.  With a power outlet there, it would be possible to plug in all sorts of things, including our handy-dandy gooseneck map light.  A quick trip to Radio Shack, and I bought a Dash-Mount DC Accessory Outlet, Radio Shack part number 270-1539A.  This nifty little outlet is made to pop into a 1-1/8" hole and put a power outlet anywhere you want it.

I chucked a 1-1/8" hole saw into my drill press and made a nice, neat hole in the passenger-side bracket (it drills very easily, being aluminum).  The outlet has a couple of "ribs" on the sides and I filed a couple of small notches to clear these.  Once the hole was drilled, I simply inserted the outlet into the hole and it snapped into place as if it had been there all along!

The outlet pops into place in the passenger-side bracket.  Note filed notch at lower edge of hole; there's another one opposite it.


Here's how my armrest looked after the installation of the outlet.  It really looks like it was designed into the unit.

 With the outlet mounted in the armrest support, it was time to remove the handbrake cover.  This is a real no-brainer: I removed two screws from the back of the cover and removed it by sliding it forward about a half-inch and lifting.

The two handbrake cover screws are located on each side of the cover at the rear.  Slide the seats forward and tilt the seatbacks forward for best access.


The installation guide from Husco warns about ribs inside the cover; here they are.  They're pretty small and can be cut away with an X-Acto knife if they get in your way.

The only way they'll be a problem is if your mounting is farther back than mine.  Don't worry too much about them, though.

With the handbrake cover off, I slid the armrest brackets onto the cover and lined up the hole with the mark I had made earlier with the Sharpie.  With it all aligned, I used a Quick-Grip clamp to hold the parts in place while I drilled them.

Here's how the clamped cover and bracket looked on the second side.  Note the metal plate in place on the other side.

The clamp made this part of the job a breeze.


Once all the holes are drilled, put the metal backup plate in place and insert the hardware as instructed.  These net little black plastic caps snap in place and give the unit a pretty nice final appearance!


I must be living right!

Note how close my installation came to the handbrake cover rib -- Almost hits it, but not quite!  Not that it would have been a big deal to cut away the rib, but it was one less thing to worry about...

At this point, the armrest installation was basically complete.  If I was doing a stock installation, I could have simply slipped it into place and screwed the handbrake cover back on and been done, but since I was adding the extra power outlet, I needed to wire that up.

This was simple.  I just had to run a "positive" wire under the carpet and up under the dashboard to the fusebox, and attach a ground to an appropriate spot.

Running the positive wire was the only semi-tricky part of this operation.  To easily route it, I removed the plastic shifter cover (remove four screws, two on each side at the bottom, and pull out two plastic retainer clips, on on each side at the top, unscrew shift knob) and used a "fish tape" to pull the wire under the carpet and around the shifter assembly.  It was then routed up under the dash and attached with a fuse and a tap connector to the positive lead of my cruise control wiring harness (see my cruise control installation page).

The ground wire was a no-brainer.  There's a handy bolt holding the handbrake lever to the floor pan of the car; I removed it and hooked the ground wire to it via a crimp lug.

The final installation!

Shown hooked to the outlet is our gooseneck map light, ready to light the way on road trips.

Summary

This was a simple project and I'm sure going to appreciate it on those long road trips I plan to take in my Insight.  Husco makes a great product and their instructions are excellent.  I ordered a Medium Gray unit; I think you'll agree it looks pretty good in my silver car.

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This page last edited August 19, 2001