Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

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Chazz Layne
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Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

#1

Post by Chazz Layne » Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:24 pm

First on the list for our new-again Ranger was comms. It originally had a CB radio paired with a roof-mount Wilson antenna that got lost sometime after we gave the truck to my brother-in-law. Our original plan was to re-use the mount for this install, but further investigation revealed a very sloppy job done by the (now closed) CB-shop that did the install. So, we decided to go with a new NMO mount in a new hole, and re-use the old hole for a GPS antenna (after cleaning up the mess).

The parts list for this particular installation is:
The APO3 module was purchased from Byonics, and automatically cuts power to the radio if the vehicle's power falls below a certain voltage (such as when the vehicle is shut off). Yaesu designs their radios such that when power is restored they act just like any car stereo, resuming the last state they were in, which makes this combination very convenient. Everything else was ordered from the fine folks at Ham City, who have great prices and crazy-fast shipping. Seriously, its like 30 seconds from order submission to tracking number. Okay, not quite that fast but I usually can't finish my lunch before getting an email that my order has shipped. :D



Getting to the Roof

Access and installation is pretty straightforward in a vehicle this simple. Since we're going roof-mount with the antenna the first order of business is to get the headliner out of the way. To do this you must first remove the trim panels from both sides of the vehicle starting at the front. For the front-most panel start at the top/rear and pull down, then pull towards the center seat as you go down the A pillar. The next panels are real easy to get off, just pull down and they'll pop right out. The back pillars are a pain - save yourself the trouble and buy some new fasteners ahead of time, then just cut them. You'll only need to remove the top two, then the panel will flex far enough to slide the headliner out.

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Removing the headliner is equally simple, just start unscrewing everything mounted through it. Save the dome light for last, as it supports enough of the headliner to keep the entire thing safe while you get everything else out of the way (this is true for most other vehicles as well). The passenger grab-handle is a 7/32 hex. When you're done, remove the dome light and let the headliner down gently in the front. After the front edge passes the mirror move the headliner forward towards the windshield and it will slide out from behind the rear pillar trim panels. Take the headliner out of the truck and put it somewhere safe.

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Measure, Drill, Mount

Get your drill, a 3/8ths-inch drill bit, a really small drill bit, a pencil, a tape measure, and some masking tape. Figure out where on the roof you want your antenna mounted, bearing in mind that being center-of-vehicle generally does it the most good. Double-check both inside and outside surfaces to be sure it can handle the weight of the antenna and does not interfere with any part of the vehicle's structure or equipment. Place masking tape on the roof in the area you want to drill so you can measure and mark the hole. The tape will also help to keep the paint from chipping when you drill through. Measure thrice, drill once! When you've marked the hole, measure again. It's better to measure 20 times than drill twice. Using the small drill bit, drill a pilot hole on the mark. Double check the measurements again, then drill through with the 3/8ths bit. When you're done, carefully remove the masking tape and use a file to clean up any burrs left on the hole. Use a little touch-up paint on the bare metal.

Next, test fit the mount. If you have long arms you might be able to hold the inside while screwing on the outside. If not, get a friend to help. If everything looks right you can tighten it down, or if you are paranoid about leaks (like me) use some gasket maker to fill in the inside of the mount and hole before you tighten it down. Hand tighten it at first, then torque it just a little with a pair of plumbers pliers (I like pliers because they keep you from torquing too much). Be careful not to over tighten the mount, just get it nice and snug – you'll know its tight when you can't twist the assembly anymore by hand. At this point, feel free to unpack your antenna and screw it on - you're now done with the outside.

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Back inside, route the antenna cable down a safe pathway to the spot where you're placing the body of your radio. Be sure to avoid sharp edges or things that might melt and trap the cable in sticky goo (like our CB-shop buddies did). Better yet, get some small flexible conduit and run the cable down that to keep it safe. When you're done with this you can put the headliner back in by reversing the procedure above, or...

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Radio Mounting, Seaparation Kits & Headliner-mounting the Face

If you're feeling ambitious you can measure, cut the headliner, and mount the face of the radio in it. The location for this is a personal preference thing, so I leave the measuring to you. Remember to check both the headliner and the inside of the roof for obstructions when picking a spot. Masking tape helps with measuring and marking here as well, and a serrated blade used slowly makes good cuts. I only cut 3 sides on this install, and folded the headliner along the 4th side to serve as a mounting platform. I then hot-glued the other end of the face from the back of the headliner to keep the angle just right. When you put the headliner in take the same precautions routing the cable for the display down to the radio's body.

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I'll also leave selection of a location to mount the radio body up to you, as our location is based on a custom storage shelf we're having fabricated. One good location for the entire radio might be in the floor console behind the cup holders, or if separated, body under the seat and face mounted over that stupid little cubby next to the airbag switch (or in the headliner).



Now, run your power cable

If you have the radio in the back it is a simple matter to route the cable under the flooring. Just pull straight up on the trim panel at the door jam and it will pop right off, freeing the carpet/vinyl. Note that if you run your power cable through flexible conduit like you should, you will not be able to fit that under the trim panel (a bummer, as that would have been perfect).

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At first glance, it may seem nearly impossible to get a power cable through the firewall in a Ford Ranger. The factory-installed cables do not go through the traditional style grommet, so their pathway is quite inaccessible. There is only one easy way through short of drilling your own hole: a small slice can be made in the grommet the throttle cable passes through (it has ample room). To find this spot look under the dash and follow the throttle cable from the top of the gas pedal to where it passes through, you'll find the spot about 5 inches higher up on the firewall. If you have an alarm that was installed by the dealership, there's a good chance they've already done this very thing: Poke your hole and squeeze your cable through from inside the truck. In the engine bay you'll probably have to find the cable by touch, but it will pull through easy. The safest route to the battery from there is to come up from under the brake master cylinder (the big round thing in your way), behind the fuse box, and head down the fender to the battery. As always, I used conduit for this entire stretch as well. Conduit, good. Fire, BAD!



Finishing Touches & Cleanup

Double-check everything, hook up the power cable to your battery, then go back to your radio. Hook up the antenna, plug the microphone into the face, plug the cable from the face into the main body of the radio (if separated), then plug in the power cable. If you installed the APO3 module in-line, you'll probably need to flip the override switch to supply power to the radio. Power up the radio and test it out. Note that with Yaesu radios you need to press and hold the power switch to turn them on or off (yeah, I fell for it too... those silly Japanese).

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Re: Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

#2

Post by DaveK » Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:28 pm

Chazz:

Great "how-to tech article" and nice work.

It sounds like the hardest part was already done for you though- drilling a hole in the roof.

Will the Disco have a similar set up?
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Re: Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

#3

Post by OLLIE » Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:15 pm

Very nice install post sir. Very clean. I've never seen a faceplate recessed in a headliner like that. Very nice touch. ;)
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Re: Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

#4

Post by cruiserlarry » Tue Feb 16, 2010 8:28 pm

Very nice installation - and a very well presented how-to post.

A question regarding the low voltage shut off device - does it have a user-selectable voltage level, or is it preset ?

Does the Yaesu FT7900 have an APO (Automatic Power Off) setting ? I use that setting to prevent the radio from operating if it is left unattended for a specific length of time, instead of a preset voltage (of course, I am running dual batteries so it's less critical)
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Chazz Layne
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Re: Yaesu FT-7900R + Ford Ranger (basic install)

#5

Post by Chazz Layne » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:57 am

DaveK wrote:It sounds like the hardest part was already done for you though- drilling a hole in the roof.

Will the Disco have a similar set up?
I did bring this fact up to Dani when we were discussing the possibility of roof lights for her truck... "but it already has holes!" :lol:

The Disco *almost* has a roof rack installed now (still need to make the rear mounts... and drill holes), so it gets one of those Diamond motorized mounts on the rack for HAM and a ruggedized whip for CB. I'll be running the Byonics voltage shutoff for both of those radios as well, though I plan to take it apart and run the "override" switch up to the dash pod on that install. On the interior, I'm building a "pod" for the radios, switches (lights), and carputer to go on the dash. Thanks to the unusual seating arrangement in a Disco, I can add 6-inches in height to the dash before blocking the edge of the hood so visibility won't be a problem. I'm only going up 4.5 inches with the pod, or about the same height as the factory instrument cluster.

cruiserlarry wrote:A question regarding the low voltage shut off device - does it have a user-selectable voltage level, or is it preset ?

Does the Yaesu FT7900 have an APO (Automatic Power Off) setting ? I use that setting to prevent the radio from operating if it is left unattended for a specific length of time, instead of a preset voltage (of course, I am running dual batteries so it's less critical)
Yep, user selectable. I forget what they had it preset to from the factory, I think it was a 10-minute delay at 12.7V. It is pretty easy to change, just pop the cover off the box and change the dip switches to the correct combo (as listed in the manual).

The FT7900 does indeed have the APO feature built-in. I went with the external unit since I want the radio to automatically fire up when the truck starts, and because I have a habit of monitoring the local repeater frequencies during long drives (often a couple hours without touching the radio). That, and I hate fiddling with the menus to try and find the built-in one. :mrgreen:
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