Here's a topic that we all can appreciate. Whether you drive a 4WD, 2WD, or a motorcycle, proper installation means reliability, good looks and functionality. Every vehicle is different with unique installation requirements, and since there are no fixed or standard methods for mounting your radio, it means that there are a huge number of ways to do so.
With safety at the top of the list of priorities, we want to cover as many different options and techniques as possible. Let us know about your installations, tips, pitfalls and recommendations.
There are four parts to a successful, reliable and rugged Ham radio installation and we need to cover each:
Radio (proper radio for expected uses, and redundancy)
Electrical wiring ((including connectors, proper gauge wire, protection, and routing)
Antenna (connectors, spares, spare parts)
Co-ax (including spare runs, routing, protection, and noise rejection.)
Above all, safety and legal compliance need to be a first priority. Depending on your jurisdiction, there may be laws that regulate the use of handheld communication devices while driving as well as where certain equipment may be not mounted. Before you begin, it is wise to check to make sure of the law. Beyond the law, there still remain safety considerations. Here are my thoughts
Placement of the radio, installation and general antenna mounting thoughts
- placement of control head or radio so as to minimize eye movement from driving
- keep all controls (including mic)within easy reach or driver
- keep radio out of reach of vehicle moving parts (shifter lever, AC, heater controls...)
- if using detachable head, place body in area that has good air flow (to cool the unit)
- keep body away from areas where h2o intrusion is likely
- many vehicles have "secret compartments" - check with dealer or forums for mounting options
- find a solid mounting location - avoid using screws into plastic - use bolts where possible
- if using dash, make sure that it does not block drivers view, protect from direct sun
- regardless of mounting location, keep as many wires as possible out of sight and neatly stowed
- zip tie, tape or secure wires, cables and coax to avoid creating a rattling noise
- avoid stringing wires,cables or coax around sharp angles, use grommets,
- use high quality coax, and wire of a sufficiently large gauge, solder or crimp connections
- fuse all lines, both pos and neg and place the fuses in an easy to reach location, preferable together
- protect power wires from engine heat, secure well
- use quality coax, and not the tiny weenie size
- protect all external coax connections with coax seal
- mount the antenna as high on the vehicle as possible
- if plan is to use radio when the vehicle is off, have a good battery gauge to avoid killing battery
- if plan is to use radio at night, have a good light in vehicle
- if using radio in dusty environments, consider a sealed radio with an external heat sink and fan
- theft deterrent - use bolts for mounting which have non traditional heads
- for wilderness travel - redundancy, carry spare parts (antennas, connections, hardware, coax...)
- to avoid killing battery, use time out timer
There are a lot of subjects to cover for this topic, but I will start off with one of our golden rules - it doesn't pay to buy cheap. As always, quality will pay dividends, the most important of which will be reliability and durability. Both being important considerati0ns when your travels take you far from home and when you may need to depend on your gear to get help. This may be a continuing list, but we will start here:
The parts of your radio set-up which are usually most vulnerable are the ones exposed to the elements. Taking the time to protect these parts and spending the money to buy equipment that will survive the worst that weather and use can dish out, are one big step to ensuring that your radio will work, and work well. All these precautions are especially important if you live in a wet climate or are near the beach. Make no mistake about it, however, protecting electrical connections, for example, are of utmost the importance no matter where you live or travel.
1. CO-AX Seal
It is not uncommon for a radio to be completely disabled due to corrosion on the co-ax connections. A great way to protect electrical and antenna connections comes in the form of a black tar-like material marketed under the name of Co-Ax seal. It works well and it lasts a long time. With just a little bit of patience, it comes off without leaving any trace of the material.
2. QUALITY PARTS
This is one area that could take months worth of nets to cover, so we will mention just a few. The point here is to highlight the fact that high quality parts are not difficult to find as well as pointing out how easy it is to find just what you are looking for, with a little bit of research. In keeping with the section above, this section will deal with radio equipment that is exposed to the elements and includes:
Mounts for antennas
connectors (e.g. NMO mounts)
We will discuss these in more detail on the net but here are a few examples of products that meet our criteria:
Breedlove Mounts. I discovered Breedlove Mounts some time ago while equipping the Ham radios in my vehicle, (https://www.breedlovemounts.com/home.html). If you are looking for heavy duty, solid, and well made mounts and related gear, you should consider Breedlove. If you don't find exactly what you want, he can make something to suit your needs.
I run a Scorpion HF antenna (6M-80M) when on the trail, and as the picture below demonstrates, the antenna is quite large. Given the brush and tree choked trails that we usually encounter, there is no way that I would be willing to run the antenna in the "up" position while traveling. The solution was to make or find a fold over mount that would allow me to run the antenna in the "down" position while traveling and make deployment easy, once we reached camp. Breedlove had the answer with their "fold-over" mount, made of solid 6061 aluminum, and it is about as heavy duty and solid as you can get. For the gadget minded traveler, Breedlove makes an electric (12V) fold-over mount.
Breedlove also makes a great selection of NMO's, ball mounts and quick disconnects, all of which are made from solid brass.
Co-ax cable. This is sometimes is one of the most neglected parts of your radio set-up, and usually for good reason - once installed, the cable is usually out of sight and therefore, out of mind. If you installed the co-ax in your vehicle, chances are that it runs under the carpet or between the roof and headliner. There is no question about it - making a clean installation of co-ax cable is a PITA. Between the difficulty of installation and the benefits of buying quality co-ax, there is no good reason to go cheap. An additional benefit of running quality cable is the greater power that can be run and the improved frequency capabilities that it offers.
There are various types of co-ax on the market, and while I don't usually recommend against a particular brand, I will say that it is a very good idea to avoid the inexpensive very thin co-ax cables. We have been doing these nets for over 9 years and for most of these years, we have used a 25 foot RG-142 cable to connect the 8800 to the Elk Antenna. It gets installed and removed every week and has withstood everything we dish out. Cable Xperts sells this in pre-cut lengths or any length you specify, see: http://cablexperts.com/cfdocs/cat.cfm?I ... ship=1&c=0.
Here is some interesting information regarding RG-142, from Allied Wire and Cable : http://www.awcwire.com/productspec.aspx ... rg142specs
Here is what it looks like:Use in the military
The RG142 cable was specifically built for the United States Military in the World War II era. It has a military equivalent part number of M17/60-RG142. This part number gives the United States Military an excellent option to use the highly reliable RG142 in their satellites, systems, and other tactical operations and equipment. Because of the obvious importance in these cables, the military requires them to have minimum and maximum dielectric adhesion values, specific shrink back allowance, eccentricity standardizations, stress crack resistance tests, and many more specifications that add to the durability and reliability of the RG142. All trusted manufacturers will produce the same high-quality RG142 because of its high QPL, which demands stability and rigidity in the testing and construction of specs and authenticity.
Benefits of the RG-142
RG142 meets all MIL-C-17 specifications and utilizes standard connectors, so proprietary or exotic pieces are not required to build its infrastructure. RG142 also has good shielding effectiveness (between 40 and 60 db) and has Low Passive Intermod (PIM) degradation of signal quality which is kept to a minimum. Since the RG142 is made with a solid dielectric this allows a high rate of crush resistance, which makes it the coax of choice for tactical operations and applications. Even though the RG142 isn't your most phase stable wire, the phase stability can be enhanced through preconditioning in the specific temperature ranges of your project.
If your travels are entirely in the city or on paved roads, then you can ignore this. If you find yourself on rough dirt roads that see a lot of brush choked sections, then you should consider an antenna mount that will not suffer when the trees are close and the brush is thick. Time permitting, we will discuss this mount, which has been in the same location on the vehicle, on some of the roughest trails, for over ten years, without a single failure or loss...........