2017 Ford Escape Ham Radio Install

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2016-09-06 15.46

Even three years later, I still get a ton of hits on the write-up I did for the ham radio install in my 2014 Ford Escape. Well, the lease on that car has come and gone and I now have a 2017 Ford Escape. You know what that means: time to do it again.

Since I essentially got the same car again, and there is really nothing wrong with the ID-880H or the 2m/70cm antenna I have, I decided to reuse everything from the old car. The only thing I had to purchase was some hardware for the Lido mount, and a new mic holder. So for the complete list of parts see the last install article… I have links to everything I bought and why I chose what I did.

ID-880H is up and running!

As for the install itself… it went very much like the last install I did. We’ll start with the antenna. The Diamond K412CNMO mount and Comet SBB2NMO mounted onto the tailgate of the Escape, and I ran the coax through the small grommet and the back molding of the cargo area. Like last time the coax went into the spare tire area, into the back seat, under the rear passenger door molding and under the front passenger seat.

The radio itself once again went under the passenger seat. This is for two reasons. First, there is a bit more room under the passenger seat versus the driver’s seat. And since the control head is mounted on the passenger side of the console, it makes running cables a little easier. In the last article I said I used Velcro to hold the radio down to the floor, with the intent of doing something more permanent later. Surprisingly, the Velcro never had one issue that caused the radio to slide loose. So I have reused the Velcro on the bottom of the radio again.

The head unit placement in this install did change slightly. The old Escape had a manual passenger chair, whereas the new one has a powered passenger chair. Thus, there is less room under the front of the seat to attach the mount. Luckily I was able to find a hole in the power seat track for me to put a screw and attach the Lido Mount’s base.

Finally is power. While the body of the 2017 Ford Escape is different from the 2014, the overall frame is the same, thus the grommet for the firewall is in the exact same place. The only other change here is one I made. Instead of going for the large O-ring type connectors to go over the battery terminals, I opted for spade terminals to go over the battery tightening screw and negative frame terminal. I went this route because I was having issues with the O-ring connections coming loose in the old install. While I may swap out for some larger spades later, this should work better I’m thinking. They are standard run-of-the-mill 12 gauge spade terminal connectors that are available from Digikey, or really any electronics parts vendor.

And there you have it. the complete install of my Icom ID-880H in my 2017 Ford Escape. I realize I didn’t go into as much detail as last time, but again, nothing has really changed. I would encourage you to read previous install article for a more-detailed write up of the install.

Got any questions on what I did, or what I should have done differently? Throw ’em in the comments. I’m always looking for ways to make things better!

 

APRS Madness Part 2: Height helps… sometimes….

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So in Part 1 of my foray into APRS, I setup an APRS iGate and came to the conclusion that I needed to gain some height to make this thing work. And seeing as I work as a radio engineer and thus have access to towers, I decided to try it out.

Outside of my office, we have a 120 ft tower that houses STL gear and a few auxiliary FM antennas. One of the FM bays on the tower is no longer in use and is used an FM receive antenna. This is routed to my office where I have a modulation monitor and FM tuner hooked up. This antenna is 85 ft up the tower and receives excellently. So, I tapped into this and attached another RadioShack scanner to a computer in my office.

In theory, this should blow the smoke out of my N9TAX Slim-Jim, right? Well, not so much…

If you compare the stations heard in the last six weeks between the iGate at my office and the iGate at my house, my home iGate, which is only 25 feet off the ground on an indoor antenna hears way more. Why would that be?

A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.
A tower crew working on the 120 ft tower at my office a few weeks ago.

There are two explanations I can come up with. As mentioned, there is some Microwave STL gear on this tower… in the order of 5 STL dishes in the 950 MHz band. While that wouldn’t effect APRS on 144.390 MHz, it could certainly produce noise that would impede reception. Not helping is a few blocks away is the studios of a competing radio group, and they have STL dishes that point towards my office to get audio to their transmitters northwest of town.

The other possible issue is the fact I’m using an FM antenna bay to receive. This antenna is broad-banded, but is designed to operate between 88-108MHz. While I have put a 2m rig on this antenna before, there is a possibility that being slightly out of tune could hinder reception.

My guess is that it is a combination of the two here. I do have a 2m/440cm J-pole on the tower for my 2m rig (yes, I have one of those at work too) and  I could try that out and see if that helps. But personally I think there is just a lot of RF noise in the vicinity of the office.

So for the time being, my home APRS setup is my primary iGate. That being said there are a group of hams from the area club (me included) that are looking into finding a site for an APRS Digipeter. And perhaps that is the solution. But until then…

APRS Madness Part 1

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Ham Radio, Tech

2016-05-15 13.56.21 - Copy

So this week I took the plunge and picked up a Yaesu FT1XD Handheld. This is one of the new Yaesu HTs that supports C4FM Digital (ie: Yaesu SystemFusion). Since we now have two SystemFusion repeaters here in Fargo (WØHSC at NDSU and WØJPJ in Moorhead) I thought it was worth picking up and trying out. I may do a full review later, but right now I’m still trying to get familiar with the radio.

One additional feature it has that I haven’t had in previous radios is APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System).  APRS is a single frequency (144.390 MHz here in North America) that gives the mobile ham a place to monitor Announcements, Bulletins, Messages, Alerts, Weather, etc. It also takes location coordinates (if equipped with a GPS) and can map out stations across the web, such as aprs.fi. My Icom ID-880H supports DPRS (which is kinda the same thing but with D-STAR) but I’ve never had any luck with it. There’s a lot more to APRS than what I just described. If you’re interested check out APRS.org for more info.

So wanting to get my hands on APRS, I got it setup on my HT yesterday. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere, because for some reason there isn’t a single APRS reporting station (either iGate or Digipeater) in the Fargo area. APRS is only useful if there are stations receiving or transmitting info. The main thing I was trying to do was to get my coordinates onto aprsi.fi, and for You can guess where that got me thinking next.

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Merry New Year 2016!

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Merry New Year!
Merry New Year! (a Trading Place reference if you don’t mind)

I’m good at many things. Updating this blog is apparently not one of them. I’ll be honest… I’m just flat out astonished 2015 is already over, and that I didn’t get a single blog post in. But since I’m at it, I guess I could use the excuse New Years post to do a 2015 recap.

  • Work. Lots of it. I had so many projects this year to go into detail, but I was kept very busy with various projects. Two new transmitters, two new FM translators, a brand new station, and new automation our Wahpeton station.
  • My parents sold their house and built a new one, so many weekends in 2015 were spent helping them move.
  • Once again this year I made it Moodance Jam with my rock stations. Always a great time!
  • I picked up another SBE Certification… I became a Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist in June by taking the exam in Minneapolis. And took a detour to Rochester, MN and Iowa in the process.
  • I didn’t make it to NAB, but I did make it down to Las Vegas in October with my family.
  • And I did get to play Ham Radio this year. I started delving into HSMM this year, something I hope to blog some more about later.

As far as 2016 goes… well… I’m want to do everything I didn’t do in 2015… ha! Not exactly, but 2015 got wickedly crazy. NAB is on the bucket list for 2016, as well as a real vacation., and some new projects that I can’t talk about just yet.

So in the words of Eddie Murphy, Merry New Year everyone. Enjoy 2016.

2015: Let the shenanigans continue!

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downloadHappy New Year, all! As per tradition (well this will be the third time, so I guess it’s a tradition now!), I feel the need to do a “in-reflection” bit on 2014 and what I’m working on for 2015.

2014 for me didn’t really have any huge milestones. I checked off a whole bunch of them in 2012 and 2013 so I guess that didn’t leave me much room in 2014. Not to say I didn’t do anything exciting, but just nothing that proved to be a huge life milestone.

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My latest obsession: AM Stereo

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Musings, Radio, Tech
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!
Why, yes, I DO love that AM Stereo light!

Anyone who reads my blog (or my Twitter feed, for that matter), knows that I sometimes like to obsess over certain things for a period of time. My latest obsession: AM Stereo.

Now any radio engineer or radio geek whose been around the block for awhile knows what I’m talking about. Those of you who belong to the younger generation… say, my age, are probably looking for an explanation about now.

First, let me give you the back story here. I’m a 90’s kid. I was born in 1990 (never mind that I was conceived in the 80’s but we won’t go there). Ask any 90’s kid about their thoughts on AM and they’ll tell you it’s a bad sounding mono radio signal that old people talk on (you’ve gotta remember, the FM revolution had already taken place by this time). In fact, I remember driving around with my grandpa in Minot, ND around 1997-ish (who at the time was a radio engineer himself) and he had an AM station on (presumably his) that was playing music. And I was blown away you could do that. Every other AM station in Fargo had already become either a news/talk or a sports/talk, so I assumed that’s all that was ever on there. I was 7 or 8 at the time so that was a fairly reasonable assumption. There may have been one music AM in Fargo at the point, but I really don’t remember. And radio has always fascinated me, even at that age… even before I even considered working in radio myself, I was always interested in how the technology worked.

Now, fast forward to about two years ago. I was working for the radio group I work for now, but I wasn’t technically part of the engineering staff at that point. One day I was BS’ing with one of part-time engineers (whose job, coincidentally, I ended up taking when he left a few months later) about our AM station in Fargo, KQWB 1660. And he was telling me it could do AM Stereo but we had it turned off for some reason.

Hang on a second… you can do Stereo on AM?

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It’s been far too long…

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Holy crap, has it seriously been 5 months since I’ve updated my blog? At least better do an update with what I’ve been up to since my last post.

 

1904087_10153820995010176_629009783_n
The STL Relay point on top of the Larsen Building in Downtown Yakima, WA

First off, my job has kept me quite busy. Since my last post I’ve flown out to visit our sister stations in Tri-Cities, WA (Kennewick/Richland/Pasco) and Yakima, WA, the most recent trip just this last week. They have very nice facilities out there and fantastic stations to go along with it. And as much as I hate flying I do enjoy going out there to visit them.

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WAS Progress: 5 to go!

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It’s been a while since I’ve updated, the blog, so thought I would quick do an update on my Worked All States progress.

Last time around, I had 31 states down with 19 more to go. Since then, I have added 14 more to the count. The Iowa and Vermont contacts I mentioned last time around did get confirmed, and I have since made contacts with Maine, my own state of North Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Indiana, South Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Alabama, and Colorado.

That just leaves me with 5 states: Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Oklahoma and Kansas shouldn’t be too hard to snag, but Minnesota and South Dakota will be pretty difficult due to their close proximity to Fargo.

So the race is on! Conditions on the air have been horrible the last few weeks so I haven’t made all that much progress, but I have recently delved into PSK and RTTY (which I’ll take about in another post soon), and that has helped some.

I will continue to update my WAS progress… and if you’re a ham in OK or KS reading and want to help me get those two states, please let me know!

Antenna Tuning Goodness!

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Ham Radio, Musings

IMG_0045Now that Spring has FINALLY arrived, it’s time for me to get some of my outdoor projects done at home. One of those was doing some major tweaks to my MFJ-1622 antenna. I discovered over the winter that my balcony is not all that accessible when it’s cold out, due to issues with the door, so I was more or less stuck with whatever setting I left my antenna at in the fall. That particular setting did well on 10m and 15m, but not so great on 20m or 40m. So in an effort to avoid that problem again, I decided to find the sweet spot.

I’ve talked about this antenna before, but the MFJ-1622 is a balcony mount antenna with a coil tap that shorts out for “lengths” and the SWR adjusts accordingly. Now in theory, you would move the coil every time you switch bands, and I try to do that as much as possible. But given the winter situation, I need to find a setting that’s tunable on all bands. So I found a warm day a few weeks ago, dug out the MFJ-266 analyzer, and got to work.

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