Mobile Ham Radio Install

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It’s been a long time coming, but I FINALLY got around to documenting my mobile ham radio install. The radio has been in since April, but I’ve been so busy with other things (ie: life) that it’s taken me until now to get this all written up.

The idea here is simple: install a ham radio in my 2007 Ford Taurus with drilling as few holes as possible and still keeping the interior looking a factory as possible. So without further ado… 

Equipment

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For the transceiver, I went with a Yaesu FT-1900R. This is identical to the one I have in my shack. At $150-ish, its one of the most inexpensive radios out there. Its a 2M only radio with 55W max output. 55W is more than enough for me, however 2M only is kind of a downside. In my area, 2M is by far the more popular band for repeaters (which is why I didn’t feel too bad about leaving out 70cm), but if I had more money to throw into this, I would have loved to upgrade to the FT-7900R, which will do 55W on both 2M and 70cm. I’ll be looking at a new car here in the next 18 months, and will more than likely upgrade to the FT-7900R or the Icom ID-880H then. But for now, the FT-1900R it is!

The other piece of the puzzle is the antenna. I have a mag mount that I’ve used with my HT in the car for a several months, and it works great. I did briefly have this mag mount on the FT-1900R in the car also it was fantastic. However, I wanted something a little more permanent looking but didn’t want to drill a hole.

zdm-k400cnmo
For a mount, I chose the Diamond K400CNMO truck lip mount. This will attach to any truck, door, or hatchback and will hold the antenna nice and sturdy. In fact, a week after getting this on, I went on a 200-mile road trip to a wedding. I was doing 70 MPH most of the way, and it held my antenna beautifully. It also will tilt in any direction, making sure that whichever way you have your mount mounted, the antenna can remain vertical. I also wanted an NMO type mount for a little bit cleaner look.

zcm-sbb-5nmo
For the antenna, I went with the Comet SBB-5NMO. It’s a 38-inch whip, that is a 1/2 wave with 3dBi gain on 2M, and is a 5/8 wave with 5.5 dBi gain on 70cm. It can handle up to 120W, which is more than I’ll ever need going mobile. On this same 200-mile road trip, I was amazed with the repeaters I was picking up. I got repeaters that were a good 70 miles away that I should not have been able to hear, and was able to use them.

The Install

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The install itself was pretty straight forward. The antenna mounted with no issue at all, as it is a trunk mount antenna. The feedline coming off the diamond mount goes to an 18ft RG-8 extension cable that I have running up the drivers side underneath the door molding, and up to the dash. I installed an iPod cable in this same track over four years ago when I got the car, so this part was fairly straight forward. I unfortunately didn’t get any pictures of this, but a little bit of Googling will show you that part is fairly easy, depending on the car.

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The big challenge, however, was power. I was baffled by what kind of cable I should use, and how it should get run up. With the help of my dad (who is a connoisseur of adding car stereos and added some CB’s to his cars during the CB radio craze in the 70′s), he was able to help me find an open grommet in the firewall, and run power up that way.

As far as cable type goes, he felt the easiest would be the 14 gauge power wire that comes with the radio itself. This may not be best in all cases, but for the distance I needed to cover and the amount of abuse (or lack thereof) the radio is going to take, we both felt this would work. And for hooking to the battery, I went with some flat o-ring type connectors that just slipped over the battery terminals, and under the main connectors that go to the car. Not only did this make for an easy install, but it will make for easy removal when the time comes.

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That just leaves the placement of the radio itself. As it just so happens, the designers at Ford knew that someday I would buy an 2007 Taurus and want a ham radio, so they left a cubby underneath the climate controls for this purpose. Okay I’m kidding, but the cubby under the climate controls was an almost perfect fit for the radio. I just had to drill a couple holes in the back for the connectors and file off the top, and the radio fit right in.

The End Result

Overall, I’m very happy with the setup. The big thing was I wanted something clean looking without having to drill too many holes and in anyway destroy the interior of my car. I’m happy to say I did just that.

My McGeyver looking mic holder made from a binder clip (idea from KE8P)
One last issue I ran into with this install was a pretty trivial one… where do you put the mic holder? I didn’t want to drill holes, so went the double-stick tape route. I tried all sorts of double stick tapes, but with the heat in the car during the day nothing held up. Well, I did a little searching and stole an idea from KE8P. I took a binder clip, bent it a bit, and attached it to one of my AC vents. I gotta say, it works well!

So there you have it, a nice overview of my mobile ham radio install in my Taurus. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

 

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