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Author Topic: Help with mobile installation in the Chicago area  (Read 3186 times)
N4TMQ
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« on: September 18, 2017, 12:16:32 PM »

I'm hoping someone here might know of an installer who can help me with a mobile rig.  I have a Yaesu FTM-400XDR I'd like to install in my car and I need a hole drilled in my trunk lid for an NMO mount.  Once I locate a capable installer, I'd also have them do the electrical feed from the battery, and the installation of the control head, RF deck, and external speaker.

While I love home-brew projects (especially designing and building antennas), I'd rather leave a mobile install to the pros.

I'm located on the north side of Chicago.  Any recommendations for a shop or installer in the city of Chicago or northern or northwestern suburbs?

Thanks in advance.
Dennis
N4TMQ
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KC4ZGP
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 12:27:18 PM »


Become a pro and install it yourself.

Kraus
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 12:37:22 PM »

I suppose I wasn't clear enough in my initial message -- I don't wish to do the install myself.  I know others might take pleasure in working on cars & trucks.  Not my thing.
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 03:03:46 PM »

To elaborate, I'm all the more convinced of my lack of time and interest for this endeavor having read the excellent mobile installation guides available online from K0BG, N1GY, K6RIA, and hamradioschool.com.  Setting up a station at home or in the field is one thing; automotive RF work just isn't my cup of tea. 

Why should that hold me back from having a neat and proper installation in my vehicle?

Just as I don't wish to do my own oil changes or brake jobs, I don't find dealing with the complexities of mobile installs, i.e., finding a way to get the power feed through the firewall to the battery, or securing the correct tools and learning how to drill a proper hole in my car's body for the NMO mount, to be an exciting and enjoyable part of the hobby.  I can find plenty other hands-on projects in ham radio to keep me busy.  Working on my car just isn't one of them.  Nor do I consider it to be a requirement for operating mobile.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2017, 08:17:14 PM »

There is surely a 2-way radio shop near you that does this sort of thing on a daily basis.  You might ask on the local repeaters if there's one in particular that's ham-friendly.  What you're looking for is a basic "dash-mount" install, if you want a radio with a separate control head that might be a bit more for the additional time.  When I was in the business these installs were flat rate, and we didn't care what the make/model of the equipment was.  Frankly it's not terribly difficult to do an install (or an oil change, or brake job), just time consuming.  If you're willing to trade cash for time, then a 2-way shop will be able to help you out.  Hopefully you'll advise them to not connect directly to the battery, that hasn't been the commercial practice for decades now.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 08:54:13 AM »

There is surely a 2-way radio shop near you that does this sort of thing on a daily basis.  You might ask on the local repeaters if there's one in particular that's ham-friendly.  What you're looking for is a basic "dash-mount" install, if you want a radio with a separate control head that might be a bit more for the additional time.  When I was in the business these installs were flat rate, and we didn't care what the make/model of the equipment was.  Frankly it's not terribly difficult to do an install (or an oil change, or brake job), just time consuming.  If you're willing to trade cash for time, then a 2-way shop will be able to help you out.  Hopefully you'll advise them to not connect directly to the battery, that hasn't been the commercial practice for decades now.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
Hello, Mark.  Thanks for replying.  As I mentioned in my original post, I'm looking for installation of the control head and RF deck in separate locations -- not a basic "dash-mount."  And the reason I'm posting here is that I can't find a 2-way radio shop near me.

Regarding power connections, how does commercial practice differ from good amateur radio practice?  Everyone one who studies for the General Class license knows that a direct, fused power connection to the battery using heavy gauge wire is the best way to go.
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2017, 04:01:11 PM »

Mark,

To further clarify your point about power connections, when is it acceptable NOT to wire the radio directly to the battery?  If I'm powering an HT or running my radio at lower power?

If I'm operating my VHF/UHF radio's full 50-watt output, or an HF radio up to 100 watts, isn't such a direct battery connection imperative?  Everything I've read about mobile installs says to run your transceiver power leads directly to the vehicle battery terminals and avoid any use of existing automobile wiring.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2017, 08:47:37 PM »

I'm looking for installation of the control head and RF deck in separate locations -- not a basic "dash-mount."  

Which I addressed with the sentence, "if you want a radio with a separate control head that might be a bit more for the additional time.".

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I can't find a 2-way radio shop near me.

I guess it would depend on the definition of "near".  There are several shops here even in Podunk ABQ, it would seem unlikely there aren't any in such a population dense area where you are.  Somebody services commercial and public safety radios there, somewhere.  Bigger cities often have their own radio shops but even those will sometimes contract out installation work.  Barring that, a car stereo shop is usually equipped and competent enough to run antennas, affix equipment and make power connections.

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how does commercial practice differ from good amateur radio practice?

In the commercial world, you lose money, credibility and customer satisfaction suffers when the installation fails so anything you do to minimize that possibility is in your best interest.  In the ham world when your 2M rig quits due to a faulty install, you just patch it up and move on.  

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 Everyone one who studies for the General Class license knows that a direct, fused power connection to the battery using heavy gauge wire is the best way to go.

This is wrong, at least if you want a reliable installation.  Back in the '70's and earlier perhaps this was standard practice but practices and standards change.  Perhaps you haven't looked under the hood of a car lately but since the '90's the power distribution is very different than in decades past.  And experiencing issues with connection failures due to direct battery connections teaches you very quickly that both mechanically and electrically it's a flawed premise.  There is no doubt plenty of hams are powering their radios with a direct connection to the battery, and odds are they may never have a problem with it.  They are a small number compared to the commercial world.  When you work in a service bay you get to see just about any and every possible problem there is, and I've seen my share of problems caused by direct battery connections.  And if you can easily avoid it, why wouldn't you?

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when is it acceptable NOT to wire the radio directly to the battery?

All the time.

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If I'm operating my VHF/UHF radio's full 50-watt output, or an HF radio up to 100 watts, isn't such a direct battery connection imperative?

The voltage drop you get in the cable between the source and the load is the elephant in the room, not the connection point under the hood.  Having connection points that aren't subjected to degradation by corrosion improves reliability and ensures a low voltage drop for the life of the installation.

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Everything I've read about mobile installs says to run your transceiver power leads directly to the vehicle battery terminals and avoid any use of existing automobile wiring.

I'm not advocating using chassis wiring, but instead to connect to the power demark point for positive, and near where the battery is grounded to the frame for negative.  These are engineered high current sources and meant for the purpose.  They are away from the unavoidable acid that weeps from batteries, they're not as prone to loosening, and it virtually eliminates the possibility of a ground fault.  Proponents of direct connection think the negative lead fuse will adequately protect from a ground fault but I have seen enough roasted radios to know this isn't the case.  

Where your information sources are failing you is all modern cars use current sensors in the battery cables and not only does a direct connection invite corrosion and ground fault problems, but can also trigger an engine light when the computer senses the battery is using more current than it delivers.   You can virtually eliminate all these issues by not using a direct connection.  

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 09:01:11 PM by K5LXP » Logged
N4TMQ
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2017, 09:06:36 PM »

Okay, just so I'm clear on this, you're saying that what I've learned and what other hams are advising concerning direct power feeds from the battery is considered substandard in the commercial two-way radio world?  Ergo, avoid installing a power feed directly to the battery because, based upon your experience, you know it to be less reliable and more trouble-prone? 

And where do I find the "power demark point" you're referring to? 
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2017, 11:32:05 PM »

I believe I know the location near the battery of which you speak.  Would it be helpful if I post a photo of it in my vehicle for positive ID? Also, perhaps I should post any other questions I have in the Mobile Ham section, rather than continue here since no one is chiming in about installers in my area?

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K5LXP
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« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 07:18:18 AM »


you're saying that what I've learned and what other hams are advising concerning direct power feeds from the battery is considered substandard in the commercial two-way radio world?

I can't speak for every 2-way shop but even before the advent of the under hood power demark the shop I worked at did not direct connect to the battery.  Certainly what you hear from other hams including me you should independently verify.  You can read through the numerous threads on this topic in the mobile forum and come to your own conclusion based on the facts and evidence presented.  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence (it works for me) and folklore (it works for Bob).  Many believe that if close to the battery is good, right on the battery must be better.  Be sure to assign those their appropriate significance.

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avoid installing a power feed directly to the battery because, based upon your experience, you know it to be less reliable and more trouble-prone? 

In a single sentence, yes.  Part of this experience comes from my radio job, part from my endeavor building an electric car.  Battery connections must be done in very specific ways if one is to expect reliable performance.

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And where do I find the "power demark point" you're referring to?

Owners' manuals often refer to it as the under hood fuse box or relay box.  It's usually near the battery but for remote battery cars like the one I have the relay box is under the hood and the battery is behind the passenger seat.  Sometimes the high current connection point is clearly visible, sometimes you have to take the relay/fuse box cover off to reveal it.  This nut/stud is connected directly to the battery with 6ga or so cable and unfused, so any cable you connect should be fused near this point.  I use dust protected ATC fuseholders, I think they're better suited to the under hood environment than glass fuses.

As far as a local shop you could get on a few repeaters and ask around.  Contact local clubs.  Check phone listings.   One of the shops here is even owned by a ham.  Most places I've lived/worked there was always some connection between local hams and a radio shop.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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K0UA
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« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2017, 07:34:22 AM »

I am going to back up Mark on this, as a former 2 way radio tech back in the 70's, and from what I have learned about the modern computer controlled voltage regulators in modern cars, we need to be following the practice that Mark has outlined, not the practices I followed in the 70's.   

As for the install, while I would do it myself, I have also installed hundreds of mobile radios in automobiles. And while I am fat and old now, I suppose I can still do it, an I have professionally installed every one of my own rigs in my own cars and trucks.   Yes, I own a 3/4 hole saw and I have violated many a brand new vehicle. I also have experience with making screws thru automotive sheet metal corrosion proof, and less likely to pull out. So if you were near Branson, Mo, I would even do it for you. But your not, so you will have to find someone locally.  I don't blame you for not wanting to do the install yourself, as you have pointed out you don't have the tools or the skills.  And I sure have seen a lot of botched mobile installs in my time.
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2017, 10:22:47 AM »

Thanks, guys -- very useful information.

Because my car is still under warranty, I contacted my Kia dealer for advice, to avoid any headaches down the road.  I have located the lug inside the engine fuse box which is connected to the battery with what appears to be a 6-gauge cable.  There's a 180A fuse at the battery itself.

The service advisor advised AGAINST using that terminal because it is directly connected to the alternator. While he did not advocate for or against using a direct-battery connection, he did recommend that I use chassis wiring.

Chassis wiring is not my first choice for a transceiver capable of 50-watt output.  I'd say any warranty concern is a non-issue, as long as the power feed is properly isolated.

More research...
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N4TMQ
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« Reply #13 on: September 22, 2017, 08:35:08 AM »

Perhaps a direct battery connection would be the least problematic in my car because of the problem with using terminal at the engine fuse box?  (It's directly in series with the alternator, thus not a recommended feed point.)
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K5LXP
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2017, 05:18:33 AM »

Perhaps a direct battery connection would be the least problematic in my car because of the problem with using terminal at the engine fuse box?  (It's directly in series with the alternator, thus not a recommended feed point.)

Not quite clear what the issue is with the power demark.  Of course it will be connected to the alternator, everything powered in the entire car is ultimately connected to the alternator.  If you connect your radio to this point, this would be no different than any other powered device. 

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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