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Author Topic: Can going mobile HF be simple?  (Read 1043 times)
KB6OMN
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« on: January 25, 2005, 10:33:15 AM »

Hi...

I've been thinking of putting a mobile HF radio in my car.  From reading the posts here and talking to people, it seems it is not nearly as plug and play as installing a VHF/UHF radio to work reasonably well.  Can it be as simple as installing the radio and a Hustler 20m on a trunk mount (assuming installing some braid between the trunk and the body)?  It seems going 40m gets more complicated.

I don't have HF at home yet (just passed my general).  Is doing a basic home setup generally less difficult (I have a house and no CC&Rs)?  Initially a mobile rig appears to have a lower overall cost, but if a typical mobile installation requires a number of gadgets to overcome difficulties that are not usually encountered or noticed with VHF/UHF, then it seems going mobile can be as costly as a basic home setup.

Then there is the question of propogation....can a basic mobile setup "get out there" given current band conditions?  What bands should a basic plug and play person such as myself look to use?  I would think if I am commuting after daylight hours, then I would need to go with 40m.

Thanks...
Robert
KB6OMN
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K0BG
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« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2005, 11:03:59 AM »

I have a web site dedicated to operating mobile, and as self-serving as it may sound, a lot of your answers are there.

HF mobile antennas are all a compromise, and it depends on how serious your are as to how big a compromise it is. I run a 13.5 foot long antenna and it is properly mounted on the body. Others would think this is obscene. A simple Hamstick on a bumper mount will indeed work, and you will make contacts. Again, it is about how serious you want to get.

The most important aspect is proper installation. Unfortunately, a lot of amateurs almost literally throw the rig in the car and take off. I hope you take your time and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Alan, KØBG
www.k0bg.com
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K7VO
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« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2005, 01:36:35 PM »

I'll add a little to what Alan said.  I've used those HamSticks and yes, they really work on 20m and up.  On 40m they are just OK.  Below that you can forget about them.  Most mobile antennas are just too inefficient at 75/80 and 160 meters though there are certainly companies who will rush to sell you mobile antennas for those bands.

I have worked QRP (10W SSB) from the car and did it for many years.  My best results were on 15 and 17 meters with the aforementioned HamSticks.  10 and 12 also can work well when they are open but, since we're approaching the bottom of a sunspot cycle, that isn't all that often or all that predictable right now.  20 meters certainly works but is more crowded.  In the Extra class portion of the band it works.  Up in the General portion you get stepped on more often than not.

It's not quite plug-and-play but it isn't terribly hard either.

72/73,
Caity
K7VO/8
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2005, 02:10:53 PM »

"After dark" mobiling on HF at this time in the sunspot cycle can be very challenging, as more often than not, the higher bands, which are most effectively worked mobile, are "dead" due to lack of propagation.

It wasn't that way 2-3-4 years ago, and it will be better again 3-4-5 years from now, but "today" we are near the sunspot cycle minima and after dark propagation on 20m and above can be poor, especially when using a compromise station such as a mobile/whip.

If you have the choice between home station and mobile operation, and have time to operate from home, I'd surely recommend that!  That would provide opportunities for installing effective antennas that cover the lower bands (30-40-80-160 meters) where there's a lot of action at night.  If you can operate during daylight hours on weekends, the higher frequency bands (20-17-15-12-10 meters) still have a lot of activity then.

WB2WIK/6
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W7DJM
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« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2005, 02:44:20 PM »

Several  things "complicate" mobile operation.


Antennas for lower bands are smaller, therefore, less efficient.

If you are not content operating "portable"  or "mobile at rest"  then things like ignition, injector, electric fuel pump, and heater/blower motors can cause noise problems, along with onboard processors.

You MUST mount equipment so it's safe.  This means not only to operate while driving, but in case of sudden braking or worse.   There's been a growing stance against "magmounts"  which could become a projectile during a HARD stop or crash.

Theft.


I would NOT assume that "going mobile" has a lesser overall cost.  It doesn't cost much to set a radio on a table, desk, and string a little coax.  You can make your own home antenna CHEAP, especially if you have a little wire already.  Look around thrift stores and other "junk" recycle shops.  Wire sometimes shows up cheap.

Propagation is absolutely an issue.  Some years ago, during "good times"  I worked all over Europe while commuting between Coeur d Alene and Spokane, using only about 50 watts output, and homebrew'ed loading coils, mostly on 15 meters.  

I've worked Hawaii mobile on 75m a few times, one field day I did it TWICE.

I would not recommend someone new to hamming OR HF start out trying to drive around and operate mobile.

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K4KWH
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2005, 04:11:20 PM »

If you can still find one, look for a copy of "Everything you forgot to ask about HF Mobileering"
by Don Johnson" It *may* be out of print, but, then you never know what will appear on a hamfest table. Or
the original book "40+5 years of HF Mobileering"--I KNOW this is out of print. IF you ever see one of those, GRAB it QUICK!!! Those two books will take you step by step thru plenty of theory and how to set up an HF mobile.

If you are new to HF mobile, then don't be *TOO* disappointed if you don't have much success at first.
Still, one learns by doing, and if it were me, I would do as you were asking about.  Get on the air with a couple hamsticks on the upper bands so you don't have to learn about impedance, etc, right off.  This will give you some experience as you get your "feet" wet, as it were. In the meantime, talk to any experienced hams you can, get hold of some books about the subject of mobile antennas, etc. Over a few months, or years, setting up a GREAT mobile HF station will be as natural as breathing.

Gud Luck es 73

K4KWH
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AA4PB
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2005, 07:29:25 PM »

My recommendation is that unless you have some particular reason for going mobile (long hours on the road or antenna restrictions at home), to start with the home station. If your mobile thinking is in terms of a Hamstick on a mag mount and plugging the radio into the lighter plug you'll likely be disapointed.

The only added cost to a home station is the power supply. A set of 5 Hamsticks and a decent mount will cost as much as a power supply for home. You can put up a variety of simple wire antennas that will absolutly run circles around even the best $400 (or more) mobile antenna. I'd save the HF mobile until you get a little more experience and are ready to make a good installation.
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WA9FZB
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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2005, 05:34:50 AM »

I guess I would be in the "start at home" camp.  You could choose a rig that is small enough to use either fixed or mobile.  Install at home with whatever antenna you wish, and get some experience with it.  Then when you are ready, set up your mobile antenna and power cabling so you can take the rig in and out of the car.  Get the best of both worlds with one radio!

CU on the bands!
73
Steve
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KF6RDN
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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2005, 10:17:05 PM »

I'll have to ad ANOTHER do it from home vote.

I wish I could, I'm in a condo, 2nd floor, stucco walls, balcony etc (which means wiring within the stucco - RF shield) for me it is VERY difficult to setup HF at home.

I went through the stages, mag mounts, cigarette lighter plugged radio.  It worked.  Not well.  I hard wired the radio, worked better, as in I could run the radio full power.  

Said the hell with it, I'll drill the wholes, the damn magnetmount is scuffing the paint up bad enough anyway, drilled a hole in the trunk (dodge stratus) noted the trunk was already strapped to the body, used a 3/8" mount and bought a 20, 40, 75 mtr hamsticks.

They work ok, for a mobile, as in I can work who I hear.  Which is generally people in my state. I get good signal reports, etc.

I can't surf the bands, due to having to guess which band is useable and put that stick on, I know performance is not THAT great, but I'm doing HF, occupying myself during my 1-2 hour commute.  I may even "uglify" the car more and do a screwdriver setup.

I really envy people that could sit on their couch, or easy chair, click on the radio, run a big enough antenna for a good signal and recieve on all the HF, and even some vhf/uhf satellite stuff..  

And has been mentioned the cost difference is really not there.  the same radio can be used, in fact if you are on a budget anyway the cheaper radios are run off of power supplies anyway.   Some masting from radio shack, some wire, connectors, some experimenting/tuning your done..

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KF6RDN
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« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2005, 10:20:29 PM »

I should have mentioned, yes it CAN be simple!  Just do it right to begin with, and realize it is very limited, if that's what you want to do. The best antennas will probably "ugly" (hamsexy? lol) In HF size DOES matter...

Oh, and the ohe other thing missing from mobile work is the digital modes, psk31 etc.  
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K7VO
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2005, 09:13:04 AM »

Since it wasn't clear in my first response... I am one of those who believe that if it's a choice between a home station and a mobile station that the home station is going to be easier to setup and will have better results.  Personally, though, I like to do both Smiley

73,
Caity
K7VO/8
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W5HTW
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2005, 08:21:57 PM »

If you migrated to ham radio from CB, you may find the typical mobile setup will make you think you are back there.  That means in range, radiated power, and ability to talk and be heard.  You have to accept that setting up the mobile station is simply not going to be the way it is in the movies.  Well, OK, not the way the 'big boys' do it.  There is a very good chance you will be seriously disappointed in HF mobile operations, as you may have been led to expect too much.  You want cake and you'll get crumbs.

There are ways around that!  Be willing to spend good money, and lots of time, and do a lot of research and reading.  Then be ready to really make serious changes to your vehicle.  Including drilling holes, installing special shielding, adding filters to things like the fuel pump wiring, the injector wiring, and more.  

In addition, modification to the interior of the car may be necessary, as modern cars just don't have the room for a good mobile radio installation.  Even those front panels, like on the 706, take up "some" dashboard space, and in an accident are another thing you can smash your knee on.  

Mobile HF is fun.  Really, even after all the cold water tossed on it here.  You just have to accept the one way or the other - enjoy it the way it happens, or spend the money to make it good.  That later method may mean LOTS of money.  

I enjoy HF mobile when I have the chance to spend an hour or more in the vehicle.  For shorter runs I rarely bother to install the radio.  I accept that I won't even be able to work all I hear, with a Hustler or Outbacker antenna (I have one of each)  Having accepted that, the mobiling is fun.  But if I was wanting to get the same kinda results from the vehicles that I do from home, I'd probably sell the radio and the antennas and buy a CD changer.

Point is, lower your expections a bit, and mobile HF is fun.  Raise your expectations, and mobile HF is expensive.  If you are well off, you may can do both.

Ed
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NA4IT
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« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2005, 07:40:13 PM »

It is not that hard. Careful, thoughtful, slow planning is the key.

I run HF mobile with a Yaesu FT-900, which has autotune and a remote head, and the antennas are a 54" homebrew Hustler type mast, a multi-resonator mounting plate for 4 resonators (not the plate for 3 that Hustler sells), and resonators for 20, 40, 60, & 75M and a 45" "stinger" in the middle that couples with the 54" mast for 10M. With the autotuner in the radio, I can work all of 10M, all of 17M, all of 20M, all of 40M voice, all of 60M, about 50kcs of the upper part of 75M, along with various MARS frequencies.

I was in FL this year and worked 40M down to Vero Beach back to TN and 20M on down to Key West back to TN, and ran S-9 or better.

All that and it takes me 15 minutes total to put it in or take out out, including assembling or dis assembling the antenna.

My mount is a round tube attached to the end of my class III trailer hitch on a Mercury Mountaineer, with a 28" "stalk" welded upright to the tube, a 3/8-24 mirror mount at the bottom, and a 1" thick block of derlin plastic mounted at the top for the 54" mast to go through to strenghten it. The mount stays on the vehicle, and is hardly noticable.

73 and gud lk on the HF mobile!
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KF6IIU
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« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2005, 11:32:24 AM »

I started with a RadioShack HTX-10 and a mag-mount antenna. The HTX-10 was plugged into the cig lighter outlet. Worked so-so - I could hit Hawaii from California. Upgraded to a Hamstick. Now I could work JA and Korea. All possible because the HTX-10 was low power and tolerant of low voltage.

When 10m went on its 11-year leave of absence I upgraded to an IC-706. The 706 is not tolerant of low voltage (even at lowest power setting). Things start to get complicated. Wired 706 directly to battery. 20m hamstick works OK but 40m Hamstick not so tolerant of suboptimal mount (http://www.geocities.com/kf6iiu@sbcglobal.net/mobileant.htm) and needs additional capacitance at base to tune up.

Anyway - you can do it. Most importantly, make sure the radio is secure so it will not interfere with driving or hurt and occupant if it goes flying in an accident. 10m is still open now and then, 15m is frequently open and you can definitely work a lot of places on 25W.
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AE6IP
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« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2005, 02:49:41 PM »

Going HF mobile can be easy.  See

http://www.ae6ip.com/hamsexy/install/

for one example, using a Honda and an ICOM-706.

Once a week, I drive my Honda up into the Santa Cruz mountains, and sit at a vista point overlooking San Francisco Bay for four or five hours. During that time, I

* am NCS for the 05:00 zulu century club 40m ssb late net,
* operate on the 06:00 zulu century club 75m ssb late net,

and

* operate on the 07:00 zulu HHH 40m ssb net.

Between those nets, depending on conditions, I also call CQ.

With a simple hamstick and 100 watts, I get as good reports as I do with a Butternut HF6v at home.  and these days I can't often operate at home because of S9+ noise.  Last night I made 18 contacts on 75 and a couple on 40.

If you want best performance, then concentrate on setting up a good home station; especially the antenna. But if you want to operate HF mobile, you can do an adequate job fairly easily.

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