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Author Topic: Getting power in my car - '09 Ford Focus  (Read 8497 times)
AC8HF
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« on: July 07, 2010, 09:48:17 AM »

I'm a new ham (Technician license just two weeks back), and I'm already dreaming of bigger and better things.  As such, I'm planning to take my General exam soon, and I'll likely get a mobile HF radio (probably a Yaesu FT-897 or FT-857D) soon thereafter.  However, my concern is with powering such a radio.

Right now, I have a Kenwood TM-261-A that runs off of the cigarette lighter port in my car.  (It was set up that way when I bought the radio last week, used of course.)  I've read that it's not a good idea to have a radio set up this way, and particularly with a higher-performance radio, I'd like a direct connection to the battery.

Problem is, I don't know much about wiring things up in a car (I have a 2009 Ford Focus), let alone running things through the firewall (I do, however, know about network firewalls!).  A buddy of mine mentioned using a gel cell battery; that's got me quite intrigued, since I could possibly put that in the trunk and run the wires, say to some Powerpole connectors, in the passenger compartment.

I'd like to get some insight into what my best options are.  Ideally I'd like to meet all of the following criteria:

- Easy enough for me, a non-car guy, to do
- Plug-and-play operation once I get things hooked up (i.e. I plug the radio in to the antennas and to power, and I'm done)
- Flexible enough so that I can take the radio into the house and plug it in to power there as well (perhaps to the Astron RS-20A I have now)
- Reasonably low-cost, since I'll be spending a pretty penny, most likely, on the radio and antenna

Any ideas?  My apologies if this type of question has been asked before.  I'm new to not only ham radio but to these forums, so please forgive me if I have breached proper decorum!
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KJ4OBR
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2010, 10:28:35 AM »

Additional batteries are not always the best way to go and if not done right can cause more problems then they are worth.

All cars have pass-throughs in the firewall for cables, wires, and linkages.. look for an unused one, cut a small slit in the rubber cover and you're in business. you can use a wire coat hanger to help feed the wires through (before hooking them to the battery of course)

I'm not familiar with the focus, but if it is an automatic transmission, look in the pedal area for the firewall access that would be used for the clutch linkage. Otherwise just look for the rubber plugs or ask your friendly mechanic. You want to avoid the master wiring bundle pass-through and car computer area if possible to avoid interference with the radio, or the car computer.

good luuck
73
Dave
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AC8HF
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2010, 10:43:34 AM »

See, the problem is, all that talk about linkages, master wiring bundles, and whatnot tends to go over my head.  I suppose I need to buy a Chilton manual for my car or something, and just learn how to do things.

The extra battery (gel cell or otherwise) would allow me more flexibility, though, in where I operate, too, would it not?  Unless of course I end up with a FT-897 or FT-817ND (another option I've considered)--in that case, no extra battery is needed.
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AF6WI
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« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2010, 10:55:40 AM »

I went to a guy that does monster stereo installations and had him wire my car from the battery to inside, where the wires terminate in PowerPole connectors.

He had the tools and experience to do it right, including bringing wires in through the firewall, fuses, properly securing the wiring under the hood, etc.

I'd suggest doing the same and watching while they do it. Go to school on them, then have the ideas and concepts the next time you want to do it on your own.
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K0BG
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« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2010, 11:18:20 AM »

What better way to learn than do it yourself?

Spend some time on my web site, and then just do your own. It is not difficult, it isn't dangerous (unless your a real klutz), and you get the joy from rolling your own as it were.
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AC8HF
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« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2010, 11:28:15 AM »

Thanks, K0BG--looks like you've got a very useful site there.

I might end up doing it myself...but I might also take it to a stereo installer.  It all depends on how motivated I get!
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K5LXP
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« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2010, 02:41:37 PM »

Running wires through the firewall is no more difficult than pulling the rug back and finding the plugs.  Having someone tell you exactly where one is they've used is icing on the cake but it takes as long to do it as it does to describe it.  Then there's care in routing- staying away from something sharp or hot, and securing the wires so that they stay put.  After you do your first one you'll wonder what all the fuss was over.  Same goes for poking a hole (or three) for an antenna.


Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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AC8HF
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« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2010, 02:48:28 PM »

Same goes for poking a hole (or three) for an antenna.

I can't see drilling holes in my car to run an antenna, ever!  Right now, I've got a mag mount antenna for 2m, and the coax is run between the door and the frame, in such a way that it doesn't dent the cable...too much.  Probably not the best solution, but I'm not keen on providing ways for rain and snow to get into my car!
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KC8AHN
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« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2010, 02:56:33 PM »

Same goes for poking a hole (or three) for an antenna.

I can't see drilling holes in my car to run an antenna, ever!  Right now, I've got a mag mount antenna for 2m, and the coax is run between the door and the frame, in such a way that it doesn't dent the cable...too much.  Probably not the best solution, but I'm not keen on providing ways for rain and snow to get into my car!

Mobile HF may not be for you. I was looking at doing magmount for a 20m antenna on my car, talked to several hams and played with a radio set up in a car with an HF magmount and it was near worthless.
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AC8HF
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« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2010, 02:59:11 PM »

Well, right now, the mobile setup will likely be just for 2m and 70cm--in other words, VHF/UHF.  The idea is that my HF setup would be primarily at home...but that might change.

I suppose it's better to say that I'm not keen on the idea of putting a hole in my car for an antenna, but I'm not completely, 100% dead-set against it forever and ever.
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K0BG
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« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2010, 03:06:01 PM »

Carl, everyone has his/her own reason for not drilling a hole. A few folks who frequent this forum will tell you it doesn't make any difference, as if anything will work. The problem here is, the term work is never qualified.

The mag mount will indeed work, but you have two possible problems when you do. One is common mode, and the other is a ground loop. The latter one is harder to understand, as typically it only happens on transmit (mag mount installation). Most of the time, you only hear it on the transmit signal. But even when you don't, there is a very good likelihood the first problem (common mode) exists. Whether it causes you a problem may be moot, but from where I stand, it is always best to do the best install possible. And as Mark alluded to, that universally requires drilling a hole; it only hurts the first time you drill-afterwords, it becomes routine.


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AC8HF
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« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2010, 03:12:52 PM »

Alan, is the mounting of an antenna--and the requisite hole-drilling--covered on your site?  (I'm looking and haven't run across it yet.)  If not, where would I go looking?
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K0BG
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« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2010, 04:28:36 PM »

It is, and in several places.

I can't speak for Mark, K5LXP, however, he has been in the installation business longer (and later) than I have (was). He'll tell you, that few, if any, governmental agencies use any other form of mounting antennas, than drilling a hole. Yes, I have been challenged, and even with references to the contrary. But none of them have proved to be accurate.

All of this means nothing. However, sometime in the future, you'll discover on your own, what Mark, and I have suggested, will prove to the the correct way.
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AC8HF
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« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2010, 04:55:29 AM »

However, sometime in the future, you'll discover on your own, what Mark, and I have suggested, will prove to the the correct way.

Oh, I'm not disputing that hard-mounting an antenna to a car is the best way for HF. I'll concede that point. But for me, what I'm saying is that I'm not completely comfortable doing it...yet. There may come a time that it's the way to go, and that time may be soon, but I don't know that I'm quite there.

I just want to make that point clear. Smiley

In any case, I'll continue to look at your site--it's a gold mine of information for the mobile ham, to be sure. I'm looking forward to sucking in as much information as I possibly can.
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K5LXP
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« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2010, 06:26:18 AM »

Carl;

One step at a time. Of course you're nervous about poking holes in your relatively new car.  Work on running a power cable through the firewall and get comfortable with that.  Read up on the topic of all manner of antenna mounts and understand what makes them work, and not work.  Once you're familiar with all of the options you can make a best choice for you, not what a bunch of guys on an internet forum would do.  Alan gives me way too much credit, there are those that have done way more installation work than I have but the answer is the same- a permanent mount is best.  To me, it's just what you do when you get a vehicle.  Done right, it will not leak air, snow or water, will not rust, and will not cause ancilliary damage to the surrounding panel.  Period.  Do it once, do it right and you won't have to mess with it again for the entire time you own the car.  Don't think of it as "damage", think of it as an extension of your home shack and how much enjoyment and utility you'll get out of it over the coming years.

I wrote this a number of years ago and it pretty much sums it up:

<http://www.eham.net/ehamforum/smf/index.php/topic,51075.msg347747.html#msg347747>

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
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