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Author Topic: Is it considered "bad-form" to have a mobil radio professionally installed?  (Read 4150 times)
KE6TDP
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« on: September 12, 2010, 05:13:24 PM »

Out of curiosity is it considered "bad-form" to have a mobile radio professionally installed??  We will be buying a new car soon, as in someday, so I will have to deal with this issue once again? Undecided
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KE3WD
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2010, 05:36:04 PM »

My answer is that would be for me, but might not be for you. 

If you want to have it professionally installed, have at it. 

Be advised that those pro installers may not have all that much savvy when it comes to things Amateur Radio.  They likely have the most experience installing VHF or UHF "bidness band" radios and the like.  An HF installation, not so much.  Unless, of course, you happen to luck out and find a place where the boss or the technician is also an avid ham, that is. 

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KE3WD
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2010, 05:37:31 PM »

And one more thing for your consideration: 

If the technician is not a licensed amateur radio operator, they may be able to do the installation, but they won't be able to do any on-air testing legally.  You would have to do that. 
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N7NBB
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2010, 06:41:03 PM »

I agree,,, if you would feel more comfortable having it professionally installed, and you have the financial where-with-all to accomplish that fact. "HAVE AT IT" !

The professional KNOWS how to remove / reinstall a headliner, and make it look like it was never messed with.  They KNOW which roof support posts can have a cable fished through, and which ones to stay away from, they KNOW exactly WHERE to come through the firewall with the high current direct to battery power leads. They KNOW what parts of the dash or under dash areas are best to mount a radio and/or control head.  They KNOW where NOT to mount dash equipment to avoid drilling into an Air Conditioner or AIR BAG module. . . and the BIGGEST REASON to use a professional is this.  If you are doing yourself, and screw anything up... YOU are responsible for any repairs... or living with an ugly or potentially dangerous situation. If THEY SCREW UP... THEY are INSURED.   I've done my own for many years, and know a few (not all) tricks of the trade... but if you have little or know experience, the YES... use a professional.. you won't be sorry.
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WD4MTW
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« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2010, 08:45:54 PM »

Ok, I was in that "biddness" for years. Those installers are worth their weight in gold. One wrong hole drilled could be catastrophic. They have the right tools to pop trim and fasteners, drill and mount a secure NMO, pull power from the battery through the firewall and fuse it about as fast as I can type this reply. As far as testing, they have professional swr sweepers that they can resonate the antenna or at least check the swr over the range faster then key, read,readjust, and repeat. Many are hams anyways and most certainly most of the techs that would probably bench test your radio before it's installed both to CYA and make sure it's working properly on a service monitor. Just because you got it new in a box doesn't mean it's meeting spec. Consider that a value added service for your buck and piece of mind that that nothing is going to get screwed up in the process. No different if you buy a car audio. A good installer knows what he's doing and there's going to be no scratches, ruined fasteners,and everything powered and grounded with respect to noise. With your brand new car, that's a job that can be done expediently probably in an hour. You're going to be spending the day or more finding your way around the car, hunting for connectors, and doing things that are almost 2nd nature to them.

Regarding HF, no they probably won't know how to do an effective installation, nor do many hams for that matter. They've probably haven't seen a radio below 150 mc in years. That's an art that probably the only folks in town that would have that experience would be a marine shop when it comes to properly installing a random wire/whip tuner or resonant loaded whip. If they made suggestions to you for an efficient install, you'd probably decline it. If they suggested a lot of strap bonding, drilling through one of your glass windows with a grommet for the HV wire, and mount the tuner in a strange place so they could get the shortest lead out to an antenna that would most likely be mounted on a ratchet mount near your roof line away from vehicle body capacitive effects isn't what most amateurs have in mind. Again, they know what they are doing and that expertise would be worth it.
ash Ham radio has always been classically DIY and I'd agree that an amateur should do it themselves. New vehicles have become very complex and the materials used are no longer very durable. Letting a pro do it if you've never done it before and spending the time watching him and learning for the next time might be a very cost effective.

I'm at this dilemma right now with installing an in dash navigation unit in my wife's car. Sure, I've studied everything I can find, found adapters for the harness, know where the gps antenna and back up camera needs to be mounted. That's going to be a whopper job disassembling the dash and ac unit, pulling up trim, headliner, and taking the rear hatch completely appart to mount the camera and pull the wires. Yeah I can do it, and it's probably going to take an entire day and I might end up scratching something or encounter a problem that I didn't anticipate and have to research or troubleshoot it.  I can also pay $125 and pick the vehicle up in less then two hours turnkey and not give it another thought.
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KE6TDP
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2010, 06:45:42 AM »

Thanks, as N7NBB and WD4MTW point out the installers know the cars; I don't. When we were in California, the installer was really good.  The ham radio looked as if it was OEM equipment to the car and the cabling was well hidden.  Recently we sold our car, so I took the opportunity to uninstall it. One "advancement" in the art of radio installation (since we bought the FT-8800R radio) has been the advent of U-Tube.  The U-tube video, there were several actually, showed how to take the dash apart so that a regular AM/FM radio could be installed.  One, I am thankful that I did not try to do the install myself, second it made the removal of the FT-8800R a breeze.

The "big" takeaway is that we now have instructional videos on the internet which show how radio installation can be done.
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KC0SHZ
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2010, 03:30:09 PM »

No, it is fine to do.  It is also smart to do it that way if you don't know how to do it yourself.   When I started, my first mobile radio was installed by the company that does the radios for the police and fire in my town.  They didn't charge me that much ($80 if I remember correctly (2005.))

Another thing to consider is the "install free systems" that are now available.

In my F-150, I have a jack that is designed to run a laptop.  It pulls 20 amps.  My new Yaesu FTM 350R only uses 10 amps.  The cig plug adapter at Radio shack handles 10 amps.  So, I attach the power lines from the radio to the cig adapter.  The radio sits in a small plastic tray that also contains my instruction manual inside the center console that is plenty big for a laptop and files, so there is plenty of air movement around the radio.   The control head connects to the radio via a long cable that has plenty of slack to go from it's place on the dash to the hidey hole for the radio.  the mic connects to the control head.

The radio control head is suction cupped to a sweet little deal I got at Cabelas that looks like a sand bag with a smooth plastic disc in the middle. 

So far, it has been 250 miles chasing MS bikers, and from Nebraska to Mackinaw Island and back and is working perfectly.   There is not a drill hole or warranty violating wiring deal in the truck.
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TANAKASAN
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« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2010, 12:55:49 AM »

No, it isn't

You've got a new car fresh from the lot and you want it to stay looking good. These guys know how to remove the various bits of trim and then fit them back without anyone ever knowing. Besides, if you're built like me then crawling upside down into the small space between the dash and the seat to feed a cable through the firewall is no longer an option.

Tanakasan
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K7UNZ
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« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2010, 05:01:27 PM »

Don't see why it would be a consideration at all.

Most of us are operating with "store bought" gear these days, and if you can afford to have a pro install the stuff, then go for it!

Besides, I don't believe I've ever heard anyone ask if someone's mobile was a DIY or pro installation.

73, Jim/k7unz

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KE6TDP
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« Reply #9 on: September 21, 2010, 02:32:53 PM »

Very helpful responses. Thanks everyone. 
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KE3WD
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« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2010, 04:51:55 PM »


Besides, I don't believe I've ever heard anyone ask if someone's mobile was a DIY or pro installation.


Well, I can think of a reason why nobody ever thought to ask that question in the past, but the times they are a-changin'. 

73
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AA4PB
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2010, 05:28:29 AM »

The down side to having it professionally installed is that in most cases you learn nothing.
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VK6NDT
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2010, 07:31:16 AM »

After spending alot of time in the professional installation game, if its a brand new vehicle and you are unsure what can come out easy and what doesn't and where air bags are and critical wiring is located then it may be a good idea to have one carry out the task.

Like others have said though you could luck out, i have seen alot of "cowboy" work where the installer does a rush job because they quote low on the job.
I worked at a company who basically set 1hr as the bench mark for almost any install so when there was a custom type job it made it hard because the job was low paying and the faster the job got done the better.
 I then moved into another place where time and money was not an issue and it was usually alot of comm's gear being installed into brand new cars with all the factory documentation and advisory as for where equipment could and couldn't go. I picked up alot of skills here and made the finish product look like a master piece.

What i'm getting at here is it can be a good idea if they person doing the job has pride in the task at hand but you can also get bitten by a company just trying to pump out another quick install. If they are not use to the equipment it could be more hassle and confusion for them.

Do some research if you can, explain in good detail what type of job your after. it may cost you a little more but hopefully the finished job puts a smile on your face.


Jono
VK6NDT
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K7PEH
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2010, 06:00:39 PM »

The down side to having it professionally installed is that in most cases you learn nothing.

I disagree.  I had the battery power hookup and some of my grounding straps done professionally at a local "CarToys" business that does car electronics install.  I talked with the shop foreman to explain how everything would work and what things to be mindful of.  I did not need to tell him about running high-current wires from the battery -- they do that day-in, day-out for high-power audio amplifiers.  I did explain where I wanted ground straps, the importance of grounding, how I wanted my feed line handled, and so on.  He understood everything that was needed.  The job performed was excellent.  About the cost?  I didn't care and it wasn't that much anyway (~$400).  The truck itself cost $32,000 and I wouldn't trust my trust my skills against a professional merely to save a relatively small amount of money.

Now, about having learned nothing --- my hobby is not about crawling under a pickup truck, drilling holes into the chassis, bolting in grounding straps, or stringing 2-0 cable from the battery.  By the way, there are photos of my truck install on my web site (QRZ and follow link) and I think I describe the part I had done and the part that I did myself.  I should update the photos though since the mount of my rig is a little different today.

73, phil, K7PEH
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K9YLI
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2010, 07:58:50 AM »

k7peh..   2-0   cable from the battery..   thats for a huge amplifier.

#10 would be plenty big for a 100 watt radio.
#8  if you like to over due a bit.
so anyone doing it your self,   do the research,  2-0 wire can hardly be bent...

#1 wire carries  119 amps. 
2-0 has to be above 200 amps. ( i cant find my electrical hand book right now)
that would take  2 alternators to keep up with that current.

as for "learning anythhing"  everyones goal in life should be to 'learn everything abut everything"

watching someone removing door posts and stringin antenna cable  will only teach you a small amount.
 DIY and making some mistakes,  is really learning...

and  if it fails  eventually,  who is going to  trouble shoot and repair it.
you moved or the shop is out of business,   DIY  the  installer is always handy  and cheap..

the real point is  none if this stuff is very difficult.
if you can tie your shoes   you should be able to install your radios..

mostly its  just  looking closely  at stuff.   pry and poke a bit,  take out screws,,  find the latches or  spring clip stuff... some times you break something,, thats learning..

do i think its    bad form.....  definately,,

  "you're a ham,,   fix it"
 should always be the watch words.
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