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Author Topic: Advice on mobile setup?  (Read 6357 times)

Posts: 2

« on: February 26, 2014, 02:46:56 PM »

Hi, I am a relatively new ham (general) and have been wanting to set up my car as a mobile station (I travel a lot and live in an apartment, so it's probably my best option).  I have a 2012 Rav4 that I will be installing it in.  I'm also a grad student, so don't have the biggest budget for equipment.

First off, the transceiver.  I'd like to get an all-band transceiver instead of separate VHF/UHF and HF, as this car isn't as spacious as other SUVs.  The ones I've been looking at is the Yaesu FT-897D, and the Icom 7000 or 7100.  The Icom ones look a bit fancier, but I'm not sure if they are worth the jump in price over the Yaesu.  I feel like I would get better performance putting that money in to a good antenna.  Thoughts?

Which brings us to antennas.  I'm not sure which one is best for 2 meter and 440, so I'd love some recommendations on this.  For HF I like the looks of the Little Tarheel II, and the reviews seem to be mostly positive.  Though I'm not sure if it would be better to give up 6M and go with the slightly larger Tarheel model 75A.  As far as mounting goes, I really like the looks of this mount:  I'm a bit apprehensive about cutting holes in the roof of my nice new car, at least for now.  Anyone else use this mount or have experience attaching antennas on a Rav4?  After reading a bit about ground planes, would it help if I added a metal plate to this mount instead of just the two bars?

As far as electrical wiring goes, will 4 guage wire be enough to run from the battery to the transceiver?  I'd probably also be connecting a few other small accessories as well (CB radio, backup camera, dashcam, and maybe radar detector), and it would simplify a lot if I only needed to run the one cable but I also don't want to overload it or cause unneeded interference.  Or should I only use the direct cable for my radio and just run the others through the car's fuse box?

Finally, is antenna theft common?  I'd hate for my nice expensive antenna to go missing, so should I just keep it in the car if I am not using it?  Not sure what the common practice is here, or if there is a way of locking the antenna to the mount.

And advice would be appreciated, thanks!

Posts: 7

« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2014, 05:21:41 PM »

First, I'd suggest, Alan's site is the encyclopedia of mobile operating.  If he hasn't written a book yet, he should.

Instead of the 897, look at the 857.  I think for all intensive purposes, it's the same radio in a smaller body with a detachable head, which will come in handy for installing if you are tight on space.  As far as the Icoms go, I know the 7100 has some features like D-Star and GPS which you can use to find the closest D-Star repeaters from the database on the SD card you put in the radio.  Not sure if D-Star is something you need/want, but if it is, that would be a reason to go with the IC-7100.  I cant comment on the HF antenna situation, I guess thats gonna depend on what you drive and what kind of space you may have to instal an antenna.  Once again, Alan's site has a big gallery of mobile install pics, good and bad, and I'd look there to see if there is any pics of similar vehicles to yours.  For VHF/UHF, I have a Comet CA-2x4SR.  I have been very happy with it.  I've never had any problems with antenna theft in my area, but ymmv depending on where you may have your vehicle. 

I havent done it myself, but I've seen people install a marine distribution box (West Marine makes 6 and 12 outlet versions) in the vehicle and run just one power cable from the batter thru the firewall into the distribution box.  Here is some info that may be FJ Cruiser specific (the vehicle I own):

I haven't done this myself, so I cant comment on it.  Im sure that setup could be adapted for many different vehicles, but ymmv.

Posts: 6092


« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2014, 07:25:02 PM »

It will help a lot to select a rig that offers a detachable head to give you more mounting flexibility on the dash. The HF antenna is going to come down to what you're willing to spend, and what you're willing to mount.  I would not bother with anything that covered 6M on the HF antenna.  There's not enough activity there to worry about.

4ga is overkill, 8ga would be plenty. 

The "best" antenna for 2M/440 is whatever you like.  I prefer shorter antennas, they're less likely to get sucked off in the car wash and I don't have to hear them bang into the garage ceiling when I park.

I've never had an antenna stolen.  I think it matters where you park and for how long.  My cars are never anywhere a thief would have much opportunity.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM


Posts: 2

« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2014, 08:09:58 PM »

Thanks for the info!  The 897 was a typo, the radio I meant WAS the 857.  That distribution box is perfect!  Never would have thought of something like that, and should keep everything nice and neat.  Good to know about 6M, might as well get a bigger antenna if there isn't much activity on there.

Posts: 9930

« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 11:35:40 AM »

In my car (2000 dodge intrepid) I use an ft 857 and an ATAS 120 antenna mounts on a trunk lip mount.  A lot of the time I take the ATAS120 off and just use a 2m/440 antenna  for local stuff.  The ATAS 120 is not the best antenna out there but it auto tunes with the ft 857 which is sweet.

on my truck I have 5 radios mounted in a rack  a friend built me where the bottom of the middle seat used to be. It works well. I also have an 800 watt 120 volt power inverter on the floor of the pick up.  this givers me "house power" for the laptop, tools if I am working on the truck, and even a place to plug in the coffee pot.  I use  an old pair of jumper cables with the ends cut off for the power run and then use power poles with the back of the inverter as the distribution point for the 12 volt power. cheep cables and they work.

look at my page on to see the pictures.

Posts: 67

« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 10:12:34 PM »

Running some 8 AWG wire from the battery to a power pole distribution box would be your best bet. You could then connect your other radios or radio accessories to power via power pole connectors. If something on the circuit causes RFI or what have you, then its a simple matter of unplugging it from the distribution box.

As far as 2m goes, a simple quarter wave antenna from your favorite manufacturer is all you'll need. Most are dual band and function on 440 as well. Also, with an antenna that small, a mag mount will work just fine so no holes needed! Some will argue other wise but personally, I like not have holes in the roof of my truck. Personal preference though..

I've never owned an 857 but I do know they are really popular and have heard a lot of good about them. Since you are on a budget, some other options would be something like a used Kenwood TS-50 or Yaesu FT-100 from ebay or a local hamfest. Both are good simple rigs. They won't win any contests but they'll get you contacts. If you have the funds for the 857, then go that route for sure.

Antenna theft?

Well, I've never had a problem with a stolen antenna......wait, I mean I've never had a problem stealing an antenna. Err.....I've never had an antenna stolen!! Yeah, thats it! Grin

Honestly though, that's just a risk you run playing the game. Kinda like running the risk of a lightning strike frying the radio or transmitting and making the metal plate in your neighbors head resonate causing him to p*ss his pants and forget who he is for a half hour or so. Its just one of those things.

Either way though, have fun with it! There is a lot to learn in this hobby but no one single right way to do it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

And good luck with grad school! I'm an undergrad working for my degree in auto mechanics/technology so I can relate (sorta  Wink ).


Posts: 1050

« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2014, 06:42:44 AM »

 For HF I like the looks of the Little Tarheel II, and the reviews seem to be mostly positive.  Though I'm not sure if it would be better to give up 6M and go with the slightly larger Tarheel model 75A.  

I put a 6ft whip on my Little Tarheel II instead of the stock 30" one. I lost 6m but the performance difference on the other bands was well worth it.

If you read about antenna mounting at you'll see why the Rav 4 mount isn't the best solution available.

Drilling holes in the roof isn't as bad as it sounds. When you go to sell the car just fill the hole with a GPS antenna or such and if you paint it the same colour as the car you can claim it was a dealership fitted option.  Tongue
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