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Ham Radio Antenna Considerations for Off Road Vehicles
December 23, 2017
10:00 pm
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Tyler - K6TLR
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Figured if anyone is interested in doing a hardwired ham radio setup, you will need to know a little bit about antenna considerations for your rig. I wrote this article as a very simplified overview of things to consider and plan out when thinking about setting up your antennas. It's not technical... it doesn't get into maximizing antenna efficiency, or gain vs radiation patterns etc. I kept it as lamens terms as I could 🙂 Enjoy! Feel free to ask any questions you come up with!

 

https://myoffroadradio.com/index.php/2017/12/10/ham-radio-vehicle-antennas/

January 2, 2018
11:26 am
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buckallred
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hey Tyler:

Awesome article, thanks for sharing.

On my suburban, the prev owner punched a hole in the roof directly in between the driver/passenger seats. Not what I would have done, bu since it was there I used it for a CB antenna. Because the vehicle is about 7 feet tall, I am using a 24"  fiberglass antenna with a stud mount and a spring. The reason for the shorter antenna is that the vehicle is already so tall. The suburban roof is obviously a huge flat piece of metal, so should present an excellent plane for broadcasting radio signals.

antenna: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004USX7EE/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

spring: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00042LC9M/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

mount: https://www.wearecb.com/dome-mount-with-lug-connection.html

The vehicle has 6 holes punched in the very rear of the roof for a rear wind deflector, which I removed. Plan is to use one of those holes for a HAM radio antenna. Unfortunately it will need to be on either driver/passenger side as the holes in the center are directly over the rear A/C unit. So I am OK sacrificing some r/f by placing the antenna over to the passenger side.

All that said, does a 24" fiberglass antenna exist for a HAM radio application? Even adding another foot (like the 37" whip antennas you recommend) would have me up around 10 feet, which is just high. Although I won't do serious offroading in this suburban, at 10 feet high the antenna would be banging on all kinds of stuff.

The NMO mount you linked looks very nice. Let me know your thoughts on an antenna for this application?

Thanks again for the excellent article! 

January 4, 2018
11:33 am
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Tyler - K6TLR
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buckallred said

hey Tyler:

Awesome article, thanks for sharing.

On my suburban, the prev owner punched a hole in the roof directly in between the driver/passenger seats. Not what I would have done, bu since it was there I used it for a CB antenna. Because the vehicle is about 7 feet tall, I am using a 24"  fiberglass antenna with a stud mount and a spring. The reason for the shorter antenna is that the vehicle is already so tall. The suburban roof is obviously a huge flat piece of metal, so should present an excellent plane for broadcasting radio signals.

antenna: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004USX7EE/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

spring: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00042LC9M/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

mount: https://www.wearecb.com/dome-mount-with-lug-connection.html

The vehicle has 6 holes punched in the very rear of the roof for a rear wind deflector, which I removed. Plan is to use one of those holes for a HAM radio antenna. Unfortunately it will need to be on either driver/passenger side as the holes in the center are directly over the rear A/C unit. So I am OK sacrificing some r/f by placing the antenna over to the passenger side.

All that said, does a 24" fiberglass antenna exist for a HAM radio application? Even adding another foot (like the 37" whip antennas you recommend) would have me up around 10 feet, which is just high. Although I won't do serious offroading in this suburban, at 10 feet high the antenna would be banging on all kinds of stuff.

The NMO mount you linked looks very nice. Let me know your thoughts on an antenna for this application?

Thanks again for the excellent article!   

This would work well for your application. And it should attach right up to the 15ft NMO mount/cable/feedline that I linked in the article. If you were going to be taking the suburban into more offroad situations, I would recommend something with a little more gain, but this will do great for repeater access, and still do better than CB for vehicle to vehicle.

http://amzn.to/2EZfm1p

If you can mount it so that it has at least 18 inches of roof all around it, then you won't be sacrificing rf at all Anything less, and you will still make it into repeaters just fine, you essentially start sacrificing gain at that point... but most repeaters don't need a lot of gain to use and access.

January 4, 2018
4:31 pm
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buckallred
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Thanks for the excellent (and free!) advice. Since I am going to have a roof rack put on the burb, and I will be using the NMO connector that you linked. . I now am thinking that I will just go with the 36" antenna linked in your article and just remove it whenever the vehicle's parked.

THAT SAID: what about recommending a good basic quality mobile HAM radio? Not a handheld, but a vehicle-mounted one?

January 7, 2018
4:16 pm
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Tyler - K6TLR
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buckallred said

Thanks for the excellent (and free!) advice. Since I am going to have a roof rack put on the burb, and I will be using the NMO connector that you linked. . I now am thinking that I will just go with the 36" antenna linked in your article and just remove it whenever the vehicle's parked.

THAT SAID: what about recommending a good basic quality mobile HAM radio? Not a handheld, but a vehicle-mounted one?  

Psh, that advice is valued at MINIMUM 2 winch pulls if we ever get to go wheeling together 😉

Mobile ham radios is a HUGE black hole. There are SO MANY different features that they can do, and different price points for everything. For offroading/adventuring... I HIGHLY recommend getting a dual band, dual VFO radio that can do 50 watts and crossband repeat. Anything else is really up to you. Detachable faceplates are really nice to help save space on your dashboard.

The base quality radio that works real well, has those options, and is the starting price point is the TYT-TH7800 (http://amzn.to/2CB0Mvt) (~200$). I use the quadband option in my 4runner... it looks exactly the same, and functions almost identically except mine also does 6meters, 10meters, and CB. Ill bring the 4runner to the next meeting and you can check it out. For its price, this radio is great... But the speaker on it pretty much sucks, and you will need to get an external speaker (little 4" 10watt external speaker works great, ~10$ on amazon - http://amzn.to/2ADV9uy)

I recently installed a Kenwood TMV71A in my dad's Taco, and it is a super clean, good quality radio. Has all of the functions as the TYT7800, but much better and cleaner sound, a higher quality mic, and a better brand backing... but is almost 150$ more... especially when you take into account that you need to buy a couple of extra things in order to detach the faceplate and mount it separately. Awesome little basic function radio with a super clean UI though.

If you want something with APRS in it (so that loved ones can track you while you are out off roading, or so SAR can find you super easy if you end up needing them for any reason), check out the Yaesu FT100DR (http://amzn.to/2CLm7G3). It is about the same price as the Kenwood, but it has APRS and GPS coords. It can give you bearings to gps coords, or other people using an FT100DR as well (The radio's sync up via APRS, and will give bearings to each other... very popular radio for SAR teams). The UI is a little more complicated than the kenwood though, because there is more to keep track of, on a slightly smaller screen.

And my personal favorite... the Icom 5100A (http://amzn.to/2Feu18X) (~550$). Absolutely awesome, feature rich radio. It comes with a large touch screen, which takes more space on the dash, but makes the UI very simple and easy to navigate. It has APRS, GPS, Breadcrumbs, AND repeaters pre-built in. What is really cool about this radio, is that when you program in repeaters, you also program in their GPS coordinates. And when you are out off roading, you just tell the radio to pull up the nearest repeater to you, and it does. You don't need to search through your programming to find repeaters! It also has an optional bluetooth module, which will allow you to control the radio from your phone, you can hook up bluetooth headsets to it, and, combined with a smartphone app called RepeaterBook, if you forgot to program the radio before leaving for a trip, you can open the app, pull up the nearest repeater and the bluetooth its information into the radio. Pretty freakin amazing technology. It will also give you bearings to repeaters, so if you somehow end up out of range of ANY repeaters, you can follow bearings to get you back within range of a repeater.

Icom was awesome enough to let me borrow one of the 5100A's until the end of January. So, I will have it up at Winter Fun Fest in my vendor booth to showcase. I don't know if I will have it installed in the 4runner before WFF though, or the meeting this Thursday. But I will bring it with me to the meeting so you can see what it looks like.

There are tons of other options on the market. The big thing is to figure out what features you want in a radio, and then find one with that featureset in it. Which is why I always try and recommend people use a little handheld with an external mounted antenna for a bit. Once you use it for a while, and figure out what you want, then drop the money on a nice hardwired mobile radio.

Hope that helps!

January 7, 2018
10:33 pm
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Mike G
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(Icom 5100A)

Ok it's settled this is the one I get if I ever get around to it this one sounds awesome

January 9, 2018
5:49 pm
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buckallred
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Tyler - K6TLR said
The base quality radio that works real well, has those options, and is the starting price point is the TYT-TH7800 (http://amzn.to/2CB0Mvt) (~200$). I use the quadband option in my 4runner... it looks exactly the same, and functions almost identically except mine also does 6meters, 10meters, and CB. Ill bring the 4runner to the next meeting and you can check it out. For its price, this radio is great... But the speaker on it pretty much sucks, and you will need to get an external speaker (little 4" 10watt external speaker works great, ~10$ on amazon - http://amzn.to/2ADV9uy)

Wow! Lots to digest, thanks for the detailed info.

Questions:

1) your radio (the TYT-TH7800) does CB along with 6meter and 10meter? If so, that's what I want. . 

2) do any of the other radios you listed also do CB?

3) how does that work re: antennas? you can't run HAM/6meter/10meter and CB through the same antenna. . .  correct?

January 10, 2018
8:25 am
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Gregulator

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It really is a ton of info.  I feel like you have to geek out to really understand most of it.  I think I'm going to have to hire Tyler's Ham Tutoring Services...confused

Um...what?

January 10, 2018
9:19 am
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Tyler - K6TLR
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buckallred said

Tyler - K6TLR said
The base quality radio that works real well, has those options, and is the starting price point is the TYT-TH7800 (http://amzn.to/2CB0Mvt) (~200$). I use the quadband option in my 4runner... it looks exactly the same, and functions almost identically except mine also does 6meters, 10meters, and CB. Ill bring the 4runner to the next meeting and you can check it out. For its price, this radio is great... But the speaker on it pretty much sucks, and you will need to get an external speaker (little 4" 10watt external speaker works great, ~10$ on amazon - http://amzn.to/2ADV9uy)

Wow! Lots to digest, thanks for the detailed info.

Questions:

1) your radio (the TYT-TH7800) does CB along with 6meter and 10meter? If so, that's what I want. . 

2) do any of the other radios you listed also do CB?

3) how does that work re: antennas? you can't run HAM/6meter/10meter and CB through the same antenna. . .  correct?  

1) Mine is the quadband version of the 7800.... the 9800. It is awesome. You can check it out tomorrow. It only takes up this much space on my dashboard (the orange screen).

 20171117_163644-1.jpgImage Enlarger

2) Technically, any radio that has an FCC Ham Radio License grant (Part 97), will not be able to do CB as well. So technically, the radio I have is not an FCC compliant Ham Radio. But it does transmit on the ham bands, (and other bands too). It is up to me to make sure I stay legal with my transmissions. As far as I know, this is the only mobile radio that can transmit on both Ham bands and CB from the factory without any modifications.

3) You are correct! In order to get all 5 bands working off the same radio, I have to have 2 duplexors, and a switch setup to run the 4 antennas on 1 radio. I currently just have 1 duplexor, and swap out the feedlines when I want to change 10m, 6m, and CB. You COULD get that down to 3 antennas, but one of them will need to be a 102" steel whip antenna, and it won't get crystal clear SWR on both 10m and CB, but it would work decently on both (probably around 2.5:1). I hated my 102" whip because it CONSTANTLY hit the cab and was whipping all the way over and smacking the window on the other side of the vehicle. Figured I would take it off before it broke the window. So, now I am planning out the 4 antenna build.

On a side note... there is an antenna that you can get from Comet that works all 4 bands on the 1 antenna (no CB though). The only issue is, it has a lot of extra coils and traps, and protruding mini antennas. Thus, not very condusive for offroading as it will break very quickly if it gets hung up on a tree/bush/whatever. But for highway driving, it works great.

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January 10, 2018
9:30 am
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Tyler - K6TLR
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Gregulator said

It really is a ton of info.  I feel like you have to geek out to really understand most of it.  I think I'm going to have to hire Tyler's Ham Tutoring Services...confused  

It's definitely something to learn as you go... but honestly, you can keep it as simple or as complicated as you want. My dad honestly doesn't understand anything about ham radio, is the least electrically inclined person I know, and was able to get his tech license with 100% passing score. (If you end up reading this at some point, Dad, I love you, and it's a good thing!)

There are definitely radios on the market that are super simple, with clean, simple UIs, not a lot of options, and will just work when you want them to. So, for you, I would tell you to stay away from the ID5100 or the TYT9800 quad band. Something like the Icom IC2370a (liking this radio the more and more I look at it. The display is so elegant and symmetrical and pleasing to my eyes!) , TYT7800, Kenwood TMV71A all would be awesome choices.

Or you can do what I am currently helping with, and setting up a whole radio station with phased antenna stacks on 3 towers, all hooked up to 1 server-radio that acts like 2 radios with 1500w amps haha. But that is the extreme end of the spectrum. I go off the deep end so that you dont have to! lol It's kinda like you and Jeff with hs4x4... you do all the axle talk and learning the hard way so that we can learn from you and your experiences 😉

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