Friday, July 6, 2012

Ham Radio Mobile

Today I started piecing together my first mobile radio setup.  I've been dreaming of a mobile setup since forever but could never convince myself to spend the money on a good antenna mount.  Well, that time has finally come.  I decided this all kind of last minute since I'll be leaving for family vacation - and a 13 hour drive - on Wednesday July 11th.
Trip to Ft. Robinson, NE
I decided on the Diamond K400-3/8C hatchback/lip mount for my hamstick style antennas.  It wasn't cheap at $80 including shipping but quality trumps price here as I would hate the thing to break and send my antenna into another car while going 80 mph on the highway!  I got the mount from Walcott CB in Walcott, IA (home of the famous I-80 Truckstop) and it arrived in 1 day with USPS priority mail shipping!  Walcott is only about 60 minutes away but with gas prices the way they are, it would have cost more to go pick it up.
Short hop and skip to Walcott
Diamond suggests mounting the antenna on the drivers side to make best use of the higher areas above the roadways (and fewer trees) so I did that, placing the mount near the top of the tailgate on the driver side.  I checked the bonding between the gate and the main body of the car and it seemed to be pretty low resistance so hopefully I won't need to add anymore bonding wire between the gate and the body.

Looking good!

The antennas are hamstick type that I got in Dayton in 2011.  I have sticks for 20, 40 and 80, though for this trip I will probably just stay on 20.  I've used the 20m antenna attached to my grill on my deck with great success so I'm very eager to see how it works in the true mobile fashion.
Tuning the 20m stick
I didn't try to get fancy with routing cable through the cabin so it just runs along the floorboards on the drivers side.  The power cable comes through the firewall through the built in grommet.  This was REALLY easy to do and I thank Toyota for providing me the easy install!  I don't have any pictures of the install here because I ran this wire ages ago when I had a mobile 2m radio in the truck that I borrowed from the club at work.  I did put some power poles on it this time now that all my power cables are equipped with them.


I had a lot of wild ideas for mounting the radio but I really hit the jackpot when I actually put the radio in the car.  The 2005 model 4Runner has something which in the Toyota circles is known as the "burger tray."  It is a small flip out "table" in the front part of the arm rest and...well pictures are worth a thousand words:

With the legs deployed, it they rest perfectly in the notches so that the radio sits securely at my fingertips.  It could be a bit further out so I would not have to look down to see the frequency but I can deal with it given the incredible ease of use.  

I took the truck up to the hill where I like to operate portable and fired it up.  As luck would have it, the very first QSO as W0EA/M was with TG4 in Guatemala!  I then worked a couple of the 13 Colonies special event stations, all with 10w on voice.  Color me impressed!  Quite happy so far.  I'll play a lot more this weekend and get the 40m stick tuned up.  Keep an ear out for me next week and here's a bunch more pictures just for fun!