Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Mobile Shack: Nothing Goes as Planned, Right?

With all intentions of following my plan for an install on my new car, I dove in between rain storms over the past two nights to get everything mounted and ready for years of mobile VHF/UHF enjoyment. About ten minutes into the project, it became apparent that things were not going to go exactly as planned.

The antenna mount I chose (see THIS post for details and links on the gear I used) mounted up in a heart beat. I only moved it once so that the antenna (when the trunk is opened) would not slam the roof of the car, potentially causing damage to one or both. I took a piece of ground strap I had lying around the garage and slipped it under the mount to bond the antenna to the radio and the farm of the vehicle. In hind site, it was a pain to run all the ground strap, but it was also well worth the effort as everything is quiet and appears to function very well. It's always amazing how much a solid ground plane work in your favor.

With the antenna mounded, it was time to run the feed line and ground strap, which took several attempts. Every time I thought I had found the perfect balance between keeping cable out of the way and being able to close the trunk, I found I was mistaken. After half an hour or so, I got it right. Again, I'm glad that I took the time to do it right. 

Next, I mounted the radio body to the car under the back dash. Unfortunately, I stripped a few screws in the process, which meant re-drilling. Just when I buttoned it up I realized that I hadn't laid the ground strap under the bracket. So off it came again and then back together. By this time, it was nearing midnight, so I wrapped it up.

The next morning, I re-thought the idea of fabricating an in-cabin mounting bracket. I just didn't have the time to do it well. Luckily, my father (also a ham) has a barn full of random bits and pieces. I called over to say, "hi," and have him rummage through boxes. :) He found just what I needed and dropped the pieces off later that day.

I mounted everything up quickly and set off to run the power and signal through the cabin and firewall. Oh boy, that was fun. Luckily, I was able to follow the hood release cable through the firewall and with a hour or so of tugging and contorting myself into ungodly under-dash positions, I had power. 

With the install done, I powered up the laptop, loaded a few frequencies, and programmed the radio. I'm happy to report that it is quiet, effective, and seems to work well, in spite of the fact that I still haven't received the planned antenna. In the meantime, I had another dual-band NMO to attach to the mount for testing and such. 

This is the first time I really took the time to do a mobile install correctly and I'm very happy with the results. I think my wife was even impressed that there weren't tangle wires snaking in every direction like my previous installs. The whole thing looks good, is out of the way while easily within reach, and works well. Sometimes the plan has to go out the window to get things right I guess.


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