Here is a little recap.
Last time in my article Troubleshooting Connections I had mentioned that I was having some issues hitting my local repeater with my home station and that in the meantime I was going to install a 2m rig in my vehicle so that I could get on the radio while mobile.
I finally have a mobile setup
I had been researching for a little while for what radio and antenna to get, how I want to mount it and where I want to run the cables in my truck.
I own a 2015 Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab with a 5’7″ box and ultimately I want to install an overland/box rack. I have decided on the Leitner Designs ACS Forged rack and initially I was going to wait until I had the rack installed to pick up and install the radio and antenna. However, the radio I was going with went on sale and I was getting a bit impatient so I went ahead with a temporary setup.
What Radio and Antenna did I choose?
Let’s start with the radio. I wanted a compact radio that had dual receivers, was cross band repeat capable and could do APRS. I wanted to try out a Yaesu radio and Initially I was thinking about the Yaesu FTM-400DR/XDR but I wasn’t a fan of the look of the interface, I didn’t need a screen that large and finally I was looking for something a little less expensive. Then Yaesu released the FTM-300DR and that seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I picked mine up from Radio World / GPS Central and I have the radio configured and hooked up and have started playing with it, and so far I like it.
To go along with this I needed an antenna, I did not want an obscenely big but wanted good performance so I started looking around and kept getting pointed towards the Comet CA-2x4SRNMO. Additionally I was browsing reddit and found several people with the Yaesu FTM-300DR paired with that antenna, they loved it and it made my decision to go with the Comet an easy one and so far I am really happy with the performance of this antenna, even in it’s non-optimal location behind the cab of my truck, just on top of the fender.
How did I mount this?
If you recall earlier I had mentioned that I am going to install the Leitner ACS Forged rack, so that was going to make this installation a temporary one. The first thing that I did was browse the inter-webs to see how other people were mounting things and as usual I had found several mounting options. I did not want to drill any holes so that ruled out a few of the mounting solutions. I was thinking of buying the stainless front fender nmo mount plate and going from there but I did not want to mount the antenna in that location.
I have a roll top cover on my truck and wanted to still use this and also wanted to be able to fold over the antenna if I needed to so I opted for a Comet CP-5NMO setup with a Comet RS-730 adjustable lip mount bracket that supports folding over the antenna as well as 16’6″ of cable which was enough to route it into the cab of my truck.
I built a custom aluminum bracket that attached to the roll top rail, allowed me to still close the roll top and kept the mount secure. From here I routed the coax down the inside of the fender and up into the cab via a grommet in the floor on the drivers side of the cab. Where the coax passed through an opening in metal I placed wire loom around it to keep the coax from rubbing and used a few zip ties to keep things from moving around too much.
I also needed to make sure that the antenna was bonded to the body of the truck and since my truck box was spray coated and the aluminum rails of the roll-top cover were powder-coated I removed a small bit of paint on the aluminum plate I made, a bit of paint on the aluminum roll-top rails and then routed a bonding strap down the inside of the fender and found a nice attachment point. I followed this up with a continuity check with my multi-meter to make sure I got a good bond. (See Gallery Below For Images)
Mounting the Radio
I am not 100% sure where I want to mount the radio body, I don’t have an extension for the mic so the location had to be close to the drivers seat. I did not want to cut into the truck’s console, or do any crazy mounting solutions. I wanted to keep the truck looking mostly like a regular truck. I could have made a bracket to mount the body inside the fold up area of the console but instead I opted for a simple J Bracket to hang the radio’s quick attach plate on the lip of the map/document slot on the side of the truck’s console. This allows me to keep the head attached to the body, keep it withing reach yet keep it discreet and this configuration also does not get in the way of my leg for operating the vehicle.
The more that I looked at the radio in that spot the more I wanted the head unit oriented correctly so that it was easier to operate and see with a simple glance. I knew about computer mounts, phone and tablet mounts, and other specialized radio mounts from Lido but based on where I wanted to locate the head unit, I knew that I needed something compact and adjustable and since I am also an avid photographer I started looking at different mounting solutions in that market. As I looked at different products I latched onto the idea of a quick attach plate attached to a cheap ballhead or an articulating arm. Well I found a couple products that would allow me to attach the FTM-300DR control head to a quick-release plate and articulating arm so that I can position the head were it is needed and out of the way of the dash controls and spot for my phone.
The only issue with off the shelf photography/videography products is that they are all 1/4 – 20 or 3/8 – 16 threads while the threaded mounting hole on the control head is 5mm. I was able to remove the 1/4-20 threaded screw from the quick-release plate and just substitute in the correct 5mm one. . . Problem Solved!
I am a machinist and welder by trade so at work I cut a piece of 2″ x 1/2″ flat steel bar and drilled and tapped a 1/4 – 20 TPI thread into one end of it and this acts as a weighted base that more than supports the weight of the control head. The articulating arm threads into the threaded hole and then to the back side of the v-lock plate. This allows me to adjust the arm and configure the control head into any orientation.
Powering the Radio!
I am not sure that I want to tie the radio directly to the truck’s main battery. Ultimately I would have liked a second battery that would get charged by the alternator but remain isolated from the rest of the system and be solely for powering the radio. Yes there are setups like this and I thought that this was the setup to go with however, I do not really have a spot under the hood for a second battery, so I kept searching for ideas.
When the box rack system is installed I also was thinking of putting solar on the top of it, a battery/battery array and an inverter to power other things and I think this is a great setup to also power the radio. But what to do in the mean time? I have a pair of 35AH AGM SLA batteries that I use with my photography studio strobes when I take them portable so I connected one to the radio and it powers it fine but it is heavy. I then decided to look at LiFePo4 and they are becoming very reasonable. I think this is a better option for my setup and I have a nice spot to place it. I will add a nice mounting enclosure so that the battery is secure when driving. In the meantime, however, I’ll just run the AGM.
I also thought that the default factory supplied power cable that came with my radio was a bit unruly so I picked up some 3/8″ cable sleeve on Amazon. First I cut pieces of electrical tape and taped the wires together approximately every 6 inches to keep them orderly and then pulled the cable sleeve over the entire length of the power cable and finally finished it all off with a set of power poles on the end to make connection and disconnection quick and easy.