KE4WMF – Communications

I earned my Technician Class Amateur Radio license in 1995 and then upgraded to a General Class license in 2007. I do not have a ham station in my home. I have always been a “mobile-only” operator. My VHF/UHF radios have a respectable range with the use of repeaters and even the Internet. Repeaters receive signals from distant or weak stations, amplify them, then retransmit the signal for greater range. Technologies, such as D-STAR and System Fusion, enable an amateur radio operator’s signal to be carried to distant locations via the Internet. I’ve made nearly effortless contact with stations in Europe with just five watts and a mobile hotspot using D-STAR. My HF radio provides the ability to communicate worldwide via “sky waves” enabled by the atmosphere. My car packs a lot of capability, which is my ongoing goal.

My primary radio is an Icom ID-5100A D-STAR radio, which features dual transceivers. The remote display is HUGE and very difficult to place in a tightly organized interior. At first, I mounted it in front of the gear shift. It made for a great photograph, but I occasionally touched the display when shifting. I moved it to a center air vent, then eventually to a side vent, shown below. All cabling is routed through the ventilation duct. Visibility is great!

Related to the ID-5100A, I added a DV-Mega to give me private access to the D-STAR network. The DV-Mega is a mezzanine circuit board with a 70cm transceiver that fits in a Raspberry Pi3 (RPi3) microcomputer. I run an older image, called “D-STAR Commander,” which allows me to use RF commands to execute various D-STAR and RPi3 functions. I use an Orbic Speed 5G hotspot and a direct Ethernet connection to provide Internet access to the RPi3. With an Internet connection, the digital signal from my ID-5100A is sent to other D-STAR stations worldwide via the D-STAR network.

I also have a Yaesu FT-891 HF all-mode transceiver for long-distance communication. It is mounted in a repurposed 5×7″ index card box with my ID-5100A. The box acts as a visor to protect the displays from direct sunlight and excessive heat. The display is slightly larger and easier to read than that of the FT-857D it replaced. It’s fantastic for Parks on the Air use! I opted to keep my FT-857D instead of selling it. It’s worth more now than when I bought it since compact HF/VHF/UHF multi-mode transceivers with detachable displays represent an almost-absent portion of today’s new radio market.

Later, I became interested in VHF/UHF contesting. ARRL’s “Limited Rover” category works within the 6m, 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm bands. Bringing my old FT-857D out of the box was easily the least expensive way for me to get into VHF/UHF contesting. I still need some amplifiers and a 222MHz transverter to maximize my success, but the FT-857D has my foot in the door! An additional benefit to having it reinstalled: It can serve as a back-up radio for either of the other two, with the exception of D-STAR capability.

Let’s face it: Most of our friends, family, and acquaintances are NOT into ham radio. When convoying in separate cars, it’s fairly convenient to just use cell phones for short discussions. But, for groups of three or more cars, the ability to have group discussions or convey directions is fantastic. That’s where the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band shines. GMRS shares some frequencies with the Family Radio Service (FRS) bands. However, GMRS allows the use of external antennas and more power, which greatly extends the range of communication. I have a Midland MXT275, which features an “all-in-handset” control head.

My “antenna farm” has become complex enough to warrant its own page. Feel free to learn more about my growing list of antennas on this page. There, you will see how I cover 80-17m SSB and data with my Scorpion mobile HF antenna, 40-6m SSB and data with my ATAS-120A, 2m/70cm FM and digital voice, 2m/70cm SSB and data with horizontal loops, 906 MHz FM with a vertical whip, as well as GMRS and CB with vertical whips. Oh, I cannot forget about the cellular signal amplifier! That keeps me connected to the Internet while on long trips.

Why the draw to ham radio with the proliferation of the Internet and cellular services? Well, the Internet and cellular are both services requiring arranged accounts with a fee. “Big deal,” right? They also need infrastructure, such as commercial power and cable/phone services, all of which can fail during a natural disaster or “a major mess-up downtown.” With ham radio, I own the equipment. The communications medium (our atmosphere) is still free until our government finds a way to tax that, too. winky Hams are always the first to establish communications when disaster strikes. Examples include just about every hurricane, earthquake, and other disaster worldwide in the past 100 years, even recent events in developed cities. I believe most ham stations are capable of operating without external infrastructure… at least mine is since it’s mobile.

The photo album below may show installation details that were not evident above, namely the 100-Ah lithium battery that I built and its DC-DC charger, both of which enable me to run my transceivers for extended periods while parked. I’ve shared details about the battery on my 12V power distribution network page. I have addressed the physical attributes of the electronics panel and my subwoofer upgrade on separate pages, too. All are complex enough to warrant their own pages. Feel free to ask any questions about my rather unusual setup. See a video presentation on my YouTube channel.

Calling Mars,

Scott, KE4WMF


4 Responses to KE4WMF – Communications

  1. Marc says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’m a ham as well and looking to install my radio in my mk 7.5 gti. Did you need to run power directly from the battery or were you able to grab power from the rear somewhere? Thanks

  2. Dana says:

    Hi Scott, there’s a lot of great stuff here (along with the links to your 12v power distribution network)! I’m currently hooking up my Toyota Tacoma with a Midland MXT575 GMRS. I sometimes make long trips in my Golf Sportwagen and I’ve thought about the ability of bringing over the GMRS with another mount, power, and antenna installed on the Golf. My question is (and really just double checking): I should be able to connect power straight to the battery (grounding somewhere in the engine bay) with no problem if powering only the GMRS, correct?

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for writing, Dana! Look into Anderson Powerpole connectors. I think you could run 10-12 gauge wire from your battery to an interior location (under the front seat?) on each car. The end in the interior would have the powerpoles. Then you put powerpoles on the radio cables. From there, moving the radio from one vehicle to the other can be done without tools! As for grounding, instead of a location “somewhere in the engine bay,” go for the stud where the battery’s negative terminal is connected. It’s just two inches from the battery terminal in your Golf. It may be similar in your Tacoma. Do not connect to the negative terminal of your battery if it has a BMS module. Most cars that have the engine “auto start/stop” feature have a BMS. Of course, all of this assumes that you want a direct battery connection instead of a switched circuit. Good Luck!

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