Going Mobile 


NOTE; AS OF 9/27/2018 THE FCC SEEMS TO HAVE DECLARED THAT IT IS ILLEGAL FOR AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS TO USE MANY OF THE LESS EXPENSIVE RADIOS LISTED IN THIS SECTION. I WILL BE REVISING AS SOON AS I AM ABLE TO GET THIS ISSUE SORTED OUT WITH SOME CLARITY -- WHICH IS NOT PROVIDED BY THE FCC'S OFFICIAL NOTICE. SEE THE OFFICIAL NOTICE HERE: 

https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-980A1.pdf

FOR NOW, THE PRUDENT CHOICE IS TO BE SURE THE RADIO YOU ARE PURCHASING WILL ONLY OPERATE ON THE AUTHORIZED AMATEUR RADIO BANDS.


Any mobile dual-band radio can be used as a base radio at your home, as well -- all you need is a (good) 12V power supply for the radio and an outside antenna.

Here in the Seattle area, and most big cities, a huge percentage of the ham traffic on the 2 meter and 70 cm bands is carried on through mobile radios. What better way to while away the hours spent in our (soul crushing) traffic than in a pleasant conversation with a fellow ham? Having all those extra eyes out there is nice, too, for dodging big traffic tie-ups.

Mobile installations are, by and large, do-it-yourself projects. I doubt you'll find any car stereo installers qualified to fully install your ham radio -- they might be good at making receivers work, but they don't usually know much about transmitters and their demands. What they are good at is getting power into the interior of the car. If you go the pro route to get that part handled, have them run the wires - the hot and the ground - directly off the battery. Insist on it -- it's the cure for many interference problems. If you can get them to handle the coax run to your antenna, too, you have 80% of the installation battle won.

Your town or county has someone who installs the radios in their emergency vehicles -- they might be willing to take on your installation.

If you go full-on DIY, there's lots of know-how out there on the web. Remember, too, you didn't just get a license when you took that test, you got a ticket into a community of like-minded people. There's help out there! 

After the power and antenna lines, you'll need to think about antenna placement and, of course, radio placement.

Two hazards to think about with your antenna are car washes and parking garages. People have worked these things out -- go web diving for the solutions.

​Radio placement is greatly simplified by "detachable faceplate" units that split the actual radio from the control unit -- there are a couple of such units below to consider. On the other hand, those units are not convenient to pull out of the car and use as a base station at home. The single-unit radios just need a 12v power supply and an antenna connection to go to work on your desk.

Check your state and local regulations, but many places give hams a special exemption from the "no cell phones or other mobile communications devices" laws.

BTECH MINI UV-25X4 25 Watt Tri-band Base, Mobile Radio

With this little radio, you get three bands -- 2 meter, 1.25 meter (the 220 band), and 70 cm. It's small enough to suit many installations, and it gets good reviews. 25 watts peak power on 2 meters (20 watts on 1.25 and 70 cm) doesn't make it the highest power radio out there, but it should be more than enough in most areas.

Tri-band antennas are a bit more expensive, so it's worth finding out if there are 220 band repeaters in your area, and if there's anyone using them -- otherwise, you can just hook up a 2 meter/70 cm antenna.

This is a basic radio -- no fancy crossband repeater function or any of the other jazzier features you'll find on more expensive radios, but for rollin' down the road chatting with your friends, this is a good bet.

Wouxun KG-UV920P-A

A step up in power and convenience from the BTech, but without the 1.25 meter band. The KGUV920P-A claims 50 watts on 2 meters, 40 on 70 cm.

The Wouxun is the lowest priced detachable faceplate radio I could find that had decent reviews, and features full-duplex crossband repeat capability. That might be a feature you really want, or one you'l never use -- it depends on your applications.

I've never owned one, but "word on the street" is that Wouxun has a bit better build quality than some of the other lower priced brands.

Yaesu FTM-100DR 144/430 C4FM Digital / FM Analog

For about $25 more than the Wouxun, you can step up to one of the major manufacturers and digital voice capability. If I was buying a mobile/base radio today, I'd be sorely tempted by this one, but that's mostly based in the fact that my local repeater uses the Yaesu Fusion digital voice technology.
As you get into the higher end radios, you start to find convenience features such as the microSD card slot on this one that lets you do all your programming of the radio with your laptop, save the program to the microSD, and just pop it in the radio. Much easier than toting the radio inside to hook it up with a programming cable.

Another factor that comes into play as you move up to Yaesu, Kenwood, and icom radios is that the accessories all tend to go up in price, and to be proprietary to the manufacturer. It's something to take into account as you budget.

Yes, this one has a detachable faceplate. Unfortunately, Yaesu designed it so the mic plugs into the main body of the radio, so without their (proprietary!) mic extension cable, your mounting possibilities are limited.

Me, I'd mount it up as a single unit so I could take it in the house and use it there.

Oh, my ... the Yaesu FT-857D

You say you don't want to be limited to the usual VHF/UHF bands -- that you want some HF and 6 meter contacts in your car? You want one compact radio that covers almost every major ham band. The Yaesu FT-857D has you covered!

Not only do you get transmit capability on the HF, 50 MHz, 144 MHz, and 430 MHz Amateur bands, the FT-857 also includes receive coverage on 100 kHz to 56 MHz, 76 to 108 MHz, 118-164 MHz, and 420-470 MHz. Want to work some SSB on 10 meter? It does SSB, too. CW? Yes, every mode. This is one heck of a radio, and it's made to be a mobile unit, though it would make a fantastic base station as well.

100 watts on HF, 50 on 2 meters, 20 on 70 cm. 

If you get Yaesu's matching mobile antenna, the FT-857 will talk to the antenna as you change frequencies and automatically adjust its length.

Antennas

There are many, many choices of antenna for your mobile/base unit, and very few of those choices are covered in the Technician exam.

There are antennas specifically designed for mounting on a vehicle, others that could be mounted on a vehicle or on a house, and still others that are fixed; in other words, they get a permanent, sturdy mount on your house.

Before you order any antenna, check what sort of connectors are needed. Some antennas come with a coax line already attached, and you'll want to get one that matches the antenna connection on your radio or else order an adapter at the same time.

Mobile Antennas

There are several brands of magnetic mount, dual band mobile antennas. At the most basic level, you stick the antenna on the roof of your vehicle, string the cable through a window, screw the connector onto your radio, and you're in business.

Advantages: Easy to install, to move from vehicle to vehicle, and to remove for car washes and parking garages.  No holes in the vehicle required.

Disadvantages: Low gain. Most don't work well without a vehicle roof under them -- that big piece of metal makes a heck of a ground plane.
Beyond that, you're most likely looking at a separate antenna and mount, such as something from the Diamond or Comet companies. Both make quite an assortment of antennas and ways to affix them to your vehicle, such as this pairing from Diamond.
That antenna stands about 38 inches tall and is a "foldover" model to deal with low clearances. The mount is a trunk lid mount -- it hooks over the rim of your trunk lid, usually next to the rear window, and you can sneak the coax under the car's carpeting, then into and through the trunk.

A reasonably wide variety of mounts are available from either company, as well as other makers. If I was you, I'd call either DX Engineering, MFJ Enterprises, or Ham Radio Outlet for advice on what setup would be best for you.  

Fixed Antennas

While I have been known to stick a mobile magnet-mount antenna on a couple of corrugated tin roofs and at least one metal water heater chimney with subsequent success, neither of those is really an ideal setup. That's more of a "Hey guys, watch this!" deal.

Many of the Diamond and Comet style mobile-style vertical antennas will be perfectly happy and useful in a permanent mount on your roof, assuming you an figure out a way to mount them. I've never seen a "from the factory" fixed mount from either company, so it will most likely take some cleverness on your part. Just be sure the antenna you choose does not require being mounted to a ground, or that you provide ground radials of some sort for the antenna.


One popular choice for a fixed, dual band antenna is the j-pole, shown above. They're often home-built from copper or aluminum tubing, and you can find lots of do-it-yourself plans for them on the web. You can also order commercial versions if you're not up for the DIY route.
Finally, there are high-gain, near-professional or even professional grade antennas available from the big supply houses, ranging in price from the $150 range clear up to "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" territory. Those are probably overkill at this stage of your career unless it is really a long way to the nearest useful repeater, but they're out there if you want 'em!
Handheld
The Fast Track Ham Radio License Programs
Michael Burnette
  
Michael Burnette, AF7KB, started playing with radios at age 8.
As a commercial broadcaster for 25 years, he did a bit of everything from being a DJ to serving as a vice president and general manager with Westinghouse Broadcasting (now CBS/Infinity.)

In 1992, Burnette left the radio business behind, and took to traveling the world designing and delivering experiential learning seminars on leadership, management, communications, and building relationships.

He has trained people across the US and in Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Finland, Greece, Austria, Spain, Italy, and Russia. In addition to his public and corporate trainings, he has been a National Ski Patroller, a Certified Professional Ski Instructor, a Certified In-Line Skating Instructor, a Certified NLP Master Practitioner, a big-rig driving instructor, and a Certified Firewalking Instructor.

He is the author of:

The Fast Track to Your Technician Class Ham Radio License
The Fast Track to Your General Class Ham Radio License
The Fast Track to Your Extra Class Ham Radio License
The Fast Track to Mastering Extra Class Ham Radio Math
The Independent Author's Guide to Successful Audiobook Production
The underlying philosophy of the Fast Track series is a commitment to employing effective teaching strategies to support learners in rapidly mastering the body of knowledge that creates the ham radio hobby.

To that end, the programs not only teach the correct answers to the exam questions, but explain the principles behind each correct answer.

Put simply, other programs teach you to pass the exams. The Fast Track programs teach you to pass the exams and think like a ham.

Oh, and we have a little fun along the way, too -- that's part of creating a positive learning environment.
Each license program is available in multiple formats.

- Kindle e-book (Amazon.com)
- Paperback edition (Amazon.com)
- Unabridged audiobook edition (Amazon.com, Audible.com, iTunes.)

The Fast Track to Mastering Extra Class Ham Radio Math (Coming in February 2018) will be a workbook supplement to the Extra Class program for those who, like the author, find the advanced math of the Extra Class exam to be, shall we way, extra challenging. That workbook is available only in paperback, from Amazon.com, with supporting videos on YouTube.com.