Storm Chasing vehicle radios

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by Shawn Camp, Sep 15, 2015.

  1. Shawn Camp

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    Dear Chasers

    I'm looking for a very very reputable place to have my Ham Radio's and my power inverter installed in my new Toyota corrolla 2013 and yes the prius is GONE sitting back on the Toyota Lot where it belongs and if your a stormchaser I do NOT RECCOMMEND HYBRID VEHICLES NO NO NO NO NO AND NO. I want to get my radio's installed and my power inverter put in and hopefully get this done before Winter sets in here in DFW so any chasers spotters that can tell me where to go in the DFW area I would certainly appreciate it very very much and thank you for taking the time to read this I will be awaiting your replys.


    Shawn C.


    "FOX 4 WARN STORMTRACKER"

    "MYFOXDFW.COM" OR FOX4NEWS.COM


    "WEATHER ONLY ON FOX 4"
     
  2. David Hodges

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    I would look for a Radio Club in the DFW area and I am sure you will be able to find someone who would be eager and willing to help you .
     
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  3. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Unless you want stuff mounted cleanly in the dash, any reason you couldn't do this yourself? A couple of afternoons and 1-2 trips to Home Depot is all it takes. You can always post questions here, many of us have done this multiple times.
     
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  4. Marc R. O'Leary

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    I bought junkyard parts and just screwed home made mounts to them. If I want to sell the car, take out junk parts and replace with originals. I posted some pics on here somewhere, but too busy going to bed to search. Goodnight.
     
  5. Andrew Thrasher

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    Hey Shawn,
    Dan has it right, not too much of a chore to do yourself. A couple tips if I may. Take your radios with the brackets on them, and sit down in the drivers seat and find mounting spots that you will be able to clearly see the dials and radio face. Make sure nothing in your installation impedes the shifter, heat/AC controls etc. Mount microphones in a sturdy clip where they can be accessed easily. Avoid using cigarette lighter plugs for a power source for your two-way equipment, especially anything that transmitts as those plugs normally do not carry the amperage to supply the transmitter, therefore usually blowing the fuse. Find good grounds (which can be tough in newer cars and trucks). Highly consider external speakers. Route wires cleanly (nothing worse than a "spaghetti mess" in chase car with limited cabin space already. Avoid "magnet mount" antennas or they will be beating your car to death during stiff RFD and other associated wind events. Should be plenty of info online, or try the ARRL handbook or local ham club like David said. Hope this helps!
    Andy
     
  6. Michael.Merchant

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    Look up Sean-Darcy Seyfert on facebook
     
  7. John Moore

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    In days past, I used to do this myself. But I'm no expert on dealing with modern interiors, or for that matter, getting through the firewall. And, as I get older, I'm less interested in contorting my back to dig under the dash.

    My setup has an antenna mounted to the hood, a radio under the front passenger seat, and a control head wedged into an existing shelf built into the dash below the entertainment system (Toyota Highlander Limited, recent year).

    So, on my current vehicle, I bought the materials I needed, for power hookup and took them to a local car stereo dealer. $35 and an hour later, I had heavy gauge wires (with a fuse in the positive) from the battery terminals to under the passenger seat, all done professionally. Then I hooked them up to a battery protector circuit (you want this if you are to run direct from the battery) and hooked that to the radio. Earlier, I had had someone else install the antenna and run the coax to the radio location.

    I bought my antenna mount at Ham Radio Outlet (if you don't have one locally, you can mail order via Internet). They have people who can advise on things like that via phone call if not local. The one I got was expensive (~$70) but it has enough degrees of freedom that my antenna is mounted to the front of my weirdly shaped hood and yet is still vertical. The thin coax runs inside the hood, then sneaks up to the fire wall, gets inside by some magic the installer used, and then goes under interior molding until right where it needs to be.

    If you know what you want, you should be able to get it done this way. If you don't, I guess my question would be: why not? Ham operators are supposed to know the basics of electricity and antennas (and coaxial feed lines). If you don't, ask a local ham.

    BTW, the battery protector is a nifty thing (and very similar to one I designed professionally decades ago for computer equipment). This one detects when the car is running, and closes the positive circuit. When the car is turned off, it waits a selectable amount of time, or until the battery voltage drops to a certain level, and then opens the circuit. This prevents you from running your battery down too far by leaving the equipment on, and it also means you don't need to bother turning things on - just leave them on! The unit is a Chargeguard brand, and Google can find them for you. I had the installer provide the 30A fuse and holder.

    John

    de NJ7E
     
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  8. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I've worked for car stereo joints in the past, as well as an installer at a Motorola Service Center.

    I've also installed radio and lighting equipment in a 2013 Toyota Corolla S that I once had when I was with a fire department. A Kenwood TK-7180, Kenwood TK-8180, TYT TH-9000D, 3 trunk-mount antennas, dash/deck/grille red LED lights, and a siren. One word - Nightmare. Access through the firewall had to be made by cutting a slot in the large rubber grommet on the driver's side where the factory harness goes through. The radios were both commercial mobiles that I plopped KRK-10 remote head kits on, and the heads were on top of the dash, while the body units were in the trunk. Heavy-gauge wires running to the back for the radios and the siren unit. Wire, wire, and more wire. Remote-mount everything. I had to get creative with microphone locations, and had to work around the 5-speed stick. Didn't I mention? Yep. Stick.

    The bigger nightmare was when I had to turn it back in to the dealership, as it was a lease. Had to fill in the antenna holes on the trunk, grind it down to metal, sand it perfectly flat, and take it to a paint shop to have it resprayed. Major, major pain.

    My current car is not a lease, but I'm still dealing with sparse interior space. I'll make a yuge recommendation here - Commercial radios. Depending on what you're using, a Motorola Astro Spectra, Astro Spectra Plus, or XTS3000 portable with an XTVA unit can make use of Motorola's W3 series heads (be careful going this route - The XTVA and AS series have two different types of W3 head, and they are not cross-compatible, but look identical). Motorola's XTL and APX series can use the O3 series head, and a similar head is available for Motorola's XPR5500 and up mobiles. The XPR series HHCH even has an integrated speaker, eliminating the need for an external speaker in the cabin. These heads all feature the volume, channel, options, and display on the microphone itself. No separate control head in the cabin. It's a huge space-saver.
     
  9. John Moore

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    I prefer to avoid the commercial radios. At least the older ones, like the Astro Spectras require you to program them with obsolete hardware as far as I can tell. A lot of these things still require Windows XT or older, because that was the standard when they were built, and because their programmers didn't think to make things (serial ports in particular) use generic OS facilities (I'm a professional programmer from way back and I would love to strangle these guys, not to mention the engineers who designed in non-standard serial stuff). Also, the commercial radios have dumbed down user interfaces on the control heads. They are designed for first responders and cops, who don't want to and don't know how to do sophisticated radio stuff. We have EF Johnson's in Civil Air Patrol and I have a kit to program them (I'm a wing comm officer), and it uses an *old* laptop to be able to get the software to work.

    Ugh.

    I don't know about the newer control heads and radios. Are they better for programming? Commercial radios are fine for people in the business, who have the programmers and are used to them. Amateur radios are better IMO for this sort of thing.

    I have an ICOM 2730A in my Highlander Limited 2015. The control head fits perfectly in the dashboard shelf - just a slight bit of wedging, and a little sticky tape, and it stays in place for years. The rest I described above.

    Overall, modern vehicles other than pickups and maybe huge SUV's are a pain for custom electronics - the front seat space tends to be full of stuff, no room under the dash or between the seats.
     
  10. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    I tend to never use things like sticky tape and such, and generally keep the interior clean. I figure that the vehicle was crash-tested as factory standard. Anything that goes in it, should probably be bolted to the vehicle securely. Doing otherwise can result in loose objects becoming deadly missiles in a crash, especially if something was overlooked during the installation process and a cable somehow made it's way into the path of an airbag.

    In the case of items like a control head, as the IC-2730 has, I would recommend looking into RAM (or any other company), who makes gooseneck-style equipment mounts. Even the Icom-produced windshield mounts can work. I will say this for a gooseneck mount - You can move them around fairly easily, and you have the head bolted to a bracket, bolted to a gooseneck, bolted to the passenger-side seat mount.

    FWIW, my control heads are mounted on RAM arm-mounts, screwed into ProClip USA mounts. ProClip does crash-test their mounts, so nothing strange will happen in a wreck.

    I admit, the commercial radios are a pain, but whenever I've had ham radios, I treat them like commercial units (pre-programming, software, cables, etc), as it's what I've always been used to. Changing PL tones on the fly and messing with offsets and VFO settings really horks me off when I'm trying to concentrate on other stuff.

    I definitely hear you on the computer stuff with the older equipment, though. I keep an old IBM ThinkPad with Windows 98 for programming the older stuff, for exactly this reason. It's a part of Motorola's planned obsolescence. They used to at least time their NLS/NLA cycles so that things made sense. When the P1225 series was done, Windows had just moved to Windows XP, and the Waris family came along. Problem is once the Waris (HT1250, CDM1250, etc) was rolling along, and Windows XP had come out, they never updated the software to be usable on anything but XP, but the Waris' NLA date hit in November of 2015, LONG after most people had moved away from XP.
     

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