Jeep Mobile

IMG_0002Back in February 2015 I traded in my Ford F-150 for a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Being a Ham of course I had to take out my existing mobile setup prior to trading in the truck and then installation into a new environment is always its own set of challenges.

It has taken me several months to get a working setup. The main issue being that the Kenwood D710 head unit is kind of a pain to mount in a stable, convenient,  yet out of the way location. And since I also do mobile APRS I need the GPS unit in a location where it can get a good view of the sky.

Installing the main unit of the radio is pretty trivial. The radio went under the passenger seat and is wired directly to the battery through a handy hole that the Jeep has through firewall that comes out right next to the battery. I used a commercially available ring terminal with fuses to make the power connection. I then added my own Anderson Powerpoles to complete the engine compartment setup.

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For the antenna mount I wanted something at the rear of the Jeep. I initially tried using one of the NMO clamp mounts:

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What I like about this setup is that it is fairly unobtrusive and doesn’t smack into the garage door when getting home. What I didn’t like about it is that you really need to get the clamps screws down through the paint and to the sheet metal of the vehicle. At the time I was doing this the Jeep was brand new and marring the paint was not high on my list of things to do.

I tried using this same clamp mount up on the hood with a ground strap attached to the mount screws on one end and the chassis on the other. I had seen another ham do this on the Internet somewhere. Alas this still did not work for me as the SWR was still extremely high.

My final antenna solution was going back to the mag mount that I had on the truck but on the Jeep it is located on the hood right up by the windshield. Problem solved, though it does bang into the garage door every time I pull in. Doesn’t seem to be an issue so far.

The next step was finding a suitable location for the head unit. My original plan was to mount the head unit using a GPS suction cup mount to the windshield in the lower left corner:

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This it turns out did not work very well. I was able to get the brackets and the head unit to mount to the suction cup arm, but the whole thing would not stay attached to the windshield. I suspect the issue was too much weight. I tried a few different ways to alleviate the weight issue but nothing worked. The project sat for several months without a workable solution (and no mobile operating).

Back in my F-150 I used a Lido Mount “Seat bolt mount” to mount the head unit on the right side of the center console. This worked reasonably well in the truck because there was a lot more room for the passenger to avoid the mounting arm sticking up from the floor. In the Jeep there is not nearly as much room and I have not found an good place to mount the arm where it would be conveniently viewable by me yet still not intrude on any front seat passengers or any of the drive controls.

The next idea I had was to use the mount that comes with the Rugged Ridge Dash Mount that I installed a few months ago. The spring loaded phone clamp does grab onto the head unit but doesn’t quite hold securely enough that I would trust this setup while driving on anything but smooth roads. I also didn’t really want to lose the ability to have my cell phone in the convenient that I have become accustomed to.

Looking at the issue again I spotted what might be a potential solution. The Dash Mount can hold both the phone mount AND a small camera using the integrated tripod screw that secures the pieces together. From my photography gear I have several large brass standoffs that I can screw onto this tripod screw. Using the brass pieces and a slightly modified bolt to fit it all together I came up with this:

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I installed this setup in the Jeep last night and routed the cabling to reach the new location in the center of the dashboard. Surprisingly it works rather well. The D710 head unit stays fairly still while driving. The phone shakes around a little bit on bumps but not excessively so (and no more than it did when in the original setup I think). Here is what it looks like in the Jeep:

The last couple of issues I need to work out are being able to quickly remove the D710 head unit from the mount which is currently blocked by  the phone mount above. Another is that I cannot get the screw for the phone mount tight enough to keep it from spinning side to side. I’m thinking about using a thumb screw to help with both issues. The idea being to loosen the phone mount and spin it to the side to make room for the D710 to slide up and off the mount bracket.

This setup is still a work in progress, but at least now I have the ability to use both my phone and my radio in a convenient location that is both easy to glance at and stays out of the way of both driver and passengers. Another advantage is nothing stuck to the windshield that always seems to fall off at just the wrong time.

 

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