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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all-

This is going to be my "radio" thread on the methods and ways I go about installing my Yaesu FTM-350R into my new(ish) Cruze ECO. I have had the car for 2 weeks and am pretty happy. It's a 1.4 ECO with 25K on it. Silver with chrome wheels. I have my license for 15 years now and have always ran a dual-bander in the car. I have been turned on to APRS for the last 5 years and think that everyone should save their pennies and buy a APRS rig. It's really cool! I run 100hz CTCSS encode/decode on 144.39 (also called Voice Alert) that allows me to hear if another ham is in the area. Of course, they need to run 100hz, too. Think of it as a simplex proximity radar system. You can call the other ham on simplex and move to a repeater. Nice, huh? Perfect for mobile ham radio. You can text other hams, send emails, data, beacon messages, etc, etc,.

Anyway, here is my plan:

  1. Pre-wire for 12VDC in the trunk
  2. Pre-wire for mic & speaker from trunk to driver's cabin
  3. Add ground straps from trunk "boot lid" to car body (DC ground)
  4. Mount 12VDC distribution on trunk speaker deck
  5. Drill (oh yeah baby) trunk lid and install a 3/8" - 3/4" NMO mount for antenna
  6. Run coax and terminate ends
  7. Mount radio on trunk speaker deck
  8. Mount Faceplate on a LIDO-Loboy on Dash
  9. Mount microphone hanger
  10. Play radio
I'll be using all of the tricks and installer stuff I have learned in the past from playing around with car stereos. The point here is to install a radio system that is easy to expand, looks professional, and is functional. I'll post pics as I go. Feel free to ask questions. I've never installed a NMO mount because of fear. But, now I don't care. So, that will be the fun part! More to come soon.

Matt
KB9YOJ
 

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Just as a tip, I'd ground the radio at the body near the battery, not the battery itself. If you do connect to the battery, be sure to run the wire thought the "donut" current sensor so the current to the radio is subtracted from the current going to the battery. Otherwise, I think you'll have a very confused car thinking the battery is sucking 50-100W.

Oh, and I'd like to see how you mount the head. I still need to re-install my TM-733 from my last car. I'm thinking about finding a way of mounting it just above the left round A/C vent.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Just as a tip, I'd ground the radio at the body near the battery, not the battery itself. If you do connect to the battery, be sure to run the wire thought the "donut" current sensor so the current to the radio is subtracted from the current going to the battery. Otherwise, I think you'll have a very confused car thinking the battery is sucking 50-100W.

Oh, and I'd like to see how you mount the head. I still need to re-install my TM-733 from my last car. I'm thinking about finding a way of mounting it just above the left round A/C vent.
Thanks for the tip, but I am not sure there is a difference since the negative terminal is connected to the body of the car. A battery is a pretty good noise filter. Any noise induced into a mobile ham radio system usually comes from a bad antenna shield ground, not the 12VDC. For giggles, I will try both methods and let you know what happens.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Chevy Guy-

After a short walk, I realized I wasn't thinking about what you said. Were you implying that the Cruze's charge system is monitored by the ECU? If so, then if I connect the radio directly to the battery I will messing with the computer's battery program? Thanks for bringing up that point.

Matt
 

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Were you implying that the Cruze's charge system is monitored by the ECU? If so, then if I connect the radio directly to the battery I will messing with the computer's battery program?
Correct. The ECU monitors the current to/from the battery via a current clamp on the negative lead of the battery. I know the usual advice is to connect directly to the battery, but if done wrong, it could confuse the ECU. I'm not sure what would happen, but I doubt if it's a good thing.

I think there's a high-current relay on the + side that the ECU controls so as to prevent the battery from getting run down. Obviously, you can bypass that by going to the battery direct, but the question is - do you want to?

I know there's a power bus that shuts off 10 minutes after the "last action". That might be something to consider for control. I'm not sure if you can tap into the radio's method of staying on after the car is shut off but going off when the door is opened. I think that may be something on the car's command bus.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Update: Power/Audio/Control Head cabling

I ran the power, external speaker, and control head cables yesterday. Here are a few pics from my progress. BTW, using the factory grommet for the audio package through the firewall made running the 12VDC cabling a snap.

20150621_122333.jpg
The engine bay.


Trunk.jpg
Fish sticks and electrical tape. Good stuff. I ran a 2 conductor for the speaker, 10AWG for power, and CAT5e for the control head.


RearDoor.jpg
Exit point by back seat.


IntGrommet.jpg
Interior grommet. Take note of the small "factory" hole. This is really the weather boot on the other side of the firewall for the Pioneer audio system amp. My car didn't come with that package.


Coathanger.jpg
My coat-hanger poker. I used this to pierce the small weather boot in the grommet. Make sure to use dish-soap and slick up the cable. This will virtually eliminate any cable resistance on the grommet. Electricians use cable-gel. Dawn and paper towels are a good backup if you don't have any gel laying around. My plan is to mount an external speaker hidden under the dash, and route the CAT5e through the dash for the control head.


IntGrommet2.jpg
Nice.


EngineGrommet.jpg
End result. I put some split-loom over the power cable and used a small zip-tie to secure it to the grommet. This was the easiest power wiring job that I have done in all of the cars I have owned. More to come, I will be mounting equipment, making terminations, and drilling the trunk lid for the NMO soon.

Matt
KB9YOJ
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Update: Hidden external speaker under dash.

Not totally mind-blowing, but I was able place an old Motorola external speaker just behind the dash beneath the left most air-vent. Zip ties were my friend once again. Here are some pics:

20150628_112334.jpg
View with air-vent and "mesh triangle" removed.

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Overview of spot.

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Fits great! I can still get to the fuses, too.

I added a data jack and terminated the CAT5e inside the fuse panel so I can unplug the headunit if needed. A small line cord routes from the fuse panel and pokes out just behind the speedo pod for the FTM-350R headunit (no pic). Going to order my Anderson powerpole crimp dies and Lido mount today. Once I get those in, I can finalize the install. More to come later.......


Matt
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Good install so far. Looking forward to seeing it all installed. Im still thinking about installing a CB in mine but limited on where I can put stuff with the dash layout.

I know what you mean. If you can find a small enough CB, you may be able to install it in the arm rest and place an external speaker in the cabin somewhere. I know a small one will fit in the glove box for sure. Then just run your mic cable and external speaker to where ever you feel is comfortable. The CB will suffer from short range and lots of interference from the car, though. HF is tricky, as the antennas need to be a lot larger than you might think. This is a big challenge to overcome, even with a CB radio in any car. I had one in my Suzuki Grand Vitara and never used it because of the noise. I just didn't feel like fixing it was worth the trouble because I use the ham radios 99% of the time anyway.

With all of that being said, you could get this one and have it all. The entire CB is in the shape of a mobile mic. It would fit anywhere. My co-worker has this one in his Nissan Xterra and uses it off-road to talk to Jeepers and others on the trails.

Small Cobra CB Radios -How to CB radio
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
UPDATE: Radio is a GO. Install is 99%. Last thing to do is run a Microphone extension. Here is the photo montage from yesterday:

20150712_162231.jpg
First thing was to mount the radio and 12VDC. I used the grocery bag "hanger" to center the mobile bracket, and used #6 screws/nuts/washers to stabilize everything else. Very easy to mount. I used Anderson Powerpole connectors for everything DC. This makes moving the radio around easier, and is a standard connector. The best tool in my toolbox right now is the powerpole crimper. I picked up the one that does 15/30/45 Amp connectors from Powerwerx (TRIcrimp, the ideal Powerpole Crimping Tool for 15, 30 and 45 amp contacts [TRIcrimp] - $39.99).

20150712_162236.jpg
Next, something I have never accomplished before. The NMO style mount. You have to solder these, so make sure to use a good soldering iron. I think the gun-style irons are too big for these, I had no problem soldering with my 20 watter. Just tin the leads and solder flows easier........

20150712_162421.jpg
(WARNING!! Advanced level content.) Next, 1/8" pilot hole on the trunk lid. Make sure to use a sharp metal drill bit. AND BE 100% SURE ON THE LOCATION OF YOUR ANTENNA. THIS IS A PERMANENT MOUNT AND WILL NEVER CHANGE. If you are uneasy about drilling a hole in your car then don't do this. At this point in my life I expect to never get a different antenna for the car, and NMO antennas are a bit cheaper. Plus, I have a very solid DC ground & RF ground for the antenna. This is the proper way to install ANY mobile antenna. Also, pick up a 3/8" by 1.5" stainless steel fender washer for underneath. This adds strength to the base and will be less likely to bend. You can see where I traced out my location under the deck on the driver's side.


20150712_162430.jpg
Results for the pilot-hole. Clean up any metal shards with shop-vac.

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I made a little metal shard basket out of painter's tape.

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Get a cheap "stepper-bit" and enlargen to 3/8". DO NOT GO ANY LARGER!!! That is, unless you have a different style NMO mount. The 3/8" ones are the way to go.

20150712_162936.jpg
My results of drilling.

20150712_170753.jpg
Soldered connection to NMO from underneath trunklid. Notice the stainless fender washer.

20150712_170804.jpg
NMO assembled. Make sure to not over-tighten as the brass threads strip easier than you might think. It's a good thing I had 2 NMO's.......

20150713_080826.jpg 20150712_164502.jpg 20150713_080812.jpg
End results. Any questions? Post up here and I will do my best to answer.

Matt
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Any reason you didn't put the antenna on the centerline of the car?

Yes, there is a frame "rail" in the way. And, for my purposes, I don't care so much about the aesthetics of a ham radio antenna. Functionally, it doesn't make a difference either. The RF ground is still good. See pic:

20150621_121052.jpg

Matt
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I haven't decided, but I may go for a glass mount. Either that or a trunk lip mount.
I'd go with a trunk-lip mount over a glass mount, but I have used both successfully. A few down sides which you may already know is a glass mount has no real RF ground. Plus, (although not probably an issue due to low duty cycle) I personally worry about RF affecting my car occupants from antennas. The tuning capacitor for a glass-mount is located inside the car. Just my opinion. I am sure if you used on it would be fine.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Week one update. So far so good, but I found a couple of bugs with the design:

1. The braking system seems to be interfering with the data-link from the head-unit, but not badly. Every time I press the brake, it makes the noise. It sounds like power supply buzz, but I am not sure. I have yet to get some ferrite beads and wrap the data cable. I can hear it on the speakers, and other hams can hear it on my audio. It's not loud, just noticeable.
2. The Lo-boy holder tends to loosen up because I have it so I can move it slightly. I placed it pretty close to the windshield, so servicing it is cumbersome. Maybe making a bracket closer to the steering wheel is in order. I have a 1700 mile road trip coming up, so by the time I get back I may have figured out the bugs.

Other than those really minor issues, it works/looks great! I am really happy I decided to go with the NMO mount over a trunk-lip style. It just looks better. Plus I don't have to worry about the possibility of moving the antenna to another car. It will live in the Cruze forever.
 

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If you are ever in New Jersey I am a Cruze owner who works at a mom&pop style ham radio shop and is getting his license in the near future. I would love to see this in person as well as show you the shop!
 

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If you are ever in New Jersey I am a Cruze owner who works at a mom&pop style ham radio shop and is getting his license in the near future. I would love to see this in person as well as show you the shop!

Sounds like fun. Thanks! I just got back from my Minnesota vacation to the Northwoods and had a great time. APRS coverage is great until you get to about 30 miles from Leech Lake. Someone should stand up a DIGI-peater in Walker, MN. Just my opinion....... :)

The car did excellent. Over 2,020 miles I averaged 40.7 MPG. Not too shabby! Hamming was fun, too. On the way home VHF was open and I was able to chat simplex on 146.52 at around 50 miles easily on the road. I also saw some 500 mile APRS beacons around midnight last Saturday. VHF tropo was in really good shape. Next I plan on adding a DMR UHF rig to the Cruze, and I might swap my FTM-350R with the newer FTM-100D. Same as the 400D but cheaper and a smaller head unit. Peace.........
 
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