Comms mule - Ham, GMRS, and CB install

nostatic

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After prototyping different installs, today was the day to settle in and do the "permanent" install. Main caveat is that I'm leasing this Jeep and while odds are good I'll buy it at the end of the lease, in case I go a different direction I want to be able to reverse most of what I did. While testing I was using the front 12V accessory port into a PowerPole splitter, but I knew that wasn't a good long-term solution, especially if I needed to plug something else in for a road trip.

For my uses, amateur radio is my go-to for comms, but given that a lot of Jeep folks run GMRS and/or CB, I figured I'd just figure out how to cram all three into the JL. Here's what's now inside:

Kenwood TM-V71A 2m/70cm
Midland MXT275 GMRS
President Bill FCC

The Kenwood has been in other vehicles - great radio. I have one in the shack at home. It just works. The Midland is nice because having the controls in the handset make mounting a bit easier. The President is just tiny, and my wife determined that where it is placed doesn't interfere with her legs/comfort at all (happy wife...).

Radios are fine, but antennas are where the rubber hits the road. In this case I went big in 2- out of the 3:

Comet SBB-7NMO
Midland MXTA26 NMO
Firefly 4'

And the mounts:

Topsy NMO (3/4") and CB (3/8") fender mounts
Cooltech CB mount

For the tl;dr crowd, here's the final product

install%20-%2020.jpg


install%20-%2018.jpg


I prototyped the antennas in different positions. There actually is some method to the madness. Over the hood probably has the most even ground plane, plus I wanted the tallest antenna up front so I could see if there were clearance issues. The Comet is nice in that it will fold down, so if I'm off-road in trees/brush I can fold it flat and lay it along the passenger sideview mirror. The Midland antenna is lower than the roof and has a spring. I may add a spring to the Firefly if need be.

Location for the radios: the Kenwood body is under the driver's seat with the head up in front of the shifter. The Midland body is at the back of the console (two screws), and the mic/head will go on a mic mount on the grab bar. The mic is easily extended with an ethernet cable extension (I use the same for the Kenwood mic). I use Powerpole connectors on everything, and have two low-current slots open on the RigRunner so I can run/charge an HT or do something else 12V.

install%20-%2011.jpg


install%20-%2012.jpg


install%20-%2016.jpg


Power is a 10 gauge home-run to the battery. I put 30 amp fuses on both hot and ground at the battery, and use a Powerpole fuse block at the radios (essentially I'm triple fused). Power and coax from the front come through the hole that is for the clutch (mine is an automatic). I pulled the blanking plug and ran both coax and power through a universal grommet. I also tied off all cables with a drip loop before going into the firewall grommet.

install%20-%208.jpg


install%20-%209.jpg


install%20-%206.jpg


install%20-%2010.jpg


install%20-%207.jpg


Topsy antenna mounts. I drilled and added the self-tapping screw as I'm running taller antennas. Note - the second photo is older, when I was testing the CB up front. I pulled the CB mount and replaced it with a Hustler NMO mount that will work with a 3/8" hole. The Firestick mount went in back.

install%20-%201.jpg


install%20-%202.jpg


The mount in back went smoothly. One tip I read here - I used the cardboard in the jamb and also removed one hinge bolt completely then installed the CoolTech bolt (not fully tight), then pulled the second hinge bolt. Yes, use a mallet to tap the 55 torx head into the bolt head - that way you don't strip the bolt. Most of the work was cutting a slot into the grommet and feeding the coax through. But eventually I got it, torqued the 6mm bolts to 35 ft/lbs, and routed the coax - with a drip loop. If you can't tell, I believe in drip loops.

install%20-%2013.jpg


install%20-%2014.jpg


Up front I carefully tucked the coax and power under the trim pieces, using some leverage and a trim tool when necessary. I didn't pull any trim piece, just worked slowly with them in place. Very clean up front. In the back I didn't replace the hinge interior as I have a table coming that will go there (it replaces the stock trim). I'll need to figure out a mount for the filter material that is used against the vent slots underneath the spare.

I had previously tuned the Firefly when prototyping it up front. I was happy to find it barely shifted in the rear mount

install%20-%2015.jpg


Did a quick spin around the block and everything seems sorted. I measured 3x and cut once, and had to redo one coax fitting (not sure what I screwed up). And I reran one of the coax as I wanted to get it clean as possible in the engine compartment. Will do some more benchmarking tonight and still have some wiring to tidy up but I have no excuses for not being able to communicate either on the trail or around town.





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tonygiotta

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Nice. Curious to see how you're handling your mics. That's the final piece of the puzzle that I haven't quite settled on yet.
 
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nostatic

nostatic

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Nice. Curious to see how you're handling your mics. That's the final piece of the puzzle that I haven't quite settled on yet.
The Kenwood mic ends up sitting in one of the cup holders. The Midland will go on a Jeepuniq mount on the passenger grab rail and I think the President mic will mount just to the side of that. 3 mics is a bit of a pita, but the GMRS can also sit behind the console if I'm not using it. The Kenwood is on all the time. The one thing I need to remember is to shut things down - I was spoiled by using the switched 12V port. I could tap a switched line and use a relay, but I figure I'll remember. The Kenwood has an auto-power-off setting. Plus if I really screw up I have a jump battery in the back :LOL:

Also, I seriously need to replace my phone charger cable. My wife has been keeping it alive with tape the last year or so.
 

fuelxc

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Out of curiosity have you tried the comet on the cool tech mount? I want to keep it as far away from my brain bucket but don’t like it being so far from a decent ground plane. Wonder if you had any observations on running it back there or really just shouldn’t bother.
 
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nostatic

nostatic

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Out of curiosity have you tried the comet on the cool tech mount? I want to keep it as far away from my brain bucket but don’t like it being so far from a decent ground plane. Wonder if you had any observations on running it back there or really just shouldn’t bother.
i haven’t tried it, but I did measure and actually the front right position is further from my head than the rear position as I have a 2-door. With an Unlimited, then the rear position would be furthest. If I were to try it I’d have to swap to the NMO mount. Could do it temp, but being as I’ve routed all the coax I’m not inclined to try it.
 

tonygiotta

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Think I have settled on a mic mounting solution for my Kenwood radio. I ended up getting the Carolina Metal Masters Universal Accessory Mount. Super solid, super secure, and super adjustable to suit your needs.

The mount itself is a machined aluminum piece that replaces the trim screw cover on either side of your center console. It has multiple threaded mounting holes to which you attach a machined aluminum arm at your preferred angle. The opposite end of the arm again has multiple holes to which you attach your accessory. The Kenwood mic clip happens to match up nicely with a pair of holes on the arm.

C812928D-E019-474D-B09C-7FC3A8E03EB9.jpeg


I then used a piece of the Ethernet style cable that comes with the radio to make my own patch cable. Be aware that the pin configuration on the radio to mic connection is different than the radio to control head connection. I ran the cable from the radio, under the center stack, and into a Cat5/6 double female connector which I mounted to the sub-structure of the dash.

37C9A315-0A3C-4160-96CC-A514957E7182.jpeg


Made all the mic connections, tucked away the cable, and ended up with a mounting solution I’m very happy with.

1EB007E6-CF97-4067-B780-C6DAC534416A.jpeg


The mic is out of the way (so long as you don’t have monstrous calves or ride with your seat all the way forward). The coiled cable doesn’t stretch across screens or dash controls or anything, returns neatly to its home, and doesn’t bounce around on the trail. I thought the grab was going to be awkward at first since you’re grabbing the mic from above, but it turns out it flips in your hand as you bring it to your mouth, resulting in it being in the perfect position to press the PTT and speak.
 

Vahdettin

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Nice install. I have the same Kenwood model. My hard top is off quite often and I was concerned about security and at least wanted to mount the radio body in a more secure location. I don't mind drilling holes but to my surprise, I was able to mount the radio using it's out of the box bracket right where shown in the picture with no drilling or mods to the original vehicle. It's almost like the space was built for this radio. The bracket holes line up perfectly with the holes in that metal bar. I ran the remote cable up the pillar and mounted the display unit up on the rear view mirror. Microphone cable and external speaker cable (not shown) was just shoved up under the center console and the antenna cable runs to the back of the vehicle along the side fascia panels.

It takes a little bit of yoga skills to get in there to turn the screws but it's doable in 15 minutes and the way I see it, makes it much harder for somebody to steal. Once the kickplate is put back in place, it's completely hidden either way.

There's so much room under there that I'm guessing that space is used for something in the other Wrangler models but I have an S and it was wide open.

IMG_0562.jpeg
 

fuelxc

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Nice install. I have the same Kenwood model. My hard top is off quite often and I was concerned about security and at least wanted to mount the radio body in a more secure location. I don't mind drilling holes but to my surprise, I was able to mount the radio using it's out of the box bracket right where shown in the picture with no drilling or mods to the original vehicle. It's almost like the space was built for this radio. The bracket holes line up perfectly with the holes in that metal bar. I ran the remote cable up the pillar and mounted the display unit up on the rear view mirror. Microphone cable and external speaker cable (not shown) was just shoved up under the center console and the antenna cable runs to the back of the vehicle along the side fascia panels.

It takes a little bit of yoga skills to get in there to turn the screws but it's doable in 15 minutes and the way I see it, makes it much harder for somebody to steal. Once the kickplate is put back in place, it's completely hidden either way.

There's so much room under there that I'm guessing that space is used for something in the other Wrangler models but I have an S and it was wide open.

IMG_0562.jpeg
It that just sitting on top of that heat sinked item? I can’t figure out iPhone to mount it I that space lol
 

Vahdettin

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It that just sitting on top of that heat sinked item? I can’t figure out iPhone to mount it I that space lol
The stock bracket that comes with the radio is mounted to that horizontal metal bar (you can see the two screws) and the radio itself is set into the rack with it's screws. I only use two screws to mount the radio to the rack as it lets me rotate the radio up and down and allows me to pull it out if needed without removing the rack.

This picture does not show how it sits normally. The back of the radio that you see is up higher which allows the fan more space to blow. I rotate it down to allow me to plug in the programming cable when needed.

I've been on conversations while driving for an hour or more and I've never overheated the radio so it seems to be vented just fine (even with the kickplate in place).


I actually have to go in and upgrade the radio this weekend and can take pics with the radio out if it helps.
 

Glen722

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Think I have settled on a mic mounting solution for my Kenwood radio. I ended up getting the Carolina Metal Masters Universal Accessory Mount. Super solid, super secure, and super adjustable to suit your needs.

The mount itself is a machined aluminum piece that replaces the trim screw cover on either side of your center console. It has multiple threaded mounting holes to which you attach a machined aluminum arm at your preferred angle. The opposite end of the arm again has multiple holes to which you attach your accessory. The Kenwood mic clip happens to match up nicely with a pair of holes on the arm.

C812928D-E019-474D-B09C-7FC3A8E03EB9.jpeg


I then used a piece of the Ethernet style cable that comes with the radio to make my own patch cable. Be aware that the pin configuration on the radio to mic connection is different than the radio to control head connection. I ran the cable from the radio, under the center stack, and into a Cat5/6 double female connector which I mounted to the sub-structure of the dash.

37C9A315-0A3C-4160-96CC-A514957E7182.jpeg


Made all the mic connections, tucked away the cable, and ended up with a mounting solution I’m very happy with.

1EB007E6-CF97-4067-B780-C6DAC534416A.jpeg


The mic is out of the way (so long as you don’t have monstrous calves or ride with your seat all the way forward). The coiled cable doesn’t stretch across screens or dash controls or anything, returns neatly to its home, and doesn’t bounce around on the trail. I thought the grab was going to be awkward at first since you’re grabbing the mic from above, but it turns out it flips in your hand as you bring it to your mouth, resulting in it being in the perfect position to press the PTT and speak.
Does the trim screw cover on either side of the center console just pry off?
 

tonygiotta

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Does the trim screw cover on either side of the center console just pry off?
Yeah, pops off and then you remove the factory bolt and replace it with the included one.
 

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