FTM-400XDR install - RAM 1500

Discussion in 'Mobile Radio Systems' started by VA3KXS, Apr 4, 2019.

ad: L-HROutlet
ad: l-rl
ad: L-MFJ
ad: Subscribe
ad: Left-2
ad: MessiPaoloni-1
ad: Left-3
  1. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Quick intro:

    I am a fairly new amateur radio operator, licensed in June of 2018. I played around mostly on HF for the few few months until I acquired a handheld Yaesu VX-7R before Christmas. Around the same time I stumbled across the Overland Bound Weekly Net and realized nets would be a great way to get some use out of the radio and build some communications skills. I started looking around for repeaters and clubs in my area that host regular nets and found a few, one at the same time as my drive to work. The HT didn't work so well in the truck with the stock antenna, so I picked up a Diamond mag-mount 2m/70cm antenna (https://radioworld.ca/dia-mr77sma) which improved things significantly.

    Distracted driving laws in Ontario do have an exemption for licensed amateur radio operators, but the device has to be securely attached to the vehicle. I connected a belt clip for the VX-7R to some RAM mounts in the console and used a speaker microphone to comply. I was getting ok signal reports, but the HT picked up quite a bit of QRM and I wasn't always able to reliably get into the repeater hosting the morning net with just 5W. Time to upgrade!


    The radio:


    The VX-7R has true dual-VFO which I found fairly handy for monitoring one frequency while scanning others, so I wanted the same for a new radio. I was also interested in APRS and having a unit with a remote head. Radioworld in Ontario had the Yaesu FTM-400XDR on sale since before Christmas, and essentially sold-out and on back order the whole time. I checked back regularly and one Friday afternoon saw they had some stock. A quick call put a hold on the only unit they had in inventory and I drove over to Toronto to pick it up on the Saturday. I purchased a remote speaker at the same time (Yaesu MLS-200-M10).

    The install:

    I drive a 2017 RAM 1500 and had to spend quite a bit of time reading forums and watching YouTube videos to get ideas for a clean install. I wanted the body hidden away and protected and I wanted the head unit right at hand so I wasn't reaching a long way to operate the controls. I decided to put the body beneath & behind this console and the head unit on the RAM mount.

    [​IMG]


    First go around, I put the remote speaker in the console as well. There are a few gaps in the upper console so it seemed like a good idea. I had setup the radio on my desk with the speaker plugged in and it seemed ridiculously loud. You can see it to the left of the base unit in the picture below.

    I was in a bit of a hurry so I just ran the mic and head unit cables out the knock-out on the left side of the picture below. The body is just zip-tied to an existing bracket, however you do have to unclip a few factory clips and push them down and out of the way. There isn't a lot of clearance in the rear of the radio so I have a 90' adapter on the UHF input. Power was run using 10 gauge wire over into the driver's foot well and through a plate covering the unused clutch pedal hole. I used a Daystar KU20040BK Black Universal Firewall (available from Amazon) and protected the wires with plastic wire loom. Both the positive and negative wires have 15A fuses, with the positive direct to the battery and the negative to the chassis ground beside the fuse box.

    [​IMG]



    That was version 1.0. I wasn't happy with the cable routing and the speaker wasn't loud enough - I had to run at 75% volume when driving down the highway, so I did it over.

    This time I found these RJ-12 inline adapters: https://canada.newark.com/l-com/ecf5046s-bk/rj12-coupler-jack-jack-6pos-cat3/dp/50AC8548 to use as passthru connectors to the console. FYI - the mic cable is a 6-wire RJ-12 connection (straight through). The head unit has a 4-wire RJ-9 connection (also straight through), and since I couldn't find any of the inline adapters for an RJ-9, I had to build some cables. Turns out the curly cable for an old-school telephone handset is a 4-wire RJ-9 cable (but cross-over). Cut it in half and attach RJ-12 connectors using just the middle 4 slots on the RJ-12 (and making sure you wire it as straight through). Now you are able to use it with the RJ-12 inline adapters. You can see the cables I built below (the curly ones on the right). The straight cable on the left is a commercial 6-wire RJ-12 straight cable, but ended up being too short so I made another using CAT5 cable.

    [​IMG]


    Next onto mounting the passthru adapters. My original thought was to put both at the front edge under the cardholder ledge. I wasn't 100% sure they'd fit given their size and the curve of the bin so I decided to put just the head unit jack there. Due to clearance issues, the only other spot for the mic adapter was in the rear of the bin.

    Backside view of the connection for head unit at the front of the bin (black curly wire):

    [​IMG]

    Backside view of the connection for the mic at the back of the bin (white wire):

    [​IMG]


    Finished product:

    [​IMG]


    I'm not totally happy with the mic connection at the rear of the bin - it feels like it takes up a lot of the bin space. I may take another stab at putting it at the front and fill the hole in the rear with USB ports or something. I've ordered a few more bits and bobbles for the RAM mount to add another arm and a mic holder. I'll post more pics when those parts are installed.

    The speaker I moved to under the driver's seat. There is a little plate holding an electrical connection that is strangely much bigger than it needs to be and also has a hole pattern that fits a few of the holes in the speaker stand. Excuse the dirt, it was getting late fast and I just wanted this done.

    [​IMG]


    I've been running this for a week or so, and I'm not sure it's an improvement over the in-console location. It's adequate for sure, but I'm still running at 75% volume on the highway. I've decided to buy a Bayou Goat mount (http://www.bayougoatmounts.com/single-disk-for-the--2013-2018-ram-truck.html) and mount the speaker right above the stereo display screen on the dash. That should improve the sound! I'll also post pics when I've moved it again.

    [edit: fixed the picture of the base unit]
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2019
  2. W5GX

    W5GX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Looks pretty good. Double check there's enough clearance around the main unit to dissipate heat. It's easier not having a stick shift. :p

    Your best bet on the speaker is to either locate it where it's on the console so you hear it better, or use some external amplifier.
     
  3. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    It’s hard to tell from the pic, but there is a good gap between the main unit and the bracket above, good gap below and there is loads of room in that area in general. I’m not too concerned with overheating.

    I moved the speaker up on top of the dash above the stereo display screen. I’ll test it tomorrow on my drive to work. Seems much louder just sitting in the driveway.
     
  4. KE5MC

    KE5MC Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    FYI
    If you have room for a second speaker the 400 will support one. You need a 1/8 inch stereo plug splitting to two 1/8 inch mono sockets. Speaker separation helps determine if you are hearing the upper or lower channel without looking at the control head. Looking good!
     
  5. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks, that's good to know. Unfortunately I cheaped out and only bought the small Bayou Goat mount... if I had gotten the triple, two speakers would have fit fine.

    I'll stick with this for now as I was able to decrease the volume from 75% down to about 40% on my drive to work today. I've had the second channel mostly running APRS, so not much need for separation there, but I can see the appeal if I was using both for audio.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. K0BG

    K0BG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    That speaker won't last long if the passenger airbag goes off!!! If you want the best from a mobile speaker, you will mount it under the front seat.
     
    WD5IKX likes this.
  7. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had considered that, but figured the passenger airbag wouldn’t extend over the console. Found one image of a 2019 Ram 1500 model where this is true, but mine is a 2017, so I need to keep looking to confirm.

    I may move it anyway, that bayou goat mount doesn’t appear to be built for this much weight, it’s bouncing all over.

    I had it under the seat, but need to drive it at 75% power. Maybe I’ll see if I can angle it differently down there to project a bit better.

    Thanks for the comment.
     
  8. K0BG

    K0BG Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Even if the airbag didn't reach it, your head might. All of us, would put safe operating at the very top of our lists.
     
    W7ESR likes this.
  9. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    RAM Mount bits for a mic holder came in. I may adjust it up or down a bit, but generally it is in a good position to reach while driving. The locking tab takes a bit of practice, but can be operated with one hand. The tab is removable, but I'm wondering if that would allow the mic to vibrate and bounce around in the clip.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Parts list for those interested (for just the secondary arm and mic holder):

    RAM-B-273U - RAM BASE W/1/4"-20 HOLE HEX & 1" BALL
    RAM-VC-MC - RAM SINGLE MIC CLIP FOR FACEPLATES
    RAM-B-202U - UNPKD. RAM 2 7/16" DIA.BASE WITH 1" BALL
    RAM-B-201U - UNPKD RAM DOUBLE SOCKET ARM FOR 1" BALL
     
    W7ESR likes this.
  10. VA3KXS

    VA3KXS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have been planning to install an NMO mounted antenna on my truck since the beginning. I installed a mag-mount antenna when first started operating with my handheld and it worked reasonably well. I noticed recently the coax cable started to scratch the paint, so there was a bit of urgency to install the NMO mount.

    I decided to order the Larsen NMO-2/70K kit from GPS Central after seeing it mentioned several times across many different forums. I realize it is ridiculously tall, especially on a truck that sits about 6'2" on it's own, but I don't think it will be a problem. I avoid parking garages already and life won't be that much worse if I have to walk into a restaurant instead of going through the drive-thru. I did order the heavy-duty rain cap, which I'll leave in the truck if I absolutely have to take the antenna off.

    I have seen two methods of creating the hole for the NMO - drilling and a hole punch. Originally I thought the hole punch would be the better method - it appears to create a much cleaner hole. However, the more I thought about it the more difficult it seemed. A 3/4" hole punch still needs a 1/2" hole for the draw bolt. Plus you need access to both sides to get it started. After watching a few videos on dropping the headliner in a RAM 1500, I decided it would be way too hard to use a hole punch and went ahead and ordered a Larsen HS1 3/4" hole saw for NMO antenna mounting. It arrived earlier this week, so I was ready to get started.

    I disconnected the battery and dropped the headliner on the passenger side to get an idea of the roof structure. There is a beam running between the B pillars - it's nearly a foot wide. Basically the entire distance between the green tape marks below. I will be installing a GFC camper that overhangs the cab a bit past the rear edge of the back door glass, so I figured installing in front of the beam would be safer.

    [​IMG]

    Didn't want it too far forward and by eyeballing marked a spot I thought was just in front of the beam. Turns out I was a touch too close:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Luckily, by mounting the NMO with the cable pointing to the passenger side, there was still plenty of room to tighten it down. Lucky! I used a bit of dielectric grease on the gasket under the NMO mount so it wouldn't bind as I tightened it down with the channel lock pliers. I did the same to the top channel of the Larsen Super Seal Gasket so the antenna base would slide as it tightened. I'm hoping two seals do the trick.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A wire harness near the windshield had these handy spare U-clips already attached, so I used those to route the coax down the passenger side A pillar (making sure to stay well clear of the airbag) and then under the glove box to the center console.

    [​IMG]
     

Share This Page