This is (at least partly) covered in the Tech question pool. There are several problems, and we don't know your particular situation.
Originally Posted by KJ4QKN
If you are thinking of using the H-T's "rubber duck" you will almost assuredly NOT be able to maintain communications. You WILL need some sort of external antenna on your vehicle.
A mag-mount antenna (external) on the vehicle body may well serve your purpose. With such an antenna, even five watts can be effective over a reasonable range. One consideration is the "ease of use" and ease of operation of a small hand-held radio while being the driver of a vehicle. If you only monitor a single frequency, that may be an acceptable situation. But changing frequencies, etc. can be a horrible and hazardouis distraction of your driving.
The reception capability at the OTHER end will also be a factor. If that person/station is also using a H-T, then there can also be a problem, but installation of an outdoor antenna at home is far easier than installing an antenna on your vehicle.
One last consideration is that H-T's are often more (even much more) susceptible to intermodulation interference (i.e., out of Amateur band, but close in frequency, such as public service entities, paging services, etc.) and may result in poor performance form a H-T in a vehicle. Mobile radios are usually MUCH more capable of handling and filternig out such transmissions.
Take it all into consideration before you make permanent decisions. Good luck!
Last edited by WA9SVD; 01-08-2010 at 05:27 PM.
I should probably explain my previous recommendation a bit more. There are issues with using an HT:
1. The rubber ducky won't work well from inside the car.
2. The connectors on most HT's aren't designed to be continually connected and disconnected, and hence, if using an external antenna, there's a chance of breaking the HT's connector or simply wearing it out.
3. HT's don't have enough audio on receive for use in a noisy car. You may think your car is quiet until you try listening to an HT in one. This can be overcome with a simple earphone.
4. If you don't use a hand mike, it will greatly increase the strain on the antenna connector.
5. 5 watts isn't a huge limitation - you can buy a 35 watt amplilfier for about $100.
But, a lot of folks start out with an HT in the car. I just don't know too many that do it for long. I've had HT setups in the past, and they were "OK", but compared to a mobile rig, not great at all.
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I ran an HT from my car for the first year or so after getting licensed. It was the only radio I had. it worked fine with an external antenna. I added the hand mike to it because it can put a lot of torque on the connector for the antenna when you have a heavy coax cable attached and are trying to talk into the HT. The handmike made it so I didn't have to move the HT much. The antenna was more critical than anything to getting range and good reception. I used a Larson antenna with my HT attached to the outside of the vehicle. That rubber duck antenna inside just won't do well in most places. I also added the cigar lighter DC plug so that I didn't have to worry about running out of battery power.
After that first year I got a 50 watt unit for the vehicle and stopped using the HT for mobile. Funny thing is that I still use the same antenna and almost never put out more than 5 watts even with though it will put out 50. I can talk on all the repeaters I wanted to. The only time I use more power is if it is a really long simplex contact and that has only happened one time. The guy on the other end though said he could still hear me at five watts but punching it up to ten watts made it easier to hear me.
So go for it and get on the air. Maybe your wife will see how much fun it is and let you start erecting an antenna farm.
Last edited by KI6DKC; 01-07-2010 at 09:50 PM.
I run a Yaesu VX6 in the mobile since I mainly operate local repeaters and it works fine. I did make one investment that you should seriously consider. They make a battery pack with a cord attached with a cigarette lighter plug on the end. So when I operate mobile I have it in the console in case I need it. Mostly I get by with just the battery but when driving further I use the adapter.
It works just fine !
HT with an ext cable
I too live in the DC area and i use a VX7R with a MJF mag mount and works very well. Mostly I use the 147.300 repeater which is 20 miles or so west and have no problems hitting with 5 watts. Some times I can hit it in MD heading down to Solomons. A lot depends on conditions and obstructions.
The radio has a sma connector for the antenna. I use a short cable about a foot long with the sma at one end and a PL259 at the other. The short cable is tied to the HT via a zip tie to keep the stress off the sma. Whenever removing the HT I separate it at the PL259 end.
Works great and I use it regularly.
KI4TMM "at" sv-makai.com
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Lots of good advice on this thread. Like most people, you will probly get tired of hooking and unhooking the HT up to the antenna. I didn't think it would happen to me, but it did. I still haven't mounted a mobile rig in my car though. I just make sure to only talk on the repeaters I can hit with the antenna on the radio. I do plan on eventually installing a mobile radio in the car though.
One thing you could try is one of those rare earth magnet mount antennas. They are very small, don't cost a lot, are better than the HT antenna, and come with the RG 174 coax and sma connector. Tower electronics has them for $12.
As mentioned, the antenna is the most important part. A rubber ducky inside a metal vechicle doesn't work well, and even if you have marginal input to the repeater, many will long to not hear your scratchy audio fading in and out. You wont be real popular on the repeater.
5W is not really a big issue if you get a mag mount antenna. Back when I started, a 2m mobile rig with 10W was high power, and it worked the repeaters just fine.
You just need to start with a decent 1/4 wave mag mount, go from there.
Did it for a year. A good mag-mount antenna helps but doesn't do miracles. I was only able to get into repeaters 5-10 miles away with a decent antenna. I got tired of 2m FM QRP and upgraded to a proper mobile rig in 2004.
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Re: 2 meter handheld in car?
The best place, for the antenna to provide 360° coverage, is in the middle of the roof. A quarter-wavelength antenna works well on the roof. The same antenna located anywhere else won't give you that. Still, alongside the trunklid may be acceptable if you use a 5/8 wavelength antenna (some of the radiating element will be above the roof).
Originally Posted by K0RGR
...and never slide the magnet on the painted surface. Use a tilting motion to install/remove the magnet.
Originally Posted by K0RGR
Originally Posted by N9XR
...or a single-earphone headset w/ PTT button. You'll want to be able to hear emergency vehicle sirens, and reliable VOX operation (if the HT has it) in a mobile is often problematic.
Originally Posted by KD4OVM
If you must use the HT w/o a headset (or handheld microphone) and with an external antenna, it would be a good idea to minimize the mechanical stress on the HT's antenna connector. You can do so by using a short patch cable made of RG-174/U coaxial cable (»0.1" OD) to interface to the larger coaxial cable from the antenna. Assuming your HT has a common BNC jack for the antenna, these cables can be found ready-made from Allied Electronics in up to 25 foot lengths. Keep the length to no more than a few feet. Use a BNC-F to UHF-F adapter between the two cables.
One of the very best "Bang for the buck" hand held radios available today is the Yaesu FT60R, Far less than 200 bucks brand new. (Do go for a dual band, Not just a two meter)
As already pointed out, Just try it. MIGHT work OK depending on how far the repeaters are, etc. IF you need better signal, I like the super low cost (And hard to see) Rare earth magnet dual band antenna for only 12 bucks.
And also as pointed out, Screwing and unscrewing an external antenna DOES GROW OLD real fast.
Of course in the end the much better deal is to have a real mobil radio with external antenna. Also as pointed out, With the new radios that you can have just the control head on the dash, And a really small mag type external antenna, would not be very objectionable.
If you go the dualband radio route, DO give serious consideration to the Yaesu FT8800R. Which is actually TWO radios in one box that can also cross band repeat (A GREAT feature) The older Yaesu FT7800 and the newer FT7900 are OK radios also, But they are just a SINGLE radio, That cannot cross band or receive two different frequencies at the same time.
All of them can "remote" the control head with nothing more than a common 6 conductor/pin telephone cord.