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***Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for your actions, up to and including voiding your warranty, paper cuts, busted knuckles, amputations, or death resulting from you attempting to modify your truck.***

I also want to mention that I am not an employee of nor am I a sponsored by any of the companies I reference in this write-up. The items I mention are what I decided to go with based on my own needs. Now, If someone from one of these companies feels like sponsoring me, feel free to contact my :)

This has been asked more times then I care to count and after reading through about 15 or 20 different threads, I figured I would do a write-up on my install on my 4th gen CC 1500 and link as much stuff as I could to make it easier for the next person researching this topic. Here we go!

Chapter 1: In the begging...

To start with I'll tell you what I was looking for. I got my ticket back in Febuary of 2015 due to reaching the legal limitations of CB radio and thirsting for more. It was shortly there after that I discovered my interest in storm chasing easily overlapped into the amateur radio hobby with SkyWarn. For those that don't know, SkyWarn is the branch of the National Weather Service that uses local groups of amateur radio operators to track sever weather and report back info in real-time to give ground truth to RADAR info.

I recently took my SkyWarn training and registered with the NWS as a storm spotter. The first issue I ran into was with the general size of Texas and the vast distances I would need to be able to reach across with a HAM radio in order to reliably get into the repeater with a clear signal. I was also reaching the end of the line with my car, a 2004 Chevy Malibu Maxx.

I knew that If I wanted to be successful in my storm spotting endeavors, and having a bloated, front wheel drive, low-sitting, hatch back wasn't going to handle the job very well. I sold my car in mid-summer of 2016, and knowing that I wanted a Ram 1500, began my search.

I came across my current truck online at Bonham CDJR. My dad recommended them, and they didn't disappoint in any way. First saw the truck on December 21st, and she was in my driveway 2 days later. 2015 Ram 1500 CC Lone Star Hemi 4x4 in Granite Crystal Metallic with a little over 52k miles, and she was perfect. She was a one owner truck and the Carfax report showed every oil change and service work that had been done since the previous owner pulled it off the lot.

We could now begin the long road from practical to tactical. First on the list was a level kit, followed by swapping out all interior lights to LED bulbs. The map lights are red to alleviate issues with looking at paper maps at night.

I started researching any website I could find that referenced installing ham radios into cars of all shapes and sizes and finally found Allen Applegate's (K0BG) website. It is chock full of good info and tons of pictures of what not to do as well.

I also started searching for any thread here that talked about installing mobile 2-way radios into our trucks, and much to my dismay, there isn't much for full on guides. I spent weeks researching installs, and radios, and antennas, and anything that pertained to them. I finally settled on a handfull of things:

  • I wanted a dual band radio
  • I wanted through-hole mounted antennas
  • I wanted APRS (automatic packet reporting system) for GPS tracking functionality via the radio
  • I wanted to do as much of the install myself as I could to keep costs down
Chapter 2: Problems. So many problems...

So I had my truck, I had my list if things I wanted to accomplish, and I had 20,000 different options and possible solutions to my goals. So now what? I had to narrow down the list of options somehow. Using what I had already learned in the last 2 years as a ham to shorten the list of radios I wanted. Needing APRS for position reporting and only wanting 2m/70cm, shortened the list of possible radios considerably. I currently own a Yaesu FT-60R handy talky, so I was leaning towards another Yaesu radio. I had people recomend everything for a Kenwood to Alinco radios but I finally settled on a Yaesu FTM-400XDR.

I had used a Cobra 29 LX in my previous car, so I knew what a great little radio it was. I already had a Whistler TRX-1 radio scanner, which is a handheld unit, so instead of having to learn how to use a whole new scanner interface, scaling up to the full size mobile TRX-2 was the easy choice their.

The next thing to figure out was possibly the most painful and important items on the list: the antennas. The antennas can make or break a radio install and having the most expensive possible antenna doesn't mean you have the best antenna for your setup. I had to keep height in mind as well. Sure throwing a 36" antenna on the rood of my truck would have been perfectly fine. Unless I wanted to go into a parking garage, or my garage at home, or a drive thru, or an oil change place, or a self-serve car wash. You get the picture.

On the flip side of that problem, I needed to keep in mind that the higher your antenna the further out you will reach with your signal. With the nature of UHF/VHF radio waves, line of sight is king in these bands, which meant I couldn't just put on a super shorty antenna and call it a day.

After lots of reading, and some cussing, and more reading, a little drinking and some questioning of life choices, I finally settled on the Diamond NR-72BNMO mobile antenna. At 14" tall, it wouldn't add an absurd amount of height to the truck, but was still tall enough that the radiating tip was still 8'+ off the ground, which should be just fine for just getting the 15-20 miles I would need to reach out during storm events. I also picked up a PulseLarsen NMO150/450/800 tri-band antenna for scanner duty. It stands 16.5" which is slightly taller than my TX antenna, but since I won't be broadcasting on it, if it takes a hit from a low hanging branch or something like that, it won't affect it like it would the Diamond antenna.

I also picked up a couple of through-hole NMO mounts so that I could mount the antennas to the roof.

There is more than enough evidence that through-hole mounting your antennas is by far the best way to mount any antenna, but especially one you intend to broadcast from. Since the car's body acts as the ground plane for a mobile antenna, the better the bonding of the antenna to the body the better it will work, and since I wanted no directional issues with mounting an antenna to one side of the truck or the other, through-hole mounting to the center of the roof was my best bet for longevity and reliability from the radio system as a whole.

That meant it was time to drill...

Continued in next post!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Part 2

Chapter 3: You spin me right round baby, right round...

I now had my mobile radio, my antennas for the ham radio and the scanner, and I had my antenna mounts. It was time to get serious.

As any of you with a 4th gen crew cab will know, there is plenty of storage space for small items inside the plethora of nooks and crannies in our truck. Some of us have 2 glove boxes. Those with the bucket seats have the center console that has more storage space than a Smart car. We have storage under the back seat. Some of us even have in floor storage space under the floorboard in the back seat. The biggest issue was that all of these spaces were closed or air flow prohibitive in normal configuration. I'm not going to ride around with my center console arm rest up all the time, nor was I going to limit myself by leaving one section of my back seat up all the time.

If only our back seats folded forward to allow access to the back wall of the cab...

That's when I ran across doing the spacer mod here on RamForumz.com that allowed for folding the back seat forward and still being able to fold it up.

Even if you don't intend on mounting a radio behind your back seat, this is a cheap, easy mod that gives you access to that area and makes cleaning the inside of your back window way easier and I highly recommend every Ram owner to do this mod.

What the mod looks like once complete:


What you can do once it's done:


SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!!!!

With that complete, I could now move onto Operation Please-Don't-Accidentally-Make-A-SunRoof.

The two NMO mounts I purchased were not identical, but accomplished the same job: allow for attaching an NMO antenna to the roof. One required a 3/4" hole in the roof, the other just a 5/8" hole. To accomplish this, I purchased a brand new 3/4" step bit in order to not have to worry about a used step bit snagging on anything while drilling and trying to turn a 3/4" hole into a jagged edge sun roof. Not going to lie it took a little alcohol and some extra adult supervision and assistance from my neighbor before I actually drilled into the roof. This video was very helpful:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eJcC1mNLGc
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Part 3

Before I could drill into the roof though, I needed to lower the headliner. I word of caution:

DO NOT ATTEMPT ANY WORK ON THE INTERIOR OF YOUR TRUCK NEAR ANY AIRBAG WITH THE BATTERY STILL CONNECTED.

You may do it once, or you may do it a hundred times and not set off the airbag. But if you ever set off an airbag accidentally while working on your vehicle, it may be the last mistake you ever make. You have been warned.

To start I disconnected the negative terminal of the battery and secured it so that it couldn't accidentally slide back into place.

To lower the passenger side of the headliner enough to reach the center for securing the bottom of the mount, you will need to remove the following items:

  • Roof Console
  • Passenger and Driver Sun Visors
  • A-Pillar handle
  • B-Pillar handle
  • C-Pillar trim
  • Dome Lamp
You will want to remove these items in that order as well. There are plenty of videos out there that show how to remove the roof console without breaking anything and I highly recommend you watch one or more of those prior to attempting it. Its thin plastic that isn't nearly as pliable as you would expect so go slow and take your time. Remove the sun visors and the visor clips



Next remove the bolts holding the B-Pillar trim in place. Due to the adjustable shoulder belts in the Rams, you will not be able to remove the B-Pillar trim without unbolting the shoulder belt bracket on the B-Pillar, which I don't like doing. Instead, just slide the adjustment point as far down as possible and gently pull on the top of the trim when the time comes to lower the headliner.

After the B-Pillar, move on to the C-Pillar and yet again we have to contend with the shoulder belt, however we can simply pull the seat belt out and slide the trim piece far enough out of the way to do what we need to do.

Lastly, remove the rear dome lamp if you have it and gently pulling on the rear edge of the headliner, on the rear passenger side, disconnect the plug that is on the C-Pillar that goes to the wiring harness that is glued to the back of the headliner.



Once this is disconnected, gently lower the entire passenger side until it rests on the front seat head rest. This will give you enough room to drill the roof without hitting anything.

To be continued!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Part 4

Quick Note: Seems like editing your posts here may be time limited so I'll have to get with the mods to remove those reserved spots I made. Oh Well, the show must go on!

Chapter 4: That went better than expected...

So now that the headliner was lowered enough to drill without adding speed holes to it, it was time to put my money were my mouth was. The roof of our trucks when measured from inside seem to inside seem is right at 52". I put several strips of blue vinyl masking tape at the 26" mark as far forward as I could reach standing in the bed. I then measured 20" back from that and put another patch of masking tape. I measured 26" from left, and put a mark on the center tape and then measured 26" on the rear patch and then measured 20" from the front drill point for the rear drill point.

Measure Twice:


I then used a static punch and a hammer to center punch the holes. In hind sight I wish I had had a spring powered center punch and should have spent the few bucks it would have cost at Harbor Freight to get one. The static punch worked well enough, but the spring punches just work better with less room for error. I also didn't like the fact that the static punch dented a larger area than the spring powered ones typically do. The next time I do this I will definitely be getting a spring powered punch.

Anyway, I center punched both drill points and keeping in mind that both of the holes I needed to drill were different sizes I used my 3/4" step bit to get the center most hole drilled.

Cut Once:


I had my shop fact handy to suck up any swarf from the but and that kept the cutting area clean and kept the bit from grabbing. I highly recommend you use a brand new or a freshly sharpened but if you are going to do this on a vehicle you care about. Having the sharpest possible edge on the bit will keep it from snagging on anything and trying to walk on you.

I don't have a picture yet of the installed antennas, but I will grab one later today and add it to my final post in this series.

After drilling the required holes, and allowing my nerves and heart to calm down from the anxiety of drilling what felt like 2 enormous hole sin my roof, I was able to move on to installing the NMO mounts. I made sure the edges were clean and free of any shavings, and then I was able to install both mounts pretty quickly. The center NMO had to be installed by feeding the wire through the hole from the top while the rear mount was able to slip into the hole from the bottom.

Both achieved the same result, and I used a little bit of dielectric grease on the o-rings to prevent tearing during the install. Almost two full weeks and no leaks from the massive amount of rain that they have been subjected to since then also. I tightened the mounting rings to to the point that I was starting to get concerned but better safe than sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Part 5

Chapter 5: The Road Goes On Forever...

Now than the mounts were in and the coax was pulled towards the passenger side C-pillar, I started routing the coax behind some clips and thing that were already located on the pillar. I pushed them all the down to the floor and then stretched them across the back wall to keep them out of the way during the reinstall of the headliner.

Reinstalling the headliner was the reverse of the removal:

  • Connect C-Pillar connector
  • Push headliner back into place
  • Dome Lamp
  • C-Pillar Trim Panels
  • B-Pillar Trim panels and grab handles
  • A-Pillar Trim and handles
  • Sun Visors
  • Roof Console
Once that was back in and all was right with the trim, I was able to move on to terminating the coax.

Since I knew where the Yaesu was going to be installed, I gave myself about 12" of extra length and cut the transmit coax. Now is a good time to make a note of which coax is which if you are installing more than one. Thankfully I had made a cut on one of my wires already so I didn't get too worried about it, but if you are doing more than one cable, put a piece of shrink tube or some other label of some kind so you know which cable is what. Don't ask my how I know you should do this... :doh:

I've you are installing a mobile radio, odds are this isn't your first time terminating coax, so we won't go over that here. If it is your first time terminating coax, you probably want to find a good video on how to do it. There are several good ones on Youtube, but the best suggestion I can make is that you should really invest in a good pair of coax cutters/strippers. They will make your life far easier. It is simply too easy to make a mistake trying to use a razor blade to strip coax. Save yourself the trouble and just get a pair of coax specific strippers. There are several good ones out there and some are offered as kits with strippers, cutters, and coax crimpers as well.

It was at this point that I decided to try to use the radio with the antenna. I had high hopes moving forward.
 

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Part 6

Chapter 6: ...And the Party Never Ends

I had not run any sort of power wire yet, since at this point I had not found the power cable I wanted/needed to run power from the battery to my power distribution/fuse block that was going to be placed on the back wall. I did, however, have a 12v power supply and an extension cord. After hooking everything up, I powered on the radio and it came to life. I had already bench prepped the radio so that once it was installed I would have any issues so it was already beaconing APRS packets and I was able to pull this via one of the many APRS websites, more specifically www.aprs.fi.

I also had about 15 repeaters already programmed in and was able to hit all of the repeaters. I have the Rosston, TX repeater as well, but I haven't tried it yet. I can hear the output pretty good, but I haven't tried talking on it yet. The Rosston repeater is on a broadcast FM radio tower that is 2,000' tall. The amatuer antennas are on a sub platform about 1,500' up. Basically that means that two hams could potentially have a conversation on this repeater with one being near Dallas and the other near Wichita Falls.

With everything function tested, I was able to mount the radio in it's bracket behind the back seat on the passenger side. I used a 4' RG8 jumper to extend the TX coax to the front seat area and used a pigtail jumper to convert the PL259 to use the TX antenna with my Yaesu FT-60R handy talky while waiting to get the power issue sorted out and I also left the RX coax long so I could plug it into my Whistler TRX-1 that I currently own. I cleaned everything up and used the supplied double sided sticky tape to attach the FTM-400 remote head to the dash, next to the pen cubby above the factory stereo. I'll be getting a Bayou Mount in the next couple of weeks to finish out the install, but for the time being it works.

Side note, I had to extend the cable that us used for the FTM-400XDR microphone. It uses a standard 6p6c RJ-11 cable, like what you would use for your home phone. I thought I might need to extend the remote head cable as well, but with the way that I ran the cables, it fits perfectly. I will post up a few pics of that later as well.

It was now crucial to focus on the power issue I had been avoiding.

To be continued...
 

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Did you ever get this finished Redneck? I installed my old trusty FT-8100 dual bander in my 2011 and the first time I keyed up on 440 the low tire pressure light came on on the evic and stayed on. Apparently it's close enough to 440 mhz that the high power output of my radio blew out the front end of the tire pressure receive module. I have the antenna mounted on the bedside and the module is under the left front wheel well so it surprises me that it happened but it did
 

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My antenna wire was run down the "A" pillar on the passenger side

My Power comes directly from the Hot post on the Fuse Box, it would work just as well off of the battery, I have 2 fuses on the hot wire, at the beginning & end of the Hot wire leading to the unit in the cab, then another "just in case" fuse on the Ground wire
 

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Holy smokes!

I did not even realize that I never finished this post. :doh:

I'll snag some new pics and finish this out.

Sorry for the...

2 year delay.

Wow
 

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I just received my Yaesu FT-400XDR Thursday. Since I have the 2019 Ram now, I am still looking for a suitable place to mount it. I think I'm going with a flush stake bed mount in the rear pocket/driver's side? I just can't drill into a brand new truck, ya know?
 
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