Installing a radio into my car

About a year ago I changed my car and it’s taken a while to get around to fitting the radio into it. I’ve missed having a wireless in the car and recently resorted to keeping a handheld in the glove box so at least I could natter on the local repeater while driving around town.

Although I could probably have done it myself, when it comes to installing radios in my cars, I always prefer to have someone do it for me, normally someone who does this as part of their job and will have all the tools and know all the tricks of hiding the wires out of the way and making it all nice and tidy. I just don’t have the patience!

Last week I travelled to Chelmsford and met up with Nigel, G6ZVV who installed my Icom ID-5100E into my Mazda 6. He did a great good job, it’s neat and tidy and the control head is easily useable and visible without blocking my view out of the windscreen at all. Icom don’t produce a proper mobile mounting bracket for the control head so I have their MBA-2 paired with a RAM Mount RAM-B-102U-A which I imported specially from the USA. For what it’s worth, I think it’s pretty crazy that the only bracket Icom produce is a suction mount.

Mazda 6 with Watson W-770HB
Mazda 6 with Watson W-770HB

The installation itself was pretty straightforward, Nigel ran the cables through and took a feed direct from the battery while I mounted the aerial on the boot. I can’t remember the make of the boot mount, it’s either Diamond, Watson or Sirio but it did me well on my previous car and although it looks a little tattered, it’s perfectly good.

The aerial I use is a Watson W-770HB which I’ve had for years. There are many similarly specced aerials on the market (it’s a half wave on 2m and 2 x 5/8 on 70cms) but out of all I’ve tried, this has been about the best. I tried replacing it with a Diamond aerial a couple of years ago but that didn’t perform as well so I returned it and put this old one back on.

The main body of the radio is mounted in the boot, underneath the parcel shelf. It’s accessible enough that I can get to the SD card slot but positioned well enough that it won’t get in the way of anything I put in the boot. It’s neat and tidy.

Icom ID-5100E mounted in the boot
Icom ID-5100E mounted in the boot

The important part is how well I can see it while I’m sitting in the driving seat and how accessible the radio is. I wanted it to be easily viewable and in a position where I can operate it without having to move my hands far from the wheel or my eyes far from the road, without actually blocking any of the view out of the window. I appreciate this is a tall order for modern cars but I think that I found a good place. This meets all my requirements and was surprisingly easy to fit.

Icom ID-5100E control head
Icom ID-5100E control head

I mentioned the mount before, here’s how it looks from behind.

The back of the control head mount
The back of the control head mount

When I get out of the car, it’s a very simple matter to remove the control head, disconnect the cable and take it away for security.

The mount without the control head
The mount without the control head

I was a little concerned as to whether I’d suffer from any electrical interference from the car or whether transmitting high power on 2m or 70cms would interfere with anything within the car but it all seems to be OK. I had a long drive from home to Manchester and back just a couple of days after installing the radio and it worked very well.

It’s nice to be mobile again after over a year with no radio in the car. I’ve missed it!

Additional – I’ve been asked how I ran the power from the battery through the bulkhead and into the car so here’s how it was done.

Power cable from the battery
Power cable from the battery

The power cable comes from the battery and is fused, then there’s a section of plastic held in place by a number of clips similar to the one marked in yellow. Those clips simply prize off and leave space for the cable to run underneath.

Power cable comes out from the plastic tray
Power cable comes out from the plastic tray

The cable comes out from the tray at the other end of the car (note, this is a right-hand drive car) and drops into the space down by the door – The picture below should help explain this.

Power cable dropping down into the space by the door
Power cable dropping down into the space by the door

Once it’s dropped down the gap, it’s a simple matter to bring it in at the bottom of the door, loop it over the door seal (held in place with a cable tie and drop it under the trim and into the cable run to the back of the car along with the cables for the control head, microphone and speaker. This is the only place that the power cable is visible. As you can see, it doesn’t actually go through the bulkhead as we couldn’t find an easy and available place to run it.

Power cable coming in through the bottom of the door
Power cable coming in through the bottom of the door

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