The Who had a hit tune entitled Going Mobile that may be playing in your head right now. While the song celebrates the joy of living in a mobile home and traveling caravan-style in the UK, going mobile to hams means using radio equipment in your vehicle.
While some hams have HF radio setups in their cars, mobile predominantly means local VHF/UHF communication. Besides bring able to talk to our ham buddies while driving around, 2m/70cm capability is particularly useful in case of disaster or other emergency communication (EmComm) situations. It is perfect for storm spotting and certain public service events.
Mobile operation is popular and important enough that there are a number of US license exam questions involving the topic as you will see below.
Installing and using amateur radio equipment in one’s personal vehicle is too large a topic to cover here so we’ll simply advise you to research details on your own. Talk to fellow hams and see what/how/why they installed their own gear.
The internet is also a vast resource for [mostly good] info . One noteworthy site dedicated to mobile ham operation is managed by Alan Applegate, K0BG, and is located here. It contains exceptionally useful info on most topics presented below. We encourage you to use this site as a primary reference for your own mobile radio installation and operation. The ABCs topic is the best place to start.
Before embarking on any of this yourself, there are several important points to consider:
- Radio type
- Radio control location
- Radio mounting
- Radio power wiring
- Antenna type and mounting
- Radio audio/speaker
- Transmitting while driving
- Hands-free/Distracted driving laws
- Noise and interference
We will scratch the surface of each of these topics here:
Radio type- Choose a mobile radio that best fits your needs, desires, and budget based on several factors:
- Brand– quality/reliability and/or familiarity/loyalty
- Transmit power (Watts)
- Features– Auto power-off, APRS, dual-channel, remote head, cross-band, packet
- VHF/UHF (V/U) or HF?
- FM only, or multi-mode?
- Single-band, dual-band, tri-band, or quad-band?
- Analog or digital communication, or both?
- New, reconditioned, or used?
Note that while a hand-held transceiver (HT) can be used in a car, it is significantly limited by its antenna and transmit power. Both can be improved (linear amplifier and external antenna) but if you really want good mobile performance you should consider a purpose-specific mobile radio.
Radio control location- Modern mobile transceivers typically feature removable front panels where the operator controls can be positioned in a more convenient, ergonomic, and safe location using a smaller footprint. Continue reading