HF Radio Installation

In this article, we discuss the procedures for installing a HF radio and the modifications that can be considered for a successful installation. We look at the different options and locations on the vehicle to mount the antenna base and provide some cabling and console tips to give that professional look.


Prior to installing the HF radio you need to consider where you will mount the head unit, the transceiver and the antenna. This is the most time consuming and complicated part of the job.

A few things to think about are:
  • The head unit should be accessible and the microphone within reach whilst driving.

  • The control box should be mounted as high within the vehicle as possible to avoid it getting wet if you do not make it through a river crossing.

  • Antenna mounting needs to be VERY strong. Light steel mounts will not hold it.

  • The antenna works best if the the area above the join is mounted above surrounding metal, ie., try to mount the unit so that the join in the antenna is above the level of the bonnet - for front mounting. This is a little difficult if mounting on the rear wheel carrier as the height to get the join above the vehicle will make the top of the antenna stick out a lot higher and affect your height clearance. So generally make the top of the antenna screw the same height as the roof of the vehicle.
Take your time and look at every option a few times. After you think you know exactly where everything will go then and only then look at the installation issues such as:
  • How to get the cables where the equipment will be installed. Don't worry too much about getting wires from front to back, the side channels are usually easily accessible. Look at the firewall and determine how you will get the power & antenna cables through.
  • Will you need to drill holes in the dash or plastic parts?
If you think you have it all under control then it is time to start the installation.

Head Unit Installation

When you open your radio packaging, check to see if everything has been provided for you to install the radio, from the wiring looms right through to the cable ties and holders. Check out the packing details and make sure that you have all the parts.

The basic requirements for the installation are:
  • Mount all of the parts. ie. Antenna, Control unit, Head unit and speaker.

  • Run a power cable from the Main battery - Not the Aux battery to the control box. (The radio is useless if the fridge has drained the Aux battery and you have an emergency - NOTE: no cold beer because the Aux battery's flat is not classified as an emergency).

  • Run the Antenna cable from the Antenna to the contol box.

  • Run the Head cable from the Control box to the Head unit.

  • Run the speaker cable from the head box to the speaker.
Should be easy enough however, a few special items to pay attention to:
  • Use high quality electrical connections for every part of the installation - The radio will draw 20+ Amps during transmission. Always, always, always additionally solder crimp type connections you install. i.e.. Crimp it and then hit it with solder until the wires and connector are making excellent contact.

  • Make sure that any earth points you use are good earth points.

  • If front mounting the Antenna run the cables down the rear of the bull bar and through under the lights, secure them with the supplied self adhesive pads. Do not poke the wires through the grill - It becomes impossible to use a radiator blind if you have wires running through the front grill. Do not connect the Antenna's earth cable (little black) to the bull bar, take it with the main cable and secure it to a good earth point on the vehicle (if necessary make it longer and connect it where the battery lead connects to the chassis).

  • If rear carrier mounting the Antenna do not connect the earth cable to the carrier or the rear door as these hinged items do not provide a very good earth. Make the cable longer (if necessary) and connect it to a good reliable earth point.

  • Make the installation as neat and tidy as possible.

  • When installing the power cable start from the radio control box and work towards the battery. It is a lot easier to pull a wire that does not have connector attached. If possible do not cut this cable and join it. It is better to go from the radio to the bonnet located fuses in one piece.

  • The Antenna main cable is the most difficult to run as it has large connectors already installed. If you are not proficient at the re-termination of one of these connectors do not cut them off. It is better to enlarge a current or make a new hole in one of the standard rubber grommets that go through the firewall. If you make a new hole ensure that you seal up around the cable with some silicon after the install. NOTE: put some vasoline or similar lube on the cable and connector prior to pushing or pulling through the firewall.
When we installed the unit in our Field research vehicle we additionally installed a new fuse holder (available from most parts shops) to take care of all the wiring that we anticipated installing. This was mounted under the bonnet in a convenient location. All high current wiring for the vehicle must be fused prior to going from the engine compartment through the firewall. We made provision for UHF radios, fridge, driving lights, GPS, and a line to the back where another fuse holder will be installed to handle water pumps, lighting and accessory connections. Take your time with your wiring. It will save you a lot of trouble getting it right at home before you travel.

Mounting the Antenna Base

Front Mount - Bull Bar

We have initially installed the Antenna on the bull bar at the front. As you can see the cables are run down the back of the bull bar and secured using the supplied self adhesive blocks. NOTE: Before you apply the self adhesive give the area a good clean with some form of spirit (metho, turps, etc). Then use a small cable tie to hold the wires in place.

We will soon be moving the antenna to the rear of the vehicle and will provide you with details of this install also. NOW DONE - GO TO REAR MOUNT.

Rear Mount - Spare Wheel Carrier

The reason we didn't initially mount the HF antenna base to the rear was because at the time we didn't have a spare wheel carrier fixed to the vehicle. The 80 series cruiser does not come with a spare wheel carrier fixed to the back doors like some other vehicles. Instead, the spare wheel is carried in a bay underneath the body of the vehicle. This is fine for the urban driver, but pretty useless for offroad or beach driving as it affects the ground clearance significantly.

Within this Vehicle Setup Feature we have already detailed how we used the spare wheel bay for fitting an extended range fuel tank. For the time being the spare has been carried on the roof rack.

In selecting a spare wheel carrier, we opted for a swing out bar on the driver's side. This doesn't actually interfere with roadside parking anymore than an open car door. We chose the Kaymar, K1110, which retails for around $789 (fitted).

Due the added weight on the driver's side of our vehicle (fridge, water tank and wheel carrier) we had our suspension specially setup to account for the added load on this side.

Antenna Bracket

The antenna bracket we received for our 80 series was simple to fit and slid right on perfectly. Our travelling companion also received the bracket for his GQ Patrol, for which he found the pin needed to be replaced as it wasn't long enough. We have since given this feedback to the manufacturer and they are investigating this model for improvement.

Constructing the Console

We also custom made a roof console to house our radio units so the head unit was mounted with the speaker inside the roof console. These consoles are not that difficult to build. We may put a feature together showing the basics of making your own... stay tuned!
Do not be nervous about taking all the plastic parts off your vehicle. It is so much easier to remove the door trims, roof trims and lower dash panels when you are trying to install equipment in your vehicle. Also your car dealer will be able to replace any little plastic clips if you break them, they do not cost much if you happen to break them.

The Transceiver Unit

The transceiver unit comes with a very nice bracket so make sure you use it. Every time I have installed one of these radios I have had to remove it again from the vehicle so make sure it is accessible and as mentioned earlier mounted as high in the vehicle as possible. This is the expensive bit so look after it. Do not pack it in and cover every part of control box as it does get hot and needs some air. We have only temporarily installed ours at the moment due to the pending installation of the rear storage system however it will end up being attached to the cargo barrier up near the roof lining. If you have a cargo barrier installed then this is an excellent location for the control box.

Remember it is not hard if you take your time and do it right the first time. We would expect that it would take the best part of a full day to install one of these radio systems. Good luck and we will catch you in the bush Selcall ID 2455 VKS-737.

If you would like more information on these radios, then feel free to read our HF Radio article.

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Created: June 2008
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