Tag Archives: AT-180

On The Road Again!

It was good to get back behind the wheel of my 2005 Toyota Tundra – although can’t say I am excited about paying to fuel it up. I’ve attempted to get a good HF install for mobile operations before experiencing limited success… with perhaps my biggest rookie mistake being an attempt to use the ICOM AT-180 autotuner along with my IC-706MKIIG.

I used Hamsticks and Hustler mono band resonators – it worked pretty well but I got tired of having to exit the vehicle every time I wanted to change bands.

My answer was to install a screwdriver antenna. I’d been planning this mobile install for some time, using lessons from my trials in the Spring of 2007 as well as a significant amount of reading and research (eHam, WorldRadio, CQ Magazine, websites). I decided on basing my mobile install around the Tarheel Model 75 “Stubby” providing continuous coverage from 3.7 to 34 MHz. The folks at Tarheel worked with me to get me going – responsive to my emails and questions.

The radio for this mobile install: my ICOM IC-706MKIIG. I’d originally purchased this radio when I arrived in Hampton back in the early Summer of 2005. The purchase was in part to motivate me to upgrade from Tech to General – which it did. That Summer I passed the written exam (Element 3) at a nearby hamfest for General. But I was not yet ready for the Morse (Element 1). It wasn’t until later that Fall that I was ready for the Morse… and barely passed too. I’ve been very pleased with the IC-706MKIIG; it is a great radio for a beginner, easy to operate, solid performance, flexible to use either in the radio shack, portable, or mobile.

To mount the antenna to my Toyota Tundra, I really did not want to permanently mar the exterior of the truck. I’d admired K4GUN’s install and thought his implementation of using the Geotool stake pocket on the bed of the truck was brilliant. I wrote Steve, K4GUN, concerning his install and he provided some great additional information concerning the challenges of the stake pocket mount. After working with Rick, WA6JKH, to ensure I was ordering the proper mount, I placed my order and Rick gave me a nice active duty military discount.

I decided to get N2VZ’s Turbo Tuner for ease of operation. Operating HF while driving is already complicated enough and I wanted to make tuning the antenna as easy as possible. Bill was very responsive and also provided a military discount.

I had ordered all the equipment while in Iraq, so everything was waiting for me when I arrived home.

The install took two days. Perhaps the hardest part was mounting the IC-706MKIIG under the passenger’s seat. Already installed under the seat was my ICOM IC-208H – my trusty VHF/UHF rig. I’d originally installed this rig during my circumnavigation of the continental US back in 2005. During that install, I only partially removed the passenger’s seat. This time I pulled the seat completely out of the truck which greatly helped me successfully position both the IC-208H and the IC-706MKIIG in the limited space.

Routing the feedline from the rig to the stake pocket mount was fairly easy, making use of the rubber grommet directly under the passenger’s seat and zip ties along the feedline’s path to the rear of the truck. Soldering the connections to the stake pocket mount was straight forward but it was a bit tricky feeding the line up through the bottom of the stake pocket.

Setup of the Turbo Tuner was a snap; I followed the provided instructions step-by-step, making sure I had the DIP switches positioned properly.

Mounting the antenna onto the Geotool stake pocket mount was made easier by using the HI-Q’s Giant Quick Disconnect. Payment was via PayPal and Charlie, W6HIQ, had it on my doorstep within the week. Thanks Charlie!

How does it work? So far, so good. More reports from the road are coming… and maybe a picture or two.

Cleveland, OH to St. Louis, MO

Another long day and lots of rain. I left the hotel in Cleveland around 8:15am and found a place to park near the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and put my antennas back on. I put on the 40M Hustler to see if it would make a difference with the problem I was having with the Icom AT-180 tuner. I rolled out and tested the radio with the Hustler antenna but encountered the same problem as before.

I headed over to the AES store in Cleveland. The store was well stocked – equivalent to what I’ve encountered in an HRO store, although I think AES had more magazines and books. I purchased an Icom AH-4 longwire tuner and a LDG 4:1 balun.

Back in the parking lot I disconnected all the cables on the AT-180 and then reconnected them. That seemed to have fixed the problem…. because 40M started working without issue. I had a nice QSO with Stan, W??JMV, who was operating from his attic radio room on the Jersey shore. I then checked into the ECARS net, the NCS had a nice solid signal. I then worked 20M talking to England, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy.

When I was about 5 miles east of St Louis a tremendous rain started coming down – I had to pull over on the side of the highway. It was the worst downpour I’ve ever seen. Tomorrow should be an easier drive.

Hampton, VA to Cleveland, OH

I left yesterday at about 10:20am, having done a poor job packing and generally having any semblance of organization. I ended up dumping a lot of extra stuff in a footlocker, piled everything in the backseat of the truck and headed out. Not more than a few feet out of the driveway I answered a CQ from Andy, W2QIQ. Andy has been a ham for 66 years (as opposed to my 6 years). He served in the Army during WWII in Europe, starting in Egland, making his way through France and ending up in Berlin.

My radio started acting up on 40M. I was using my Workman Hamstick tuned for the 40M phone band. The Icom AT-180 gets a good match right away bringing the SWR down to a 1:1. But then after I’m transmitting for about a minute, the Tune light flashes for about 10 or 15 seconds and then the Tune light shuts off and the power drops and SWR goes up. My first guess is that the radio and tuner need to have a better ground. But the matching impedance range for the AT-180 is only between 16 and 150 ohms, so that could be the problem. This is only a problem on 40M.

My TH-D7A APRS kludge seems to be working well when there is a digipeater. When I was on I-77N coming across the West Virginia/Ohio border, I accidentally pulled one of the power leads. I didn’t really notice it because all through the Smoky Mountains the APRS coverage was nonexistent. I got a few hits through Charleston, WV and then it (maybe) tapered off after Charleston or maybe I had pulled the power. When I was approaching Canton, OH, I knew something had to be wrong, because it was such a large area it would have to have a digipeater. That’s when I noticed the power was disconnected. I reattached the power and there was tons of APRS traffic.

Had some nice QSOs along the way: KL7GKY, EB7xx, YU1XA, and KB5YAY.

Using AT-180 and IC-706 on 17M

A response to a question I asked about using my AT-180 along with my IC-706MKIIG on 17M….

The biggest problem I found with the AT-180 is it has to have a good, very good ground. If it doesn’t you will find that some of the bands can’t be tuned and it will also narrow the usable band width on each band. I’ve experienced this first hand and to solve it just get an eight foot piece of 1/2 copper pipe the ridged type and hammer it into the ground as close as you can to your radios, like right outside a window near the radios. Run a good # 8 wire down to it and get a bronze ground anchor that will go over the 1/2 pipe. Tin the end of wire and clamp it to the pipe. One other thing clean the pipe with some emery cloth or sand paper before you put the clamp on. And you will have to go outside and clean this thing several times a during the year. I had a similar problem with one of my full wave loops. It would tune flat match but when I went to talk during a QSO it would kick out the tuner into by-pass. Turned out I had to make a better grounding system and I had to move the hook up point on the loop. It was too close to a corner and the ground wasn’t very good at all. Also make sure you run your grounds run separately one from each radio, tuner and even antenna switches. I purchased a ground buss bar out of an old electric service panel and bolted it onto a larger piece of 1/4 inch steel plate which I then sent a #8 wire out to my 1/2 inch copper pipe. It made the radio a lot quieter and my swr cam right now to flat. I don’t know for sure this will fix our problem, but a bad ground will drive you crazy and it will make your radio/tuner do stupid things as well.

I hope this will help you, let me know then I might be able to give you a little more of an idea where or what to look for.

Oh ya one other thing hook up a dummy load to the back of the tuner and see if it will tune it. If it will ten it’s ikely your antenna or feed line. If it won’t then you have a problem with the tuner it’s self.

73..de ve7agw
Al Winney