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Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Race Radios

PCI Race Radios

Well-Known Member
#1
The purpose of this thread is to get rid of the mystery with race radios. At every race we talk to customers who know how to get their shocks working properly, their engine running at its best, but are completely lost when it comes to dialing in their communications. We will be posting tips and tricks on how to keep communication at its full potential. Feel free to ask any questions you may have in this thread.

A Well Oiled Machine
While this may seem pretty obvious, this truly is the first step in having great communications, whether you are racing or just playing. To get the most out of your radios, the entire system must be working properly and must be in sync. This is not a time to scrape together used or second hand equipment and hope it will work for you in a race environment. The reason we run radios in race cars is for safety, they must work when you need them. You wouldn't run a used fire extinguisher in your race car and hope that it will work when you need it to, you will either get it serviced ahead of time or purchase a new one. If you have a 110 watt radio on your race car and a borrowed amateur band HAM radio in your chase truck with a frayed coax cable, your communications will be dismal at best. When choosing which radio is best for your team you must decide how many chase trucks you will have, what type of racing you will be doing and what your budget is. Each radio in the system should be set up for how it will be best utilized. For example, a handheld radio is a great addition to a remote pit however trying to transmit to a race vehicle that is 25 miles away will not work.

Take some time while prepping your race car to lay out all of your radio equipment. Inspect for damaged or frayed cables, possible signs of water damage on the radios. You can send in any or all of your equipment for testing if necessary. We have a full radio shop that can tune up and service your radios for dependable race day communications. Make an appointment to come by and have your vehicles tested and tuned or come see us at a race contingency.


Future topics:
-Which Radio is Right For Me?
-Coax Do's and Don'ts
-Race vs Play Intercom
-Antenna Differences
-Mounting Your Antenna
-Base Camp Antennas
-Proper Power Sources
-How to get rid of noise in your system
-Radio Etiquette
-Commercial vs Amateur Band Radio


 

PCI Race Radios

Well-Known Member
#4
Noise in the System
You've bought the best intercom system around, you've routed all of your wires, and now you are getting noise in your headsets. Whether it is alternator whine, noise when you fire up your HID's or static from ignition, it is all unacceptable. Take a few moments

Cable Routing
Proper cable routing is key to a noise free system. Try to keep all cables related to your radio and intercom away from ignition systems, alternators, amplifiers and HID ballasts.

When routing your coax:

  • Run your coax as short as possible, do not coil up excess wire. We can make you custom length coax or trim your coax if necessary
  • If you have a small amount of excess coax, it is ok to route it under a seat to use up the excess as long as it is not in a coil
  • Route the coax separate from any headset cables, all coax bleeds RF when transmitting and will create noise in your headset
  • Do not route the coax near heat and avoid pinching between body panels and/or the dash

Power and Ground
Make sure you are giving your radio and intercom a good power source. We always recommend leaving the stock connectors on the cables for ease of upgrading or replacing components. If you short out your radio the day before a race, we can easily swap in a new radio without having to use special wiring connectors. Often times we see wiring that is not rated for the load the radio needs causing issues when communications are critical.

To avoid issues with noise coming from your power wires, we recommend connecting your radio, intercom, stereo, camera hard wire cable and any electronic that may be included in your communications system to the same + and - in your car. It is always best to go straight to the battery however going to a battery switch is acceptable as well. A self tapping screw through an aluminum dash is not an acceptable ground. Using a noise filter like the Kenwood KLF-2 will also remove noise from your system. We include the KLF-2 in all race intercom packages and recommend the use of the KLF-2 for all installations.


KLF-2
Proper installation of the KLF-2 will make your radio system clearer, especially voice transmission at high engine RPM.



Comlink 6
When using the Comlink 6 with a race radio, you do not need to ground the intercom itself, as it gets it's ground through the radio. When hooking up both the ground on the intercom and the radio it can create a ground loop issue and add more noise into your system. If you are not sure if your intercom is grounded, turn the intercom on and disconnect the plug going to the radio. If the intercom stays on you should remove the ground wire on the
 
#5
I have the battery, I am just missing the radio and intercom to see if these procedures work. Thanks in advance. ha ha.

Good stuff guys, keep it coming. I will be installing a radio and intercoms real soon and will need something to follow.
 
#6
once upon a time i worked in the RF field. the most common problem i see is coax improperly installed to the antenna. this is the single biggest cause of poor range and transmiiter failures.

for starters, way to many people think a zip tie is the perfect item to strap down coax. in reality its the worst possible thing to use. when a coax is crushed down by a zip tie, flattened, kinked or simply bent to sharply, this changes the impedance and casues a reflection of the RF energy back at the transmitter. this includes poorly made up connections. if the dergradation of the cable is bad enough, it will eventually damage the transmitter.

Adel clamps are a much better solution. if you must use cable ties, be GENTLE and dont pinch down on the cable. or you can put a sheath around the cable to prevent it from being crushed.

the "el cheapo" RG coax most people use is OK if treated VERY gently. a MUCH better solution is a mil-spec or aviation grade coax like rg400. much like ms22759 wire is much better grade for your rce car (higher temp rating, more rugged insulation, etc) its no different with coax. the rg400 will stand up to the harsher environment in a race car then the standard stuff. it typically sells for about $3 per foot and you should be running less than 20' as length can come into play. all cable has "insertion loss" where the cable "absorbs" soem of the RF energy, reducing output power at the antenna, reducing transmit range.

the next thing is connectors. dont use "radio shack" grade connectors. buy quality connectors from comapnier like Hubert-Shuner, Amp or Andrews. its like anything else....you get what you pay for. a top notch coax, broadcast quality connectors might add $50-75 to the cost of your ride and worth every penny of it.

i also see issues with antenna ground plane. if anyone is interested, this would be a good place to discuss the theory of what it actually is (most people think the antenna needs to be "grounded" but thats not whats really going on). it has to do with a flat metallic surfice acting as a "reflector" to direct energy into the antenna. that is why an antenna moutned on the roof is a much better choice than one on a frame rail.
 
Likes: _
#7
ground plane 101 from wiki:

Radio antenna theory[edit]
In telecommunication, a ground plane is a flat or nearly flat horizontal conducting surface that serves as part of an antenna, to reflect the radio waves from the other antenna elements. The plane does not necessarily have to be connected to ground. Ground planes are particularly used with monopole antennas.

For a monopole antenna, the Earth acts as a ground plane to reflect radio waves directed downwards, making them seem to come from an image antenna.
To function as a ground plane, the conducting surface must be at least a quarter of the wavelength (λ/4) of the radio waves in size. In lower frequency antennas, such as the mast radiators used for broadcast antennas, the Earth itself (or a body of water such as a salt marsh or ocean) is used as a ground plane. For higher frequency antennas, in the VHF or UHF range, the ground plane can be smaller, and metal disks, screens or wires are used as counterpoise ground planes. At upper VHF and UHF frequencies, the metal skin of a car or aircraft can serve as a ground plane for whip antennas projecting from it. The ground plane doesn't have to be a continuous surface. In the ground plane antenna style whip antenna, the "plane" consists of several wires λ/4 long radiating from the base of a quarter-wave whip antenna.
The radio waves from an antenna element that reflect off a ground plane appear to come from a mirror image of the antenna located on the other side of the ground plane. In a monopole antenna, the radiation pattern of the monopole plus the virtual "image antenna" make it appear as a two element center-fed dipole antenna. So a monopole mounted over an ideal ground plane has a radiation pattern identical to a dipole antenna. The feedline from the transmitter or receiver is connected between the bottom end of the monopole element and the ground plane. The ground plane must have good conductivity; any resistance in the ground plane is in series with the antenna, and serves to dissipate power from the transmitter.




the key things with a ground plane are the frequency of the transmitter and type of antenna. here is a link to a ground plane calculator:

http://www.csgnetwork.com/antennagpcalc.html
 
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Weatherman

The voice of desert racing
#8
What dzrt performance says is all and good info, however, there IS a great alternative to a proper ground plane and it is P C I' s NO GROUND PLANE ANTENNA. I have one mounted on a tab off the roof rack on my Zebra Jeep. It works excedingly well as I hear most everyone and no one has complained about not hearing me. It is a great alternative for Jeeps and Side by Sides as well as buggies and any vehicle that has trouble finding a suitable ground plane. It has a spring that will withstand a roll over and fits the standard NMO Mount that is everywhere in use. The antenna still has to be mounted at the highest place on the vehicle above all other metal.
 
#9
Hey guys,
I am putting together a radio system for a chase truck.
Got a Yaesu FT2900R and a Laird antenna on a magnetic mount (With spring).

I want to be able to raise the antenna on a mast when the pit is setup, but apparently my google skills are failing me... I cannot find any good advice, on how to do the mast...

Are there mast kits out there already? Or should I make one out of a paint roller extension handle?
Grounding due to lighting a concern? Any guidlines there?
What about ground plane?
or,
Should I be shopping for a base station antenna?

I think the discussions about how to do this are out there somewhere, but i just cant seem to find them.

Thanks!
 

PCI Race Radios

Well-Known Member
#10
Hey guys,
I am putting together a radio system for a chase truck.
Got a Yaesu FT2900R and a Laird antenna on a magnetic mount (With spring).

I want to be able to raise the antenna on a mast when the pit is setup, but apparently my google skills are failing me... I cannot find any good advice, on how to do the mast...

Are there mast kits out there already? Or should I make one out of a paint roller extension handle?
Grounding due to lighting a concern? Any guidlines there?
What about ground plane?
or,
Should I be shopping for a base station antenna?

I think the discussions about how to do this are out there somewhere, but i just cant seem to find them.

Thanks!
This sounds like you almost have everything to complete your system. We can definitely help you out with some pointers. Give us a call 562-427-8177 and Matthew can help you out.
 

Weatherman

The voice of desert racing
#11
Hey guys,
I am putting together a radio system for a chase truck.
Got a Yaesu FT2900R and a Laird antenna on a magnetic mount (With spring).

I want to be able to raise the antenna on a mast when the pit is setup, but apparently my google skills are failing me... I cannot find any good advice, on how to do the mast...

Are there mast kits out there already? Or should I make one out of a paint roller extension handle?
Grounding due to lighting a concern? Any guidlines there?
What about ground plane?
or,
Should I be shopping for a base station antenna?

I think the discussions about how to do this are out there somewhere, but i just cant seem to find them.

Thanks!
Get a P C I Base station antenna.
 

Weatherman

The voice of desert racing
#12
Great post and if you need any help with the, (race radio etiquette) or what the POS amateur band radios have done to degrade SCORE's Baja Racing communications, I could possibly come back to work!! As a consultant?
Part time? Maybe for free?
 
#13
Hello. What about antenna's type ? I mean, specifically, it would be great to see a picture difference between a regular non-wide band antenna and a WIDE BAND antenna. (If anyone can share it.)

So far I know that a WIDE BAND antenna can manage +-4MHz and still be able to radiate power through it without loosing power.

A non WIDE BAND antenna would transmit power in an efficient manner only at a narrow range of frequency.

There's a LOT variables in this communication's equation. Besides of this ANTENNA TYPE (WIDE BAND vs NON-WIDE BAND), PLANE GROUND and ANTENNA LENGTH, what other variables exist in the equation to achieve a consistent and solid transmission in the desert with big rocks and mountains ?

THANKS
 
#14
Hello. What about antenna's type ? I mean, specifically, it would be great to see a picture difference between a regular non-wide band antenna and a WIDE BAND antenna. (If anyone can share it.)

So far I know that a WIDE BAND antenna can manage +-4MHz and still be able to radiate power through it without loosing power.

A non WIDE BAND antenna would transmit power in an efficient manner only at a narrow range of frequency.

There's a LOT variables in this communication's equation. Besides of this ANTENNA TYPE (WIDE BAND vs NON-WIDE BAND), PLANE GROUND and ANTENNA LENGTH, what other variables exist in the equation to achieve a consistent and solid transmission in the desert with big rocks and mountains ?

THANKS
a tuned NB antenna always works best. its also lower cost.

the reason a NB antenna works better is because having the antenna that is designed to work within your limited frequency range provides a natural gain.....

think of it this way... a flash light only has X amount of light output....but a reflector can add that natural amplification (gain). a broadband antenna will have lower gain at a given frequency as compared to a tuned antenna.

a good 1/4 wave antenna tuned to the center of your band , appropriate ground plane mounted as high as possible on the vehicle works best.

use high quality MS coax and connectors

depending on your transmitters output power, think line of site transmission. so the higher you get your base station or chase truck antenna the better.
 
#15
10-4. So, what would be the reasons or advantages vs dis-advantages matrix for NB vs WB antennas ?

What is a best application for a WB antenna ? I though using a WB antenna was best for my race car in order to transmit in different frequencies since some-times I work with different teams, and I don't want to change antennas each time I change the frequency.

THANKS for the response !! :)
 
#16
10-4. So, what would be the reasons or advantages vs dis-advantages matrix for NB vs WB antennas ?

What is a best application for a WB antenna ? I though using a WB antenna was best for my race car in order to transmit in different frequencies since some-times I work with different teams, and I don't want to change antennas each time I change the frequency.

THANKS for the response !! :)
here is the deal:
regardless of what the marketing people say.....WB antenna just means yeah it will work across a wider range of frequencies but power and sensitivity are down compared to an antenna tuned for your specific channel/frequency.

typically, 150-160mHz where everyone is working.....means a 10mHz band for your antenna. So if you did the calculation and tuned the antenna to work at 155mHz (right in the middle of the band) your system would have greatest range and sensitivity at 155 and roll off in either direction from there (decreased output power and range)

it all depends on what you want. i mean if you are close enough...two radios 10' apart will work without any antenna hooked up at all. if you want MAX distance from your radio get an antenna tuned for your target frequency.

then the question asks how do you do this? an output power and VSWSR meter are necessary to tune your antenna for optimum performance.
 
#17
Thanks for the info. I just got the Kenwood Chase Package from PCI with the mag mount antenna. I bought both the hardware and cigar plug. If the cigar plug pops out over washboard roads, I’ll hardwire it to the Battery.
 

Zambo

Well-Known Member
#20
what seems to be more popular for coms? vox or push to talk? trying to figure out what to run in the bug and not sure.
It think you're confusing two different things. Vox is a voice activated switch. When you talk loud enough, it opens the mic automatically...the advantage being that you aren't hearing static or sidetone when you're not talking. I don't know of too many intercoms that use a push to talk just for talking back and forth in the cockpit. The Push to Talk is for transmitting on the radio.

Vox is nice if you have a quiet car like a prerunner that gets driven down the highway, so you can have some quiet when not talking. For racing I pretty much want the mic open all the time, which you can do simply by opening up the vox squelch all the way. The downside to most vox intercoms as compared to a race intercom is that they usually only have one volume knob for both racers, whereas a race setup lets each occupant adjust the volume separately. Especially handy when one guy's helmet kit is louder than the other guy's, or if one guy is wearing earbuds while the other guy isn't....that sort of thing.
 
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