Halley - '17 WK2 Trailhawk Overland Build

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
Got some new toys for the WK2 over Christmas... the weather lately in Boston has been frigid but installation should be happening soon.

This is the Kenwood D-710G dual-bander with GPS/APRS and a buttload of other features. I chose the Diamond NR72B antenna for aesthetics and function, it's 14" tall and 1/4 wave. This is my first installed mobile rig so it may not be the world's best gear matching (mainly talking about the antenna) but the height was appealing and the range should still be suitable. Diamond shows 2.15dB gain on both 2m and 70cm. The mount is the ever-popular Diamond K400NMO with multi-axis tilting, and this will get mounted on the hood as there aren't many other places on the WK2 where there's enough folded metal to allow for a mount.

More to come, but here's a kitchen-counter teaser shot.



Kenwood D-710G Dual-Band Rig by 2180miles
 
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Got some new toys for the WK2 over Christmas... the weather lately in Boston has been frigid but installation should be happening soon.

This is the Kenwood D-710G dual-bander with GPS/APRS and a buttload of other features. I chose the Diamond NR72B antenna for aesthetics and function, it's 14" tall and 1/4 wave. This is my first installed mobile rig so it may not be the world's best gear matching (mainly talking about the antenna) but the height was appealing and the range should still be suitable. Diamond shows 2.15dB gain on both 2m and 70cm. The mount is the ever-popular Diamond K400NMO with multi-axis tilting, and this will get mounted on the hood as there aren't many other places on the WK2 where there's enough folded metal to allow for a mount.

More to come, but here's a kitchen-counter teaser shot.



Kenwood D-710G Dual-Band Rig by 2180miles
What do you do with the HAM radio? Entertainment? I am a bit fascinated with them, but I have no idea what I would use one for....
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
What do you do with the HAM radio? Entertainment? I am a bit fascinated with them, but I have no idea what I would use one for....
Easy question to answer... I was in your same shoes a year ago. Ham radio, or amateur radio, is basically walkie-talkies on steroids. The general idea of amateur radio is for users to communicate locally, regionally, globally, and even into space with radios in their homes, cars, and hands. There's a lot of weight behind the idea that in the event of a global or regional catastrophic problem (i.e. power grid failure, or something like an "apocalyptic" scenario) Ham radio will be the only way to communicate when cell towers and internet are down. A mobile unit like the Kenwood pictured above will broadcast up to 50w, where a handheld unit will broadcast around 5w. With these you can either broadcast "Simplex" or radio to radio, or using a "Repeater" which is basically a big antenna that takes smaller signals and rebroadcasts them at much higher wattages for much further ranges. For example, a repeater between us allows me to use my 5w handheld radio to talk to a friend 20 miles away... using Simplex, we may only get 3-4 miles. With a 50w rig I can hit a repeater MUCH further away and the power of that repeater would be able to broadcast me even further. In the end, instead of hitting 9 sq. miles, I could potentially hit 400 sq. miles thanks to the repeater (depending on its power).

In overlanding, this allows two things. Primarily, the comms clarity is INFINITELY better than CB radio and walkie-talkies from Target. CBs are really crappy, but unfortunately the majority of the off-road parties use them still as they're easy to install. The issue is that most people don't tune antennas, and it's impossible to ensure each person has done a good job installing the unit and making it grounded appropriately for best level of functionality. The second thing it allows is a much larger range of communications. If I'm in the Rockies, instead of my CB hitting someone a mile away line of sight, I could hypothetically communicate to the other side of a distant mountain range, if there were a local repeater. Even Simplex would allow me to reach a further vehicle than CB.

The downside, and the reason a lot of people don't jump into Ham, is that there's levels of testing and licensing required. I have my Technician license, the lowest on the 3-tier totem pole, and have been given the call sign "KC1HTW" by the FCC. The test isn't difficult, it's 35 questions from a ~450 question pool. The radios are a bit more expensive, but their abilities far surpass other more easily attainable modes of off-grid communication. One of the best features of this specific radio I have to install is the APRS feature, which basically allows the radio to communicate with digital repeaters and convey my call sign (assigned/programmed into the unit) back to multiple sources. One of those is a website, aprs.fi, where you can track call signs... I can also use the radio and these digital repeaters to send text and e-mails if necessary. This gives peace of mind to my girlfriend if I'm out of cell range for days on end, and is a great redundancy to the SOS abilities of my SPOT GPS - www.findmespot.com - which is nice. I live by the theory of two is one and one is none. (or, in digital media, "it doesn't exist until it exists three times").

I'm by no means an amateur radio pro, so these answers are my own opinions from my own experiences, but hopefully that will give you an idea.

There's also a massive network of amateur operators throughout the U.S. - just shy of a million, if I remember correctly - so you can usually find active repeater channels anywhere in the US and hear people chatting away about different subjects. I have friends who are a part of their local RACES, or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services team, and have training in communicating on Ham radio during emergencies to help authorities.

Anyway, that's my $0.02 on the subject! This Kenwood unit is going in the WK2 to improve the functionality of my radio comms set-ups, and to replace the handheld units I have been using this year, allowing them to become free to throw into my bug-out bag and to keep as spares in the Jeep's electronics Pelican kit.
 
Easy question to answer... I was in your same shoes a year ago. Ham radio, or amateur radio, is basically walkie-talkies on steroids. The general idea of amateur radio is for users to communicate locally, regionally, globally, and even into space with radios in their homes, cars, and hands. There's a lot of weight behind the idea that in the event of a global or regional catastrophic problem (i.e. power grid failure, or something like an "apocalyptic" scenario) Ham radio will be the only way to communicate when cell towers and internet are down. A mobile unit like the Kenwood pictured above will broadcast up to 50w, where a handheld unit will broadcast around 5w. With these you can either broadcast "Simplex" or radio to radio, or using a "Repeater" which is basically a big antenna that takes smaller signals and rebroadcasts them at much higher wattages for much further ranges. For example, a repeater between us allows me to use my 5w handheld radio to talk to a friend 20 miles away... using Simplex, we may only get 3-4 miles. With a 50w rig I can hit a repeater MUCH further away and the power of that repeater would be able to broadcast me even further. In the end, instead of hitting 9 sq. miles, I could potentially hit 400 sq. miles thanks to the repeater (depending on its power).

In overlanding, this allows two things. Primarily, the comms clarity is INFINITELY better than CB radio and walkie-talkies from Target. CBs are really crappy, but unfortunately the majority of the off-road parties use them still as they're easy to install. The issue is that most people don't tune antennas, and it's impossible to ensure each person has done a good job installing the unit and making it grounded appropriately for best level of functionality. The second thing it allows is a much larger range of communications. If I'm in the Rockies, instead of my CB hitting someone a mile away line of sight, I could hypothetically communicate to the other side of a distant mountain range, if there were a local repeater. Even Simplex would allow me to reach a further vehicle than CB.

The downside, and the reason a lot of people don't jump into Ham, is that there's levels of testing and licensing required. I have my Technician license, the lowest on the 3-tier totem pole, and have been given the call sign "KC1HTW" by the FCC. The test isn't difficult, it's 35 questions from a ~450 question pool. The radios are a bit more expensive, but their abilities far surpass other more easily attainable modes of off-grid communication. One of the best features of this specific radio I have to install is the APRS feature, which basically allows the radio to communicate with digital repeaters and convey my call sign (assigned/programmed into the unit) back to multiple sources. One of those is a website, aprs.fi, where you can track call signs... I can also use the radio and these digital repeaters to send text and e-mails if necessary. This gives peace of mind to my girlfriend if I'm out of cell range for days on end, and is a great redundancy to the SOS abilities of my SPOT GPS - www.findmespot.com - which is nice. I live by the theory of two is one and one is none. (or, in digital media, "it doesn't exist until it exists three times").

I'm by no means an amateur radio pro, so these answers are my own opinions from my own experiences, but hopefully that will give you an idea.

There's also a massive network of amateur operators throughout the U.S. - just shy of a million, if I remember correctly - so you can usually find active repeater channels anywhere in the US and hear people chatting away about different subjects. I have friends who are a part of their local RACES, or Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services team, and have training in communicating on Ham radio during emergencies to help authorities.

Anyway, that's my $0.02 on the subject! This Kenwood unit is going in the WK2 to improve the functionality of my radio comms set-ups, and to replace the handheld units I have been using this year, allowing them to become free to throw into my bug-out bag and to keep as spares in the Jeep's electronics Pelican kit.
Thanks, I went with sat based communication devices instead...
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
Thanks, I went with sat based communication devices instead...
There are a lot of situations in which that makes sense (IMHO, communicating with home and emergency services) but do you have a plan for on-trail comms if you're wheeling in the backcountry with a convoy? Aka a more car to car comms system? This is primarily where CB and amateur (and GMRS/FRS walkies) come in.
 
There are a lot of situations in which that makes sense (IMHO, communicating with home and emergency services) but do you have a plan for on-trail comms if you're wheeling in the backcountry with a convoy? Aka a more car to car comms system? This is primarily where CB and amateur (and GMRS/FRS walkies) come in.
I have used handheld walk-in talkie for truck to truck... lightweight, easy, no testing or gov license needed, very simple.... if I were in a convoy, which is incredibly rare event for me, I would always be less than a mile... line of sight...

I have had 2 vehicles with built in ham radios, when it came time for convoy comms, I used the handheld Motorola walk-in talkie...
 
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2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
I have used handheld walk-in talkie for truck to truck... lightweight, easy, no testing or gov license needed, very simple.... if I were in a convoy, which is incredibly rare event for me, I would always be less than a mile... line of sight...

I have had 2 vehicles with built in ham radios, when it came time for convoy comms, I used the handheld Motorola walk-in talkie...
Copy that. You're lucky to roll with people that stay less than a mile and in line of sight! The group I usually do excursions with will often end up a few miles apart at different points whether I'm stopping to fly the drone for a minute, a photographer is stopping to take a shot or two, or any other misc. reason. The CBs have been an issue for us in the past with different terrain limiting their range, so we're slowly making the push for our group (usually 7-8 vehicles) to move to amateur bands.

Different strokes, obviously. Glad to hear you have a lightweight system that works for you!
 
Copy that. You're lucky to roll with people that stay less than a mile and in line of sight! The group I usually do excursions with will often end up a few miles apart at different points whether I'm stopping to fly the drone for a minute, a photographer is stopping to take a shot or two, or any other misc. reason. The CBs have been an issue for us in the past with different terrain limiting their range, so we're slowly making the push for our group (usually 7-8 vehicles) to move to amateur bands.

Different strokes, obviously. Glad to hear you have a lightweight system that works for you!

If I had a group that committed to better equipment, I would do the same and you have... for sure....that's awesome... and when you a are sick of chatter, you can always claim no signal present... doh!....my sat gear is really for emergency comms... and like my overpriced health insurance, I hope I never use it
 
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The group I wheel with has almost gone 100% 2-meter radio

It works out so much better if the group needs to spit up or someone runs around to scout out a branch in the trail and the quality is worth it alone. CB I was always getting annoyed at it buzzing or just randomly pickly up odd signals. The 2-meters sound like a cell phone and they have excellent handhelds these days. The only downfall is needing a license.
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
Diamond K400NMO Mount & NR72B Antenna Installation


The weather in Boston has been pretty freakin' cold lately, but I finally got a break from the single digit/sub-zero temps and began the installation of my Diamond K400 mount and NR72B antenna in the WK2. Full disclosure, the photos were taken on two different days: first when the Jeep was a mess from the blizzard that had just passed, and the other after a few hours of interior and exterior detailing. Please forgive the dirty ones.

I chose the K400 mount for a hood installation as I'm not quite ready to drill into the roof, and I'm also hoping to get a RTT up there for this year, which would probably negate the ability to have a roof mounted antenna anyway. The hood may not be the single most optimal position for the antenna as far as gain and interference go, but it's clean and will be functional nonetheless. The K400 mount was recommended by a friend and allows for an unobtrusive installation wherever there's a crease in the body panels of a vehicle. It has two adjustable axis which allow to get the antenna vertical regardless of the mounting plane you put it on.

The mount comes with the necessary tools for installation, and is padded on the bottom to protect your vehicle's paint. With four simple allen key'd set-screws underneath that press a stainless steel metal bar against the underside of the mounting location, the bracket becomes secured in place. It took me a few test fittings to get the antenna perfectly vertical from all planes, but once it was aligned correctly I tightened down the adjustable axis allen heads and mounted the Diamond NR72B antenna. Standing only 14" tall, it's sleek on the hood and isn't overly obnoxious for my field of view while driving. This will be perfect for everyday use, and I'll test it on overland trips with the group... It has crossed my mind to maybe get a full 36" antenna as well for long haul trips, much in the same way I have a 3' and 5' CB on my Wrangler for when we're on trips that might separate us more. (There's no mobile dual-band radio in the TJ, just handheld)



K400 NMO Mount by 2180miles


K400 NMO Mount by 2180miles


Once the antenna was mounted, I moved on to routing the supplied 13-foot coax line that came with the K400 bracket. Being spoiled by the Warn Zeon Platinum's Wi-Fi remote, I've never actually had to run cable through the firewall of the Trailhawk, so this was going to be a new adventure for me. I did some Google research and read about grommets above the gas and brake pedals, but wasn't able to locate them on this specific model. My hope was for passenger side installation, so I continued digging until I found an article referencing a grommet on the A-Pillar, passenger side of the vehicle. I pulled the necessary internal trim pieces, door sill and the kick plate on the right side of the foot-well, and located the grommet the forum was talking about. I began snaking the tiny coax through the engine bay, down behind the passenger front strut tower, through the wheel well trim, and down into the rocker panel trim piece. I then fed it up a tiny gap in the rocker trim up by the fender flare, and pulled the remaining slack through. This was no easy process, and I was constantly wishing for warmer weather, and to not be lying on the snow covered ground on my back running the cable underneath.

Once the cable was ready, I popped the A-Pillar grommet out of its position and drilled a small hole in it, solely large enough for the cable to get through, which required some good pressure on the tiny SMA adapter at the end to get it through the hole. Once the cable was passed through the grommet I used a coat hanger to puncture a small hole in the vehicle's insulation that was stuffed in the A-Pillar, then taped the SMA adapter to the coat hanger and pulled it back through into the cabin. I ran the coax underneath the door sill trim piece and then under the passenger seat mounting bracket, arriving at the same spot at the CB coax, directly above the battery compartment.



Engine Bay Routing by 2180miles


Routing Through Insulation by 2180miles


Pulling Coax by 2180miles


Door Sill Routing by 2180miles


Exterior Grommet Re-Installed by 2180miles


A-Pillar Grommet by 2180miles



I put all the trim pieces back together, ensuring the coax was not pinched or stressed as the hood opened and closed, and set to work with moving around the comms system in the cabin. While I don't love the idea of having two transceiver mics in such a small amount of space, I'll be retaining the CB for when we do our local Jeep club runs, and the dual-band for overland trips with my more tight-knit group. I used 3M's "super heavy duty could probably hold up an elephant in an earthquake" double stick tape, and mounted a black plastic mic holder to the dashboard not far from the original mounting position. the Kenwood mic then fit into the original mic mount I made for the CB almost a year ago. It looks okay. It's fine. Dani said there's no loss to the passenger legroom, so we'll run it like this for now until I come up with something better.

In the next few days I'll get the base unit of the Kenwood installed, and then will finalize all the interior routing of cable. For now I used the 50 degree temps to detail the car and put her back in the garage to take a little vacation time.





Diamond K400/NR72B Installation by 2180miles


Dual-Band & CB Radios by 2180miles


Cabin Comms & Navigation by 2180miles
 
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2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
When we left off, I had just finished installing the antenna, coax cable, and transceiver mic into the Trailhawk. Next up on the project to-do list was the installation of the Kenwood D-710G transceiver itself, as well as the head unit. After seeing a plethora of installs in WK2 Grand Cherokees with the head unit stored inside the center console cubby (i.e. where the USB charger, 12v plug, and aux input are), I decided I wanted mine to not be as hidden, and also to not be blocking anything useful like the things I listed above.

After some searching on Amazon I discovered the MagicMount universal phone mount. It's small and magnetic, with an exceptionally strong pull for whatever is mounted to it. I decided that I'd figure out a way to mount the 710 remote head to the Magic Mount and place it on the left side of the dashboard by the driver's A-pillar in the cabin. I used the supplied Kenwood remote mount, took my Dremel cut-off wheel to the two mounting/screw tabs, and made it flush across the back for the magnet portion of the mount to adhere to. I re-painted it and attached it to the Kenwood before moving on to installing the MagicMount. Sticking the mount to the dash after cleaning the area with an alcohol, I applied pressure for 60 seconds or so before letting it “cure” overnight. Once that had settled I magnetically attached the D-710G head unit and it's been holding without issue ever since.



Trimming Kenwood Bracket by 2180miles


Kenwood Bracket - Repainted by 2180miles


MagicMount Universal Mount by 2180miles


With the remote head in place I then had to connect it to the transceiver with the supplied Ethernet/Cat-6 cable. My initial hope had been to run it under the door sill trim on the driver's side, but the presence of the 6-strand cable for the auxiliary lighting switches made it too difficult to run both wires back under the front seats neatly. Slightly disappointed, I began brainstorming other solutions.

Always hoping for a clean, factory-looking install I removed the A-pillar panel from the dash, the kick trim from the driver's foot-well, and the carpet trim above the brake and gas pedals. I ran the Cat-6 from the top of the A-pillar down to just below the dash trim, then over the foot-well region, following along the tranny tunnel, pushing it ever so slightly up under the trim until I had worked my way back past the driver's seat to the backseat of the Jeep, following along the console in the back and returning it to underneath the passenger seat where the transceiver will live for now. To better illustrate this cable path for anyone interested in following it, I've used a dotted red line on the images below to give you a better idea.



Left Trim Panel Removed by 2180miles


Footwell & Console Routing by 2180miles


Rear Console Routing by 2180miles


Kenwood D-710G Velcro Mounting by 2180miles


Kenwood D-710G Install Position by 2180miles



To facilitate the easy removal of the Kenwood base unit if ever need be, I used industrial strength Velcro (or hook-and-loop depending on where you're from in the world) on the top of the battery compartment tray. The passenger seat has a ton of flexibility with positioning and only comes into contact with the transceiver if it's all the way down in position… luckily my co-pilot isn't the tallest girl around so there shouldn't be any issues squishing it.

The wiring situation isn't immaculate right now so I do not have any images of the battery compartment, but I will be cleaning that up soon and ideally circumventing the potential for even messier wiring by moving to a dual-battery set-up if a few more cards fall into place over the next few months.
I used some YouTube videos for help with setting up the basic functions of the radio, and after some trial and error got the APRS set up appropriately. Within an hour I was able to see the GPS location of the Jeep on www.aprs.fi - a great trick that will be very handy in areas with no cell service throughout the continent.

Final install photos of the radio in the main cabin... it's well out of the way of my line of sight while driving, and despite most of the functions being able to be recalled with the mic head, I can easily access the buttons on the head unit if need be.




Kenwood D-710G Head-Unit by 2180miles


Kenwood D-710G Head-Unit Cabin Install by 2180miles