Workman Magnetic Mobile Antenna (KRDB) – Fix the Problem

note: originally published in May 2016

I wrote an article reviewing the model KRDB Workman Magnetic Mobile Antenna on 8/24/2020 (yesterday). In the article I mentioned two things –

  • Crappy antenna and DO NOT BUY IT!
  • A piece of plastic had broken and exposed the antenna wire and the internal base of the mount.

 

 

This article is going to show you –

  • How to fix the problem if you have one of these antennas.
  • How to reinforce the base if your antenna hasn’t broken yet.

Let’s review the problem…

The piece that broke off on all 3 of the antennas is almost exactly the same.

The problem comes from –

  1. Extremely poor quality plastic.
  2. Extremely poor base design.
  3. Antenna wire moving around and stressing the plastic.

So I figure to fix the problem where it already exists I have to –

  1. Fill in the hole that exposes the internals of the base.
  2. Cover the exposed antenna wire.
  3. Stabilize the wire.

Enter Liquid Electrical Tape!  Take a minute and read these two articles, they are short and will only take a minute –

  • TIP: Liquid Tape is great stuff!
  • TIP: Performix Liquid Tape

So, I figure the best way to solve all three of the problems is to use liquid tape.

I forced liquid tape into the base of the antenna and then put a small amount over the exposed antenna wire.

Once the first application was dry, I added another layer of liquid tape.

And then another layer of liquid tape.

Now, you probably don’t own the Workman antenna if you are one of my regular website visitors. But, I wanted to show you the “fix” anyways. I also want to give you general ideas on how to fix things, whatever it is. When emergencies, disasters, or grid-down hits you need to be able to fix just about anything, or know someone who can. You need to be able to analyze what the problem is and then make whatever is broken work again.

Remember…liquid tape is your friend!

Related Articles –
  • Workman Magnetic Mobile Antenna (KRDB) review
  • TIP: Liquid Tape is great stuff!
  • TIP : Performix Liquid Tape

 

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Workman Magnetic Mobile Antenna (KRDB)

I originally purchased several of these back in 2013 based on some good reviews that the antenna had gotten. When I first started to use it I thought it looked a little “boxy” and “put together with parts” vs. “designed and built.” But, I thought I would give it a try. Oooppppssss…

Now you're talking!

Now you’re talking!

About a year ago I noticed that one of the units had a broken piece of plastic on the base. I thought I might have damaged it in some way. I knew it wasn’t due to exposure to the elements because it has been stored for use when needed. That need hasn’t developed yet. I was disappointed to be sure and I set the antenna aside to work on it at some later date.

Today I went to do some antenna testing of the Baofeng UV-5RA radio vs. the Baofeng UV-5RMHP radio. I got a variety of antennas to compare SWR and power to see which radio was more efficient. When I retrieved the magnetic mount Workman KRDB antenna I saw that it had a broken piece no the base as well. I got the original Workman, and sure enough, the Antenna Workman mobile antennabroken pieces matched each other. I had one more of the Workman antennas and it too had the same broken piece.

This antenna is made by Electronic Products, Inc.. The company is listed as being located in Delta, Ohio but the antenna is made in China. Yeah, big surprise there!

Now that shows a clear design and engineering flaw as well as very poor quality materials. So now I have to look for a way to not lose my $105.00 worth of antennas. I am working on a “fix” and will keep you posted.

Piece of the base breaks off to expose the entire insides of the base.

Piece of the base breaks off to expose the entire insides of the base.

Based on just the design, engineering, quality of materials, and the fact that 3 out of 3 have broken…yeah, no doubt about it.

The piece that broke off on all 3 of the antennas is almost exactly the same.

The piece that broke off on all 3 of the antennas is almost exactly the same.

“Do Not Buy!”

Thumbs Down ReviewNote: I will provide the “fix” article tomorrow.

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

TIP: Time for a change…

First off…I apologize for the quality of the photos…they suck! I got in a hurry and didn’t verify them when I took them, I just assumed they were in focus, etc.

So now the meat of this tip…Oil Changes!

It was time for me to do a little preventive maintenance (PM) on my two Champion generators. One is my Champion 120v, 4000 watt (PSW), inverter generator, the other is a Champion 3500 watt (MSW), dual fuel generator. Both have the same engine. Yeah, amazing how that worked out…same motor on both…almost like I planned it 😉

In this case the PM was oil change, air filter cleaning, and spark arrestor check. So here are my steps on how I go about it…

1) I get the generator well off the ground to a comfortable working height and to make it easier to get to and oil drain pan underneath.

Sub-tips:

    1. Notice the dump cart in the background. I use that to transport the well house generator to my mini-barn/shop. The cart tilts to ground level, I roll the generator onto the cart, tilt the cart bed back to its upright position and haul the cart with my UTV. My solar system stand-by generator is on a 4-wheeled cart that I simply hook up to and pull with the UTV. Yeah, I mounted it on its own cart to assist in moving it around the construction site while I was building the house. I also left it on the cart to make it easy to move around the property with the UTV should I need the power somewhere more remote. I can also more easily use it at other locations in my community should the emergency need arise.
    2. Don’t buy some expensive oil drain pan! I use a Walmart plastic storage bin that cost me about $2. It came with a lid so I can close up the drain pan till I am ready to dump the oil.
    3. To get my wheeled generator off the ground high enough I simply pulled it up on my car ramps.
    4. And what you don’t see in the picture is my mechanic’s stool. An adjustable stool, on casters, with a tool tray around the base. That gives me a nice comfortable working height…sitting down. And a place to keep my tools off the floor of my shop which happens to be cinders.

2) To make my efforts more efficient I actually work on changing the oil and cleaning the air filter at the same time. I use a stiff brush to clean around the drain plug, then I remove the drain plug to drain the oil, and remove the oil dip stick to make the draining easier. Then I remove the air filter and take it to the house to clean it. There are some air filter cleaners out there but they are a little pricey. I simply use hot water, a little dish soap, and clean it like I would a shop rag. After I have rinsed it thoroughly I use dry paper towels to wrap it in and squeeze until the paper towels are no longer damp. Then I sit the air filter out in the sun to finish drying. You must get the air filter completely dry! While I have been cleaning the air filter the oil has drained completely.

Sub-tips:

    1. When I remove the dip stick I place it on a clean paper towel to make sure it stays dirt/grit free. And it has a nice absorbent surface to drain on.

3) I make sure the air filter cover is clean on the inside as well as the air filter housing that is connected to the engine. If needed, I use WD-40 to clean off any grime. Before I put the air filter back into the housing I use PJ1 on the foam filter to assist in catching/trapping any dirt/grit/sand/dust from getting through the filter.

4) Time for putting in the nice clean oil! Yeah, don’t forget to put the drain plug back in. And really don’t forget to ensure that if there is a crush washer that it goes back on.

Sub-tips:

    1. I use only fully synthetic oil when I do oil changes. Yes, I use manufacturer recommended oil for the break-in period…then fully synthetic after that. And yes, I use a slightly heavier oil in our hot summers and a slightly lighter weight oil during the winter. And yes, I buy my oil in gallon jugs or larger…cheaper.
    2. Make sure you have a long-neck funnel on hand to assist in pouring the oil back into the motor. Champion generators come with a funnel…nice touch! Also, notice the Ziplock bag in the picture? Yeah, I store my funnel in it. It keeps any dirt/grit from getting on it. I also put a couple of paper towels in the bottom to absorb any leftover oil when I put the funnel in the bag.
    3. When adding the oil I use the drip stick to check the quantity of oil to add. To check the oil level correctly you have to screw the oil dip stick all the way in. But, I am inpatient. I simply put the dip stick in until it hits the mouth of the oil fill inlet, I don’t screw it in. When the oil reaches about the halfway full mark it is close enough. Then I screw it in to do a final level check.

5) The final step in my PM in checking the spark arrestor screen and cleaning it if needed.

Note: A buddy of mine saw a used generator deeply discounted at a “big-box store” that appeared to be fairly new. The tag said it would not start or run. He looked at the spark arrestor screen…he immediately purchased the generator. He got it home, took the spark arrestor screen off and cleaned it really well. He checked the air filter…fine. He checked the spark plug…fine. Checked to make sure the gas wasn’t foul…fine. It started right up.

Sub-tips:

    1. You can run the generator without the spark arrestor screen. But, check the warranty, it may void it, and it won’t be approved for use on public lands…or in California.
    2. If you are in California…move.

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Baofeng Antenna SWR testing results…

Antenna SWR testing SWRnote: article first appeared in December 2015

I have been testing a number of antennas over the last couple of years. The stubby antenna that comes with the radio is sturdy enough but reduces the overall range of receiving and transmissions. Additionally, there is also one more negative side effect, clarity. The antenna just doesn’t give you good clarity on the reception side. I didn’t really notice the difference until I used the Elite 14.5″ antenna. The improved clarity of reception was more than just noticeable…it was really clear.

However, I wanted to give some hardcore data on the different antennas that I tested. Some of the antennas that I have been testing I haven’t even posted a review yet. But not to worry, the review is coming. I did want to get the data out there just to show how versatile the Baofeng UV-5RA radio really was.

SWR meterThe objective of this article was to identify the best antenna(s) for the Baofeng UV-5RA radio.

My testing was simple…What was the SWR reading with each antenna. But let’s review what SWR is just in case you aren’t clear.

First, SWR means Standing Wave Ratio. When your radio transmits it sends the signal from the radio out to the antenna. When the signal, for whatever reason, reverses and heads back to the radio it reduces your ability to transmit. The reasons that the signal will reverse is normally due to discontinuity or impedance mismatch. When your signal reverses, your signal will not transmit as far. Another way to say it, you are losing transmission power when the signal reverses. The more power you lose, the shorter your transmission distance. The key is keeping that reversal as low as possible.

A low SWR refers to a large forward RF signal and a small reversal of that signal. Very little of your signal is being reflected back at your radio. SWR Example – Low: 1:1

A high SWR refers to a large amount of your signal is being reflected back at your radio. A large part, maybe most, of your signal is reversing. SWR Example – High: 9:1

SWR antenna readings chartSWR chart keyNow, as if it weren’t already complicated enough, SWR readings can be different based on the frequency being used. So, what I did was to identify the most commonly used frequency ranges for my operations and then test the SWR. Knowing full well that SWR readings may vary if I switch out of those commonly used frequency ranges. That’s OK, not everything can be perfect…especially in the Ham world.

A final note for Ham operators already understand SWR readings. I am testing the SWR performance on a handi-talkie (handheld) radio. I use a 12″ adapter cable from the radio to the SWR meter. Then another 12″ lead from the meter to the antenna. I don’t think I am losing anything along the cables since they are brand new.

Back to the SWR results…

Boafeng UV-5RA antenna SWR resultsThe bottom line…All the antennas tested showed SWR meter readings that are just fine, some actually very good. Something that really did catch my attention was the results of the larger vehicle antennas, they all showed great results. The Aweek UV108 antenna makes me think this would be a good antenna for inside an apartment or other area where you wanted a low profile.

Here is a picture and link for each antenna. Some will have reviews that I have done as well.

Aweek Nagoya NA733Antenna Aweek NA-773 baofeng uv-5r

Band: Dual band VHF/UHF, Antenna type: Soft Antenna, Frequency: 144/430MHz, Gain: 2.15dB/3.0db, Max power rating: 10W, V.S.W.R: less than 1.5, Impedance: 50ohm, Connector: SMA-F (Female), Polarization: Vertical, Radiation: Omni, Length: 4″ – 15.5″

Amazon-Antenna-AweekNA773

ExpertPpower XP771 EliteExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna (144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F) Boafeng UV-5R

Impedance: 50 Ohm, VSWR: less than 1.5, Radiation: Omni, Polarization: Vertical, Maximum Power Input Watts: 50W, Height: 14.4″

Amazon-ExpertPowerEliteAntenna< click here to read the review >

Aweek Speak/Mic/AntennaAntenna-Aweek Speaker Mic Antenna

Speaker Mic with Dual band 7.5″ antenna (VHF / UHF: 136-174Mhz & 400-520MHz)

Amazon - Antenna - Aweek Spkr Mic Ant

Antenna - Aweek UV108 baofeng uv-5raAweek UV108

144/430Mhz dual band, high gain antenna with 30′ of cable

Amazon-Antenna-Aweek UV108

 

Tram 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna Baofeng UV-5RTram 1185 Mag-Mount

 

19″ tall, dual band 144-148 / 440-450MHz, 2.5 dBd gain on UHF, 0 dBd gain VHF

Amazon Tram1185 Antenna< click here to read the review >

Antenna-Tram1600Tram 1600 Marine

Base-loading coil, 38″ stainless steel whip, GAIN: 6 dB

Amazon - Antenna - Tram 1600

Browning BR-180 Amateur Dual-Band Mobile AntennaBrowning 180

37-Inch tall, 144-148 MHz/430-450 MHz, 3dB gain VHF, 6 dB gain UHF, center load, max power 100 Watts.

Amazon - Antenna - Browning 180 antenna

Bottom line to all of this information is there for you to pick the antenna to accomplish the mission – your mission. You wouldn’t buy a Browning 180 to carry on your person while patrolling. But, you might want the Aweek speaker mic antenna combo if you needed to keep the radio under your poncho but want the speaker/mic/antenna near your ear to make talking and listening easier. Identify the mission and then choose the equipment to best meet that mission.

 

 

2009 - 2020 Copyright © AHTrimble.com ~ All rights reserved
No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Baofeng UV-5RA : ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna for the Baofeng UV5 Radio

I am a huge Baofeng UV-5RA handheld radio fan! Yes, it is a Ham Radio, but it is also much, much more and I love the little radio. It is a dynamo! The radio is a great size, packed full of features, reliable, and more than anything else EXTREMELY affordable. You can read more about my review of the Baofeng UV-5R radio here < UV-5RA review >. This post is dedicated to the ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna Baofeng UV-5R antenna : ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna (144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F)(144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F).

The antenna that comes with the unit is the typical “stubby” but works just fine. It is solid, sturdy and will do the job. However, for the frequency ranges of the UV-5R radio I wanted an appropriate sized antenna for better overall operation (range of reception and transmission). To fit that requirement I chose the ExpertPower® 14.5″ Dual Band Two-way Radio Antenna SMA-Female.

The improved gain performance results are noteworthy for a little handheld: 2.15dBi (144-146 MHz), 3.5dBi (430-440 MHz).

This antenna is very sturdy and works as advertised. And for $8.55 at the time I originally purchased it, it is hard to beat. It will run you about $10 – $12 now up on Amazon. Search hard, you might find a better deal, especially for a “quantity” purchase or group buy.

I will only use the stubby antenna when the longer antenna would get in the way, or when I purposely want very short ranges. Yes, there are times when I would want to keep operational range to a minimum. Think OpSec (Operational Security). Some folks (purists) might correctly refer to that as ComSec (Communications Security).  But when the extra range is needed (reception and transmission) I will use the 14.5” antenna. Also, there is a marked improvement in the quality of reception at any range when using this longer antenna. I am not sure if it is the additional length or simply a better quality antenna, maybe both.

Some Tech Specs:

  • ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna (144/430Mhz U/V SMA-F) Boafeng UV-5RFrequency Range: 144-146, 430-440 MHz
  • VSWR: less than 1.5
  • Gain: 2.15dBi (144-146 MHz), 3.5dBi (430-440 MHz)
  • Maximum Power Input-watts: 50 W
  • Height: 14.4 inches
  • Connector: SMA-Female

 

Antenna Flaw –

There is an inherent flaw to this antenna. However, the flaw is not unique to this particular antenna, it is present in all of the 14.5″ antennas I researched. If you look at the picture to the right, see the red arrow? It points to the area Baofeng-UV5R-antenna4where the antenna itself (stick) goes into the antenna base. There is a very small gap around the antenna in that spot. OK, maybe “flaw” is a little excessive, but, there is a problem with all antennas like this that could turn into a larger problem down the line. But, not to worry…I have a fix for it. I will explain how to correct this problem and strengthen the antenna at the same time.

Le t me explain the problem first. If it were raining, rain could roll down the antenna and get into the antenna base and then make its way to the point where the antenna connects to the radio. The moisture itself could enter the radio or just collect in the base itself and eventually corrode the metal potentially causing a connection/operations problem.

But it is a relatively easy fix in my opinion. And there is a “bonus feature” when you are done with with very minor fix, a stronger antenna less prone to fail at that inherent weak point.

To implement the “fix” do the following…Performix Liquid Tape - Electrical

Step #1 – Go to your local hardware store and buy:

  • Performix Liquid Tape – Electrical
  • 1/2″ electrical shrink wrap, 3″ lengths are fine.shrink wrap for electrical wire
  • 5/8″ electrical shrink wrap, at least 3″ long but preferably 4″ – 5″ in length. Fastenall carries longer lengths of shrink wrap at very good prices.
  • Option, buy only 1/2″ electrical shrink wrap, but in 5″ lengths. This won’t work with a single piece of 5/8″ shrink wrap, it simply won’t shrink down enough.
  • If you don’t already own one, buy a long-handled Bic lighter.

Step #2 – With a toothpick apply a very small amount of liquid tape to the gap between the antenna “stick” and the antenna base. ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna for the Baofeng UV-5R(see the read arrow in the above picture pointing at that gap.) Use the toothpick to get the liquid tape AntennaFix2from the can and then use it to push a small amount of the liquid into the gap all the way around. You are not trying to fill up the gap all the way to the base. Just put enough to create a “gasket effect” in the gap.

 

Clean up the excess Liquid Tape off the antenna. Only worry about it being “reasonably” cleaned up. This will get covered up with shrink wrap and no one will see it when you’re done.

ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna for the Baofeng UV-5R

 

 

 

Now, put the antenna down and leave it alone for a day. This will allow it to dry completely. Don’t get impatient, allow it to thoroughly dry. And do yourself a favor…don’t set it where your dog or toddler will find it and chew it to pieces.

option #2

option #1

Step #3 –You now have two options, choose the one that fits the parts you have on-hand.

Option #1 : While you are waiting for the liquid tape to dry, get your shrink wrap out. Cut one piece of the 1/2″ shrink wrap to a length of 2″ – 2-1/2″. Leave the 5/8″ piece at least 3″ in length.

Option #2 : You will use a single piece of 1/2″ electrical shrink wrap that is 5″ – 6″ in length. You don’t need to do anything to prep this option.

 

 

 

 

Step #4 – You’ve allowed the liquid tape to dry for a day. You also have prepped your shrink wrap based on your “option” choice and you are ready to go. You kept the Bic lighter out of the hands of your 4-year old, so your house is still standing. You are now ready to put the shrink wrap on.

Step #5 – OPTION #1 :Take the 1/2″ piece of shrink wrap that you cut to 2″ – 2-1/2″ in length and slide it over the ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna for the Baofeng UV-5Rknob of the antenna. Move it all the way to the base of the antenna. Push it, and work it down, so the shrink wrap goes slightly over the expanding base of the antenna. Using the long handled Bic lighter heat the shrink wrap in-place and allow it to cool. DO NOT OVER HEAT THE SHRINK WRAP! If you do, you can damage the antenna. You want to heat the shrink wrap just enough to shrink it up solidly in contact with the base and the antenna stick itself, especially where the antenna enters the base.

Once the first piece of shrink wrap is cooled down take the longer 5/8″ piece of shrink wrap and ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5-Inch Dual Band Antenna for the Baofeng UV-5Rslide it over the antenna knob as well. When you get to the antenna base keep sliding the shrink wrap over the expanding base until it won’t go any further. It should slide on well past (or lower) than the first piece of shrink wrap that you put on. There are small ridges on the antenna base; you should be able to work the shrink wrap over the first ridge line (see the picture to the right).

You will now heat this piece of shrink wrap as well. But, you may have to hold the shrink wrap in-place with one hand to ensure that it stays as low on the antenna base as possible. Make sure it continues to cover the first piece of shrink wrap while you heat it.You want the double-layer of shrink wrap for bet protection.

Make sure you have a nice “snug” shrink against the antenna stick towards the top of the antenna. DO NOT OVER HEAT THE SHRINK WRAP! If you do, you can damage the antenna. You want to heat the shrink wrap just enough to shrink up solidly in contact with the base and antenna stick.

OPTION #2 : If you are using a single piece of 1/2″ electrical shrink wrap that is 4″ – 5″ in length, you will slide it over the knob of the antenna. Move it all the way to the base of the antenna. Push it, and work it down, so the shrink wrap goes as much over the over the expanding base of the antenna as possible. Using the long-handled Bic lighter heat the shrink wrap in-place and allow it to cool.

DO NOT OVER HEAT THE SHRINK WRAP! If you do, you can damage the antenna. You want to heat the shrink wrap just enough to shrink it up solidly in contact with the base and the antenna itself, especially where the antenna stick enters the base. Pay particular attention to “rolling” the shrink wrap onto the antenna stick to make a really good tight wrap. You don’t want gaps at the top where the shrink wrap ends on the antenna stick. Roll it around while it is hot to ensure it is in solid, gap-free, contact with the antenna stick. (see picture below) Yes, I roll it with my fingers, but it may be too hot for you. Use gloves if you need to.

Step #6 – If the end of the shrink wrap, opposite of the antenna base, still appears a little “loose” allow it to cool completely. Once it is cool, then try applying some more heat to it to finish the shrinking process. But remember DO NOT overheat the shrink wrap or antenna while doing this. I found after doing three antennas, that once the heat shrink is sufficiently heated and close to completely shrunk up against the antenna stick and base, that I roll in between my fingers tightly pressing it to the antenna stick. Yes, it is a little warm but not uncomfortable or painful. Disclaimer: Yes, its hot. So be careful not to burn yourself. Use gloves if you need to protect your fingers.

completed option #1 view

completed option #1 view

completed option 2 view

completed option #2 view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you have completed the “fix” you have a virtually waterproof antenna abse. And remember the “bonus” I spoke of? By adding this fix you also have a much stronger antenna that is far less likely to fail at the point where the antenna stick enters the antenna base. It is at that point where most antennas fail during their lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No reproduction or other use of this content 
without expressed written permission from AHTrimble.com
See Content Use Policy for more information.

Retevis Universal Rapid Charger

Retevis Universal Charger reviewnote: article first appeared in 2015.

You know me…I can’t ever leave well enough alone. And once again I am going to prove that to be true. But maybe, just maybe, it will be a good thing for you that I let my ADD/ADHD run rampant on this one. I think you will like what you read…if you have Boafeng radios.

Some time ago I told ya’ll that I have a radio cache for my church’s disaster response folks. I have eight radios in total plus two additional radios for leadership personnel for a total of ten radios. If you read the article you would know that each kit has its own charger base, a spare battery as well, plus an 12vDC adapter cable to use the charger base with any 12vDC power outlet. The idea was to make each radio kit a stand-alone kit that was capable of supporting its user independently of the other users…even in rather remote/primitive situations.

But, is that the best idea? Should that be the only idea? Did I sufficiently play out different scenarios that could affect that? Bottom line…is there a better option…or at least another option?

Sorry about that…too many questions to be sure. However, the more experience I gained with the radio cache and as the different scenarios came to light I had to re-evaluate my thinking.

Have you been in an airport lately? One of the things I’ve noticed are all the people congregating around electric power outlets. They have various brands and styles of phones plugged in wall power outlets along with laptops and tablets. They all want their power fix to keep their device up and running. Could there be a similar problem on the horizon with radios during emergencies, disasters, or grid-down? Of course. What if there were only two electric power outlets available but we needed to charge ten radios? What? The only answer could be take your turn!

So, a couple of months ago I was doing some general browsing of different kinds of power equipment for radios. Retevis Universal Charger charges baofeng radiosLow and behold I see this picture of the Retevis Universal charger. Bingo! I flashed back to my fire department days and remembered chargers that we had that could charge multiple radios at one time in one charger base. I loved the idea, poured over all the specs, read the reviews, read the questions that had been asked, and I thought this could be a real answer. As a bonus that I will write about in a couple of minutes, was the way this charger connected to its power supply. Many manufactures, especially from China, make their “widget” to run off of an electric power standard such as 13vDC (input). But, they will have that power requirement internal to the “widget” itself. The power supply can be something like 110vAC or 220vAC, and either power supply can be used with the “widget” because the power supply is a separate piece of equipment. When they put the “widget” in the box for shipping, if it goes to America they throw in the 110vAC power supply, if it is going to Europe then they throw in the 220vAC power supply. That saves the manufacturer from making two completely different “widgets” because of different power source availability, they simply make a different power supply unit for each geographic area.

Technical Specs –
  • Weight: 28.29oz(802g)
  • Dimension: 18.89 x 4.34 x 2.56inch(480 x 110 x 66mm)
  • AC/DC Adapter
  • Weight: 6.77oz/192g
  • Input: 100-240V~50/60Hz 0.8A
  • Output: 13.2V-3.0A
  • Input: 12vDC
  • Output(Li-lon 2xCells): 8.7V-500mA
  • Output(Ni-MH 6xCells): 9.4V-500mA
  • Output(Li-lon 1xCells): 4.2V-500mA
  • Heavy duty durable design of poly-carbonate plastic.
  • The charger can be hung on the wall to save space.
  • Capable of controlling the charging process to ensure high efficiency.
  • Securing the charging process with multiple protection solutions.
Retevis Universal Charger dimensionsRetevis Universal Charger charges radios and batteries
My Observations –

I was looking closely at the pictures in the ad. I noticed that the power supply had a label that read “Input: 110v” and “Output: 13.2v” and a thought struck me. I crossed my fingers and pressed “buy.”

RetevisMultiCharger-006aYeah, so here’s the deal…I didn’t have a problem that needed a solution. I was just looking around, saw a solution, and realized that I could have had a problem all along and it just hadn’t manifested itself up to that point. What I am trying to say is this…I don’t have a mission statement for this piece of equipment. I don’t because I didn’t have the problem that I had to develop a solution to “cure.” I just got really lucky and found the solution before I realized I had a problem.

I ordered one of these charger units, it was straight from China. It took about three weeks for it to arrive on my doorstep. No big deal, I was in no hurry, and there was no pressing need. I pulled this bad boy out of the box and was immediately impressed with it. It appeared to be a solid piece of equipment and I liked what I saw. Of course it was immediately time to plug this puppy in.RetevisMultiCharger-006

As I plugged in the power supply I looked at the bottom and sure enough there was that label, big as life, “Input 110vAC – Output 13.2vDC.” I was even more hopeful!

As a side note…I always plug in the power supply to the wall outlet, and then I plug in the power supply to the piece of equipment. Why in that particular order? One day a couple of years ago I plugged in a power supply (yes, from China) and it “popped” really loud and began to smoke. If the equipment had been plugged in at the time, I am sure I would have burned out not just the power supply but the equipment also. So, I try to ere on the side of caution…the power supply gets plugged in to the power source, then the equipment gets connected to the power supply. I don’t want any fried electronic gear if I can help it.

OK, I have the charger unit plugged in and I get out the trusty multi-meter and test the power supply’s output.

Power supply outputting the right voltage.

Power supply output voltage within the acceptable range for the charger unit

Then I tested each set of contacts in each of the charger ports. They test out at the right voltage range and within a couple of hundredths of a volt of each other. Perfect! Now I have a base line for comparison in my brilliant idea.

Charger ports testing out at the correct charging voltage.

Charger ports tested out at the correct charging voltage.

Next I hooked up a power cord to the vehicle power adapter of my portable power box. And it is showing virtually the same voltage as the AC->DC power supply that I just tested.

Power coming from my power box through the adapter cable is right on the money!

Power coming from my power box through the adapter cable is right on the money for the acceptable power range for the charger (13.27vDC). Less than 2/10ths of a volt difference.

And then came the testing to make sure that the charger ports were throwing the right voltage as well.

Using DC power directly from my power box showing the right voltage coming from the charging ports. Less than 4/100ths of a volt difference.

Using DC power directly from my power box showing the right voltage coming from the charging ports. Less than 4/100ths of a volt difference.

Now the acid test…

Bonus! –

As you can see I was able to use my portable power box to charge my radios using the Retevis Universal multi-charger unit. I wrote about my portable power box a while back. It is basically a 12vDC deep cycle 100Ah battery with various in/out ports and the ability to be charged through standard 110vAC power supply or charged via solar panels with a charge controller.

When I plugged the 12vDC power cable from the portable power box into the charger base. No smoke, no pop, no tripped circuit breakers…it was looking really good. All the lights on the charger base were on just like they were when I was running the charger base off regular house current.

So here is the bonus, maybe the best aspect of this charger, it works off of a 12vDC power source without any problems. Now, instead of having six 12vDC charger/adapter cables spider-webbed off my portable power box I can have a single charging station with a single cable handling all of it. That means you can run this charger unit off any vehicle’s cigarette lighter outlet. Sweet!

Charging batteries and radios from a 12vDC power source using the Retevis Universal Charger.

Charging batteries and radios from a 12vDC power source using the Retevis Universal Charger.

Summary –

If you are running multiple radios for your family, group, church, etc. you might want to take a serious look at the Retivis Universal Charger for Baofeng radios. This is a great solution for the right application. I love it!

Where to buy –

 

<click here to buy>

 

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RIGrunner 4005H Power Distribution Unit

note: article first appeared in May 2016

Sometimes you just stumble onto a great piece of equipment. Sometimes you do it completely unaware of you needing that piece of equipment. Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised at the quality of that piece of equipment.

“Yes!” to all three of those when it comes to the West Mountain RIGrunner 4005H.

Over the last year and a half I have been working a whole lot on some great power projects. Correction, sometimes they have been radio projects but those too needed power. Years ago I standardized on Anderson Powerpoles for connecting all things power when it came to my radios. It seemed that every mobile radio I purchased had a different way to connect to a power source. And as you know, I like standardization…a lot.

Why? Because it makes things more inter-operable. And that applies to MOLLE tactical vests and pouches or radio rigs and power supplies. The solution became obvious to me early on that Anderson Powerpoles made the most sense.

Especially considering it makes it virtually impossible to cross-polarize your power. I like “dummy-proof” systems!

Using Anderson Powerpoles gives me a solid connection every time and makes it clear when connecting positive to positive and negative to negative. Gone! Were the scrambling around to figure out how to connect this or that radio to this or that power? They all had Anderson Powerpoles and naturally connected effortlessly.

To generically distribute power in my Power-Box project I used a simple Powerwerx PD-4 unit. Any one set of the Anderson Powerpoles going in supplies the power, three sets distribute the power to whatever device needs it.

Two drawbacks –

  1. There are only three outlets for devices to hook to for a power supply.
  2. There are no fuses to protect the devices from any power problems.

The West Mountain RIGrunner 4005H solves that problem very easily and rather gracefully. Yeah, I just used the term “gracefully” when talking about electronics. But, I am serious, this sweet little unit just matches that terminology to me. It is simple, clean, effective, efficient, and looks great.

But, notice I have yet to state the mission? Almost criminal on my part based on my long-standing advocacy of always having a mission for any piece of gear or equipment. So here it is –

“A cost effective method of distributing fuse protect 12vDC power to a variety of electronic devices using standard Anderson Powerpoles.”

Once again, I did my background research pretty well. I looked at available options, their features, and reputation. It was clear from the get-go that the RIGrunner was the choice.

This is the second product I’ve purchased from West Mountain Radio. I purchased the PWRgate PG40S Auto-Switch previously so I had a good feel for the overall quality of West Mountain Radio products. West Mountain didn’t disappoint me.

Let’s look at some information directly from their website…

Manufacturer Description –

RIGrunner is the most convenient and safest way to connect all of your DC equipment to a power source. It uses the excellent Anderson Powerpole® connectors, standardizing all of your DC connections. This RIGrunner can deliver up to 40 amps total through 5 outlets and is available with side mounted Powerpole® connectors. Side mounted connectors enable horizontal mounting. Works equally well for 6V, 12V, 24V and 48V systems. Operates at 40 amp continuous duty with 5 outlets in operation. 

Specifications –

Overall Dimensions (maximum, w/o cables):  1.4″ H x 7″ W x 3.0″ D
Weight:                                                             6 3/4 oz.
Voltage:                                                            Positive up to 48 VDC
Maximum total current:                                    40 amps
Maximum single individual outlet current:        40 amps (fuse protected)

Construction

  1. Built in USA to IPC-610 commercial manufacturing standards by an ISO9002 facility.
  2. Printed circuit board .062 FR4 material, extra heavy 3oz. copper, with greater than 1″ wide high current traces.
  3. Double sided, plated through holes, solder mask over bare copper, silk screened commercial grade printed circuit board.
  4. Enclosure: .062 aluminum, with attractive and extremely durable powder coat painting and clear silk screen labels.
  5. Power connectors: exclusively Anderson Power Products®Powerpole®.
  6. Connectors are arranged according to the ARES/RACES standard (see our links).
  7. Fuses installed are standard ATC/ATO automotive fuses available in 10 values from 1 to 40 Amps.
  8. Stainless steel hardware with PEM™ threaded mounting standoffs.

So, since the real meat of this unit is on the inside…naturally I had to open it up.

This puppy was a clean and graceful on the inside as it was on the outside. But, let me give some details –

  1. The case is solid and of a sufficient weight/strength/thickness to protect the sides from damage under any reasonable conditions.
  2. Two screws hold the case in place and can be easily removed to access the inside.
  3. Once inside the first thing I noticed was the quality look to the board. By quality I mean the board was clean, obviously well made, and the solder was first rate.
  4. I started poking around at the various components and they were all tight and securely soldered to the board.
  5. The Anderson Powerpoles themselves were tight and solidly connected to the board.

And then I noticed this…

The folks at West Mountain put their actual call signs on the board to show who it was made by. Now, that may not be a big thing to you, but to me knowing that Hammers were behind the design and manufacture of this unit just gave me a sense that it was done right by people who know.

The unit was easy to put back together and gave me that quality “feel” once again. This unit is made for real-life field operations.

So, was there anything that could be better about this unit? You know…the “Cons” side of things. Yes, two –

  1. The unit is not weather proof, not even weather resistant. This unit must be installed where it is protected from the elements. Rain, dust, snow, etc. can relatively easily enter the case and reach the board. I suppose you could silicone seal around the blade fuses and the Anderson Powerpoles to make it almost weather tight. So that is something to take into consideration. However, my applications do not require “weather-proof” or “weather-resistant” ratings so this is no big deal to me.
  2. Let me show you how picky I can be. The power outlets are clearly marked “1” – “5” with no problem correlating the fuse to the outlet. But, then I noticed the “DCIN” label. I was not really paying attention and trying to figure out what “DCIN” meant. About a second later, and a darkening red face, I realized that was the DC power inlet fuse. Yeah, sorry, mini-bran fart on my part. So I would rather see “DC IN” vs. “DCIN” and yes, I know it is extremely picky.

Occasional Issue –

I never have experienced this myself but I did read where a couple of folks made the comment that on the rare occasion the Anderson Powerpoles separated from the unit. Not the ones mounted to the board, but the Powerpole (from the cable) plugged into the unit’s Powerpole seperated from the box connection. I tried like heck to get mine to separate by pulling on them and no success. OK, well that isn’t entirely true. They did separate but only as designed after apply considerable separating force to do so.

However, I wanted to make sure I included a “fix” just in case you might worry about that occurring in your set-up. So step-by-step…

Standard Anderson Powerpole connection example.

 

Used my punch and removed the roll pin from the connectors.

 

Got out one of my retention clips to stabilize and reinforce the connection.

 

The final product with the retention clip securely holding the connectors together.

Now, if you were still really worried about (i.e. obsessed) the connection, you could put a spot of Superglue on the retention clip. That would hold those puppies together through anything! Alternatively, you could wrap a piece of electrical tape around the retention clip a couple of times and that would hold the clip in-place as well. Problem (if there ever was one) solved!

Summary –

This is a great piece of equipment that functions flawlessly. On top of all that, it is solid, and will do the job for you. This product is an unquestioned

                          “BUY!”                              

< click here to go to West Moiuntain website RigRunner page >

 

Related Articles –

  1. Super PWRgate PG40S Auto-Switch

 

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PDF Files: Baofeng Radio Information

For you Baofeng UV-5 owners and users…here are some great information and user manuals/guides that I created.

The Baofeng radio is a great little radio and RT Systems programming software is the best. But, documentation…easy to read/understand documentation…is hard to come by. These might help.

 

AHTrimble – Baofeng UV-5RA RadioUserGuide – 1.31.2016

AHTrimble – Baofeng UV-5RA Radio QuickStart (New)

AHTrimble Baofeng UV-5RA General Radio Menu Settings

AH Trimble RT Systems Software – UV-5R User Guide (20160515)

Please feel free to use the form below to request a specific subject/topic to be converted into a PDF file.

Request a topic/subject…




 

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Pofung/Baofeng UV-6R Handheld Radio

note: article first appeared in March 2016

I love the Baofeng UV-5RA handheld Ham radio as you well know. I think it is just the most awesome prepper piece of gear that you can find…especially at that price of about $ 25 – $27 each. But, I have been on a long search to see if any other version of that radio is a better value or performs better than the UV-5RA. The BaofengUV-6R is the target of this review.

Just to make sure you are aware of the demands I place on a radio to be used in the world of emergency preparedness, here is the mission –

“Provide reliable radio communication in a variety of emergency, disaster, and grid-down situations at the individual level.”

 Restrictions & Requirements –

  • Must be easy to use.
  • Must be programmable.
  • Must be battery powered and batteries must be easily recharged.
  • Should be capable of UHF/VHF frequencies as well as FRS/GMRS/MURS frequencies.
  • Should be lightweight and easily concealed.

First Impressions –

It looked like a toy radio as soon as I took it out of the box. The flap that protects the accessory jack was loose and rather than protect the jacks…well, it would funnel water, dirt, and dust directly into the jacks. The yellow highlights on the radio furthered the impression that it was more of a “toy” than a real radio.

The keys are different shapes and not evenly spaced. The back-lighting started out to look like a nice feature till I realized that there a lot of white light coming from around each key. That would make you a sitting duck if you were trying to keep a low profile at night. The keys are poorly laid out, poorly labeled, and some keys are not even marked with any indication of what they do.

My opinion changed a little bit when I saw the nice big volume knob that you can easily grab hold of. The knob also has a seriously high-quality feel to it.

The battery is much larger than the battery on the UV-5RA battery, but only in size, not in capacity. Both are rated at 1800mAh. The battery installs easy enough and is just as easy to remove. A serious bad note though…I had no luck finding any replacement batteries or any longer life battery such as a 3800mAh battery option for the UV-5RA. That is itself is a deal killer!

The channel scan speed is slower than the UV-5RA and I can’t figure out any way to improve the scan speed.

I had no luck programming the radio. It doesn’t come with a programming cable and CHIRP users regularly complain that the software doesn’t work with the UV-6R. RT Systems does make a programming software version but I didn’t buy it just to test and review one radio that I already didn’t like. FYI…all of RT Systems software is the best out there…period!  But, I have read where there are quite a few users having problems with their computer actually not being able to communicate with the radio.

The antenna is the standard SMA connection and all UV5 compatible antennas fit the UV6 radio. That is a nice relief knowing all the antenna options that are available out there.

So, as of now what is my overall feeling about this radio? It sucks!

I got so frustrated trying to work with this radio I had to stop and go eat lunch. When I got back I tried to figure out why I was still reviewing the stupid thing when I already didn’t like it, it was poorly designed, hard to program, software problems, and the extremely poor jack protection. So why go on when I already know the radio just isn’t worth buying…or using?

This is huge step backwards for the Pofung/Baofeng line of radios!

So, am I giving the UV-6R a HUGE do not buy recommendation!!!!

Do not buy!

 

 

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Antenna stand and ground plane for the Baofeng UV-5RA

Browning BR-180 Amateur Dual-Band Mobile AntennaOne of the best Ham (can also handle GMRS, FRMS, MURS) radios on the market today is a Baofeng UV-5RA. It is without a doubt one of the best little Ham radios out there today. It is extremely compact, easy to use, and incredibly cost effective for any prepper, emergency response team, new Ham operator, etc. It just can’t be beat for its price and capability…and available acessories.

To improve its capabilities I purchased a Browning BR-180 Amateur Dual Band Mobile Antenna. I already have a NMO (New Motorola) mount on my truck’s roof. FYI – NMO is the defacto standard for professional vehicle antenna mounting. So, I have this really great handheld radio, a matching high quality antenna and no real way to use both in a ground-based application. Yes, I believe I am far more likely to use the radio away from my truck during times of need. So what antenna would I use?

The question is valid since the Browning BR-180 requires a ground plane that is provided by the TRAM 1465 Land Mobile Base Ground Plane Kittruck roof. A ground-based (not mounted on my truck) use would have no such metal roof as a ground plane. So I purchased a ground plane kit.

I bought the TRAM 1465 Land Mobile Base Ground Plane Kit. Cost was $32 through Amazon. The kit solved that issue but I was still undecided on how to set-up the antenna itself. So I went back to basics and defined the “mission” I was trying to accomplish.

Mission –

A highly portable and versatile dual-band antenna supporting my Baofeng UV-5RA operating in almost any environment.

TRAM 1465 Land Mobile Base Ground Plane KitThen it dawned on me, I already had a support structure for dual UHF/VHF antenna – a camera tripod.

I put an additional bend in the bracket, drilled the appropriate sized hole in the “foot” of the bracket, and then went to Lowe’s to buy a wingnut to match the threaded post on the camera tripod. The camera tripod has a hook in between TRAM 1465 Land Mobile Base Ground Plane Kitthe legs in the center that I can attach a weight to hold the tripod steady to the ground. Because the tripod is adjustable I can have significant flexibility with the height of the antenna.

When connecting the radio to the antenna I use the MPD cable (RF coaxial RF coaxial cable SMA female to UHF SO239 PL259 female RG58cable SMA female to UHF SO239 PL259 female RG58 20inches). I also use the speaker/mic to reduce the stress on the cable/radio connection point.

 

Total time to build: less than 1/2 hour

 

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