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Help me troubleshoot poor VHF perfomance

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Help me troubleshoot poor VHF perfomance

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Old 07-30-2010, 11:37 AM
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Default Help me troubleshoot poor VHF perfomance

On a recent cruise with 2 other boats, I noticed my VHF performance (both transmit and recieve) was much worse than my buddy boats. I wasn't hearing or being heard more than 4-5 miles away. I'm wondering what is the best way to go about diagnosing and fixing the problem. Can the signal strength be tested? Any ideas on the most likely cause(s)?

I'm thinking about replacing components, cheapest first, and doing some radio check calls to a station 10-15 miles away. Starting with a new antenna connector, and if that doesn't work, replacing the antenna, and if that doesn't work, replacing the radio itself. All the components are about 8 years old, maybe it's time to replace anyway?
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Old 07-30-2010, 01:15 PM
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1st, was your buddy boat's antenna the same size and height as yours and both very close to plumb when transmitting? Some foolish boaters (not you) keep their antenna raked back to look cool or have bridge clearance, and fore and aft transmit essentiall to stars and transom. That effect is somewhat similar with many boats that have considerably greater bow up attitude at plane. Transception to a station off your boats beam would be much better in those cases. (Same is more noticeably true of radar.)

Make sure your VHF is set for full power (not 1 or 3 watt harbor power) and also set for USA channels not INT or CAN.

Connector corrosion or shorting or even bad antenna is common enough but suggest you 1st go to a nearby marine store or radio Shack and pick up a Shakespeare ART-3 VSWR tester that can help diagnose the health of your setup.
http://shakespeare-antennas.com/xp/base_content.html

If you do cut back the cable end and replace the PL-259 connector , Shakespeare's gold-plated Centerpin solderless connectors work great if you apply a little silicone dielectric grease to the cut cable end 1st prior to inserting in the connector parts, and take a little care to crimp very evenly into the cable.

http://shakespeare-antennas.com/xp/base_content.html

Here are a few better 8' antennas.
http://shakespeare-antennas.com/xp/base_content.html
http://www.comrod.no/getfile.php/Utvikling/AV60BI8.pdf
http://www.digitalantenna.com/prods/...8wideband.html
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Old 07-30-2010, 01:51 PM
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Thanks for the great advice and helpful links. I think I'll install the centerpin connector tomorrow and test, and go from there. It was very eye-opening experience, as I usually do a quick radio check when I pass the Seatow boat in the inlet, never thinking that just because I'm loud and clear at short range doesn't nessecarily mean all is well at longer range.
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Old 07-30-2010, 02:04 PM
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I would start with this, and it will tell you a lot.

http://store.hamiltonmarine.com/brow...7/4,25000.html
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Old 07-30-2010, 02:18 PM
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The only good thing about the Center-Pin connectors is that they are very easy to install. I'm a marine electronics service technician and have replaced MANY of these connectors with either crimp or solder connectors. The main problem is failure of the shield connection. They may work fine at first, but end up losing contact with the coax shield later down the road. The failure rate of all types of PL259's due to inexperienced installers and/or improper waterproofing technique's is extremely high in the marine world.

Eric
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Old 07-30-2010, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by freddy063 View Post
I would start with this, and it will tell you a lot.

http://store.hamiltonmarine.com/brow...7/4,25000.html
A handy gadget to have but their statement "No need to call for a radio check when you have this compact, easy to use, unit on-board" is a little mis-leading. This thing does not check for transmit audio so you will still need to do a radio check to check your modulation.

Eric
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Old 08-01-2010, 01:53 AM
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The height question is one of the obvious answers but an overlooked solution is the size of the cable(co-ax) between the aerial & the radio. My experience has been, anything over a 10mtr run requires a coax of solid core (1.5mm), with soldered cnnctns - admittedly, I have a mast of 14mtrs above the waterline, but I can communicate 60miles (+) with little problem. All the best
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Old 08-01-2010, 02:40 AM
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Don't coil up your excess antenna line.Zig zag it or cut it to length as needed leaving a couple of feet to allow for laying down etc..Coiling will kill reception as well as reception,,
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