Antenna Tech / Technical Articles

Installing Your Ham Radio Mobile Antenna on a Vehicle

In this installment of Ham Mobile Install, we will be discussing ways to set up an antenna for mobile operations. Remember, the goal here is to get on the air in whatever way possible. We will explore everything from the simplest configuration to the most complex.

Almost everyone gets a handheld (HT) radio of some type when first getting licensed. They are easy to use, most models are affordable, and they are portable—so portable, in fact, that it takes no effort to bring an HT along with you in the car. You can place it in a cupholder or use another sort of mount for easy access. You can use anything from a simple cell phone mount to a mount designed specifically for ham radio. The HT is the fastest way to get on the air mobile. The rubber ducky antennas that are stock with HTs are not designed to be used inside a vehicle, however. Unless your target (whether simplex or repeater) is very close, you likely will not make contact.

So how do you set up the antenna outside the vehicle? One of the easiest ways is with a window clip—just some sort of simple clip with a coaxial extension attached to it. You attach the cable to the radio and put whatever antenna, even that rubber ducky, outside your window. Now your antenna isn’t surrounded by a metal box!

Of course there are other limitations to a stock rubber ducky antenna, even if you buy a higher-gain aftermarket version. The time has come to look at antennas made for mobile applications.

The easiest and least expensive version is probably a mag (magnet) mount. You can add a mag mount antenna to the roof and run the cable through the window or door. The magnet grounds to the car to make a mostly effective antenna system. If you are worried about smashing the cable in the car door, they do make flattened cables for exactly this purpose.

You can also use the mag mount and drill a hole somewhere in the car to run the cable and keep it hidden. I’d imagine if you are going to go through that kind of effort, you might as well go for a permanent mounting option, though.

What other kinds of mobile antenna mounting options are there? The next step on the road to the perfect mobile antenna are mounts for different areas of the vehicle. Pictured above is what I use—the hatch mount. For SUVs and the like, hatch mounts are a great option. You can run the coax through the car discreetly or have it lying in full view. The antennas you can mount to these will give you a much wider range for making contacts.

There are other versions for other parts of the vehicle, including the trunk and hood, fenders, A-pillars, and roof, plus suction cup mounts for glass. All of these mounts take different mobile types of antennas depending on what frequencies you are trying to cover. You can choose multi- or single-band antennas according to your preferences and/or requirements.

You may want to install the antenna at the best possible location on the vehicle. The center of a vehicle roof is considered the best for mobile antenna placement. Drilling a hole for a permanent installation in the center of the roof is considered the cleanest and best method, provided the roof is metal. Pair the mount with a high-gain mobile antenna for the best results.   

Happy mobile radioing!

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at

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