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Helix + Rockford Fosgate + Ham Radio

StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Small update: I've added a GMRS radio to the mix. I didn't want to add another antenna to the roof. So, I set up a network of RF duplexers and a switch near the driver's seat that allows me to select between the GMRS radio and the UHF band of my primary radio.





I also installed a different antenna mount to resolve an SWR issue that I had on UHF. It's a combination mount that adds a GPS antenna.



This mount restored the GPS signal to my MIB2, which was lost when I removed the factory sharkfin antenna. Here's the car with a larger antenna for better performance...



This antenna is usually in the trunk. I usually have the smaller antenna mounted. You may have noticed the small fin behind the GPS antenna. This is for a WeBoost cellular booster. I bought it for my recent 7400-mile coast-to-coast road trip. For the trip, though, I had a larger, high-gain antenna mounted along with my roof rack.



Funny thing: I never thought I would pack my GTI with so much stuff! But it's been a fun journey and I hope to continue to drive this car for another five years or longer.
 
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StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
"The AWACS of GTIs?" I love it! As for when this car goes away, I'll remove everything and install it in the next car. Most of this stuff came from previous cars. If the new car is another Golf/GTI or maybe a Tiguan, then the entire panel should swap over without too much trouble. If the car is something else, then I'll build another panel and transfer the equipment. Worst case is I'll need to buy new wires/cables and do new work. But the major components will swap unless something happens that damages the car to the point that I can no longer access the equipment. The odds are in my favor that disaster isn't a major concern. :)
 

StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
The fourth weekend in June is the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) "Field Day." Since 1933, Field Day is an annual tradition where over 40,000 ham radio operators throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio's science, skill, and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills, all in a single event. I'm no "contester," but I will make a few contacts as a "1C" station (mobile station with one operator).





I mounted the Scorpion antenna for some practice and testing. I also finally learned to use electronic logging and bought one of those steering wheel "desks" to hold either a laptop or notepad. Yes, I park the car when I operate on bands that are traditionally logged. Besides, the desk only fits when the steering wheel is upside-down; I'd have to drive in a large circle if i insisted on "driving" while operating. :ROFLMAO:
 

StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Just when I think I'm done, I decide to try something new. I discovered a larger caphat and installed it on my Scorpion. Here are a few photos from my drive to work some long-distance nets from Colonial Historic National Park...

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I'd say THIS is done. But I get the feeling that I'm going to try something more, something I've never done to any car or ever seen on a VW. It'll be a while before I can bankroll and organize the project, though. So, this is it for a while...

Scott
 
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StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Big upgrades lately!

I don't think that I've shared that I've gone back to using my "rear seat delete" on a full-time basis. That decision came when I decided to start keeping my refrigerator in the car all the time...

Before the "delete..."


I built a new "delete" that has improvements over the last. It's stronger, fits better, and has ventilation that pushes air through my tight equipment area.













As I use my ham radios more, I find myself needing to start and idle the engine to keep the starter battery charged. A few times this year, I have accidentally left something running overnight and came out to a dead car. OOPS! BTW, this SuperCap 2 jump starter is awesome! It doesn't require charging for storage and can charge when needed from a battery that has at least some voltage on it (it'll take a while, though). I used a different 12V source to charge the SuperCap2 and then started the car with little fanfare. I shared my first use of this device in this video. I carry it full-time now and will probably get one for each of my other cars. It's more compact than jumper cables and can allow you to jump-start without a second vehicle.

Anyway, my local ham radio club announced a class where they would do a "group build" session for 100-Ah LiFePo4 batteries, a popular power option for hams and Van Lifers. I jumped on the opportunity! We ordered the battery cells, 120-amp battery management system (BMS), and other components several months ago, then scheduled the build session when the parts finally arrived. The battery cells are by Fortune and the BMS came from "RadioB." In short, the completed battery can charge or discharge at 120 amps! I could even opt to upgrade the BMS and discharge at up to 200 amps someday. I don't have a need for that kind out output right now. But I could someday. :oops:

Here are some photos from the build:

Most of the group built their battery in a plastic ammo box...


I needed my battery to fit in a shorter space; so, I arranged mine in a "2x2" fashion to fit in this box...


Here's the build...




After the build, I removed the battery from the box so that I could paint it black...


Here's the box with paint...


I use a DC-DC converter to charge the battery and to protect the alternator from excessive charging current...


I have it mounted separately from the battery box...


It's a 30-amp charger that usually starts around 27 amps and then settles around 21A...


Here's a functional block diagram of what I have going on back there...


And here's the majority of the hidden equipment with the floors removed...


WHY am I doing this to a GTI? Well, I still thoroughly enjoy driving it and would not want to install this stuff in something "better-suited," only to wish I was driving my GTI when I happened to be out doing ham radio stuff. :p Yes, I could have done this to a Golf, but I wanted the extras that came with the GTI!

It's okay to call me crazy! I'll own that! :sneaky:
 
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StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Hello -

For a Las Vegas city raised person as myself… What exactly is “doing ham radio stuff” ?

If you're interested, see this page for more info about ham radio. The short answer in my case is the two high-power radio transceivers that are stuffed in the trunk. Here are their displays:



Sometimes, I can work the bands for a couple of hours, which can be tough on the starter battery. My most powerful transmitter draws 22 amps. If I were to add a 500-watt amplifier, total draw would increase to around 100 amps! The additional battery will certainly take the strain off my starter battery.
 

StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
I've made a few changes since my last post. For starters, I've added an FT-891 HF transceiver to the mix...



It has exposed me to the world of digital HF. I also added an automatic antenna controller and have been producing new videos about the upgrades. Here are a few photos:

An overview of the operating area, which shows my car desk by AutoExec...



A new TuneMatic TM-1 antenna controller...



The data connections to the FT-891...



The Scorpion HF antenna...



I don't keep that huge antenna mounted full-time. The car looks like this 99.9% of the time...



I've shown the car and setup as a communications exhibit at last year's VAG Fair and two recent shows in Raleigh, NC...







I recently added an "AAWireless" adapter by Indiegogo. It allows me to run Android Auto without a wired data connection to my phone. The small module hides away in my center console, even behind my cramped door...





I LOVE IT! My only gripe about this device is that it acts as a WiFi access point and requires both a Bluetooth and WiFi connection. That's okay for most, but I also have a need to run a mobile hotspot, which my phone cannot do while accessing a WiFi network. So, I added a wireless hotspot to my wireless plan. My choice of hotspot is hidden, accessible, and within working range of the interior WeBoost antenna, if I need a boost. I have a Raspberry Pi that's connected directly to the hotspot via Ethernet cable.



Everything seems to work very well! Here's an updated functional block diagram (CLICK HERE to see a larger version)...

 
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Keehs360

Autocross Champion
Location
Denver
Car(s)
Mk7.5
Discharging at 120 amps is insane and impressive. Your whole build is!

What's the capacity in kw exactly? What's keeping that lipo battery topped off? Have you ever considered an alternator swap? Is that even possible? Is solar an option when stationary? Sorry for so many questions I'm just wondering how you're keeping everything powered lol

Grats btw. This stuff is impressive
 

StealthGTI

Autocross Champion
Location
Newport News, VA
Car(s)
2017 GTI Sport
Thanks, @Keehs360 !
Discharging at 120 amps is insane and impressive. Your whole build is! What's the capacity in kw exactly? What's keeping that lipo battery topped off? Have you ever considered an alternator swap? Is that even possible? Is solar an option when stationary? Sorry for so many questions I'm just wondering how you're keeping everything powered lol Grats btw. This stuff is impressive
Discharging at 120 amps is a capability, but not the norm. I don't have the 500-watt amp that I mentioned elsewhere. So, my max draw is about 30-35 amps, and that's only when I'm actually talking. Most of the time, my load is around 10 amps when the refrigerator's compressor is running (3-5 amps when it's not). The battery capacity in kW is ~1.28 kWh. The battery is charged and maintained by the Orion Tr charger, which limits charge current to 30A (often less) and isolates the LiFePo4 battery from the starter battery. I have a fairly detailed playlist that covers most systems in detail HERE, if you're interested. The battery and charger each have their own video.

As for an alternator upgrade, initial research seems to indicate that there is a 180-amp alternator available for the Golf R and Arteon. They appear to have different mounting points, but use the same bracket as the GTI. I'll consider that path if I suffer an alternator failure, but it does not appear to be an immediate concern since my setup cannot draw more than 30 amps from the car while driving. Even at high load demands, 30A will feed from the alternator and everything above that will feed from the LiFePo4 battery. So, it seems highly unlikely that I'd exceed the alternator's capacity unless I somehow force it to simultaneously charge a deeply discharged LiFePo4 battery AND a deeply discharged starter battery. If you look at the functional block diagram, you'll see that nearly every electrical load is removed from the starter battery unless I turn-on the ignition and just sit without the car running. So, my starter battery is usually topped-off unless I do something stupid, like forgetting to turn off my parking lights, which I've done a few times. :oops:

Solar charging is possible, but generally unnecessary for me since my usual driving habits keep the batteries topped-off. I have a Jackery portable solar setup that I can feed into the circuit if I find myself needing to park and consume for more than a couple days. But I wonder if I'd find more benefit and less complexity in a 13A or 25A charger that plugs into a wall outlet.

I'll be participating in "Field Day" in a few weeks. That's a two-day ham radio event with plenty of remote radio use under emergency power. It'll be a good test to see if 1280-Wh is enough to last two days. I'll bring the Jackery as back-up, just in case. I don't think I'll need it!

Thanks for the questions! They help me know that at least a few people are interested in my nutty endeavors. :sneaky:
 
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Keehs360

Autocross Champion
Location
Denver
Car(s)
Mk7.5
Thanks, @Keehs360 !

Discharging at 120 amps is a capability, but not the norm. I don't have the 500-watt amp that I mentioned elsewhere. So, my max draw is about 30-35 amps, and that's only when I'm actually talking. Most of the time, my load is around 10 amps when the refrigerator's compressor is running (3-5 amps when it's not). The battery capacity in kW is ~1.28 kWh. The battery is charged and maintained by the Orion Tr charger, which limits charge current to 30A (often less) and isolates the LiFePo4 battery from the starter battery. I have a fairly detailed playlist that covers most systems in detail HERE, if you're interested. The battery and charger each have their own video.

As for an alternator upgrade, initial research seems to indicate that there is a 180-amp alternator available for the Golf R and Arteon. They appear to have different mounting points, but use the same bracket as the GTI. I'll consider that path if I suffer an alternator failure, but it does not appear to be an immediate concern since my setup cannot draw more than 30 amps from the car while driving. Even at high load demands, 30A will feed from the alternator and everything above that will feed from the LiFePo4 battery. So, it seems highly unlikely that I'd exceed the alternator's capacity unless I somehow force it to simultaneously charge a deeply discharged LiFePo4 battery AND a deeply discharged starter battery. If you look at the functional block diagram, you'll see that nearly every electrical load is removed from the starter battery unless I turn-on the ignition and just sit without the car running. So, my starter battery is usually topped-off unless I do something stupid, like forgetting to turn off my parking lights, which I've done a few times. :oops:

Solar charging is possible, but generally unnecessary for me since my usual driving habits keep the batteries topped-off. I have a Jackery portable solar setup that I can feed into the circuit if I find myself needing to park and consume for more than a couple days. But I wonder if I'd find more benefit and less complexity in a 13A or 25A charger that plugs into a wall outlet.

I'll be participating in "Field Day" in a few weeks. That's a two-day ham radio event with plenty of remote radio use under emergency power. It'll be a good test to see if 1280-Wh is enough to last two days. I'll bring the Jackery as back-up, just in case. I don't think I'll need it!

Thanks for the questions! They help me know that at least a few people are interested in my nutty endeavors. :sneaky:
That’s incredible. I’m honestly impressed the stock alternator is actually doing well!

1.28kw isn’t very large. But with consistent top offs, it’ll definitely be enough for regular usage

Gluck at the field day! Hopefully the system gets stressed enough for the sake of further improvement! Plz let us know how it goes?
 
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