Rubber duck has better signal strength than new roof antenna

jwc1926

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I'm brand new to amateur radio. While waiting for my license to appear in the database, I purchased a Baofeng UV-5R and a Comet GP-1 dual band (2m/70cm) antenna to put on my roof. I have used an N-type female to PL-259 adapter to attached 25 feet of LMR-400 coax to the base of the antenna. I am using a whip to attach the coax to my UV-5R. There is a local repeater on 442.000 MHz that always produces a strong signal. With the rubber duck antenna that came with my HT, I always see all the bars unless I'm in the basement. When I attach the roof antenna, the signal from the repeater increases and decreases from nothing to full strength erratically and I hear some awful sounding interference from time to time (though not regularly in any sort of pattern). I actually tried a different antenna (Tram 1490), but the same thing happened. I tried connecting the antenna to the handheld without the whip, but that didn't help. The coax is new, so I'm pretty sure it's not that. I haven't checked the N-type to PL-259 adapter, but that's new too. I am perplexed as to why the signal would be so erratic with a roof antenna. Why would the signal be consistently strong and clean with the rubber duck that came with the HT and so erratically up and down with the roof antenna? Is it somehow picking up more interference that the short rubber duck isn't affected by? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

ladn

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When I attach the roof antenna, the signal from the repeater increases and decreases from nothing to full strength erratically and I hear some awful sounding interference from time to time (though not regularly in any sort of pattern)
First, welcome to amateur radio jwc1926 and congratulations on passing you license exam.

What most likely is happening is that your radio's receiver is being overloaded by other radio frequencies. The radio is designed to work with the stock antenna which has a certain level of efficiency. Your outside antenna is more efficient at gathering RF energy, but your radio isn't capable of separating the good signals from the bad signals. Baofeng's and their Chicom cousins are notorious for this, but it can happen on other handhelds as well.

You didn't say if the 442.00 repeater transmitted or passed a pl tone. If it does, try enabling full tone squelch mode (RX/TX) on your radio and see if that will help some. You might also try changing the antenna location or using a different antenna.

The better solution, albeit costly, is to invest in a different radio with better front end filtering. Usually radios designed for mobile use have better receiver front ends than handhelds.
 

jwc1926

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Thanks much. The PL tone for the repeater is FM 131.8. It's in Uniontown, OH (WB8OVQ). It's about 5 miles from me. I will try entering it in. Another issue is that I live in the woods surrounded by trees. We once inquired about solar panels. The company took one look at the satellite image below of our house (I added a yellow circle to show where the antenna is), and they said, "Yeah, right." Not sure if being surrounded by huge oaks, maples, and tulip trees could cause problems. I'd have to have my antenna on a tower to get above them. They are old giants.

Anyway, right after I submitted my question, I did start reading quite a bit about the overload problem on the Baefong UV-5R. Most of the responses I read said, "Man, looking back, I really should have purchased the Yaesu FT-60R." I looked into that radio, and it seems to get excellent reviews. I may get it and keep my UV-5R in my car. I might also pick up the Mirage BD-35 VHF/UHF amplifier to beef up my signal. Maybe that's overkill, though. Not knowledgeable enough at this point to know.

I really appreciate your response. Passing the Technician test was not difficult, but I feel like someone just handed me the keys to the space shuttle after a couple hours of training. It's pretty overwhelming, and things seem to have come a LONG way since I used to listen to my dad down in his basement shack. He passed away in 1990. I think he renewed his license shortly before that, so his call sign was retired by the early 2000s. I looked and it's not in the FCC database. I am going to make a vanity request for his old call sign once I get mine. I plan to make my first call under his old call sign, and I just can't think of a better tribute. It will be an emotional moment because I have such fond memories of my dad's love of amateur radio. Not sure why it took me this long (I'm 49) to get started with it.

Thanks again!

house.JPG
 

ladn

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The PL tone for the repeater is FM 131.8.
That's the input (uplink) tone that you need to access the repeater. Not all repeaters have output tones or pass the input tone to the output. I looked up this repeater and there was no mention of an output tone. Give a try with the tone of 131.8 on both the input and output frequencies. IF it works, you should hear the repeater "kerchunk". If it doesn't, you will see the repeater signal on your signal strength indicator and your "channel busy" light will illuminate, but you won't hear anything, in which case you will need to revert to input tone only.

Hopefully you will able to get your father's callsign. Great tribute.

Your comment about, " I feel like someone just handed me the keys to the space shuttle after a couple hours of training. It's pretty overwhelming ...", is pretty common with newly minted hams. There's a lot to learn and the best way to learn it is by actually doing it.

IF you can, try to contact your local amateur radio club. Most clubs are thrilled to help out new hams (and prospective members). The Yaesu FT-60 is a good, versatile, radio---much better than the Baofeng. I'd hold off on purchasing an amplifier, though. I think you would get a better return on your investment from a dedicated mobile radio than adding an amp to a handheld (especially the Baofeng).

Your trees aren't contributing to your radio's front end overload. How close are you to a commercial repeater site? Trees will cause a decrease in higher frequency signals--more noticeable at 800-900 MHz than 440 MHz. While antenna height is king, there's also a price (potential front end overload, lightning/grounding, the use of top quality coax and antennas). Try new things in small steps.

73
 

jwc1926

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Okay, I will give that a try.

I've also looked up some local clubs and plan to get involved once I (hopefully) get my vanity call sign, which should be September 15. I just purchased the Yaesu FT-60 based on everything (positive) that I've read.

I'm not sure how close I am to the nearest commercial repeater, but there is a 220 foot tower less than a quarter of a mile from me. The ospreys love it. It's owned by Mitchell Communications and has numerous licensees. There may be a repeater there.

I'll know more what I'm dealing with, I think, when I start trying to transmit. For now I'm just listening and reading about etiquette so I don't rub anyone the wrong way once I get dad's old call sign and hit the air. By then I'll have the Yaesu, and we'll see how it goes.

Thanks much for the great feedback and being so welcoming!

73
 

tweiss3

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From personal experience on that machine it is notoriously difficult to get into. I had issues with 50 watt mobile getting into it. I think it might be partially to do with elevation in Uniontown and the high vegetation in the area. If I remember correctly that repeater is on echo link as well.

I just checked that repeater, and squelch is stuck open right now.

I'll send you a PM on some more local info.
 

KE5MC

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What do you know? Just appeared in the database: KE8PHI. Pretty cool!
Very cool!

Passing the test is just about allowing you to hold the keys. :) Seriously, the test doesn't do much to help you interconnect all the bits and pieces of information. Hands on and someone looking over your should to help as needed is important. I liken it to Master & Apprentice training like a machinist or tool and die maker. Running the equipment without damaging you or the machine is not the same as making a part.

Enjoy have fun! Anyone of us will be more than welling to help you spend your $$$ on new radios.
73, Mike
 

jwc1926

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From personal experience on that machine it is notoriously difficult to get into. I had issues with 50 watt mobile getting into it. I think it might be partially to do with elevation in Uniontown and the high vegetation in the area. If I remember correctly that repeater is on echo link as well.

I just checked that repeater, and squelch is stuck open right now.

I'll send you a PM on some more local info.
Interesting. I was wondering why it sounded "on" all the time. I thought that was a good thing. :)

Very cool!

Passing the test is just about allowing you to hold the keys. :) Seriously, the test doesn't do much to help you interconnect all the bits and pieces of information. Hands on and someone looking over your should to help as needed is important. I liken it to Master & Apprentice training like a machinist or tool and die maker. Running the equipment without damaging you or the machine is not the same as making a part.

Enjoy have fun! Anyone of us will be more than welling to help you spend your $$$ on new radios.
73, Mike
I was afraid of that. I had a feeling $$$ might be involved. More to the point, my wife was afraid of that. :)

I'm going to try to get into a club and find a mentor. COVID, of course, is complicating all that right now as most clubs, it seems, aren't meeting. Hopefully that will change sooner rather than later, but who knows?
 

KenMaltz

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That FT-60 is one fine radio. I use the Baofeng as an extra in the car or wherever; but the FT-60 is the real thing. You will not regret buying it. 73 and welcome to the hobby!
 

alcahuete

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Passing the Technician test was not difficult, but I feel like someone just handed me the keys to the space shuttle after a couple hours of training.

Ha ha ha!!! Ain't that the truth! The ham license is a license to learn. The test makes sure you know some of the basics, some of the theory, some of the rules, etc. But the learning starts after you get on the air, build your antenna system, get your rig going, etc. So congrats and welcome to the hobby!

As the others have mentioned, you Baofeng is very likely being overloaded. As soon as you get the Yaesu, I think you're going to be pretty happy.
 

jwc1926

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Doubtful. With 25ft of LMR-400, you're looking at 1dB tops with the connectors.
To be clear, that was where the problem was at its worst. I hadn’t even gotten into the house yet. At that point I had an n-type to pl-259 adapter at the antenna base, 25 feet of coax (male on both ends), and an n-type female to SMA adapter to connect up the radio. In fact, after I added a lightning arrestor by the house and 15 additional feet of LMR-400 to get into the basement, a coupler, and a whip/pigtail to connect up to the radio, the problem was actually better. Wouldn’t that lend credence to the overload theory? With all the added complements, perhaps the overload was less of an issue. Also, I should add that I don’t appear to be having the problem with any other repeaters. It’s just the one, which is very close to my house (3 miles) and it is squelched on all the time. Another forum member mentioned having problems with it as well. I went ahead and invested in a better radio. It shipped today. I should have made that investment initially, but I wasn’t sure I’d pass the test. Haha! I also ordered an SWR meter that comes on Sunday. I also have a multimeter, though I’m not versed in how to use it. If the SWR is bad with the better radio, I guess I’ll explore the possibility that the adapter at the base or the antenna or the coax coming off the antenna antenna are bad. The coax is high end, but I can’t speak to the quality of the adapter at the base of the antenna. If anything is bad, that’s probably it.
 

jwc1926

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Ha ha ha!!! Ain't that the truth! The ham license is a license to learn. The test makes sure you know some of the basics, some of the theory, some of the rules, etc. But the learning starts after you get on the air, build your antenna system, get your rig going, etc. So congrats and welcome to the hobby!

As the others have mentioned, you Baofeng is very likely being overloaded. As soon as you get the Yaesu, I think you're going to be pretty happy.
The difference is this. When the rubber duck is on, the signal strength is full strength all the time (the repeater itself is squelched on). No issues. When I hook up the external antenna, the signal cycles from nothing to full, full to nothing, etc. it goes up and down. And every once and a while I hear a loud, horrible noise that sounds like a “wrong answer” buzzer, and the signal drops back down to nothing, and the cycle goes on. I wonder if that god awful noise just before the signal drops to nothing is an indication of overload? And like I said, the problem is better now that I’ve added more connections and line to get down the basement.
 

K9DWB

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I'll help you spend money your wife won't be happy with. Go for the Yaesu, and use your Baofeng as an EDC -everyday carry. Hook up the Yaesu to the antenna and see, er I mean hear what happens. No offense but if the Baofeng gets dinged up by carrying I don't think you're sweating it too much.

Congrats on the ticket. And no you cannot test drive the Space Shuttle.

PS with that on/off signal status, wonder if you got a bad piece of coax with a broken conductor. Maybe check for continuity on a test meter.
 

jwc1926

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The Yaesu shipped today. And yeah...my plan is to keep the Baofeng in the car. It works very well with the 16” window mounted antenna I got when I bought the radio. If the coax for the roof antenna was bad, wouldn’t I be having problems with other repeaters?
 

alcahuete

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If the coax for the roof antenna was bad, wouldn’t I be having problems with other repeaters?
I think you might have misunderstood. I was responding to the guy who said it was feedline loss, which is the loss from running long lengths of coax, etc. Feedline loss is going to be negligible (not noticeable at all, in fact) in your setup, so that isn't what is going on. I highly doubt the coax is bad, and while the adapter might be bad, there isn't a whole lot that can break.

I 100% believe it's an overload issue on the Baofeng. I would bet money on it. I think when your Yaesu shows up, you're going to find that all these problems go away.
 

jwc1926

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I think you might have misunderstood. I was responding to the guy who said it was feedline loss, which is the loss from running long lengths of coax, etc. Feedline loss is going to be negligible (not noticeable at all, in fact) in your setup, so that isn't what is going on. I highly doubt the coax is bad, and while the adapter might be bad, there isn't a whole lot that can break.

I 100% believe it's an overload issue on the Baofeng. I would bet money on it. I think when your Yaesu shows up, you're going to find that all these problems go away.
Oh, okay. FedEx says the Yaesu will be here on or before 9/1. This weekend I’ll check the SWR while I wait. Just curious.
 
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