Mobile radio antennas of both the magnetic and screw-in mounts depend upon the metal surface on which they are installed for grounding. This applies to all mobile antennas, whether business-band, citizens-band or ham radio antennas. The solid metal surface directly under such antennas assists the antenna when radiating a signal, which behaves similarly to having a grounded antenna. This type of signal-based grounding is called a "ground plane."
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Things you need
- 1 Piece of solid steel, 2ft by 2ft minimum, but 4ft x 4ft preferred, 1/4-inch thick
- 1 Package of paste-type car wax with application pad included
Place the piece of solid steel onto a surface sufficiently high in the air, preferably at least six feet from the ground, and higher if possible. The steel sheet (radiating plane) may simply be set on a roof, or any platform on which it may rest reasonably flat.
Set the mobile-mount antenna directly into the centre of the steel plate so there is equal distance between all sides and the antenna base. This is necessary so that the ground plane operates with the antenna as efficiently as possible, allowing for the best transmission and reception of signals.
Apply two or three layers of automotive car wax to all exposed areas of the steel sheet to help slow the rusting process. Don't put any wax under the antenna mount, as it needs direct metal-to-metal contact with the steel sheet. Only apply the wax to surrounding areas.
Tips and warnings
- Old refrigerators make excellent mounting surfaces for base-use of mobile antennas, and may be used in place of a flat sheet of steel. When using an old refrigerator, the unit should be set upright on a flat surface, and the antenna set in the centre of the refrigerator top. This elevates an antenna about six-feet high, and the dimensions of the top are perfect for such an application. Further, since they are waterproof (as long as the door seals are kept maintained), amplifiers and other electronics may be installed into such a unit.
- A ground plane surface doesn't protect the radio equipment connected to an antenna. Whether installed on a car or on a sheet of steel, any antenna will allow lightning damage to the equipment. Always disconnect the antenna cable from the radio when a lightning storm approaches to protect valuable equipment.
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