Working as a park ranger, a UHF radio was an essential piece of safety equipment I rarely went anywhere without.
If I was in a vehicle, a dash mounted radio was standard and if I was on foot then I carried a portable handheld unit.
Whether it’s one of your safety options, or just to talk to friends in your convoy or others on the road, having a UHF radio is pretty much a given if you’re travelling the outback.
What type of radio you get comes down to frequency (no pun intended) of use and how much range or distance you expect to communicate over.
There are many different makes and models of radios on the market, some good and some not so good. I’ve tried or used many of them but over the last ten years or so I’ve used GME radios exclusively both in my job but also in my personal vehicles.
The important thing is to decide is which model suits your particular use and budget and, if it’s a vehicle based unit, where you are going to mount it?
It’s getting harder and harder to find the space to fit a full sized unit into your dash or under it, so this time round I’ve gone for the remote head unit, one that has all the controls in the mic.
The SoundPath™ speaker control mic, means that the base can be hidden away, or at least in a less handy position, and the sound will come from both the unit and the speaker in the mic if desired. The GME TX3350 UHF has a list of features including:
- Individually programmable duplex function
- Digital signal processing
- Advanced signal management
- Dynamic volume control
- Scanning and memory functions
- Privacy functions
- User control and interface through the SoundPath™ mic handpiece.
Fitting the Radio
There are a few options where I could have mounted the radio in the Prado but in the end, and for convenience sake, I decided to keep the radio accessible.
I’m also not a big fan of drilling holes, making cutouts or otherwise irreparably damaging dash components.
In the end it all came down to access, ease of fitment and an available power source.
This is hard sometimes without running a separate 12v cable but it can be achieved if you’re prepared to open up a few panels here and there to look for power.
From here the power cord and the coaxial cable could be routed off to where they had to go.
With the power setup you have to decide whether you want the radio on all the time and manually switch it off when not in use or have it come on with ignition.
In my case I like them to come on with the ignition. I saw too many people leave radios turned on and then after a week or so where the vehicle was parked up, return to a flat battery.
I was able to run the power lead into the back of the console where a second accessory point was located. I cut and soldered in a joiner and connected the radio power lead with fuse into this.
I also had to mount the clip that holds the mic when not in use. I wanted this up high, not only to aid in hearing transmissions but to make it easy to get to without fumbling for it down around my legs.
It too was stuck to the side of the upper central dash with double sided tape. Time will tell if the tape bears the use and doesn’t come away while I’m travelling.
Ok, one other thing I haven’t mentioned is that with any good radio you need an equally good antenna. I matched the GME TX3350 with an AE4018WK2 GME aerial, which is a white, fibreglass whip with a chrome elevated feed and a stainless steel spring base. You can see me unboxing the radio and the antenna in the video below.
I mounted the aerial on a pre-fitted bracket on my ARB bullbar and then fed the coaxial cable through the grill and engine bay and then inside the car via a rubber boot in the firewall on the driver’s side.
Once inside the car I routed the coaxial cable through to the console adjacent to the radio.
Here is an important step, you must cut back the sheath of the coaxial cable to expose the wire earth underneath (see these instructions) and then after screwing down the terminal connector over the earth wire, solder the tip of the supplied terminal to the exposed wire that you have pushed through.
Once you have carried out this procedure you can fit the coaxial cable to the connector on the underside of the radio.
I cable tied the coaxial cable at regular points to keep it tidy and to prevent movement. Once all this was done a quick check over was made and I inserted the fuse and turned the radio on. It is very important to remember that all parts must be connected prior to turning on the unit or else you could damage the radio.
Testing the Radio
Within seconds of turning the radio on I heard transmissions from road users not far away. I flicked on the scan function and every couple of minutes heard passing truckies or people with caravans passing by in convoy.
Ok, roger, we can receive. As I had to drive to a nearby town the next day I waited until I was on my way before trying to transmit.
Once on the go I transmitted that I required a radio check to see if anyone could hear me and immediately heard a response back from another user about 40 odd kilometres away. Roger, we have transmission.
With a little bit of DIY experience just about anyone can fit a UHF radio. Research your options, talk to people and then decide on what type of radio suits you.
There are loads of features and functions, half of which you probably will never use, but if interested or have a specific use then all the info required is in the supplied manual or on the website.
Most people will only use simplex (line of sight) communications but in many parts of Australia there are often repeater stations which will allow duplex communication for times when you are in trouble or if you need to talk to someone out of sight. The duplex function allows you to talk many kilometres outside the range of simplex.
The squelch function allows you to silence those annoying signals that aren’t close enough to hear properly and allow clarity for the ones you need to hear.
As I mentioned earlier you can scan channels or groups and you can make what is called selective calling where each radio has a unique selcall identification number. To use this function you must call this unique identifier or if called yourself, your radio will beep to alert you that you have been called.
The list goes on but one of the best features to me is the SoundPath™ speaker control microphone.
Everything is all in one place, controls, functions and the best bit, the speaker on the back. All too many times when there is a lot going on I’ve had to ask the caller to repeat, hopefully not any more.
Don’t be scared off by technical speak, ask if you don’t understand, anybody worth their salt will explain what you need to know. There are also plenty of internet forums and Facebook pages where you can ask for reviews or other questions you may have.
A good place to start is the GME Australia website where you can find all the info on their range of models available. Another point worthy of mention is that GME radios are the only UHF radio manufactured in Australia and, from my experience, are built tough to last.
I hope this post has helped you to understand what is involved when you decide you need a UHF radio.
Remember people will have varying views on what the best setup is and in this post I have relied heavily on my own experiences to inform you.