VHF radio issues

The friendliest place on the web for anyone who enjoys boating.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

jclays

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 8, 2010
Messages
480
Location
USA
Vessel Name
Freebird
Vessel Make
1997 Mainship 350
My Mainship came with a West Marine brand radio and 6ft Shakespeare antenna guesstimating mis 2000’s installed by PO.
Transmitting I’ll be heard about 70% of the time. Reception is 50/50. Plenty of times I cannot adjust the static with the squelch knob.
How can I tell if it’s the radio or the antenna?
 
This is not a very scientific answer but a personal opinion. I would assume its the radio. West Marine brand that is 24 years old, was low grade at purchase and now its old junk (my opinion). If I happen to be wrong I would then replace the antenna and not with an entry level model. At this point I would have a quality installation so I wouldn't feel to bad if I replace a functional component.
 
I would buy a SWR meter. This is simple to use in line with the VHF and the antenna. You should read 1.5 or less. Less being better! The meter measures the power being sent back from the antenna. Anything higher that 1.5 is ether a bad cable and/or a bad antenna.
 
Transmit/receive problems are usually due to a faulty antenna, coax, or the coax connections. But with that low end radio and the the squelch knob not silencing, I agree it's likely the radio. They cheaped out on the radio, so I'd guess the antenna was bottom shelf too so I'd just replace both. Not necessarily top of the line, but not the cheapest either.
 
I would just replace both with quality ones. I like the Shakespere Galaxy ones that are heavy duty. I also like Standard Horizon VHFs. But there are other qgood ones. As said above the WMP radios left a lot to be desired. And the short antenna doesn’t help. Get at least a good 8’ antenna if you can’t go longer.
 
I've been through this also. As said and I concur that you need to improve the vhf AND the antenna.

Don't chuck the VHF quite yet but get the better antenna and set it up and see what happens. With a good antenna the old vhf may perk right up. If not then you may have to bite the vhf and get a better, new unit.

I did this about 10 yrs ago. THe old vhf was using the old antenna that I bought with it 20 yrs earlier. Some testing with a known GOOD antenna showed me the old VHF still operated decently/well. But I also had my new VHF and bought a new antenna with it, a good one. Heavier staff.

So now another 10 yrs later I have two vhfs and both the newer and the older work well.

Now as an aside get an auxiliary speaker for each. One thing I learned is the newer vhf's often have poor, tiny internal speakers. expensive vhf or not..
Connect an auxiliary speaker to each and mount them as much as possible as far from each other, the speakers, as you can. I did that and it worked well and better.

Originally I didn't get aux. speakers but even though the VHFs were a distance apart I had trouble figuring out which VHF was yapping and the sound was poor over my boat noise. Luckily I had two auxiliary speakers and wired them to each VHF. Note the ohm resistance of each speaker and VHF though for them to operate well and not damage the speakers or VHFs. My speakers were each different ohms as were the old and new VHFs so they should be matched although they may have worked OK with some loss in volume. At this point I wanted the best out of them I could get.
But once done I also mounted the aux. speakers away from each other.

The new VHF directly ahead of me , the much newer vhf with the new antenna, I mounted the speaker behind me somewhat, on my L.H. side.

THe older VHF , mounted off to the R.H.side with its aux. speaker, was with another new antenna. Once done I could easily determine which VHF I was going to answer and which VHF was going to be turned down, NOT off.

They are both good VHFs now.

You MIGHT find that with an auxiliary speaker AND a new antenna that the older VHF itself is improved.

Just be aware , actually I suspect you are , though that VHFs AND ANTENNAS do need replacement from time to time.

Have fun.
 
Last edited:
VHF is a basic line of site radio frequency. The higher you can get your antenna mounted the better. A quality antenna (I use a MORAD VHF156 which is a 6db gain antenna) and high quality coax (I use RG8X) will do much to improve your system's performance regardless of the radio you choose.

Make no mistake though, a quality radio is also important. Look for something that has a superheterodyne receiver as it will provide the most selective filtering on each frequency. Also make sure that the power wires are of sufficient size to supply full voltage under load, I use 12ga.
 
I second the recommendation for external speaker support. Especially for a flybridge. I hate the speaker on my Icom command mics. I keep hoping someone's blackbox setup will come along and "do everything, easily" but as yet I've not found one. Furuno's is probably the closest.
 
The best how-to guide and explanation I’ve seen so far is Emily and Clarkes Adventures on YouTube with the episode entitled, “How to build the best VHF radio”, the guy is a very clever and practical engineer, running a very informative channel.

 
If you sometimes can't squelch the static out, are you sure there isn't an offending source onboard the boat thats causing the electrical noise? Pumps lights and bad connections will cause electronic noise. Does the issue exist underway or just at the dock? Maybe it's the dock wiring, shore transformer or even a neighbor causing the noise.
An easy test of your antenna is to tune into a weak weather station ,unscrew the antenna connector and pull the connector out of the radio until just the center pin is inserted. If the reception gets louder/clearer, your antenna or connector is bad.
 
All great advice, but I do like the meter. A 20yr old VHF and antenna, just replace both. Case in point for me.

I bought my new used boat with 2 antennas already installed. Only one VHF on board so the other antenna was not being used. In receiving, it was very loud and clear. Hooked up the other antenna and the reception was down a little so I went back to the original one. Than I was getting complaints that others can't hear me very well. Everything looked good. When I used the meter, to find out. The unused antenna was good and the original one was bad.

For $50 for the meter, it was a big help.
 
Iggy,
The last time I looked for a SWR meter , Shakespeare, they were asking $200.00 or about that.

What did you get for $50.
 
This is the one that I bought. It did send me in the right direction for $50. Now $58 Amazon.com

There are so many out there from $25 and up as you mentioned. Check them out and find one that you like
 
Last edited:
I have found that some of my “bayonet” 2 prong LED replacement light bulbs cause radio interference. I confirmed this to be absolutely true. You should check these bulbs on and off with both receive and broadcast. Use a fellow boater in the vicinity to check. Note that the LEDs may also have been responsible for intermittent AIS transmit issues.

Also found that a better antenna improved the AIS transmit capability and range.

Jim
 
I have written before about my VLF issue on my old boat. I had transmit problems over a very short distance so I bought a new VHF. Then I still had problems that were not seen in my handheld units. How could a little hand held do better than my main unit? So I returned the new radio for new iCom. WOW, what an amazing difference.
 
My Mainship came with a West Marine brand radio and 6ft Shakespeare antenna guesstimating mis 2000’s installed by PO.
Transmitting I’ll be heard about 70% of the time. Reception is 50/50. Plenty of times I cannot adjust the static with the squelch knob.
How can I tell if it’s the radio or the antenna?
Unscrew the aerial at the set. If the squelsh knob works you have interference. If you have poor range on transmit check the set is not on the low power selection & only transmitting 1W of power. Intermittent transmission check the mic.
Regards Bill
 
This is the one that I bought. It did send me in the right direction for $50. Now $58 Amazon.com

There are so many out there from $25 and up as you mentioned. Check them out and find one that you like
I got this meter and it is great
Surecom Gam3Gear SW-102S SO239 Connector Digital VHF UHF 125-525Mhz Power & SWR Meter Amazon.com
 
I believe if you transmit with a faulty (or disconnected ) antenna, you can do damage to your radio. I'm sure someone can confirm or deny this, but if this is true and your antenna was bad, your radio may now be damaged as well.
A lot depends on what kind of boater you are and how much you depend on your radio, but considering the cost of replacing both components, and how dependent you might be on a functional comm set up if the crap hits the fan, I'd probably get an all new set up, including wiring and coax.
My preferred set up would be a separate radio and antenna for both helms and at least one handheld with AIS/DSC ( 2 if I had a dingy and a spouse/partner/compadre ) I know its totally unnecessary, but for the added redundancy, I would also want the handheld to be able to connect to one of the full size antennae.
 
My preferred set up would be a separate radio and antenna for both helms and at least one handheld with AIS/DSC ( 2 if I had a dingy and a spouse/partner/compadre ) I know its totally unnecessary, but for the added redundancy, I would also want the handheld to be able to connect to one of the full size antennae.
I'd prefer 2 radios at one helm with mics at the other, then both are usable from either location.
 
My Mainship came with a West Marine brand radio and 6ft Shakespeare antenna guesstimating mis 2000’s installed by PO.
Transmitting I’ll be heard about 70% of the time. Reception is 50/50. Plenty of times I cannot adjust the static with the squelch knob.
How can I tell if it’s the radio or the antenna?
If someone around you with a removable VHF (e.g., on a small fishing boat) will lend it to you for an hour or so, plug it into 12v and connect it to your existing antenna. Then try sending / receiving. The results should point you in the right direction.
 
I believe if you transmit with a faulty (or disconnected ) antenna, you can do damage to your radio. I'm sure someone can confirm or deny this, but if this is true and your antenna was bad, your radio may now be damaged as well.
A lot depends on what kind of boater you are and how much you depend on your radio, but considering the cost of replacing both components, and how dependent you might be on a functional comm set up if the crap hits the fan, I'd probably get an all new set up, including wiring and coax.
My preferred set up would be a separate radio and antenna for both helms and at least one handheld with AIS/DSC ( 2 if I had a dingy and a spouse/partner/compadre ) I know its totally unnecessary, but for the added redundancy, I would also want the handheld to be able to connect to one of the full size antennae

I believe if you transmit with a faulty (or disconnected ) antenna, you can do damage to your radio. I'm sure someone can confirm or deny this, but if this is true and your antenna was bad, your radio may now be damaged as well.
A lot depends on what kind of boater you are and how much you depend on your radio, but considering the cost of replacing both components, and how dependent you might be on a functional comm set up if the crap hits the fan, I'd probably get an all new set up, including wiring and coax.
My preferred set up would be a separate radio and antenna for both helms and at least one handheld with AIS/DSC ( 2 if I had a dingy and a spouse/partner/compadre ) I know its totally unnecessary, but for the added redundancy, I would also want the handheld to be able to connect to one of the full size antennae.
Confirmed. I should have put that in my reply! Disconnecting was only to see if interference was present. Having both transmitting & receiving faults in the one unit sounds a bit sus. Points to the installation & not the set.
 
Maybe the co-ax cable joint has not been soldered thus causing poor transmission/receiving from poor connections.
I am not a radio guy but poor connections cause all kinds of trouble, both for electrical supplies, control systems AND radio operations ,(VHF)
I have soldered all of my VHF connections and some for others.
 

Latest posts

Back
Top Bottom