The Amateur Amateur: You Can Keep the Cables

By Gary Ross Hoffman, KB0H
June 2021

removed equipment
What went in had to come out

It was time. I really didn't need two cars and I rarely drove the older one, a 2003 Toyota Corolla. Being a big time procrastinator I'd put off doing anything about it, but its license plate renewal was coming up, and that was incentive enough for me to take action.

But what to do?

Trade in the old car for another one? No, then I'd still have one redundant vehicle, to say nothing of more debt, higher taxes and a bigger insurance bill. Scratch that idea immediately.

Donate the Corolla to charity? Well, that would earn me a few feel-good points, and most likely get my name put on the mailing lists of countless worthy causes. But quite honestly, at my age and income level it's not a good idea for me to give away my assets like that. Who knows when I might need major organ surgery or something?

My good friend Bob once successfully sold a car on Craig's List, so would that be a viable option? He admitted being contacted by kooks and scam artists, but he worked his way through it and was happy with the deal he finally made. Bob, however, is much more even-tempered and patient than I am. I've posted a few items on Craig's List in the past, but often got frazzled by the responses that I got. And the items I was selling were much cheaper than a car. I might get a good deal on the Corolla, but I'd probably need a nice rest in a place with padded walls once it was all over. No thank you.

Then I had another thought. Would a car dealership consider buying my old car rather than taking it as a trade-in? I looked up the large Toyota dealership where I'd purchased the Corolla and where all of its service had been performed.

Yes, they actually did buy used cars. They had a fill-in-the-blank form on the Internet where you described your car and they'd give you a tentative price for it.

I filled it out.

Two minutes after I clicked the SEND button I got a call from the dealership. They were interested.

We made arrangements for me to bring the car in two days later.

Wow, that was fast!

But in the meantime, I needed to clean out the car (especially the dog fur). The big job, however, would be removing the Amateur Radio equipment.

And I really wasn't looking forward to that task.

power regulator
Double sticky tape.. gripped like iron

I had installed a Yaesu FT-8800 dual-band rig in the Corolla after its predecessor, a FT-5200 had conked out one too many times (see Don't Hurt My Car! for the whole story). It had been a meticulous installation, with everything securely mounted and all wires carefully hidden. I'd been quite proud of the job I'd done, as my wife had been terrified that I would damage the car in some way.

Some years later I had added a Byonics TinyTrak APRS device. Everything except the antenna and GPS receiver went into the trunk, so it was unobtrusive and my wife had no complaints. No marks at all on the car, but plenty of dings, dents, scratches and so forth on me. Pretty much all of the work had to be done from inside the trunk of the car, a space that was clearly not designed to accommodate anyone but a contortionist.

And now all of this carefully installed equipment had to come out, and I had one day to do it.

The very first thing I needed to do was to disconnect the power. I don't know whether it was nervousness, a momentary mental lapse, gremlins, or the Law of Conservation of Perverseness (which I am convinced is a real thing), but I could not open the hood of the car. I'd done it many times in the past with no problems at all, but this time it took me five minutes. Was the Corolla trying to tell me something? Or was fate letting me know it was going to be a bad day?

Having finally opened the hood, disconnecting power to the transceiver and APRS device was a simple matter of unplugging a set of Anderson Powerpoles from the car's battery. There was also a set of fuses and the power cord itself, but I figured that I would save all that for last. It had been a major job routing that to the trunk, and removing it would be no easier.

Back at the trunk, there were only a few things that I could do without actually climbing in. And even those tasks required me to bend over at an angle that my older body was sure to complain about afterward. Basically, I was able to disconnect and remove the radio and GPS antennas. Beyond that, I managed to unplug everything, and then stand there staring at what still remained to be done.

Which was a lot.

I succeeded in putting off the onerous task of actually getting into the trunk (which, unfortunately, was going to be necessary) and got into the back seat instead. One of the few visible, but easily overlooked items was the set of external speakers that I'd installed on the back deck. Removing them was much easier than I'd expected, so taking care of that didn't delay my inevitable trunk-dive for very long.

Going all the way back to the first time I'd installed a transceiver in the trunk of a car many years earlier, I'd categorized the difficult parts of the task.

  1. Getting into the trunk.

  2. Finding space inside the trunk for most of my body.

  3. Actually seeing what I was doing.

  4. Getting my hands and tools positions properly.

  5. Preventing anything heavy from dropping onto my face.

  6. Preventing anything tiny from escaping.

  7. Getting out of the trunk.

  8. Getting to the first aid kit before I bled to death.

Filter to keep noise out of the transceiver

Regarding numbers 1 and 7, all of the installations were in compact cars, while my body was American standard sized and somewhat inflexible. Bruises were inevitable, cuts likely (see number 8), broken bones unlikely, and a broken back a low probability but a frightening prospect nevertheless.

You can understand why, with my body somewhat older and in no better shape, I was very reluctant to climb into the trunk yet again. I dreaded the idea having to be pried out by paramedics going “tut-tut” while shaking their heads and frowning at the old fool who'd been so stupid as to get himself into such a situation.

Incredibly, though, inserting and extricating myself from the trunk wasn't all that terrible this time. One thing that really bothered me, however, was the pesky tiny almost invisible parts that escaped and hid themselves in shadows. I got 'em all, though. I've gotten good at that. The other aggravating thing was taking apart mounted devices so that I could unscrew them from the trunks walls, only to find that I'd used double sticky tape instead of screws. All I'd needed to do was to pull hard.

The final item that I removed was the control head mounted on the dashboard. The only things remaining in the car after that were the cable to the control head and the power cord, both of which went under carpeting, through rocker panels, and so forth. I vividly remembered what a fun job that had been.

I decided to just tuck those cables out of sight. The Toyota dealership could keep them.

They never noticed.

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