Scanners and Rally Communications
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Thread: Scanners and Rally Communications

  1. #1
    50 caution yump DatsunZguy's Avatar
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    Default Scanners and Rally Communications

    Not trying to beat a dead horse compared to old threads about scanners and amateur radio; this is a scanner decision making overview not focusing on particular models or brands.

    Scanners are radio receivers (no transmit capability) that “quickly scan” through a bunch of frequencies that the user inputs. Most people have heard of them due to folks listening on police, fire and ambulance communications.WHY care about radio communications at a rally? Keep abreast of competitors performance, prepare for cars coming to your location, stay safe by knowing about the incident that has delayed competitors - and don't be wondering about a still hot stage... just to name a few. Pretty much any scanner should be fine – for most rally use -- since there are no trunking, encryption, digital modes, etc. issues. For rally, no one needs a fancy, new expensive unit, so if $$$ is an issue, you can look for an older, used unit on ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, yard sales, etc.

    The most common issues to consider:


    #1 -- MOST CRITICAL ISSUE‼! -- Get a scanner that can cover frequencies in the 2m wavelength range which means 144 MHz to 148 MHz!
    • The VAST MAJORITY of units WILL cover the 2m range, but ALWAYS make sure!
    • You may have to check manufacturer’s websites for frequency ranges covered by particular units!
    • Almost every piece of US rally radio traffic is in the 2 meter range, with a handful of 70cm wavelength/440 MHz range bits. In many cases the 70cm stuff may be timing and scoring -- but it may be in digital mode.
    • LOTS of $20 and upward used handhelds on ebay, garage sales, etc. (9/2015)
    2.) Battery/power configuration:
    • What kind of “Run time” does the unit have?
    • Are there auxiliary power options, such as an adapter for car power?
    • Size ("capacity") of batteries/pack: AA lasts longer than AAA - but you do have a weight and size trade off...
    • Rechargeable battery packs are nice, but do cost more… Can you swap to standard batteries as a backup?
    3.) Antenna:
    • This usually means antenna length! There are different methods to "shrink" antenna physical dimensions while keeping the physics/electrical qualities the same. Rule of thumb: longer is better!
    • Another rule of thumb: higher is better – so try to get a unit with swapable antenna so that you can hook up longer antennas or even throw a “roll-up” into a tree! Lots of plans on the Internet!
    • How rugged is the construction of your antenna?
    • When buying a used unit be careful of how beat up some of the antennas can get…
    • Please be careful in spectator crowds not to blind and lacerate your fellow rally fans!
    4.) Ease of use:
    • Some models are easier to program based upon an individual’s technical background/”comfort level” or the unit’s menu/display capabilities
    • Can the unit to interface with a computer to more easily arrange, store, swap, and label frequencies.
    • Typically, inputting your frequencies is the most tedious and/or challenging issue.
    • If possible try out a unit at a store, or borrow a friend’s unit, or check out videos on the Internet, etc.
    5.) Weather/Environmental Issues:
    • Considering the dirt, dust, rain, snow cold, heat extremes associated with rally, look for construction features that stand up to these conditions.
    • That being said, more than a few folks have done the double plastic bag trick…
    • Battery life during the cold rallies can be an issue, so bring extras!
    6.) Vehicle mounting/use:
    • Secure placement of scanners: “RAM” mounts and equivalents, Velcro, rubber dash mats (tool drawer liners), etc. are options.
    • Use 12 volt auxiliary power options, as possible! (Save your batteries for when you leave the car!)
    • External antenna: disconnect the normal antenna and hook-up to an external unit for better reception!
    7.) Headphones/earbud/speakers:
    • Some folks like the option of an external output for headphones or earbuds.
    • In some cases, folks might want amplified speakers hooked up for in-car use…
    Some general resources:

    Of course, as a rally communications co-chief, I’m hoping that more folks will get their amateur radio license (sometimes referred to as “ham radio”) and help with the communications net of a rally!
    Best wishes and be safe!

    Topic matter suggested by others:
    Originally Posted by williaty --
    "... some events out west use 70cm as well as 2m. As you said, though, it'd be hard to find a scanner that doesn't cover those bands.

    I would also say that anyone curious about scanning should probably check out RadioReference to find out what kinds of systems are used by public agencies in their local area. If you can spend $100 on a scanner that'll only work at rallies or $150 on a scanner that'll work for listening to police/fire locally as well, it's probably worth the upgrade. It can often be quite useful to know what's going on around you. If your local agencies use a P25 Phase II system, well, sorry about your wallet

    I was testing antenna locations the other day and I overheard this on the scanner from the Columbus Police Department:

    "The car is a Buick."
    "You said Buick, like the old people's car?"
    "Yeah, Buick, the old people's whip."
    Last edited by DatsunZguy; 09-03-2015 at 06:05 PM.
    Dave Moore - KB3IEC, STPR Comm. Co-Chief, rally worker, '02 WRX Wagon + '03 Forester, "once upon a time" Datsun Z owner - go RWD!, too poor to race ... Blessings to all!
    "Do not vomit on the finish control workers." (his emphasis) From the section on motion sickness in "North American Performance Rally Codriving" by Dave Shindle.

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  3. #2
    NASA Rally Sport grassroots!!! Anders Green's Avatar
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    Default

    Quality post Dave. Thanks for contributing!
    NASA Rally Sport Director
    Your question is probably answered in Rally University.

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