Yesterday I decided to fire up the mobile HF station and try to hunt down some of the weekend’s Apollo 11 special stations. Unfortunately, things didn’t go along to plan.I made a quick run through 20 Meters and didn’t hear but one stations who was too weak for me to work with the mobile, so I switched to 40 Meters to try there. The ATAS-120A mobile HF antenna promptly seemed to lock up or jam and wouldn’t tune. I investigated the issue in 91F real temperature/100F heat index conditions for about 45 minutes to an hour, taking the antenna off of the mount to check it out and nothing seemed to be physically wrong with it. I did a bit of Googling on my cell phone and came across some info on folks having similar issues with a fix of re-initializing the FT-857D and ATAS-120A. I did that and it went back to acting normally… until I switched back to 20 Meters where it did the same thing all over again. Re-initializing the radio caused it to start tuning again. At this point, out of curiosity, I switched to 15 Meters and set it to tune there and it promptly stopped. I repeated the fix and went back to 40 Meters again and had the same problem. I’m not sure what the issue is, but apparently the radio and the antenna just aren’t talking to each other properly; it’s an issue I’ll look into more in the Autumn when I can work in and around the car in conditions that aren’t Tatooine-like.
On a more positive note, I did manage to make two QSOs on 20 Meters during all of the above problem discovering and troubleshooting. First, I worked W9POL in Illinois who was doing a Parks on the Air activation with a 57/57 exchange. Later I had a good QSO with Stanley, VA3AAA in Ontario, Canada. Stanley also uses an FT-857D and ATAS-120A in his mobile station, so we had a good conversation about that for a few minutes. At least I know that even if the FT-857D and ATAS-120A in my application is having issues tuning, it is transmitting and receiving just fine once it gets tuned.