K7MFC mobile shack: 2019 Ford F-150 XLT

Last summer I replaced my 2013 F-150 with a new 2019 F-150. Just like the last truck, this is my daily driver to the office job, but it does truck stuff too!

I’ve been happy with Ford trucks and decided to get another F-150, but this time around I placed a factory order so I could get the exact truck I wanted. I was having difficulty finding a truck on a dealer lot in the configuration I desired: crew cab, 5.0 V8, 4×4, locking rear diff, front bench seat & column shifter, no sun roof, and cloth seats. I also had a Ford Z-plan employee discount which knocked off a nice chunk of change from the final sticker price. The total build time for the truck was 6 weeks after the order was submitted via the dealer. It took a few months after taking delivery to get my radios installed, but I’ve finally (almost) completed the installation. Here is the (almost) final product:

I’m running a Uniden BCD996P2 scanner and a Connect Systems CS800D in my F-150. The BCD996P2 is paired with a Larsen NMO150/450/758 (front), and the CS800D is paired with a Comtelco A1531B (rear).

Now back to the beginning! The internet, including the RadioReference Forums, and members of the Arizona GMRS Repeater Club were a big help in planning out the installation, so I’ll detail the entire process here for other Ford guys out there looking to do the same in their truck, or for anyone else who happens to find this post while looking for guidance with their install. It took me a couple weekends to get everything done. The first weekend I installed the antenna mounts, and the next weekend I installed the console and radios.

As you may or may not already know, a radio is pretty useless without a proper antenna setup. I see lots of posts on the internet where people seek advice on how to avoid drilling a hole for an antenna mount, but speaking from personal experience having used through-glass, mag mount, and fender mount antennas, nothing works nearly as well as an antenna mounted up high, on the center of the roof. Also, prior to trading in my old truck, I removed the antennas and capped the mounts – it had no effect on the trade-in value. So my two cents is: drill the hole!! I understand how one would be hesitant to drill into a brand new truck – disassembling a vehicle and drilling thorough body panels may not be for the faint of heart…but like they say, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. I also see a lot of posts online where people are worried about dealing with airbags. Yes, they are behind nearly every pillar panel in a modern vehicle, but it is really not that big of a deal if proper care is taken. Prior to installing, I disconnected the battery from the truck, and when routing the coax I made sure to always run it behind the airbags.

I found the headliner removal in the 2019 F150 to be a little more difficult than my 2013, which was mostly held in place by plastic rivets around the perimeter of the headliner. I found this post on the F150 Forums that detailed the removal process. To start, I removed the trim pieces for the driver’s side and passenger’s side A-pillars.

Next, I removed the the passenger sun visor and the trim piece above the rear view mirror.

The trim from B-pillars was removed and the front and rear floor scuff plates on the driver’s and passenger’s sides were removed. I did not need to remove the seat belts, I had enough room to drop the headliner and route the coax with the panel pulled back from the pillar and the belts still in place.

Finally, I removed the passenger’s side rear garment hook and then I was able to drop the headliner a few inches. I took a peek above the headliner with a flashlight and discovered two structural cross members: one running across the width of the roof, connecting each B-pillar, and one running from the center of the rear window to the center of the horizontal cross member.

The first hole I drilled was a little forward of that horizontal cross member, and installation of the antenna mount was easy. Measure thrice, cut once!

I used Larsen NMO mounts with RG-58 coax on each.

The second mount was not as easy. I drilled the hole, and needed to fish the coax though the “U” shaped channel of the cross member running from the rear window to the center of the roof, and out one of the holes on the underside of the cross member. One great piece of advice I received from Chris Guth KG7LER before I did my previous install was to slide some protective layer like cardboard or paper on top of the headliner, underneath the location of the mount hole, before drilling. This will catch the metal shavings and slug from the hole saw when drilling from above. After the mounts were secured, I was above to fish the coax from each mount over to the passenger side, behind the airbag, and down along the B-pillar. I secured the coax to the roof using some foil tape.

The coax was the then run in the channel under the front passenger floor scuff plate, into the cabin fuse box area under the glove box, and then over to the center of dashboard.

The following weekend, I was able to get the console installed. To power the radios, I ran 10ga wire from the battery and chassis ground, through the firewall, and over to the console.

Power is run to a Blue Sea Systems fuse block and each radio has its own fused circuit.

I ordered the bench seat/column shifter configuration in my truck to maximize the options for a radio installation. After looking at various options, I decided on the Jotto Desk Vertical Dash Mount Contour Console for 2018+ F150-550 trucks. This came with all the mounting hardware, faceplates, and detailed installation instructions, and it was relatively easy to install. For a job like this, I recommend using trim removal tools – a cheapo set from Harbor Freight works just fine:

To install the console, I first had to remove the cover for the speaker on the center of the dashboard.

The speaker is held in place by two Torx screws (the only ones I encountered during the install). All others were either 7 or 10mm screws and a normal socket wrench worked just fine to remove them. After the speaker was removed, I disconnected it, removed two more screws towards the windshield holding the tray piece in place, and popped it out of the dash using the trim removal tool.

Next, I used the trim removal tool to pry away the large trim piece covering the radio touchscreen. I disconnected the harnesses for the radio and HVAC controls, and the trim piece can be removed completely.

The trim pieces to the left and right of the radio were popped out from the top, the harnesses for the 4×4 selector and the 12v/110v outlets disconnected, and the pieces were removed.

The trim piece below the radio is attached with two screws. The screws were removed, the harnesses disconnected, and the USB and 12v outlets were removed and put aside. The trim piece is discarded and is no longer needed.

The last trim piece to remove is on the bottom of the dashboard going across the transmission hump. A single screw on the driver’s side holds this in place. This trim piece is also no longer needed and can be discarded. The console mounting bracket was attached using the factory hardware and location.

The trim pieces that were not discarded could then be re-installed in reverse order, and I did a test fit of the console.

After securing the console to the bracket, I mounted both radios, connected the power and antenna for each, and closed the gap below with the blank faceplate. There is, however, one annoying drawback I did not account for when planning this install. After receiving the CS800D, I discovered that it must be programmed with the DB15 port in the rear of the radio, and cannot be programmed trough the RJ45 jack on the front panel. I decided to leave the programming cable permanently attached to the rear of the radio, and install a USB feed-thru plug like this. The programming cable from the the radio is permanently attached to the rear of the outlet, and use a second USB cable to connect the front of the outlet and my computer.

Since the BCD996P2 has a downward facing speaker and would be muffled when inside the console, I was planning on mounting an external speaker somewhere. But while I was working on reinstalling the trim pieces, I had the idea of re-purposing the speaker in the center of the dashboard for use with the scanner. I ran a 1/8″ mono jack and lead from the scanner and soldered it to the existing terminals on the the speaker. I left the speaker disconnected from the factory stereo harness so it is dedicated to the scanner. I’m really pleased with the result – it sounds great and results in a much cleaner look. The CS800D has its own front facing speaker, so no additional work was needed for that radio.

Another important piece of radio tech I consider part of my mobile shack is the factory Ford SYNC/SiriusXM receiver. Satellite radio operates in the 2.3 GHz section of the S band, and in addition to the music, sports, and news channels offered, navigation with up to date traffic and weather incident data is also available.

Also part of the mobile shack is my dedicated radio programming PC – a Lenovo S10e netbook. I picked this up from eBay for $50, and while not the most powerful PC (Windows 7 x86, Intel Atom, 1 GB RAM) the small form factor (10″) makes it perfect for a dedicated radio programming PC.

I always try and do each installation a little better than I did the last time, so here’s a couple things learned from the previous install and was able to apply this time around:

Crimp tools – I never previously had a proper crimp tool for wire terminals, I always used the combo wire stripper/crimper which did just an OK job. This time I purchased a ratcheting crimp tool for wire terminals and used it on all the wire terminals, resulting in a much more secure connection. I already had a ratcheting crimper for coax, so this tool is a great addition to my toolbox.

Aluminum body – I had initial concerns about how the installation would be different from my 2013 F-150 given that the 2019 is an aluminum body. I made a post in the RadioReference Radio Equipment Installation Forum and all my questions were answered. I learned that the installation is not really any different on aluminum vs steel body panels, and the only concern with galvanic corrosion is when moisture is introduced. As long as the mount gaskets are installed correctly, there will be no issues.

Here is the completed final product:

You can also view this installation process and discussion on the RadioReference forums.

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