One of the things we have always struggled with is cab radio reception. It was something I thought was fairly unique to our Fiat Ducato based motorhomes, but is something our Renault Master suffered from also - with its wing mounted FM antenna. I've tried various windscreen antennas in the past with varying degrees of success but ultimately, nothing beats a proper roof mounted antenna - which is what the base vehicle would have most likely had been a commercial van.

While running cables for our solar install I decided that I was going to have a go at installing an inexpensive active FM antenna on the roof. This bypassed the need to drill the bodywork and got the antenna to the highest point.

Parts Required - all purchased on eBay
1x IP65 box - £4
1x Car Audio Active (powered) FM Antenna - £10
1x 5m RF Extension Cable - £3
1x 5m length of 16AWG cable - £2
1x 50cm length of twin core cable ~ 50p
1x In-Line fuse connector and 5A fuse ~ £1
2x Spade Connectors ~ 20p
2x 20mm Twin Cable Glands ~ £1

~ Sikafix 512 left over from Solar Install

Total Cost £21.70

The antenna is an active antenna, which means it requires power. It would usually only require a positive feed as it is grounded by the chassis on a car - but in this situation you will need to run an earth feed also. The cables were run to the back of the radio and the positive feed taken from the ignition feed (red) from the back of the radio. This means you wouldn't benefit from the enhanced signal when the ignition wasn't on, but usually for us reception is fine when stationary.

The IP65 box isn't the most aerodynamic - but I needed one with a flat top for the antenna and wanted one with a screw down top that was removable. In reality I can't see that it matters a great deal as the Sikaflex is incredibly strong.

Once installed the results were better than expected. I was a bit skeptical about the benefit of the powered element, but removing and replacing the 5A fuse made a noticeable difference in the sound quality.

Looking forward to testing it out on the road and seeing how it performs longer term.

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  1. Hi Guys,
    Pleased to see that we are not unique in having a problem with radio reception in our Fiat Ducato (2010 Adria Twin). Thought there must be wide experience out there but couldn't find many references to it so began to think we were just unlucky.

    Being a broadcasting engineer by profession, I fortunately had the tools to investigate the problem and found that the engine management system radiates a high level of electrical noise across the FM and AM broadcasting bands . Reception was perfect when stationary but useless with the ignition on.

    Using a magnetic mounted antenna I found that reception at the rear of the vehicle was virtually clear of the noise. So have now permanently mounted a new antenna just above the high-level brake light and disconnected the Fiat antenna. As I found that the advantage of the new antenna could be lost by using cheap cable I went for the best quality components I could find. (Cheap cable often has very little copper in the outer screen so the engine noise can be picked-up on the cable.) Because the cable is now 5m long, I chose an amplified antenna to overcome the loss in signal in the cable. The antenna I chose is the Hirschmann Hit Auta 16V. Available on eBay and from CPC. It is pricey but comes with a good quality 5m extension cable and the amplifier is robust. I used the powered output from the radio so the antenna amplifier is active whenever the radio is switched on.

    The most difficult part of the project was of course finding a route for the cable from the rear of the van through to the dashboard. But it has been worth the effort and we now have excellent reception.

    Hope this is useful.

    Paul and Mandy

    1. Hi Paul and Mendy,

      Thank you for sharing. I have a job to do to build in navi and reverse camera in also ducatto 2010 van. Is it possible for you to explain how you founded the cable routing through the van from the radio to the back?

      thnx! Frans