Introduction: Durango Rear Hatch Antenna Mount
These directions cover how to mount an antenna on the rear hatch of a 2001 Dodge Durango. This is a mostly non-permanent mounting option so we're not drilling any holes, this is often the 2nd most important decision antenna installers have to make (over the mounting location).
The most optimal location for about any vehicule antenna is on top of the roof. This provides an excellent ground plane which is especially important on HF frequencies like 10 meters and CB. However, some of us also park inside a garage so overhead clearence is important. Mounting an antenna off the rear side of a vehicle is a reasonable alternative. A side mount antenna is more subdued and draws less attention which can also be a consideration for some. It's less optimal, but but it is still very usable. In the 2nd photo, you can see that the antenna has at least a small view ahead of the vehicle and the right side. Of course rear-reception is going to be best with this mounting option.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
1x trunk lip mount
2x 18' RG-58A coax cable with UHF connectors (PL-259), you may want 25' instead
1x 1'x1" wide grounding braid
Conductive anti-corrosion compound
Flate blade screw driver to remove platic panels
Philips screw driver to attach RF ground
First, you need an antenna. I wanted the longest antenna I could install without it extending very far above the luggage rack, my garage gives me just a few inch of clearence above my Durango. With the mounting location I chose I ended up choosing the 3' long FireStik FL3-B.
If this is for a CB or HF antenna, then cheap coax is fine. As a general rule, losses at lower RF frequencies will be less for most coax. This means you can get away with the cheapest stuff on hand without it loosing very much of your signal. Eightteen feet was enough to mount my CB next to the center console. If you want your CB under your dash like is a more typical install location, then you may want a 25' to 30' cable depending on how you route it.
A trunk-lip mount should work to attach to the side of the Durangos rear hatch. There are various styles, I happened to have a chrome unit so that is what I went with. Most Durangos around this vintage (2001) have developed a lot of rust along the bottom of the hatch. If your rear hatch has deteriorated too far you might not be able to use this type of mount here. Despite accumulating some rust, mine was still intact enough to securely mount the lip-mount without issues.
Lastly you need a good RF ground from the hatch to the body of the vehicle. Skimping on this will just cause you problems sooner than later. I highly recommend 3/4" to 1" wide grounding braid. If you can't get your hands on this cheaply, then use some very heavy copper grounding wires. It needs to be heavy, this isn't just an electrical ground, this is an RF ground. This is where I used the anti-corrosion compound.
Step 2: Attach the Lip-mount
These usually have allen screws that tighten onto the vehicle lip. Watch when the hatch closes, there was a small piece of the tail light that was making contact. I notched out the plastic ridge on the tail light with a set of side-cuts. This is a very minimal impact and does not affect the integrity of the tail light. It just has a black plastic ridge that expends nearly 1/2" away from the assembly. Like I said, this was "mostly" non-destructive.
Step 3: Install the RF Ground From the Hatch to the Body
You will need to start popping plastic off the rear hatch now. With the hatch open, there is a piece in the center of the hatch hole (on the top) that will come straight down. If it gives you trouble, use a flat blade screw driver to encourage it to pop free. There is also a large section of plastic on the rear hatch that should be directly over head. You don't have to take that one completely off as it's fairly large, but you will want to break some of it free.
Locate a screw on the hatch and a screw on the body that will make good grounding points for the strap. As I said earlier, steel braid is the best RF ground, but at least have something making a dedicated ground from the hatch to the body or else you will loose a lot of signal strength.
I used sand paper to clear paint around each screw hole. This will be completely invisible once everything is reattached so no worries. Use the conductive anti-corrosion compound all over the bare metal you just exposed with sand paper. Put the screw terminal over the hole, then put the screw back through and tighten. It should be nearly seamless. Don't put the plastic body pieces back in yet, we still need to route our coax in the next step.
Step 4: Routing the Coax
Connect your coax to the antenna. Carefully make a U-turn right where it comes off the antenna and begin pushing it under the plastic body panels. A flat blade screw driver can help create a gap to work with. Work your way "up" the hatch (which must be open during this part). You want to come to the center of the top of the hatch to make the jump into the body.
Now slowly work the coax behind the edges of the interior body work. Where there is no plastic body work (above the 3rd side window) you can gently push it past the plush ceiling material to continue hiding the cable. When you get to the rear door, you can push the coax behind the rubber gromet material above the door.
If you are going for an under-dash mount install then you will need to fine an alternative route for the cable from here which should be easy enough. However, if you are mounting the radio inside the console or next to the passenger seat, then continue with my directions.
Once you get to the forward side of the door, you need to transition to the body-side post. Gently pry the plastic back and you will find plenty of room for the cable. Work your way down to the floor. Once you get coax coming out onto the floor, you can run it across to the center console. The rear floor mats can cover the cable here so it will continue to be nearly invisible.
Step 5: Connect Your Radio, Tune SWR, and DONE
I opted for sticking my CB between the passenger seat and the center console. I don't use it all the time, so keeping it out of the way was also important for me. And often when it is getting used, the passenger is the operator. You can see that the radio can slide down out of the way when not in use and is not in the passengers way. I need to keep my CB portable so I used a cigaratte power outlet inside the console to power mine.
Last but not least, you will need to adjust the SWR of your antenna. You will need an SWR meter, I suggest borrowing one from a friend. The antenna will have directions for how to tune it for SWR. On a Firestik, there is a screw on the tip of the antenna you use to make subtle ajustments to the antennas length. The SWR meter should include directions on how to use it. Once you do this you are good to go!