I just made two improvements to my Starlink setup. These will solve some “quirks and features” I’ve encountered while using it in its previous location and configuration.
It’s amazing how I designed this little shelf in the back corner of the van to fit a Starlink router so perfectly. It’s even more amazing how I did it before the router itself was even invented.
Nothing in that previous paragraph is true, but it’s still amazing just how well the router fits here. A tiny bungee cord even hooks right into the angle iron to keep it from tipping over while I drive. There are many reasons why it came out of the closet. Height always improves your coverage area, whether it’s WiFi, radio, or whatever. Plus, it’s now shooting its signal through my fiberglass roof, not through the metal body and windows blocked off with Reflectix, which should further improve my range. I haven’t had any issues with my WiFi range, but it certainly wasn’t as good as my WiFiRanger Spruce router. Its range limitations have become more apparent since I’ve been sharing my Starlink connection with other people, so it was a good time to make this change. I should’ve made a coverage map in the Starlink app before and after, but I didn’t.
Another reason for the move is power. I’ve had to open a cabinet and awkwardly reach inside to turn it on and off. Now it’s plugged into a different outlet with the switch conveniently exposed at the foot of the bed. When I’m falling asleep watching videos at night I can just reach over and turn it off without doing gymnastics to reach it. I use this same set of outlets to charge my iPad and Bluetooth speaker, so now they’ll charge anytime I’m running Starlink.
Finally, I’m hoping that being out in the open may prevent my power inverter from shutting down for “overheating” so much. I use quotes because 70º is not overheating, yet its hyperactive thermal protection kicks in anyway and knocks me offline, forcing me to switch to my Jackery as a backup. The inverter is no longer inside a cabinet, plus it gets air blown around it when the roof vent pulls air in from outside, so that might help too. Temperatures have been in the mid-70s this afternoon. The inverter has been on since this morning and hasn’t shut down yet. Time will tell if this problem is fixed, or maybe just bypassed.
The other modification has been to my van. While the galvanized steel pipe works great as an antenna mast, it’s also been the tallest conductive point in the area, which is not optimum now that we’ve had daily thunderstorms for the past week. Rushing to take it down when thunder and doom clouds approach has gotten old pretty quick.
The standard base that comes with Starlink works well just sitting on my roof, even in moderate winds. But I still get scared that a strong gust will knock it down and destroy my $599 equipment investment. Honey Badger attached four strong magnets to her base, which work extremely well on her Ram Promaster’s steel roof. I’ll add an Amazon link to them once she sends it to me. These were hers, and I need to replace them at some point anyway.
Magnets don’t stick to my fiberglass roof. But when reorganizing my trailer recently, I found a small sheet of steel that I never used for whatever purpose I bought it for. I decided to cut it into two strips and stick them to my roof, enabling me to use exactly the same magnetic mount system that Honey Badger uses.
I cut the sheet metal pieces down to size with my Dremel, then painted them to prevent rust. It rudely started to rain much earlier than the forecast said it would, forcing me to randomly toss all my stuff in the trailer and delay the actual installation until a dry day. Once I got one, I used the same silicone that’s held my solar panels to my roof for over a year to stick these two steel strips to the roof in locations that would be directly under the base’s magnetic feet.
The carabiners that came with the magnets were too large to work with my limited space, but zip-ties were the perfect solution. (And one I’ll have to inspect from time to time — plastic may break down and get weak during long-term exposure to the sun. Fortunately, zip-ties are cheap and easy to replace.) The tab sticking out the top of the magnets fits perfectly into the holes in the base, so now I have four strong magnets holding Dishy to my roof. Now I understand why sometimes Honey Badger leaves her base, without Dishy attached, on her roof while driving. I may do the same myself. The magnets are certainly strong enough. When I try to pull them off, the entire fiberglass roof bends before they come free (which also tells me my silicone job on the metal strips is also solid). I’m curious if they’re strong enough to stay on with Dishy attached, but I don’t feel like taking that chance myself at this point…
I sincerely wonder whether I’m even going to bother using my 10-foot pole anymore. It might make sense if I’m parked somewhere for a long time, but using this roof mount has no disadvantages and several advantages. It’s fast and easy to set up and take down, and it doesn’t matter whether my trailer is still attached to the van or not. I’m not going to throw away the steel pipe mast and trailer hitch mount for it, but I might end up using it for ham radio antennas instead of Starlink at this point.