Modifying Yaesu FT-817 To Work On 60 Meters

Modifying Yaesu FT-817 To Work On 60 Meters

Following is a story of how I found a solution to make my very old Yaesu FT-817 work on 60 meters.  If you have the Yaesu FT-817ND there is no need to modify the radio as it is designed to include 60 meters! This process of modifying the older Yaesu FT-817 is quite difficult.  I do NOT recommend you attempting this for a few really good reasons.  I was told by a former Yaesu repair person that this radio has undergone changes and it is likely you will find a solder point solution that pretends to work for your radio as describe on the Internet but it might NOT work for your radio.  Yaesu technical support has a cheat sheet showing them radio serial numbers and how they correspond to the manufactured electronics.  This tells me that there are probably different versions of the FT-817 and possibly different solder point switch solutions.  Also, you really need to know how to solder.  You need the correct tools and know how to use them.  The desoldering and soldering of the switch points is in very tight space making the task rather difficult.  Also, the process of uploading frequencies into the radio is a bit tricky in that you will get RT software error messages and you need to know how to solve each error.

I have had a Yaesu FT-817 ham radio for a very long time and have never seen the need to use it until now.  I participated in a local county Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) Zoom meeting where I had report to our city RACES group what took place during that meeting.  A part of that Zoom meeting covered a ham band I had never heard of before, that being, 60 meters.  I began to research this band and found out that it was created in 2002.  I then found out that there was a weekly check in for operators from each city who would use their 60 meter radios and reply to the county RACES operator when they asked if there were any stations for their city.  I then found out that our city was not on the list for cities that had checked in.  I have a lot of ham radios and I looked around and discovered that the ONLY 60 meter radio I had was a Yaesu FT-817 but it was not expected to work on 60 meters until you found a way to modify it.  I pulled the radio out from storage and tired it out.  This radio is low power, called a QRP, or reduced power radio.  I then went to Ham Radio Outlet and purchased software for the radio so I could program frequencies into it.

www.rtsystemsinc.com

YAESU ADMS-4A-USB, which was labeled as “Advanced Data Management System for the Yaesu FT-817/817D”.  I really like RT system software.  I was really pleased to discover this software was available for the Mac computer.  I then created a list of frequencies for the radio including 60 meters.  There are some important restrictions for using this band.  One restriction is to stick to 5 frequencies:

  • 5.332 MHz. USB
  • 5.348 MHz. USB
  • 5.368 MHz. USB
  • 5.373 MHz. USB
  • 5.405 MHz. USB

I then tried to input the full list of frequencies into the radio including the 60 meter ones and then tried transmitting into my 50 ohm dummy load.  All the 2 meter and 440 frequencies worked but not the 60 meters.  I kept getting a “TX ERR” or transmit error.  The radio would not transmit.  I then started a really long investigation that took weeks using the Internet.  I had a phone conversation with a former Yaesu technical support person who warned me that the Yaesu FT-817 had a number of changes and technical support had a cheat sheet where the serial number of the radio told them which version of radio they were dealing with.  This hinted to me that maybe the solder switches might be different depending on which version of radio I had.  I even sent Yaesu technical support for some help but I was refused with this response “I am sorry but as the manufacturer of the radio we are not permitted to assist in modifying the radio.”  I discovered that there are a LOT of web sites devoted to modifying this radio.  Suddenly I got a bit lucky and found out that there are some solder point switches inside the radio that can change the capabilities of that radio.  I tried one solder point solution but that failed.

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING FAILED FOR MY RADIO. (It is reported that the solder points shown next might work on some FT-817 models.). 

(You just might want to start with this modification first and then progress to the one explained later in this post.  A possible reason for these two solutions is the radio may have gone through changes.)

To extend the HF coverage to 500kHZ per band.
Extend VHF and UHF coverage.

Should be shorted:  JP4006, JP4007, JP4008.
Should be open:  JP4004, JP4005, JP4009.
Leave all other jumpers, 1,2,3, as they are.
After making the solder switch changes and reassemble the whole radio, apply power while pressing F and V/M buttons.

This did not work for me.

A ham radio friend sent me a web site that presented a different solder switch solution, shown next.  https://www.qsl.net/bg9bl/ft817/ft817.htm.  I tried it and it worked.

Should be shorted:  JP4009, JP4008, JP4007,  JP4006.
Should be open:  JP4005, JP4004, JP4003, JP4002, JP4001.

I the image below the solder jumpers are numbered 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. as you see them below in the image.  You only know this by being shown a drawing from the Internet. They are not labeled on the circuit board.

 

FT-817 Solder Point Solution

 

Let me first show you some tips on how to open and close the radio.

  • Remove all the screws holding the case together.
  • When removing the shoulder strap put those 4 screws in a separate place as they are longer.
  • Be really careful lifting the radio cover holding the speaker because there is a speaker wire that needs to be pulled out of the circuit board carefully.
  • The radio cover that has the battery door is a pain to open.  Look carefully and you will see one screw that has a plastic piece under it.  Loosen the screw a bit and then slide that piece away from the battery door.
  • The opposite side from the slider there are door tabs fitting into the case so you need to pull the door out from these holdings.
    The door then can be removed if it is swung out from the latch.  I removed the internal battery.
  • Once both the top and bottom radio covers are removed, you next need to pull the front panel CAREFULLY from the radio.  There are really simple plastic clips holding the front piece but there is a short ribbon cable that is really tricky to deal with so be careful you do not pull on this cable.  I use my finger nails to lift up the two top and two bottom plastic clips to allow me to move the front piece away.
  • The ribbon cable that runs between the front panel and the main radio body is really tricky to disconnect.  I decided to remove the ribbon at the radio head and NOT the body.  The trick is there is a plastic latch, (the brown piece in the image below) that needs to be moved so the ribbon can be withdrawn.

Once the front panel was free, I put it into my Panavise.  I then performed the solder point connection and removal of solder to the solder switches listed below (see image above).

 

Should be shorted:  JP4009, JP4008, JP4007,  JP4006.
Should be open:  JP4005, JP4004, JP4003, JP4002, JP4001.

Once you perform the solder switch changes, put the case back together.  For me, replacing the ribbon cable was a pain.  I had to use thin nose pliers to center the cable and then use my finger nails on both sides to make sure the cable was into the connector all the way.  It really helps to use headband magnifier to see more exactly what you are doing.

Pay particular attention to replace the shoulder strap to the radio so the microphone strap holder is on the same side as the microphone connector.

Connect a 50 ohm dummy load to the radio antenna jack or attach a good working 60 meter antenna.

Connect the power cable to a good source of power.

Connect the microphone to the radio.

GET THE RADIO READY TO RECEIVE THE COMPUTER FILE

Connect the RT Software cables to your computer and the radio.
Launch the software so you can input frequencies.
The RT software also has an important menu (Settings > Radio Menu Settings).  I always connect my dummy load and antennas for 60 meters to the REAR antenna jack.  I choose “Common > Rear HF Antenna”.
Input your frequency list into that software.  I have found two different lists of frequencies.  A ham operator friend sent this explanation to me:

“Yaesu radios typically are programmed to display the center frequencies on 60 meters but actually operate on what are known as dial frequencies on other radios. The USB dial frequencies are 1.5 kHz lower than the center frequencies.”

5.332 MHz.   5.33050 MHz Ch 1

5.348 MHz.   5.34650 MHz Ch 2

5.368 MHz.   5.35700 MHz Ch 3

5.373 MHz.   5.37150 MHz Ch 4

5.405 MHz.   5.40350 MHz Ch 5


Make sure you add the 60 meter frequencies to the RT software.

Now we need to restart the radio and pray it works.

  • Pressing F and V/M at the same time and then press the power switch.
  • Then press HOME and POWER to reset the radio CPU.
  • Turn the radio OFF.

Next get the radio ready to accept the RT Software.

Press the left and right MODE keys at the top of the radio and while those keys are pressed, apply power.
The radio display should show “CLONE MODE”
Press down the C key under the radio display screen.
Using the computer RT Software, go to the menu  and select COMMUNICATIONS > SEND DATA TO RADIO.
Mouse select the SEND DATA TO RADIO to start the file sending  into the radio.
You should then see a computer splash screen showing you the loading of data from the RT software into the radio.  The screen will show a left to right bar moving across revealing the loading into the radio.
When the loading has completed turn the radio OFF.
Now turn the radio back ON and you should now see your frequencies have loaded into the radio.
Go to one of your 60 meter frequencies by rotating the “SEL” for select knob just to the left of the radio display.  ONLY use this knob to choose the programmed channels.  As soon as you rotate the large knob you go out of your pre programmed channel and fine tune the frequency.  

While on a 60 meter frequency, press your microphone button and you should see the RED light turn on from the face plate of the radio showing you that it is transmitting on 60 meters.  If this happens, it appears that the prior modification has worked.

Counterpoise is required for best operation.

You need to add a stranded, not solid, insulated wire to the rear ground connection of the radio to help balance your antenna operation.  The best counterpoise is 1/4-wavelength at the lowest frequency you intend to use.    “Without a significant formal “counterpoise”, we have often undesirable case of the coax shield serving as most or all of the ad-hoc counterpoise; the “other half of the antenna”.

An interesting counterpoise solution can be found here:  https://www.qsl.net/sv1uy/counterpoisekit.html

I truly hope this description has helped and you are successful in using and enjoying this radio.

When you connect your Yaesu FT-817 to a 60 meter antenna try to tune the antenna with a passive SWR analyzer to avoid a mismatch in impedance.  Most ham stick antennas allow you to slide the end tip portion up and down and lock that part with small screws.  Once you think you have a very low standing wave ratio, SWR,  reading then lock that antenna length.   A further test is to attach a SWR meter between the radio and antenna to make sure there is a good impedance match when you transmit.  You really want to avoid reflected waves coming back into the radio because the antenna was a mismatch.

73

 

Posted September 25, 2020
Modified September 30, 2020

 

 

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