Boost Your Cell Signal in Remote Locations with the weBoost Drive Reach OTR – Installed on the 3rd Gen Toyota Tacoma
I’m always trying to get off the grid. It’s one of the things that first drew me to overlanding and off-roading. Disconnecting from the world and enjoying nature without any interruptions, even just for a bit, really helps recharge my batteries and make the most of my time off. And this is where the dreaded “but” comes in.
It’s nice to unplug from society, BUT you still need to have a way to connect with the outside world. Whether it’s for emergencies, for work, or just to let your loved ones know that you’re ok. There are all sorts of options that help with this. Satellite messengers and satellite phones are available. And while they work very well, they come with a price tag and you get what you pay for. Then, there are radios.
So Many Choices!
But what should you get? HAM? GMRS? FRS? CB? Many of us are likely lost just trying to distinguish the differences between all of those options. You’ll have to get a license to use some of them too. On a side note, if you’re interested in learning more about the difference between two common radio options, check out this breakdown of the Midland FRS and GMRS radio offerings. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.
I’m not sure about you, but my fiancé doesn’t have a long-range radio at home to talk to me. So that’s out of the question. However, not all is lost. Cell phone coverage is better than ever before, and it improves with each passing day. But how can you make sure you’re making the most out of the coverage you have? weBoost is here to help.
Top Off-Road & Overland Accessory
They’ve been the leader in signal boosters for a long time and their latest offering shows it. The weBoost Drive Reach OTR is one of their newest options, made especially for trucks and perfect for traveling to remote locations.
We’ve all been in a place where you try to stream your music, and it cuts out. Or you call your family, and you can’t understand anything they’re saying, then the call drops. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
The weBoost Drive Reach OTR can change all of that. Fewer dropped calls and more reliable data can help you accomplish so much more than you ever thought. You can call all your friends and family, stream music, watch your favorite streaming service and keep your social media up to date.
Just to be clear, and to dispel any misconceptions, the weBoost products can’t make cellular service appear just out of anywhere. If there’s no signal, there’s no service. What this product can do is help you out in spotty service areas by boosting the cell signal within your vehicle.
Find It Online
- weBoost Drive Reach OTR Cell Phone Signal Booster Kit
Specifications & Features
The Drive Reach OTR model is one of the stronger offerings from weBoost. This particular model is the best multiple-user booster in its class. While it’s technically designed for semi-trucks, the application works great for anyone who spends extended periods of time in secluded areas that have spotty cell signal coverage.
weBoost says that this model can reach cell phone towers up to 75% farther than the 4G-X OTR model. This is due in part to a new omnidirectional antenna. The system works with all phones, cellular devices, and all U.S. carrier networks. It allows multiple people to use the booster at once too.
I touched on it before, but considering the fact that many of us, most of us, are likely going to use our trucks in an area with poor reception. This is especially true if you like long-distance off-road and overland trips. So this is chalking up to be one of the best accessories for someone who has an active outdoor lifestyle and frequently uses their vehicle.
Tools for Install
- Drill Bit (around 3/32″) & Drill (optional)
- Plastic Trim Removal Tool Kit: Check Price
How Does weBoost Work?
Even though I work as a producer for a radio station, understanding exactly how this system works is way out of my wheelhouse. So, I asked my head broadcast engineer at work. He got this excited look on his face and started talking about frequencies, wavelengths, broadcast power, and DB. I’m not really sure what happened. I just saw black.
So, I asked him to really dumb it down for me. He said that the weBoost basically uses a better cellular antenna to pull cellular signal and amplify it in your truck. So you can do all the things you love to do with your phone. Ok, that’s much better. He also explained cellular signal strength and how I can check how much signal I really have.
After I installed the weBoost Drive Reach OTR, I got to experience it for myself. Wow! What a difference. I’ll talk about how you can check your real signal strength in a bit. But first, let’s talk about how easy the install is.
Step 1. Mount weBoost Antenna
First things first. You need to decide where you want to put the antenna. I chose to attach mine to my ditch light bracket. I found a bracket from Rago Fabrication.
Install the new bracket to your ditch light by taking off your light pod and adding the bracket in between your ditch light bracket and the light pod. Then decide how tall you want it. The weBoost comes with a 13-inch and 18-inch mast extension to give you some options as far as height goes.
As a general rule, the higher the antenna, the better. However, I used the 13-inch extension. This is mainly due to the clearance issues I have at the parking garage at work.
Next, let’s get the mast ready to install. Take the outside antenna and run the coax cable through the mast extensions you want to use. Then, route the wires through the side exit adapter.
Finally, through the antenna spring under the side exit adapter. weBoost supplies you with a thread locker so you have no excuse not to use it on every section of the mast. Now you can use the washer and bolt to attach the mast to your antenna bracket. Now we need to run the coax cable into the cab.
Step 2. Route Wiring into Vehicle
There is a location under the hood on the driver’s side where all your wires go into the cab. You can run the coax cable through there if you’d like. I used a different access point just above that.
You’ll see a small rubber gasket just above where the rest of your wires are. Use a flathead screwdriver to pry it out. It’s not ready to run a cable through it just yet. You’ll have to drill a hole in it. Take a 3/32″ drill bit to the center of the gasket, and boom! You can start to feed the coax cable through the gasket.
Now for the tough part. You’ll need to get on your back in the driver’s side footwell and you’ll see a few cuts in the carpet where the wire harness comes into the cab reach up under the carpet. You may need to extend the cuts in the carpet to get your hand in there; just be careful to not cut any wires.
You’ll need to feel around for the hole in the firewall. Have a friend feed the coax cable through the hole till you have the gasket ready to be pushed back in the hole to make a good seal.
Step 3. Mount weBoost Unit & Connect Wires
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way. You’ll need to find a place to put the Drive Reach OTR booster and figure out a way to route the coax cable to that location. I decided to put mine under the driver’s seat.
I ran the coax cable under the door sill and I placed the cable under the kick panel near where the coax cable comes into the cab. Using a panel pry, pop up the door sill and remove it. This will make it easier to conceal the cable under it. I then ran it to its final spot under the seat. Make sure you run it under the seat rail so you can still adjust your seat.
Time to prep the weBoost unit. Take the supplied Velcro strips and stick the hook side to the mounting plate.
You won’t need the mount for the loop for this location because your carpet will hold it in place with the Velcro.
Connect the coax cable from the outside antenna to the corresponding port on the Drive Reach OTR.
And the same for the power cord and the inside antenna; don’t worry, we’ll run those wires next once all the connections are made.
Position the Drive Reach OTR under the driver’s seat, back behind the floor vent that’s there.
Step 4. Run Wires & Mount Antenna
You’re practically done; everything is already hooked up. Now, you’ll just need to find a place for the internal antenna and connect the 12V power supply. The internal antenna has a short range of 36 inches or 3 feet. So make sure the place you mount the unit will be within 3 feet of where your phone will be.
I chose to put it on the passenger side right above the seatbelt. But you can easily mount it to the side of the seat or in the center of the vehicle. I chose this particular location because I want to be able to use it when I’m in my rooftop tent when camping.
To run the wire, I went under the right driver’s side seat rail and tucked it under the plastic of the center console where it meets the carpet, as seen above.
Continue to run the wire all the way around the center console to the opposite side.
Then run the wire under the rails for the passenger seat to the B-pillar that separates the passenger’s side doors.
You’ll be able to use the double-sided tape or the hook and loop to stick the inside antenna to the B-pillar.
Then tuck the wire under the trim panel of the B-pillar all the way up to where you want the internal antenna.
Step 5. Power Up Your weBoost
All that’s left is to supply power to the weBoost! There are two options for this: the included 12V plug or you can order the hardwired power supply. Check out the hardwire power supply here. Eventually, I’m going to get the hardwired option and wiring it into my Switch Pro. That way I can turn it on and off from my tent when I’m camping.
But for now, the 12V plug will do. And since it’s the last thing to do, I’m glad it’s simple, lol. I ran the power cord from the unit around the center console and up past the passenger seat to the 12V plug on the dash. Shoving the wire under the center console all the way up. That’s it, you’re done! Now for the fun part.
Using the weBoost Drive Reach OTR
To use the weBoost Drive Reach OTR, just start your truck. The button on the 12V power plug will toggle the unit on and off. It will default to being turned on every time you start the truck – you’ll see it glow red. So, keep that in mind if you don’t want it running all the time.
Once it’s on, look under your seat and check the light on the top of the Drive Reach OTR unit. If it’s a solid green light, you’re good to go! If it’s red or flashing red, then it’s sensing a feedback loop from the inside antenna. Unplug the power and plug it back in to reset the unit. If that doesn’t fix it, try relocating the inside antenna further away from the outside antenna.
You should see you have a better signal on your phone, but let’s take it a step further. The head broadcast engineer at my radio station told me about cell signal and how it’s measured.
To quickly break it down, cellular signal is measured in RSRP (Reference Signal Received Power) in decibel-milliwatts or dBm:
- a full signal is -50 dBm;
- an ok signal is -110 dBm;
- and -130 dBm is effectively no signal.
So how do we know what kind of cell signal quality your phone is getting? It’s actually pretty easy to check. If you have an iPhone, call the sequence *3001#12345#* dial that, and a menu pops up. This is for service technicians to check things about your carrier and signal.
At the top of the screen, hit the three lines to go to the next menu page. Depending on your carrier and what iPhone you have, you’ll see a button labeled “Rech Attempt” or “Serving Cell Measure or Meas”. On that page, look for the metric “RSRP”; you’ll see a negative number next to that. This number is your actual RSRP in dBm!
These numbers aren’t live so you’ll have to refresh by going back to the menu page, and swiping down just as you would refresh your Instagram feed. Test it out for yourself and see the difference in signal.
The weBoost Drive Reach OTR has made my life so much easier. I’m out hitting trails most weekends and my fiancée is super grateful that I can keep in touch. And it’s not just texts. I’ve had FaceTime calls in places where my Instagram feed wouldn’t even load before.
Oh yeah and I can even drop the likes and comments on IG all day long. Even streaming music without it cutting out on me. I also uploaded this to Trail Tacoma from the truck. I think the proof is in the pudding. As I said, I love this thing and my family loves it even more than I do.