When I bought my 2008.5 Mazda3 the first thing I noticed was the huge horse whip style antenna jumping off the roof of the car. I’m not much of an AM/FM radio aficionado and with optional satellite radio or an iPod in tow there isn’t a whole lot of reason to be but for important traffic updates and local news it can’t be beat.
The shark fin works as a sleek, compact replacement for your stock horse whip antenna and is extremely easy to install. We did hit a few snags though so read on to see how we did it and what not to do.
What You’ll Need
1. Flat Head Screw Driver (Optional)
2. Painter’s Tape or Masking Tape
3. Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (We used 70% and definitely recommend sticking at 70% rather than the more potent 98%)
4. For Waxed Cars Only – 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner or 3M Prep Solvent 70 or Dawn dish soap (liquid)
5. Hair Dryer (Heat Guns are too powerful and will damage your paint!)
6. A stool of some kind (Unless you are tall enough to reach over the Mazda3 and push down on the middle.)
1. The first thing you are going to do is unscrew the Elroy Jetson style antenna from its base. The antenna is all one piece so it should come right off. See the pic below to see how it should look once the antenna is off:
Okay, this is where we goofed it up a little bit. The picture above still has the antenna on while we were applying the rubbing alcohol. I don’t think it really matters whether the antenna is on or off when you apply the rubbing alcohol but we were very eager to get started so it’s on in the pic above.
2. Apply the rubbing alcohol using a paper towel or blue shop towel and wipe the entire surface where your shark fin antenna will be. Don’t use cotton balls or cotton pads because, as we learned above, it leaves streams of cotton everywhere.
NOTE: For waxed cars, you’ll want to use the 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner/3M Prep Solvent 70 or Dawn liquid dish soap first to remove the wax from the install area. Then use the Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol to go over the same surface again and let it dry.
Before planning the location of your shark fin make sure there is no left over residue or other elements (dirt, dust etc.) on the install area because it will lessen the integrity of the double-sided adhesive gasket on the bottom of the shark fin.
3. Place the shark fin over the antenna base and approximate the position over the antenna connection site. The reason you want to be as exact as possible is that you are positioning the shark fin so that you can place Painter’s Tape (or masking tape) around all four sides and not have to re-align it when you want to connect the shark fin to the antenna base. Once you are satisfied with the positioning of the shark fin, proceed to step four.
4. Place painter’s tape around the shark fin starting with the front of the shark fin and then moving to the back. Then place painter’s tape on the left and right of the shark fin.
NOTE: We used just one piece of painter’s tape to make sure the front end was where it needed to be. If you want absolute precise alignment we recommend placing the tape over the front of the shark fin in two – three pieces in a triangular configuration.
5. Peel back the pre-slit paper on the underlying adhesive gasket from the back. It’s sliced right in the middle of the back so you can pull it away (carefully!!) to a little ways past the corners of the back of the shark fin. You are doing this because you will start the final placement of your shark fin in just a few short minutes!
VisualGarage provides two attachment screws, dubbed M5 & M6, that should fit your antenna base quite nicely. Inside the shark fin antenna there is a coiled up connector that you will use to connect your shark fin antenna to the antenna base. Refer to the photo above where you will see how we connected the cord to the antenna base using the larger of the two screws and did so with our fingers rather than using a flat tip screw driver. The instructions caution against overtightening so we’d recommend leaving the screwdriver in the garage for this one.
Tip: Tilt the back of the shark fin towards the antenna base to ensure enough slack while the fin is being connected.
Before mounting the shark fin you need to make sure the part of the roof that it will be placed on is at room temperature. We opted not to use a hair dryer because it was about 70 degrees out and the sun was going down. In hindsight we would probably use the hair dryer anyway because our shark fin pops up a little bit in the front meaning it didn’t bond well up there. I doubt it had anything to do with the adhesive gasket and more to do with the temperature of the roof.
6. Use a hair dryer to get your install area on the roof to room temperature. Be careful and DO NOT focus the hair dryer in any one spot of the roof to avoid damaging your car’s paint.
7. Remove your adhesive paper completely and prepare to mount the antenna.
8. Visually align the front of the shark fin to the pieces of tape used in Step 4 and between the two side pieces. DO NOT press down on the adhesive gasket yet (this is sticky stuff!) and make sure the shark fin is aligned properly on all four sides. I was the camera guy so I checked it from all four sides while my installer realigned the shark fin as needed.
9. Once you’re aligned properly press down firmly on the the FRONT of the shark fin for about a minute. It is absolutely crucial that you press the front down first.
10. Now that the front of the shark fin is mounted you can simply hold down the rear of the shark fin for about a minute (hold firmly!) and then remove the masking tape.
That’s all there is to it!
Initial Impressions: The VisualGarage Shark Fin actually improved my local radio reception and I’ve been pretty happy with it thus far. I’m disappointed that the front end didn’t bond as well as it should have but I think that might have been user error. After all, we didn’t have this guide of do’s and don’ts to follow when we installed it.
Final Thoughts: If you are into aesthetics or perhaps better radio reception I would definitely recommend that you pick up a shark fin from VisualGarage. It’s more of an aesthetic treatment rather than an AM/FM booster but I certainly appreciate not having a bumper car-like wand whipping around on top of my car while I’m on the highway.
Disclaimer: This install guide was created to help you along in a visual way and to review what we learned from our experience of installing it for the first time but you should still study the install procedure VisualGarage sends in the shipping box. It’s very thorough and might cover a few things we omitted in our guide.
How to Buy a Shark Fin: Visit http://www.sharkfinantenna.com to place an order. They have every Mazda3 color ever created to choose from so it’ll match your car perfectly!