Kenwood TK-380 Self-Programming Modification

I recently purchased a Kenwood TK-380 UHF handheld radio on eBay.  This is a commercial UHF FM transceiver used by public safety organizations.  It will do 4W output, narrow or wide band transmission, and conventional or trunking operation.

This radio is Part-90 accepted, which means it can only be programmed via computer.  Unlike commercial ham radios, regular radios are not allowed to provide the user with a means to set an arbitrary frequency from the front panel.  This radio has that functionality, but it is disabled by default.  By removing a surface-mount resistor jumper inside the radio, you can re-enable it.

Start by removing the battery and antenna, and then remove the two screws at the bottom of the battery compartment.  This will allow you to separate the casing from the radio body, which should look something like this:



Next, remove the rubber gasket and speaker assembly by peeling it off the body and disconnecting the speaker wires:



Next, remove the top logic board with the display and the button pads.  It is not necessary to disconnect the ribbon cables going to the board below.



Next, remove the bottom board’s screws and flip the board over.  Note the resistor marked R144:



Remove this resistor.  This can be done by desoldering it with a fine tipped soldering pencil or by force using tweezers to crush and remove it:



When you’re done, reassemble the radio, taking care to realign the rubber button caps in the front panel.  Next, you must use the software to enable the self-programming mode in the radio.  Once you do, you can hold down the button below the PTT button while turning the radio on to enter “SELF-PROG” mode.  Navigating with the buttons on the radio is rather self-explanatory after that.  Full-size images are located in the gallery.

Category(s): Hardware, Radio

6 Responses to Kenwood TK-380 Self-Programming Modification

    Tim Coddington says:

    Hi, I have also acquired some TK-380 radios from a company gone out of business. I have 7 each charger and radio and I’m trying determine what I can do with these radios. My first thought was to go to the same comm company that provided area coverage for these radios (sorry, I’m not a radio person and don’t know the right terminology or how these systems work). Initially, when I called to setup an appointment, they said they no longer support they radios and they’ve upgraded to a new system. I’d have to buy new ones. they also said I could turn my equipment in and get $100/radio regardless of condition. However when I visited them I was told they wouldn’t accept less than 10 radios and weren’t very helpful.

    Before I invest in new radios I need to understand whether these are usable. Apparently, there’s a lot of ways these radios could be setup and had some interesting features. When I charge them and turn them on they don’t communicate, i.e. I don’t hear myself. But I do hear keying when I press the mike, i.e. some static on the other radio.

    I’m a computer engineer and I understand electronics, but I’m not a radio buff. I assume these radios have to be assigned a frequency and is probably leased, hence having to go through this comm company. Is this true?

    What can I do with these radios? What are they worth (they are pretty warn but appear to come on fine)? What can you suggest I do? If they can be “enabled” what range can I expect without repeat towers?

    My goal is to turn 7 radios into 4 that work. Thanks (256)695-3940

    • They don’t talk to each other right now because they’re programmed for duplex to go through a repeater. In order to program them otherwise, you need a cable (available from eBay), and DOS-based software that requires a real serial port and which is no longer available to the public legally.

      Range in simplex mode (without a repeater) will be very short, with the actual range depending on their antennas. Expect something approximately equal to an FRS radio available from your nearest superstore.

      You need a commercial frequency in order to operate those for profit, which will cost you some nominal fee from the FCC, but requires a survey company’s services first which will cost you quite a bit of money. You really shouldn’t even be keying up the radios without a license.

      My suggestion would be to sell them on eBay or donate them to your favorite blogger Smilie: :)

  1. Hi Dan,

    I have 6 TK-380 E3 radios. We inherited them when we purchased a 26 acre student campus. They seem to be largely programmed however, they stilllink back to other sites which belong to the company that used to own this place – so when we press the panic button – they can hear it! And probably the rest of our radio traffic too I don’t doubt!

    Is it possible to pay a professional to re-program or adjust the programming on these radios? I bought some Motorola CP040 radios to replace them but it now seems clear that they are not at all man enough for the job…

    Any advice?


    • Yeah, a Kenwood dealer (or anyone with the software and a programming cable) can do it for you. You probably want them to blank the radio and program them from scratch.

  2. my tk380 has a volume problem, can not turn it all the way down, is there something in the programing software to fix it. thank you.