CB radio frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What type of antenna do I need?

That is a pretty broad question. It depends upon which type of installation you are going to be using. A home installation basically has two types of antennas available to it — omnidirectional and beam.

The omnidirectional antenna sends and receives signals with equal strength in all directions (360 degrees).

A beam on the other hand will concentrate the signal in a particular direction. This will give you better range in whatever direction you have the beam pointed. Just remember that with a beam it would be necessary to constantly “rotate” the beam in the direction of the station you are trying to contact. For overall ease of operation, the omnidirectional antenna would work just fine.

Mobile antennas come in a wide variety and several styles, there are magnetic mounts, gutter lip mounts, trunk lip mounts, mirror mounts and permanent mounts. All of the mounts have their advantages. The best place to mount the antenna is in the center of the roof of the vehicle and if that does not work out, then in the center of the trunk. Try to get the antenna with the highest “gain” rating. Mounting the antenna in other locations on the vehicle will tend to make it directional (much like a beam).

How far can I reach on my CB?

Once again this is a pretty open question. All things being the same you can expect anywhere between 1 and 15 miles between mobile units. There are all sorts of variables, including terrain, how crowded the channel is, or even types and numbers of buildings around the transmitting/receiving units. Base stations can expect about 5 to 10 miles between base and mobile and 10 to 30 miles between base units.

What does it mean that FM is allowed on CB now?

The Federal Communications Commission added FM for CB on Oct. 28, 2021. While CB previously was allowed to use only AM and SSB on the air, the addition of FM is exciting as some new CB radios offer the mode. The FCC is requiring new FM-capable radios to also include AM, so you’ll still be able to talk to CBers who have only that mode on their radio. FM offers crystal-clear communications without the static that is inherent on AM. National Communications Magazine has been covering this and will continue to keep our readers up to date with anything related to FM CB.

What is Channel 9 all about?

CB Channel 9 has been designated by the FCC as an emergency contact channel. However, this designation is only valid in the United States and other countries do not have this “official” designation for the channel, so it would not be uncommon to hear stations conducting non-emergency radio traffic on this channel when skip is in. There are stations across the country, including many police and rescue agencies that actively monitor this channel for those who have a problem ranging from medical emergencies, accidents, vehicle breakdowns, to being lost.

What is skip?

Normally CB radio transmissions are “line of sight,” or considered to be short range. However, there are times when the earth’s atmosphere acts as a mirror and will bounce signals to distant locations. Remember your CB signal also goes up as well as out and away from your antenna. When the conditions are just right, it is possible to bounce the radio signal (or skip) it off the atmosphere and it will land hundreds to thousands of miles away. Therefore it is not impossible for someone using a CB in New Jersey to communicate with another person in California. The FCC made talking via skip conditions legal with its rewrite of FCC Part 95 that went into effect on Sept. 28, 2017. Yes, skip talking is legal now.

Can I use my CB in my business?

There are no restrictions on using a CB radio to aid in the operation of your business.

Am I allowed to use a linear amplifier?

CB radios are only permitted to operate at 5 watts (input) which is about 4 watts output to the antenna cable. Using any additional power is illegal and can many times cause interference to your neighbor’s electronics appliances including such things as TVs, VCRs, stereos, and even telephones. It will not make you popular with your neighbors to say the least, and since you are operating illegally, they could file a complaint against your operations.

Is Channel 19 an official channel like Channel 9?

Channel 19 is an “unofficial” truckers channel. The FCC has not designated this as an “official” truckers channel, however truckers are about all you will hear on this channel. When traveling this is a good channel to monitor in order to keep up on traffic jams, accidents and traffic enforcement.

Where can I get accessories?

Your local electronics store or truck stop is the best location to find accessories for your CB radio. Anything from antennas to external speakers can be found there. You can also check many of the on line stores on the Internet.

What does the squelch do?

The squelch quiets the background radio noise when there is no signal present. Simply turn the squelch until the noise goes away. The background noise can get pretty annoying after awhile and the squelch will keep the receiver quiet unless there is a signal present.

What is sideband?

Sideband, known as single sideband (SSB) is a more effective use of the existing channels on a CB radio. If you think of the standard AM CB channel as a flood light, think of sideband as a spotlight. It will travel further on a narrower beam just like the lights do.

The signal does not sound as clear as an AM signal and that is why when you use this mode you must also use the clarifier in order to clear up the sound of the transmission. That being said, you will get a greater distance using SSB as compared to AM.

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