CB radio (also known as Citizens band radio): Changing face of communications world and as well as CB radio
Imagine a world without cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and similar apps. CB radio long filled the role of allowing average citizens to communicate with users around them, space later occupied by these modern technologies. However, CB Radios have many advantages that still make them relevant in present times.
What exactly is CB Radio?
CB radio is an abbreviation of Citizens’ Band Radio and known as the Class D Citizens’ Radio Service before 1976 in the United State, this is one of the personal radio services defined by the FCC’s Part 95 rules. `This is a short-range low powered radio system for person-to-person bidirectional voice communication between individuals, using two-way radios operating near 27 MHz frequency (11 meters) in the shortwave band.
The popularity of CB Radios has decreased with the advent of newer technologies, like mobile phones and apps meant to assist users with information previously available through CB radio like traffic and weather information.
However, these technologies haven’t eliminated CB radios completely and it remains in the use of many individuals around the world.
The CB radio service originates in the USA where it was created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1945 with an intent to provide individuals with a radio spectrum for personal communication.
The service became popular among small businesses like electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Other major users included truck drivers and radio hobbyists.
The FCC increased the number of CB communication channels to 23 in 1958. The radio services remain available on 40 channels as of today.
With technological advancements, the equipment became more affordable and compact leading to growth in the user base of CB Radio.
CB Radio hit the peak of its usage and popularity in the 1970s. It was featured in many magazines, movies, and songs making it part of pop-culture. All the major car manufacturers offered a CB option in their vehicles.
CB Radio – Users and application
- Truckers are the main users of CB radios. Despite the availability of various apps and cell phones, CB radio remains a better medium for providing localized information to truckers on weather conditions, accidents, traffic situations, and other tips relevant to the area. CB radio also helps in coordinating pickups, deliveries, and communication with clients. read more about Best CB Radio Antenna for Truckers.
- Drivers also benefit from CB radios on highways just like truckers. Moreover, CB comes in handy on off-road tracks to call for help when they’re out of cell phone service areas.
- Motorcyclists use CB to help coordinate large rides and get in touch with people heading for big motorcycling events.
- Hunters and fishermen are usually operating in areas with low or no cell phone service and CB helps them stay in touch with partners as well as to coordinate emergencies.
- CB radios are also beneficial for solo hikers and backpackers in event of any emergency.
Range of your CB Radio
Regulatory and practical limitations of antenna height restrict the range of CB radios in motor vehicles to about 15 miles and those in fixed locations to no more than 30 miles.
United States – CB Channel
Australia – CB Channel
Australia – Marine Radio channels
Types of CB Radios
You will find 4 types of CB Radios in the market these days. Here is a brief account of each of them.
1. Mobile CB Radio
A mobile CB Radio, as the name indicates, is a portable light-weight CB Radio. You can easily mount it on the dashboard of your vehicle as it rests in a box that has multiple dials and a microphone on the front side. Although it is easy to install the device, you need to check the space available for the radio. In addition, make sure that you are supporting it adequately so that it stays there for long.
2. Handheld CB Radio
These handheld radios are walkie-talkie devices that come with batteries. You may find some models of the handheld CB Radio that have either rechargeable batteries or you can even recharge the AA batteries and use them for the radio. Your handheld CB radio would typically have a cigarette cord if you want to use it in your vehicle. However, this particular CB radio is a bit difficult to manage for vehicle use because it involves a lot of wiring and electric circuits.
3. All-in-handset radios
This CB Radio is for you if you want to have all the controls in-built with the device. These All-in-handset CB radios are user-friendly in that you can access all the controls easily with a single hand. In addition, you will find it easy and simple to install these radios anywhere in your vehicle due to their compact ergonomically designed size.
4. Base Station CB Radio
You will like this type of CB Radio if you are looking for an indoor unit. This device works on the direct electric supply and you can use it by plugging into your wall outlet typically 110V. You can have enhanced performance of Base Station CB Radio if you mount an antenna also.
How to Install a CB Radio & setting up
As a first step, you need to fix the CB radio into the dashboard. It’s vital that you tune your antenna before using your new CB radio. You would also need a short length of coaxial cable, an SWR meter, and something on which to record your readings.
- You would need to find a suitable location to park your vehicle. There should be no obstructions within 10 to 15 meters of your antenna.
- Disconnect the coaxial cable from the back of the radio. Reconnect this end of the cable to the SWR meter in the connector marked “antenna” or “ANT.” Next, use the jumper lead to connect your radio and the SWR meter through the connection marked “transmitter” or “XMIT.”
- You are now ready to measure the SWR on a few different channels. Remember, throughout this process, it’s important to keep the microphone at the same distance from the meter for each test.
- Set the switch on the SWR meter to “FWD.”
- Turn the radio to channel 1.
- Depress the microphone button and hold it.
- Turn the knob on the SWR meter labeled “SET” or “ADJUST” until the needle reaches the set position at the end of its range.
- While still depressing the microphone button, flip the switch on the SWR meter to the “REF” or “SWR” position.
- Quickly record the reading given by your SWR meter and release the transmit key on your microphone.
- Repeat this process for channel 40. Follow steps 4 through 9.
The objective behind tuning your Antenna is to make these two readings as close as possible. There are two basic points to understand before adjusting the length of your antenna:
- If the SWR on channel 40 is higher than that on channel 1, your antenna is too long.
- If the SWR on channel 1 is higher than that on channel 40, your antenna is too short.
If your antenna is too long, it is necessary to reduce its physical length. There are several methods for shortening an antenna which varies by manufacturer. Consult your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to shorten your antenna.
If your antenna is too short, it is necessary to increase its physical length. In modern antennas, there’s usually a method for adding length built into the antenna.
How to use a CB radio
Now that you are all set to use the CB radio, here are some tips to start using the radio:
Tune into a popular channel, like 19 which is the most commonly used channel. You will be able to tune into channel 19 on 27.185 MHz frequency.
If there are people talking, politely wait for a break. When you’re sure it’s clear, ask for a radio check. Wait for a response. If no one responds, re-issue a radio check, but wait patiently before doing so. When another operator responds, interpret their response. Listen out for some common CB codes:
- 10-1 means the reception is poor
- 10-4 means message received
- 10-7 means out of service
- 10-9 means repeat the message
- 10-20 means what’s your location
The key to CB communication is politeness. Since you will have no idea who you’re conversing with, it is best to start off on a positive note. The term ‘breaker’ is fairly antiquated, so if you’re hailing a channel, you can try “Break nineteen” for example, to get in on the trucking channel.
You can add your reason for wanting to talk, such as “Break nineteen, local 411,” if you needed directions or wanted to know about the traffic ahead.
Over time you can develop your own style for conversation. Just remember to close your conversations as politely as you start them, with a “Thanks, driver.”
Delta-tuning your CB radio
The Delta tune knob or the clarifier control is part of the array of controls for receiving, adjusting, and listening to audio from other CB radio users. Delta tuning reduces the amount of static present on the radio when communicating with another person. When turned one way or another, the knob reduces the pitch of the person’s voice and makes the voice clearer.
Use of CB amplifiers
Using an amplifier with CB radio is considered illegal and violators can be fined and even jailed by the FCC
FAQs of CB Radio
Q-1. Does CB radio still exist?
Yes, CB radio still exists.
Q-2. How to increase watts on CB radio?
Radio power can be boosted by adjusting the modulation through the body of CB radio. This is a fine way of boosting the radio’s power but care should be exercised not to extend it to an extent to distort the radio.
Q-3. How to eliminate static on CB radio?
There are three main ways to get rid of radio static:
- By using squelch
- Playing with RF signal gain
- Applying noise filters
Q-4. How to make my CB radio more powerful?
In order to make your CB radio output more powerful, you can try the following:
- Ensure your radio is properly grounded
- Try modulation adjustment through the body of your radio
- Playing with the squelch function / RF Gain option
- Checking the quality and placement of the antenna
- Ensure a lower SWR reading. An ideal reading is 1:5
- Peaking and tuning dead key wattage setting
- Try CB radio amplifiers. However please note that this is illegal under FCC regulations
Q-5. How to power a CB radio at home?
To power a CB radio at home, you would need to connect your CB radio to a 12-14 volt DC power supply.
Q-6. How to calibrate a CB radio?
Please look into “Installing and setting up”.
Q-7. How to set SWR on CB radio? What is a good SWR for a CB radio?
Kindly refer to the detailed description given in the section “Installing and setting up your CB radio”.
Q-8. What is SSB CB radio?
Single sideband (SSB) is a feature available in some CB radios. SSB radios have the capability of transmitting and receiving standard channels along with lower sideband and upper sideband channels, giving you more channels to operate on.
Q-9. How to test a CB radio?
You would first need to check if the power supply is working and properly connected to the radio and then turn on the radio. Then check if that the short CB antenna is mounted when you turn the radio on. If the radio is working properly, you should hear sounds.
Q-10. How to increase CB radio signal strength?
In order to increase signal strength for your CB radio, place the antenna as high as possible, in a place where it can receive radio signals from 360 degrees. Adjust the squelch on your radio so that it blocks out static, but is not maxed out. Ensure that the connection between your radio and the antenna is secure and that the cable is in good condition with no snags or twists.
Q-11. How to hook up or wire a CB radio?
To connect the CB radio, you first need to ensure the availability of hardware (CB radio, antenna, coaxial cable, tapping clips, and antenna spring). Now mount the radio on the dashboard and connect it with the power supply. Connect the radio with an antenna using a coaxial cable and you are all set to go.
Despite being a fairly old technology, CB radios still remain relevant as they provide several benefits, especially to those traveling cross-country:
- Rapid communication, providing localized information
- Communication in low cellular signal areas
- Weather, traffic/construction, and speed trap warnings
- Free communication doesn’t consume cellular minutes or data
Moreover, CB radios offer an effective, versatile alternative to cellular communication as they allow for communication in remote areas, in areas of natural disaster, and in emergency situations. Thus CB radios continue to remain an important tool for emergency response teams.
Owing to these benefits, CB radios will remain an important communication tool in the foreseeable future.
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