How Do I Increase CB Radio Range?

Geisha A. Legazpi

Citizen’s band (CB) radio is commonly used for mobile and fixed stations. To increase the CB radio range, review your radio frequency output, station location, antenna height, and antenna setup and type. Weather conditions and time of day (TOD) also affect the range. The transmit power and antenna system of the radio also need to be optimized. If the power output is too low, use a power meter and check the output power at the antenna port on the radio, which requires an extra jumper cable to connect the meter.

Because CB radios partially rely on line of sight propagation, they work better when set up at higher elevations.
Because CB radios partially rely on line of sight propagation, they work better when set up at higher elevations.

By inserting a power meter in the antenna cable, the amount of forward and reflected power can be verified. Make sure that the reflected power is less than 3% of the forward power. When power from the radio is sent to the antenna, some of it returns back to the radio, which is called reverse power. The standing wave ratio (SWR) meter is a good alternative to using a power meter with forward and reverse power readings. Most meters that measure power also measure SWR.

A higher antenna may also improve the CB radio range because ground effects are fewer. CB radio signals work partly on line of sight (LOS) propagation. When the antenna is higher, the antenna cable is usually longer, unless the radio was moved to a higher floor. As the antenna cable gets longer, the loss in the antenna cable also increases, which may partly defeat the purpose of raising the antenna.

A signal booster may compensate for the loss on the longer antenna cable. Given the maximum allowed input power to be radiated by the antenna, the signal booster may be connected about halfway upward to the antenna. Other versions of the signal booster also amplify the received signal so that the range is increased in both directions.

There are different types of antenna for CB radios. The all-direction, or omnidirectional, antenna is available in various shapes, such as a single active whip or an array of dipoles. Dipoles are usually fed in the center of the vertical position of the antenna. Some special antennas are omnidirectional and have the ability to turn to a particular direction, either electrically or physically. These antennas come with rotator controls that may use either a motor-driven physical rotator or an electrical rotator that changes the phase characteristics of the legs to produce the high gain in the desired direction.

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Discussion Comments

Thumper07

I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. By far a "trucker's paradise". But, you'd be surprise -- shocked even -- at how much talking goes on during my daily commute. I don't drive the highway and people are talking all the time. I engage in conversations multiple times per week.

Radio will never ever die, no matter what fancy cellphones they come out with. Police, fire fighters, EMTs, and any company that dispatches vehicles all use radios. Some use UHF and some VHF, but they all use them. Only people with limited thinking believe that CB died when cellphones came out. One has nothing to do with the other.

Yeah, Smokey and the Bandit started a CB craze! But that died out and now it's like it always was. People who say that CB is dead are the ones who only knew about it because of Burt Reynolds. Had it not been for that movie, they would still have never heard of it.

anon998553

It wasn't cell phones that killed off the CB craze of the late '70s. Like any fad, it ran its course and by the early '80s (well before cell phones became common) the bandwagon CB fad people had moved on to other things. Cell phones and CBs are really like apples and oranges with not a lot of common ground between them. Neither can do what the other does.

I recently ran across my old Uniden PRO510XL that I bought in 1978 and installed in my sweet '71 Impala. In the early '80s, after I no longer had the Impala, the Uniden got put in a box in the basement and sat there until I happened to run across it in 2006 when I installed it in my motorhome. There it remained installed but unused for eleven years until I sold the RV this summer (2017) when I uninstalled and kept it when the RV went to its new owner.

I looked online to see if that model was still around and surprisingly, after 40 years, Uniden not only still makes the 510, they still look exactly the same as my '78 model. It seemed a shame to put it back in the basement so I got a new magnetic mount antenna for it, wired a DC power outlet plug onto it, and put it in my van. It still works just fine. Not bad for a 40-year-old radio.

anon955993

My cb has saved me a few times from speed traps on highways. It's also great if cell phone service is down or you're in a dead zone. They are still popular with truckers and people with pickup trucks.

horsebite

Something I remember from my CB days was that a lot of people would rig illegal amplifiers with too much power in their cars or trucks. The possibility of getting caught was pretty low, and they even sold the radios in a lot of truck stops. I think they still do in many places.

You could sometimes tell when you drove past someone with an amp because your car radio would start making all kinds of funny noises from the interference. I guess that's why you weren't supposed to have the amplifier in the first place.

KLR650

It's a shame that so few people are into CB radios anymore. I got into it back in the 70s when they first became popular, and it was fun to talk to people as I drove down the highway on business trips. Came in handy if you had car trouble, too.

I guess with cell phones, people lost interest. Too bad, it was fun. I do remember that the one problem with them was fairly short range. If there weren't any people with a CB pretty close to where you were, you had nobody to talk to. At least there were usually always truckers on channel 19.

Nepal2016

Lots of people don't have their CB properly installed and adjusted, so they lose a lot of potential range that way. I always pay for a professional installation if I put a CB in a car or truck, and then I double check it with my own gear.

Don't get cheap when you pick your CB antenna, either. The right antenna can help you out a lot when it comes to range.

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