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Old 01-22-2010, 09:09 AM   #1
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newbie to CB radio

Hi, any advice is much appreciated. I've never had a CB radio and don't know squat about it. I figured just plug it in and that was it.

I have a nice old Cobra CB radio and bought a short 2' truckers antenna. The coax cable is probably 6' long. It never seemed to work. I barely hear static and occasionally someones voice but mostly silence. All the lights are on and I can see the needle jumping on different channels. I then bought a cheap speaker for it hoping that would fix it because I couldn't hear anything from the radio itself.

Does my radio need tuned to the antenna? Cable too long?

I'm at work and not near the radio so I can't offer any specifics on the unit itself.

Thanks!

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Old 01-22-2010, 09:41 AM   #2
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Yes, you will need to tune the antenna to the radio with an SWR (I think that's it). I wouldn't do any transmitting until it's tuned, I'm told you can fry the radio. Also in my understanding and experience, you will be able to hear from a much farther distance than you can transmit. I hear people all over the place, but they can't hear me. I'm sure someone on here will offer much better advice, I'm a novice too.

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Old 01-22-2010, 09:59 AM   #3
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Some basics...and I'm no pro but this will get you headed in the right direction.

You want a good antenna - a good radio means nothing without a good antenna. The antenna is crucial for a good cb setup. I personally like Firestik products, but that's just me.

After installing the antenna, you want to check for shorts to make sure it was installed right... take an ohm meter and probe between the center pin on the antenna wire and the ground. If it shows no resistance (many meters will also beep), you have a short to ground. DO NOT PLUG IT INTO YOUR RADIO. Fix the cause of the short...it's most likely in the way you mounted your antenna, order of the washers is probably wrong. Yes, the order does matter. - I think that's the way you check for a short, can somebody confirm? I lost my write-up on that one...

Tune your antenna. Firestik says the majority of their customer complaints/returns/repairs are not due to faulty antennas, but rather...they were never tuned and thus didn't perform worth a crap.

If your cb radio has an SWR meter, you can tune it with that...I've never done it using that method, but you can also buy a cheap SWR meter for $15 and a short antenna jumper wire to connect between the meter and the cb radio (the meter plugs in between your antenna and cb). Firestik has a great write up on tuning your antenna. Firestik antennas with the "tuneable tip" are also very easy to tune...provided you soap up the rubber cap before installing it.

Once that's done...you're good to go.

Also be sure you run your cb directly off the battery or at least through a circuit that can handle it...while they usually can handle it, many recommend against running one through your cigarette lighter wiring, especially if you're running other accessories on that circuit.

Here's LOTS of helpful info on CB radios...
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Old 01-22-2010, 02:19 PM   #4
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Thank you, that clears things up for me.
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Old 01-31-2010, 03:55 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by s3nt3nc3d View Post
Some basics...and I'm no pro but this will get you headed in the right direction.

You want a good antenna - a good radio means nothing without a good antenna. The antenna is crucial for a good cb setup. I personally like Firestik products, but that's just me.

Tune your antenna. Firestik says the majority of their customer complaints/returns/repairs are not due to faulty antennas, but rather...they were never tuned and thus didn't perform worth a crap.

If your cb radio has an SWR meter, you can tune it with that...I've never done it using that method, but you can also buy a cheap SWR meter for $15 and a short antenna jumper wire to connect between the meter and the cb radio (the meter plugs in between your antenna and cb). Firestik has a great write up on tuning your antenna. Firestik antennas with the "tuneable tip" are also very easy to tune...provided you soap up the rubber cap before installing it.
You were right on the money!

I may be new to Jeeps, but I've been around CB radios since long before I could drive, and s3nt3nc3d was right on the money with getting the antenna tuned.

Typically the SWR meters on a CB radio aren't worth a whole lot. You're better off getting an SWR Meter and keeping it for future use, as any time you reinstall the CB to a different vehicle, you may need to re-calibrate it. How you run the coax cable will also make a difference in your reception. Usually straight, without any loops is the best way to run the cable, but the SWR Meter will give you the best indication. Your goal with the SWR Meter is to get a 1:1 ratio, (SWR is Signal to Wave Ratio).

I understand that you've already purchased the radio and antenna, so this may seem unnecessary in your case, but for anyone else reading later - spend your money on the antenna, not the radio. If you have enough money to go for high quality on both, more power to you! But if you have to hold back on funding for one or the other, save your money on the radio side. The FCC mandates that all CB radios have a maximum of 4 Watts of output power, so as far as your range is concerned, they are all pushing the exact same power out. The antenna size and quality is what will ensure the most efficient use of those 4 Watts.

The nicer radios have gain selectors, tuning, manual squelch, etc. and that's all great (my Cobra has most of the bells and whistles on it). However, unless you really have an idea what you're doing to get the most out those features, its overkill. Someone with an electrical engineering degree can blow my comparison out of the water and give you a great in-depth analysis of why it all works, but if you spend your money on the antenna and not solely on the radio you will be better off.

As to tuning it, if you really can't figure out how to tune it, you can drive your jeep to any decent truck stop in your area. Most have a "radio-shop" with some old-timer who loves working on radios and will charge you a modest fee to get it set up for you. Watch what he does, and that $15 you spent to have him quickly tune your antenna will be worth it for your education.
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