CB (Citizens Band) radio is a 2-way voice communication system for personal use for the general public. It lets you talk from your truck, car, home, business, or boat to other people who have a CB radio. Technically, a CB radio is a transceiver. It functions both as a radio transmitter (when sending messages) and a receiver (when receiving messages). Citizens Band Radio was created by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in 1958. In that year the FCC authorized 23 channels for private citizen use. CB's popularity soon congested these channels, so the FCC added 17 more channels for a total of 40, effective January 1, 1977.
Do I need a license to operate CB?
No. The FCC used to issue licenses for CBs, but they discontinued that requirement many years ago.
Is a CB complicated?
No. There are only three basic controls on a CB radio. One is used to turn the set on and off and to control the volume of incoming signals. The second control lets you mute the speaker when there are no incoming transmissions. When adjusted properly it keeps your radio silent until an actual message is received. The third control is the channel selector, which allows you to change channels. These are the basic controls of a CB radio. More sophisticated radios have additional controls, but if you can operate these three then you can operate any CB radio.
How far can I talk on a CB?
Unforntunately there is no easy answer to this question.
All Cobra CB radios transmit using the maximum FCC allowable power output of 4 watts. There are two main factors that will affect the range of your transmissions:
Although the radio transmits with 4 watts of power, the performance will be affected by how efficiently the antenna radiates this power. Contributing factors include the following:
The condition and location of the antenna (higher is better)
The physical length of the antenna (longer is better)
SWR matching, which affects how well the antenna is tuned to the CB band. (A separate FAQ document discusses SWR)
Tall buildings, trees, hills, and interference from other CB radios all limit the effective range of a CB radio. Certain atmospheric conditions (such as those caused by sunspot activity) can also affect the range for CBs.
If we were to eliminate all negative environmental factors, a properly set up base station could communicate between 10 to 15 miles, a mobile unit 5 to 7 miles, and a hand held unit approximately 2 miles with the only variable being the type of antenna used. Unfortunately, these optimum conditions rarely exist and the range of your unit will typically be less depending on the conditions under which you are operating.
The best way to maximize your range is to use the longest antenna possible, and make sure that the SWR is properly adjusted.
Are FRS and GMRS radios compatible with CB?
FRS and GMRS are relatively new radio bands which have been opened to the general public. FRS and GMRS radios are compact handhelds and use FM transmission in the UHF radio band. They are very handy for personal communications such as at malls, carnivals, vacations, etc. Cobra offers a variety of models.
FRS and GMRS radios operate at a much higher frequency than CB (approximately 465 megahertz, compared with 27 megahertz for CB). They therefore cannot communicate with a CB radio.
How to choose a CB radio?
CB radios all have pretty much the same receive sensitivity. In addition, CB radios are limited to 4 watts of transmit power per FCC regulations. Therefore, all CB radios have pretty much the same transmit performance. Spending more money will generally not get you better range, but certain features can help maximize range. For example a Noise Blanker can help eliminate noise, which can improve reception of weak signals. And an SWR meter can help maximize the performance of the antenna.
There are numerous features that are available by spending a little extra on a radio. Here is a list of popular features:
A noise blanker is particularly effective against ignition noise and other types of "impulse" noise. It provides improved filtering for clearer reception.
RF Gain Control
The RF Gain controls the sensitivity of the receiver. Normally you would have it turned all the way up for maximum sensitivity (and maximum range). But if you are receiving a fairly strong signal, the RF Gain can be turned down. This will provide very quiet reception. The RF Gain is particularly useful during noisy reception conditions.
An SWR meter lets you check how well the antenna is tuned to the CB band. Adjusting the antenna for a low SWR is one of the best ways to get maximum range. Radios with a built-in SWR meter let you easily check the SWR at any time. A separate document is available about SWR.
The Dynamike is a microphone amplifier. It is like having a "power mike" built into the radio. Amplifying the microphone output will help maximize your talk volume and make it easier for other people to receive your transmissions.
The National Weather Service transmits local weather broadcasts throughout the USA. Some CB models include a weather receiver built right into the radio. This makes it easy to receive local weather reports during your travels.
Single Sideband is the one exception where more money definitely gets you better range. Single sideband (SSB) is a different mode of transmission than regular CB (which uses regular AM transmission). Not only does SSB provide quieter reception, but the FCC allows 12 watts of transmit power. This will provide significantly better range. A separate document describes single sideband in more detail.
Choosing a CB radio boils down to choosing a model with the features you want. A basic model will provide excellent performance; while more advanced models will provide extra features to maximize your enjoyment.
How to choose a CB antenna?
Choosing a CB antenna can be a bit tricky, but only because there are so many choices. This document describes the various styles of CB antennas.
The first step in choosing an antenna depends on the type of vehicle you have. If you are mounting an antenna to a boat or fiberglass RV, you need a special type of antenna called a "no-ground-plane" antenna. Most CB antennas require a large metal surface (called a "ground plane") in order to work properly. Boats and fiberglass vehicles lack a proper ground plane. A no-ground-plane antenna is specially designed for these applications. You can find these antennas at Radio Shack and places that sell boating and RV accessories. Please note that it is important not to modify or change the cable that comes with the antenna. The cable is specially matched to the antenna. There are not many choices of no-ground-plane antennas, so you will have to work with the styles you find available. They are typically fiberglass antennas, and mount using some kind of clamp-type bracket (except for the glass-mount type). If you need a no-ground-plane antenna, then you are done with this document (but you can skip below to the glass mount antenna). Otherwise, keep reading.
The next step in choosing an antenna is choosing a mounting method. Listed below are some popular styles:
If you are using a CB radio in your home, you will need a base-station antenna mounted on your roof. You do NOT want to use a mobile antenna. Mobile antennas are designed strictly for vehicles and will not work properly for base-station use. And any kind of indoor antenna will get truly lousy range.
Base-station antennas are installed using the same type of hardware as TV antennas. Since the cable run can be rather long, it is best to use RG8 cable, which has low loss. Base station antennas are available from a variety of vendors. Try browsing on the Internet.
A magnet mount antenna means just what it says. A large magnet keeps the antenna on the car. The magnet has a plastic covering so that it does not scratch the paint. The antenna can be mounted on the roof or the trunk lid, but roof mounting provides better performance. The cable is brought inside the car, and the door or trunk lid is closed over the cable. Or the cable can be brought in through the window. Magnet mount antennas are quick to install, easy to remove, and are easily transferred from one vehicle to another.
Trunk Lip Mount
The trunk lip mount clamps on the edge of the trunk lid. It is usually mounted along the front of the trunk lid, just behind the rear window. It can also be mounted along the side edge of the trunk lid. No drilling is required.
This is the place to choose if you want to use one of the really long whips. You can also mount a fiberglass antenna to the bumper. It will be necessary to drill a hole for the mount. If you use a fiberglass antenna, choose one that extends at least a foot above the roof of the vehicle. Bumper mounts are more difficult to install on vehicles with plastic bumpers.
Popular on trucks, the mirror mount antenna clamps onto the mirror bracket. Plastic mirrors won't work, the mirror must have a metal bracket. In addition, it is important that the antenna clamp gets grounded to the vehicle. If the door is fiberglass, it will be necessary to run a ground wire to the antenna clamp. Use 14 gauge wire, connected to the nearest ground point on the chassis (such as the door hinge).
A gutter mount antenna clamps onto the rain gutter above the door. Actually, most modern cars have done away with rain gutters to improve aerodynamics. After mounting, the antenna cable is brought inside the vehicle and the door is closed on the antenna. Or the cable can be brought in through the window.
A glass mount antenna mounts to a window on the vehicle. It is a permanent mount, and should not be mounted to any glass that rolls down or swings open. This type of antenna is short, and looks similar to a cell phone antenna. The antenna is mounted on the outside with double sided tape, and a small box is mounted in the exact same spot inside the vehicle with double sided tape. The antenna should not be mounted over any metallic tint or over defroster lines. Because of the short antenna and some signal loss through the glass, this type of antenna is one of the poorest performers. But it does offer a solution if other mounting methods are not acceptable. The glass mount antenna is a no-ground-plane antenna, and is therefore suitable for fiberglass vehicles and boats.
Dual antennas (also called co-phased antennas) are popular, more for looks than for performance. They are typically mounted using mirror mounts. This type of configuration provides increased range to the front and rear, and reduced range to the sides. For proper co-phasing, the antennas should be mounted approximately 9 feet apart. This limits the application to large trucks; your typical pickup is too narrow to provide 9 foot spacing. Co-phased antennas require 75 ohm cable (rather than the 50 ohm cable used for single antennas). Actually for overall use, a single antenna works just as well.
These are hard to find, but there are AM/FM/CB combination antennas. There is also a splitter device available. This allows using the AM/FM antenna as a CB antenna, thus achieving the same result. There is no unsightly CB antenna, just the regular AM/FM antenna. But this is one of the worst performers for CB use. Using the AM/FM antenna compromises CB performance.
Your final decision on an antenna may be influenced by the following:
This is THE MOST important characteristic that affects performance. The longer the antenna, the better the range. A cheap 60 inch antenna will outperform an expensive "top-of-the-line" 30 inch antenna. Go with the longest antenna that is practical. The best performer is a 1/4 wave antenna, which is 108 inches long. That may be too long for you, but just remember that longer length equals better performance. Incidentally, you may see 102 inch whips. The missing 6 inches is made up by the mount.
Steel Or Fiberglass
The only theoretical advantage of a fiberglass antenna over a steel whip is that the fiberglass antenna will stay more vertical at highway speeds. But actually there is not any noticeable difference in performance. Go with the style that you like best.
Unless you are going with a 1/4 wave whip (108 inches), your antenna will have a "load". The load is a special wire coil that makes the antenna look like it is 108 inches long (electrically). The radio cannot tell the difference. The load is located either at the base, the center, or the top. Because of the weight, only the stiff fiberglass antennas can be top loaded.
As far as performance, the location of the load is not critical. But here is an example of when it might be important: lets say you have a bumper mount antenna on a minivan, and the antenna extends one foot above the roof. In this case much of the antenna is right next to the body of the vehicle, which will tend to reduce performance. Getting the load above the vehicle will help. So the best choice would be a top loaded antenna.
Some CB radios provide reception of government weather broadcasts, which is a nice feature. But not all CB antennas are compatible with weather reception. Here are the rules:
All center loaded and top loaded antennas are compatible with weather reception.
Not all base loaded antennas are compatible with weather reception. If you are buying a base loaded antenna, make sure it says that it is compatible with weather reception.
OK! Now you have finally chosen an antenna and installed it and are happy. The last thing you need to do is adjust (tune) the antenna for proper operation in the CB band. This is accomplished by checking the "SWR" of the antenna. Most CB antennas are adjustable, which should be described in the instructions that came with the antenna.
What is Weather Alert?
Weather Alert is a unique Cobra feature that alerts users to a weather emergency as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce (commonly known as NOAA).
NOAA maintains a system of approximately 380 stations throughout the United States that transmit a continuous broadcast of the latest local weather conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The broadcasts are made on one of seven high band FM frequencies and are tailored to suit the local needs of its listeners.
Here is how Weather Alert works:
1. NOAA identifies a weather emergency (tornado, heavy thunderstorms, etc.)
2. NOAA then transmits a special tone, which is recognized by any Cobra CB radio equipped with Weather Alert
3. The CB radio sounds an alarm to warn of the danger.
On a Cobra CB radio equipped with Weather Alert, it will sound the alarm even if you are talking on CB channels or even if the radio is turned off (as long as the red power lead still has voltage). Upon hearing the alarm, turn on the weather channel and listen to the broadcast.
The weather alarm on Cobra CBs is always at full volume. This is necessary in order to ensure that you are notified even if the volume is turned off. If you want to disable Weather Alert, simply turn the weather knob to the "OFF" or '0' position. If your weather knob does not have an off position, switch to a weather channel where there are no broadcasts.
If you DO want the Weather Alert to work, make sure the weather knob is tuned to a live weather channel. Cobra CB radios with Weather Alert will typically make a noise for about 1 second when power is first applied (even if the power switch is off). This is normal, and is due to the Weather Alert circuit powering up.
What is SoundTracker™ and how does it work?
Cobra proudly introduced the first patent-pending technology that dramatically improves the transmission and reception of CB radio signals - Soundtracker™.
This revolutionary system reconfigures the transmission signal which allows it to be transferred more effectively through cluttered air waves. It literally "punches" your message through the hundred of thousands of signals that are in the air. At the same time SoundTracker™ dynamically adjusts the relationship between the signal and static commonly referred to as noise. This allows Cobra's SoundTracker™ to significantly reduce the amount of static on all incoming CB signals. The system can be further optimized when two SoundTracker™ CB's are used to talk to each other.
The end result is a clearer, cleaner-sounding reception of signals and more powerful transmission, which dramatically improves CB communications.
It should be noted that due to the technical characteristics of Soundtracker™, there is a noise level threshold upon which the noise reduction benefits are not realized. If there is a high degree of background noise, Soundtracker™ will provide little or no benefit. Maximum performance is realized under moderate noise levels.
My car won't start
There are four basic possibilities why your car did not start:
1. The jump starter is not fully charged. Please try charging the jumpstarter. It is recommended leaving the charger plugged in all the time. It will keep you jumpstarter fully charged. It will NOT overcharge.
2. A bad connection with the jumper cables. It is recommended to connect both cables from the jumpstarter directly to the battery. Red cable to the positive terminal of the battery, and black cable directly to the negative terminal of the battery. Just be sure that whenever you are connecting or disconnecting the cables that the big yellow knob on the jumpstarter is in the OFF position.
3. If the battery in your car is 100 percent dead, or if the battery is defective, then it can suck too much power from the jumpstarter so that there is not enough power left to run the starter motor.
4. If the engine cranks but refuses to start, then there might be a mechanical problem with your car that requires servicing.
What is the procedure to jump a car?
First find a suitable location to place the jumpstarter. It is imperative that the jumpstarter be situated securely so that it will not topple over when the engine is started. The jump starter can be placed standing up or laying down. Just make sure that it is stable so that it will not move unexpectedly due to engine vibration.
Also be sure to stay clear of accessory drive belts and other moving parts.
Connect The Jumpstarter To The Battery
1. Look at the terminals on the battery and identify the (+) and (-) terminals. It is best to look for the symbols on the battery which identify the terminals. Do not rely on the color of the cables that are connected to your battery!
2. Make sure that the big yellow knob on the jumpstarter is in the OFF position.
3. Connect the red cable directly to the positive (+) terminal on the battery.
4. Connect the black cable directly to the negative (-) terminal on the battery.
5. Check the status LEDs on the jumpstarter. The green "Connected Properly" LED should be lit. If the red "Reverse Polarity Alarm" LED is on, then the battery cables are connected backwards and you need to reverse the cable connections.
Start The Engine
1. If the green "Connected Properly" LED is on, then you may proceed to turn the big yellow knob to the ON position. The jumpstarter is now fully connected to your battery.
2. Try starting the engine. Do not crank the engine for more than 5 seconds at a time otherwise the jumpstarter may overheat.
After The Engine Starts
WARNING - be careful to avoid accessory drive belts and other moving parts!
1. Turn the big yellow knob to the OFF position.
2. Remove the black connector from the battery and return it to the storage position on the side of the jumpstarter.
3. Remove the red connector from the battery and return it to the storage position on the side of the jumpstarter.
4. Remove the jumpstarter from the engine bay and close the hood.