How to Use a CB Radio

A CB Radio stands for the Citizens Band Radio is a commonly used type of radio that falls under the Personal Radio Service. CB radios are utilized by both individuals and businesses and does not require a license to be an operator.

CB radios operate on AM and single band sideband mode. Single sideband mode, SSB, has the benefits of lower noise and longer range than AM band mode. SSB radios tend to cost more than their AM counterparts. To note, SSB radios can only communicate with other SSB radios.

CB Radio Rules

CB radios can be operated by almost anyone. There are no age requirements for it’s use and FCC rule 95.403 states that the only restrictions on CB radio use are foreign governments, representatives of foreign governments, and if the FCC has issued a cease and desist order restricting your CB radio operation.

Radio channels utilized by CB’s are not specifically assigned and users can generally utilize all 40 channels and frequencies that have been designated by the FCC for CB radios.

Some notes regarding CB channels. Emergencies and travel assistance information are to be on channel 9 and no other communication can be broadcast on this channel. Another caveat, all channels must give priority to emergency communications.

FCC guidelines dictate the maximum power levels for all communication. SSB communications can go up to 12 watts PEP, peak envelope power while AM mode have a max of 4 watts. Raising the max power output of your CB radio is not allowed per FCC guidelines. This includes the use of amplifiers and altering your CB radio power output internally. FCC additionally requires the use of only FCC certified CB radios.

CB Radio Usage

CB radios are made to be used for short range in addition to local broadcasts. While CB operators can communicate in ranges of upwards of thousands of miles through bouncing and skipping their signal off the ionosphere, FCC guidelines dictate that CB radio usage should not exceed 155.3 miles. Unintentional signal skipping cannot be avoided but intentional extended signals are not allowed under current FCC rules.

CB Radio Etiquette

Remember that all CB radio users share the allotted 40 channels and this requires agreed upon radio usage etiquette. It is common to not maintain an conversation on a single channel for more than five minutes in a row. It is also common to wait at least one minute before starting another conversation on that same channel following the initial five minutes.

While call signs are not required per the FCC it is still common practice to have one. A call sign, or a handle, is not dictated by the FCC even when they were required, so each CB radio operator can choose their own call sign.

CB Radio Equipment

There are generally two types of CB radios to choose from

  1. CB Radios mounted to vehicles
  2. Handheld CB Radios

CB radios are manufactured by numerous makers and each maker has a number of models available. The links above go to recommendations for good options for each style of CB radio.

Like most things, quality plays a large role in the functionality of each CB radio. Generally speaking, handheld models are less expensive than vehicle mounted models. But the type of CB radio you select depends on your intended use.

Just as important as the CB radio is the antenna you choose. Antennas come with a great difference in performance, including range and signal quality. For our recommendations for antennas see the article below.

Whenever running a CB radio it important to test your radio and antenna as a poorly tuned CB radio will perform at a low level and you can damage your CB.

Many CB radio operators like to upgrade their factory CB radio microphone to achieve better audio quality and there will be the need to replace your mic if it breaks. To see my recommendations for CB radio mics read the article below.

CB radio operation is essential for communication in some industries and is an excellent amateur communication mode. With the right equipment you can be up and running quick and easy.

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