Build the Best CB System for You!
July 1, 2018
Building the best CB system doesn’t have to be complicated. There are 5 components that make up a CB system – the radio, microphone, cable, antenna and antenna mount.
CB radios are available at a variety of price points and features. They all have 40 channels and the same transmission with 4-Watt power - but the features will vary per unit. Look for reputable manufacturers like RoadKing, Cobra or Uniden. If you operate primarily at night you should consider a backlit display. It will illuminate the entire CB display for easy viewing and the upgraded models will even have backlit knobs. Others will also have a build in SWR meter and switchable automatic noise limiters or noise blankers. The top of the line CB’s such as the RoadKing RK5640, will come with a higher quality microphone and USB charging port. Carefully evaluating the features, you will use the most will help to select the one that fits your needs.
Virtually every CB radio comes with a handheld microphone, but they are typically very basic, and most users will want to upgrade to a mic with better performance. Premium microphones from brands such as Astatic and RoadKing will have additional features such as noise cancellation, that will filter out background noise that can come from the engine, wind, radio, brakes and other environments that you may encounter while using your CB.
It’s tempting to save money by buying a cheap cable but that would be a mistake. A cable with insufficient shielding will cause loss of signal through leakage and external interference and does affect the performance of your radio. Look for cable that is 95% shielded or higher and constructed of the highest-grade materials like the RG8X coax for single antenna systems and the RG59U for dual antenna systems. The length of the cable is important very important and while it might seem logical to use a shorter length, in this case, longer is better. An 18-foot cable is best, even if it’s longer than needed. While it is tempting to roll up the excess into a bundle, that can cause interference. The extra cable should be wrapped in a figure 8 in either 12” or 16” lengths and stowed securely. Wilson and K40 offer this length of cable and they will also have detachable connectors for easy installation.
Most trucks manufactured today have factory installed antennas – but they typically don’t work well with most CB radios - it is recommended that you purchase a good quality antenna. You want to maximize how far you can transmit and receive your signal so pay attention to the style type, how tall it is and where you will mount in on the truck. There are three basic types of antennas – fiberglass, can loaded with steel whip, and magnet mount. To maximize the performance of your antenna, make sure it is positioned so that the coil and about two-thirds of the antenna are above the roof line of your truck. Keep them clean of dirt, oil, snow and ice and check the sheathing for nicks or holes regularly. K40, Wilson and Francis are the three most popular brands of antennas in the world and are compatible with most trucks. Buy the best quality antenna your budget will allow for the ultimate performance.
Most antennas utilize a standard 3/8” x 24” connecting thread which fits nearly all antenna mounts. However, it is very important that you select a mount that will support your antenna. A small roof magnet mount might be suitable for a 2’ fiberglass antenna but it would not work well with a heavy center-loaded 5’ antenna as it would most likely cause the magnet mount to come off. When choosing a mount make sure that you consider the length of your antenna and the stress it will cause while moving down the road. The mounting location is very important to the effectiveness of your antenna as well. Make sure you mount the antenna where it will not break off easily.
Following these few simple tips will help you build the very best CB system for you.