Never owned a CB Radio? Not sure what to buy? Not sure if you need one? No problem. Our experts can help understand features, prices, and specifications that fit your unique needs.
It’s the 21st century. Why invest in a CB radio? This is a great question that we get a lot at Wheelco Truck and Trailer. That is why we’ve put together a Buyer’s Guide for CB Radios.
Tech Savvy? Learn Why You Should Get a CB Radio
Cellphones are CB Radios biggest contender, but the almighty phone still has its limitations. CB radios are great at finding a fast, alternate route when traffic suddenly jams. Those who use CB radios can warn you about road detours or vehicular accidents ahead. Get real-time weather reports or warnings when you are driving through the mountains. You have an app for that? Weather apps are great to stay in the know…until you are in the middle of the mountains and don’t have a bar of signal on your cell phone. No one at Wheelco is going to tell you cellphone apps aren’t great or to ditch your cell phone. We all carry them too. But if you want local, reliable and immediate information, you’ll want a CB Radio too.
Tune Into This
Tune into Channel 19 (for east-west travel) or Channel 17 (for north-south travel) to communicate with other trucks on the road. Know about unexpected traffic conditions the moment the first trucker hits the road condition. Few apps can alert you that fast.
Police and emergency responders still use CB radios as means to quickly communicate and disperse information because they are very reliable. The FCC issued Channel 9 specifically for emergency communication and is scanned by US agencies, such as police, rescue for medical emergencies, accidents, vehicle breakdowns, and lost motorists. No one wants to think that it can happen to them, but if you suddenly suffer from a medical emergency, a CB radio can be priceless. What about the inevitable breakdown? Doesn’t this always happen when you are miles from home? Contacting someone who has the means to help get you fixed and back on the road can be a game-changer.
CB Radio Components
The CB Radio has been around for decades. It might have been invented in 1945, but because they are so reliable and useful, they are not obsolete. They have a simplistic design, consisting of a few basic parts: the radio, microphone, coaxial cable, and antenna. However, there have been upgrades, like LED-lit displays or USB charging ports.
You want the most powerful transmission in a CB Radio? You can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. Why? All CB Radios have the same transmission wattage. Why? The Federal Communications Commission’s issued a 4-watt power restriction for all CB radios. The exception is if you have an Single Side Band, broadcasts at 12 watts instead of 4 watts (ideal for fleet drivers). This means $50 radios or $400 radios have the same power. So, what’s the difference in price? Extra features. Therefore, it’s important for you to know exactly what you need and choose accordingly.
- LED-lit display fully illuminates the display, making it ideal for nighttime drivers.
- Bluetooth is a great extra feature if you are using both a cell phone and radio often. Having the hands-free ability is very beneficial to these types of drivers.
- Public Address System (PA System) is ideal for drivers who want to broadcast outside your vehicle.
- Channel Scanning is an excellent feature for drivers who want to scan activity on the numerous channels. For safety-conscious drivers or those who do a lot of urban driving and must navigate through a lot of traffic, pressing a scan button rather than manually searching is very beneficial.
- A built-in SWR meter can be quite useful to adjust your antenna.
- Added Weather Features will send you up-to-date weather information, making this a great feature for drivers who are on the road during poor weather conditions when cell phones aren’t always the most reliable.
- Single Side Band broadcasts at 12 watts instead of 4, making it idyllic if you want to talk only with other SSB drivers in your fleet.
- SWR Calibration aids antenna system for maximum performance.
- Antenna Warning Indicator illuminates when antenna needs checking.
- Adjustable microphone settings for increased voice clarity.
- Tactile Controls allows you to actually feel where the dial is in its rotation without taking your eyes off the road.
- Front Panel 4-Pin Microphone Connector allows convenient installation to be in dash or under the dash.
- Switchable Noise Blanker is a great option for noise reduction.
- Dimmer Control to adjust the brightness of the front panel, channel display, and signal strength meter.
- Instant Channel 9 will immediately give you access to the emergency channel 9.
- Delta Tune is ideal to clarify incoming signals.
*Estimated Lifespan: up to 10 years with proper care.
Most CB Radios have factory-issued mics but not all. If you are concerned about having high-quality sound, we recommend upgrading to noise-canceling mics. There are even options for secondary mics as a standby in case their primary one is damaged. So, if you’d like to upgrade, keep that factory-issued one around. You might need it!
*Estimated Lifespan: up to 5 years with proper care.
There are a few notable types of cable to use with your radio. When buying, look for a cable that is 97% shielded. Note: remember not to bind or pinch your cable as it may impede performance.
- RG-58, RG-8X or Mini-8 are ideal for single antenna installations
- RG-59 is recommended for dual antenna installations only
*Estimated Lifespan: usually 5 years with proper care.
Antennas come in a variety of types and designs. So, it’s important to know exactly what you’ll be using your radio for before buying an antenna. They vary by material, length and location of the coil—which we’ll talk about in detail. Regardless, no matter what antenna you choose, remember one thing when mounting it to your rig: the higher, the better. It will perform better. Just don’t mount it so high that it doesn’t clear underpasses. Make sure the coil of your antenna must be above the roofline, so it doesn’t impede on performance. Also, a good rule of thumb is that the longer the length, the further the range you’ll have
- Fiberglass Antennas are ideal for off-road use. Range: 3-6 miles.
- Magnet Antennas are usually mounted on the top of your pickup (or another vehicle with a metal roof). Want our expert advice? If you have a pickup, this is usually the best fit for that vehicle, and it’s easy to install. Range: 2-7 miles.
- Center-load Antennas are ideal for semi-truck or heavy-duty drivers. Range: 7-10 miles.
- No-ground antennas are usually seen on fiberglass RV’s or motorhomes. Range varies and additional parts like counterpoised built into the coax cable are required for use.
*Estimated Lifespan: varies with road conditions and drive use, usually 2 years.
Choosing The Best CB Radio For Your Needs
We hope our Buyer’s Guide helped you in choosing the right CB Radio for you. We’ve looked at several brands out there and recommend Uniden, Cobra or RoadKing. They are some of the most reliable brands on the market today.
Still, have questions? No problem. Our experts at Wheelco would be more than happy to help you choose the right one for you and your needs. Don’t hesitate. Shop now, come on in or give us a call today.