cb radio range factors

CB Radio Range: What Is the Range of a CB Radio?

Nothing is more upsetting than coming across an ad about a CB radio that is cheaper and has better range than your radio. However, there is usually no need to worry about your radio's range too much because it is something that you can improve.

In this article, we will be looking at the different ways in which you can boost your CB radio's range so that you can get stronger and clearer signals.

The following are a few of the factors that can affect the range of your CB radio:

  • The power output of your CB radio
  • They type of antenna you use
  • Environmental factors
  • The type of CB radio in use
  • The radio's features

CB Power Output

Ideally, there are two main things that can boost the overall power output of your CB radio. These are:

  • Tuning the radio
  • Using a linear amplifier

Tuning will help your radio to output its maximum power to make it sound better than a non-tuned radio. On the other hand, using a linear amplifier will also increase its overall power output which will in turn increase its range.

However, you should find out if it is legal to use a linear amplifier in your country. For most countries like the U.S., using a linear amplifier to boost the radio's power beyond 4W is illegal.

Antenna

Even with a well-tuned CB radio that is using a linear amplifier, you won't have a decent experience with your CB if you lack a good antenna. Most CB radios today come with their own antennas which are not always the best. To get the most out of your radio, you should consider buying a quality antenna for your radio.

Afterwards, you should tune it before placing it on a good spot on your vehicle. This is where the antenna's height becomes significant.

A taller antenna usually has a lower angle of radiation compared to a shorter one. This means that the CB signal will be traveling closer to the ground for a longer distance. As such, a tall antenna will be able to pick up signals better and increase the range.

Environment

The environment also plays a big role in your CB radio's range. In fact, whenever you are in an area with little or no repeaters, your CB radio is usually at the mercy of the environment.

Typically, you will get better range in areas that have wide spaces without trees and buildings in between. This is because signals will be able to move freely. Signals get weaker when they pass through solid medium.

In contrast, you won't be getting the same range whenever you are within the city because there are many obstructions.

Type of CB Radio

CB radios are not all equal. Some are more powerful while others may be less powerful since they are more compact. The type of CB radio you end up with will determine your radio's overall range. 

Usually, you can choose between any of the following types of radios:

  • Base Station CB Radio
  • Handheld CB Radio
  • Mobile CB Radio
  • All-in-Handset CB Radio

Handheld CB radios focus on being compact and lightweight but might not offer the same range that a base station CB radio can offer.

As such, the type of CB radio you choose can also affect the range. If getting the best range is a priority, it is thus advisable to pick a CB radio that is powerful out of the box.

Radio Features

Before adding linear amps and hooking up your CB radio with a better antenna, you should also keep an eye on the radio features. You should try and get a CB radio with features such as manual squelch since it allows you to change the sensitivity of your radio to adjust for different signal strengths.

Tips for Increasing Range

  1. There may be a 4W limit for CB radios in many countries, but one exception to this rule comes in the form of SSB CB radios. These can have a power output of up to 12W.

  2. Instead of getting a stubby antenna, go for a whip antenna and mount it as high as you can on your vehicle. Whip antennas offer better range than shorter antennas. You will, however, need to deal with the swaying of the antenna.

  3. Install a repeater that will re-broadcast signals and relay them to farther destinations. If installing a repeater is too costly, you could find a repeater service in your location through rfinder.net (nowadays called androiddmr.com)

  4. Use the high-power mode on your CB radio. Many commercial UHF and VHF radios usually have at least two power modes. High power mode will offer better range than the low power mode as it will be using the full resources of the CB radio.

Range Guidelines

We drew up the table below to give you a rough idea of the range you can expect from CB radios with different power outputs and in different environments. As you will see, CB radios generally perform well in open terrain and especially if they are powerful.

Wattage

Open Terrain (Miles)

Suburban Areas (Miles)

Urban Areas (Miles)

1 watt (UHF)

2 - 3

1 - 2

0.5 – 1.25

2 watts (UHF)

3 - 4

1.5 – 2.5

1 – 1.5

2 watts (VHF)

3 - 5

1.5 - 3

0.75 - 1

4 watts (HF)

5 - 6

2.5 – 4.5

1 - 3

4 watts (UHF)

4 - 6

2.5 - 4.5

1.5 - 3

5 watts (VHF)

4.5 - 6

2 - 4

1.5 - 2

12 watts (HF)

8 - 15

5 - 8

3 - 5

Conclusion

Overall, getting a CB radio with all the features that will favor range is preferable. Pairing up a CB radio with a linear amplifier and an antenna will increase its range even further, but this will incur extra costs. A simpler way to get better range would be to use your CB radio in open terrain.

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