how to peak and tune in cb radio

How To Peak and Tune a CB Radio | Beginners Guide

Thanks for stopping by, and you are probably here because you have a CB radio. It’s good to start by realizing that CB radios feature an in built meter, which you can use to test the antenna system. It’s a powerful feature, because it can be beneficial for the functions of your device.

It’s a testing process that relates to a common term known as Standing Wave Radio (S.W.R). There are various radio brands that come with convenient features for such communication applications.

Some of them don’t have a traditional tuner, and you may have to calibrate the meter manually. Plus, try and conduct some research on a few features that radio provides before investing.

So, take a look at the information we have in the guide below for your needs:

How to Test Your Antenna System

Evaluating and tuning your antenna is crucial for a few key reasons. The first one is that it’s the simplest approach for you to determine if all the components are properly installed on the radio.

Next, if the SWR reading is excessive, then this might easily compromise the functions of your radio. Based on these two key factors, you always want to determine the reading of the antenna system.

You can use a tool such as an in built meter, which is a feature integrated in most modern CB radios. Or you can use an external SWR meter.

The key thing you have to do is to ensure that the signal travels through the system properly. If the SWR reading is excessive, then the transmit power is not travelling through the radi as required.

And, a significant portion of the radio power travels back to the radio. A key factor to remember is to ensure the ratio is 1:1 for optimized signal quality.

How Does One Check the SWR Level?

You will find it easy to determine the SWR level, by performing a few key steps. Usually, its possible for radios that features this knob for convenient use:

  • 1. CAL Switch – flip the switch CAL/SWR/SRF switch, until it produces the CAL reading. Doing so will provide you with different metrics on the radio’s functions. At this point, we want to inform the radio on where we want to customize the SWR meter function.
  • 2. SWR CAL dial – switch on the radio and guide to channel 20. Then, input the microphone and adjust the SWR CAL dial, such that the needle sits on the CAL mark on the meter. Next, unkey the mic once it’s done.
  • 3. SWR Switch – once you are through calibrating the meter, proceed to get the reading for the same. Turn the SRF/SWR/CAL switch such that it reads SWR.
  • 4. Get your reading. Finally, key your microphone. Then take a look at the bar with the indication SWR on it. Usually radios feature indications that sit on the top section of the line. Ensure you keep track of the numbers of the SWR line on your radio meter. If the SWR reading is below the 2 level, then the reading should be easy to tolerate. However, if the reading goes beneath the 1.5 notch, then the antenna is fully functional. If the reading averages at exactly 1, then its work is as good as it can.

How Does Tuning Impact My Radio?

Quite contrary to what most people think, SWR won’t compromise the squelch in your system. Rather, being able to tune the antenna system will have a direct impact on the function of the CB radio. Thus, when you want to use SWR meter for tuning procedures, it’s all about customizing the frequencies that you will be functioning in your antenna.

Failing to tune the antenna right might have negative side effects on the peak performance of your antenna. The ability to tune your SWR right is important for the health and functionality of the given radio system.

What Does Standing Wave Ratio Mean?

SWR is a term in CB communication that refers to a reflection of the impedance level in your antenna system. Usually, an SWR meter works by keeping track of the impedance level. It refers to how well a signal can travel through the antenna type that you have available.

If there is an issue in the impedance level your system can produce, the a significant portion of the radiated signal won’t pass through the system. Rather, a significant portion of it will reflect back the transceiver components.

If such an issue occurs, the amount of potential output won’t radiata from your antenna, and it will move back in your system. Such an issue will lead to the production of standing waves.

Now How Can One Use the SWR Number?

Well, it relates to various factors. A good example would be the previous meter reading, and the specific ways you want to use the CB radio. If the reading averaged at less than 2, and you only use the radio for casual purposes, then it’s fine. However, there is little you can do to address any issues at such a point.

That said, if the reading surpasses the level 2, or if you want to communicate on a varied channel, then you may have to calibrate or adjust it as required.

How to Tune Your CB Radio with SWR Reading?

Broadly speaking, it’s quite a simple and straightforward procedure. Below are the few key things you can expect throughout this process:

  • 1. Evaluate the SWR meter – keep track of the readings you have on different channels on the CB radio. These include channels 1, 20 and 40. You have to ensure they adhere to the instructions mentioned above.
  • 2. Calibrate the antenna readings – if the SWR metric is larger on channel 40 compared channel 2, then consider calibrating the antenna once again. Plus, if channel 1 is larger than 40, then raise a component on the antenna. However, if both of these channels are similar, and the smallest reading is on channel 20, then its complete.
  • 3. Verify the SWR – usually, one looks for the same SWR reading on either channel 1 or 40. If the SWR still remains at less than 2 on all the channels, the system should function normally.
  • How about dual antennas – the process is similar for the rest. You just have to calibrate both antennas, and set them to a specific level.

What About the Impedance in most CB systems

The various components in your communication system have an average rating of 50 watts. Usually, the reading also appears in the SWR meter. For those who have the co-phase types, or those that feature a dual antenna, note that the coax has a 75 ohms rating.

When you place two 75 ohm cables together, the impedance breaks down back to 50. So, this lets your antennas function as 50 ohm systems, which helps compensate for the CB radio impedance.

SWR Range and The Things to Consider

Before using CB radio, you have to note that the explanations vary. Below are a few common range explanations that you have to consider:

  • SWR 1.0 – 1.5 – It’s the ideal level. If the SWR meter averages under 1.5, then its still fully functional. However, if it’s 1.5 and you want to decrease, then you can achieve this through tuning. Or, you can mount it on a different location. However, such a drop won’t have notable increments on the performance of the antenna. The most notable would have been dropping from 2.0 to 1.5.
  • SWR 1.5 – 1.9 – in such a case, you can still make improvements. However, the SWR in this range should still offer sufficient performance. In some cases due to installations and other changing factors, it’s still possible to get low SWR levels. You may have to try and lower it, but performance should still be reasonable at such a range. If you have performed the tuning process right, the SWR is probably due to problems such as poor mounting. Or, it could be due to issues such as using an antenna that is not suitable for the given mounting position. To test this out, evaluate a few of the common mounting locations for CB radios.
  • SWR 2.0 – 2.4 – while it’s not effective, it will never cause any damage to your radio. That said, you should try to calibrate the signal when possible. The SWR in this category issues often occur due to poor mounting procedures, and failing to choose the right equipment. To test this out, you may have to adjust the mounting location, and use a better antenna. It may not be a good tuning process, but will suffice if you have used all other troubleshooting avenues.
  • SWR 2.5 – 2.9 – performance in this category will be poor, and you may have to do more to improve the radio functions. The best solution for you would be to avoid using the radio in such range levels. Any SWR that occurs in this range is often due to issues such as poor mounting choices. To test this out, you may have to adjust the mounting position, and use a better antenna.
  • SWR 3.0 – performance in this category will have a significant compromise on quality. Its even likely to cause damage to your machine with extended use. Never transmit with your CB when the SWR levels are less than 3.0. If the needle on this unit moves excessively to the right, then when checking the 3.0 readings, you may have an issue with installation. It’s often as a result of poor installation studs, or components such as a damaged coax.


How Much Does It Cost to Peak and Tune a CB Radio?

The average cost of peak and tuning a radio depends on various factors. These include factors such as your preferred service provider, and your chosen CB radio brand. However, expect to spend upto $75 for a single procedure.

What is Peaking and Tuning a CB Radio?

It’s a process that involves the use of CB transmitters, which can handle the extra peak that occurs during modulation. When you “peak tune” a radio to provide added carrier power, there is barely any “headroom” that remains if you want to modulate the radio power level to 100%.

What is The Most Powerful CB Radio on The Market?

The most powerful radio in the market would have to be the Uniden BEARCAT 980 40- Channel.

What is CB Dead Key?

It refers to a carrier, which is a signal which you put out when you key your radio, and you don’t use the modulate function.


Overall, the ability to tune your communications equipment right can be an excellent resource. However, you have to be well informed to ensure you do this process right. Thus, this guide has been on identifying how to peak and tune a CB radio.

To do this right, you have to engage in a few procedures to ensure the best results for your projects. We have shown you details on aspects such as the SWR and impedance which come into play in tuning your CB radio.

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