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Tuning Your CB and Antenna

Tuning Your CB and Antenna

March 12th, 2017

A CB Radio, or citizen's band radio is an excellent tool for being in communication with other Jeeps you are with on the trails as well as general communication with others on the road. But without taking the right steps to make sure your CB radio is working properly, it's not going to do much for you, and you even risk damaging your radio. Today we'll briefly touch on some easy ways to get the most out of your CB radio.

One of the most important parts of your CB radio is the antenna. Without a good and properly tuned antenna, chances are you are going to have problems communicating with other Jeeps on the trail. I highly recommend spending a few extra dollars on a decent tunable antenna. By tunable, I mean an antenna that you can easily shorten or lengthen, which is part of the tuning process. I use a Firestik brand antenna which has a simple knob on the top that you can use to tune it. They are pretty inexpensive and work very well. There are other good brands as well. For optimum results, use the longest antenna that works for you. I park my Jeep in my garage, so that limits how talk my antenna can be without taking it off before pulling in to the garage.

A common location to mount a CB antenna on a Jeep is on the back, either on the spare tire carrier, rear bumper, or in my case, mounted directly on the back panel. Regardless of where you install it, try to mount it as high as possible. The higher the antenna is, the longer range and better reception you will get. Mounting it on the roof of the Jeep is ideal, however if you have a soft top or remove your hard top in the summer months, that isn't practical. Also make sure you have properly grounded the mount. The end of the coax cable connecting to your mount should be securely attached to a ground on the Jeep. Without a good ground, your CB performance will suffer. Follow the instruction that came with your CB and antenna for specifics on properly grounding your antenna.

Firestik antenna mounted to a Jeep Firestik antenna mounted to a Jeep

Once you have your CB and antenna properly installed, before you go hit the trail, you need to tune the antenna. Tuning the antenna is a bit of a pain in the butt, but fortunately you only need to do it once. However if you ever change antennas, get a new CB radio or change cables or mounts, you will need to tune the antenna again. the first thing you will need is a SWR meter. SWR stands for Standing Wave Ratio and it is a small device that basically measures how much of the radio signal coming out of your CB radio actually gets transmitted out of the antenna. Some higher end CB radio have a SWR meter built in to the unit, but if yours does not, you will need to obtain a stand alone SWR meter to use to tune your antenna. A decent SWR meter only costs about $25 and is essential to make sure your CB radio is working at its best.

SWR Meter SWR Meter

Once your have your SWR meter, place it inline with the antenna cable according to the instructions that came with the SWR meter, grab a pen and paper and drive your Jeep to area that has no buildings, cars, or other obstructions around and follow these steps:

  1. Set the CB radio to channel 1
  2. Set the SWR meter to FWD position
  3. Key the microphone (depress the button and hold it)
  4. Adjust the knob on the SWR meter until the needle is exactly points to the SET marker
  5. Switch the SWR meter to the REF position, and key the microphone again.
  6. Note the SWR value and write it down.

Repeat the process on channel 40. If the SWR reading on channel 1 is greater than it is on channel 40, you need to lengthen your antenna. If your reading on channel 40 is greater than channel 1, you need to shorten your antenna. Follow the instructions that came with your antenna on how to shorten or lengthen the antenna. Do it in small increments. In the case of the Firestik antenna, the screw at the top of the antenna can be turned in and out to shorten or lengthen the antenna. Once you have made a small adjustment, repeat the steps above until the two numbers match. If your antenna has a plastic cap that needed to be removed to tune it, be sure to place the cap back on the antenna before taking your SWR readings.

A note about the actual SWR meter numbers: A perfect SWR reading is 1.0. This number is rarely achievable on vehicles. Your reading should be less than 2.0. If after following the tuning process above, your SWR number is larger than 2.0, that will indicate that you have a problem somewhere in your setup. First thing to check is your ground. Make sure your mount is properly grounded. It is also possible that your coax cable running from your CB radio to your mount is bad and should be replaced. If you are still unable to get your numbers below 2, you may want to check with a professional to help diagnose the issue. If your numbers are way off the chart like over 5, most likely your coax cable will need replaced or your antenna is not properly attached tot he mount.

Having a properly tuned antenna will help prevent your CB radio from prematurely wearing out. High SWR readings can actually cause damage to your CB radio. So follow these important steps get the best reception and longest life for your CB radio.