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What is CB Antenna Tuning?


If you haven t heard of tuning your CB antenna, you re not alone. Most people new to CB radios have never heard of it, let along could describe what it entails.

To tune an antenna is to adjust it so that is works most efficiently given its surroundings. In terms of a vehicle installation, tuning a CB antenna means adjusting it to the correct height so that it will work most efficiently given your specific vehicle and where you ve chosen to install it. As antennas uses the ground plane of the vehicle to transmit a signal, each antenna needs to be adjusted to match the specific vehicle its been installed on.

To tune an antenna, you ll need a SWR meter. SWR stands for standing wave ratio, which refers to how efficiently the antenna is transmitting the energy sent from the radio into the air. The lower the ratio, the more efficient the antenna, and the better tuned it is. A SWR ratio of 2.0 or lower is acceptable for operations while a ratio of 3.0 indicates serious problems that need addressing. Tuning a CB antenna is synonymous with getting the antenna s SWR ratio as low as possible.

While the tuning process isn t too complicated, I m not going to hash out all the details in this post. For complete details, please refer to the appropriate articles on CB antenna tuning in the Right Channel Radios Resource Library. In it s abbreviated form, the tuning process consists of using a SWR meter to determine the appropriate length of the antenna. Depending on the readings provided by the meter, the antenna will need to be lengthened or shortened. For CB antennas with tunable tips , this lengthening and shortening is a fairly simple process. A tunable tip is simply a small screw in the tip of the antenna. The antenna can be adjusted, or tuned, by screwing the screw in or out, making the antenna incrementally longer or shorter. For antennas without a tunable tip screw, the antenna can be shortened by cutting of bits off the tip. For obvious reasons, a tunable tip is a much simpler and more desirable option.

Is it important to tune your antenna? This is a questions we are frequently asked. There are many people who when we strongly recommend antenna tuning tell us that they ve used CB antennas before without tuning them and they worked just fine, thank-you-very-much. While it s possible, and even common, to use a CB antenna without tuning it, we don t recommend it for two main reasons:

Potential Radio Death - Use a CB without properly tuning your antenna and you run the risk of frying your radio. An non-tuned antenna isn t able to efficiently transform (or transmit) the power sent to it into radio frequencies. This non-transmitted power is reflected back down the coax line toward at the radio. If too much non-transmitted power is reflected back at the radio, it can cause excess heat and damage critical radio components. As mentioned before, you want your SWR levels to be below 2.0 to ensure this isn t a problem. SWR levels of 3.0+ indicate a serious problem and a much higher chance for radio damage.

Poor Performance - As all stock CB radios only run at 4 watts or transmission power, the antenna is usually the largest determinant of system performance. As such, the degree to which the antenna is tuned will have a dramatic impact on a CB system s performance and range. CB antennas that aren t tuned won t transmit efficiently and will exhibit extremely poor range. If your friend 200 feet up the road can t hear you, don t curse your radio! Buy a SWR meter and properly tune your antenna.

Tuning you antenna is, bar none, the most important step you can take to make sure your CB system is performing at its best. Hopefully this post shed a little light on this often confusing issue and made a strong case for why you should always tune your antenna.




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