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CB Radio Fundamentals (Video)

Posted by Pat Haggerty updated


Learn about the components you need for a complete install, what components work together, and important things to know when you’re thinking about how to install a radio in your vehicle.

In the U.S.A, you don’t need a license to operate a CB radio. You’ll get 1 to 10 miles of range based on conditions and the equipment you buy. Here at Right Channel Radios, we specialize in truck, 4x4 and heavy-duty CB equipment.

What You Need for a Complete Install

For a complete install to get your CB up and running, you’ll need the following items:

Antenna Mount
Coax cable to connect the antenna to your radio

Choosing The Right Radio

You’re not the first (or the last) person to ask this question. It’s important to know that all CBs transmit at 4 watts. The difference between a $150 and $50 radio comes down to features, not to power, which translates to being able to receive or talk further.

If range is important to you and you want to talk farther on the airwaves, the antenna is the most crucial purchase.

Pick a radio based on features such as what will fit best in your vehicle size, if you want something compact, or if you want a model with all the bells and whistles.

Which Antenna is Best?

The performance of the antenna is going to depend on its build quality, length (longer is better), and where you install it on your vehicle.

In terms of what antenna is best for you, it really depends on your vehicle.

Picking a mounting location is very vehicle specific. Some work great with rear mounts, others work best with side mounts. It depends on the vehicle you want to install your CB in.

You can learn more about How to Choose the Right CB Equipment in our next video.

What Works Together in an Install

The different components can tie people up in terms of putting your CB system together. But it’s easier than you think.

Radio to Coax

- Any coax you buy is going to fit your radio. The barrel connection will hook right up to the port on the back of any radio.

The Mount & Stud

- You have the mount portion, which is an L-bracket that hooks up to any vertical surface, and the antenna stud, which is the device that allows your antenna and coax to connect to the mounting surface.

Below you’ll see a mount (on the left) with the stud on top and, on the right, is a view of the exploded version of the stud. 

The stud can be removed so you can pair up any stud with any mount, although most mounts do come with a stud.

The top portion is where your antenna will screw in, and the coax will connect to the bottom portion of your stud. 

In an installed vehicle, it can be a little hard to distinguish where one part ends and where one part begins, but in the box below you can see the antenna coming out of the top and the coax coming out from the bottom.

Mount Coax Connections

There are two types of connections for studs and coax.

One is the barrel type connection. This connection is the most common and is near universally compatible.

The other type is a ring style. This is nice if you don’t want your coax to come straight down from your mounting surface, for example, if it’s installed in a really tight area.

It can also be better for durability. These rings tend to have less metal parts, they don’t rust quite as easily and they are a bit more durable. They use what’s called a lug-style stud that has no barrel connection on the bottom.

If this feels overwhelming to you, don’t worry at all. It’s easy to mix and match. If you happen to order the wrong thing, we’ll do our best to make sure we switch it out in the order when we see it and, if not, we’ll work with you to get your stud exchanged in a jiffy.

Antennas & Mounts

In terms of hooking up your antenna to your mount and stud, this will also be universal.

You can see threads on the left that will attach to almost any stud that we sell so you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues.

Mounting a Radio in Your Vehicle

There are a number of ways you can do this in your vehicle. Every radio is going to come with an L-bracket mount and you can mount that to pretty much any surface you want with lots of options.

Powering Your Radio

Every radio will come with a power cord that plugs in the back of your radio and has two bare wire ends – a positive lead and negative ground.

There are a lot of different ways to use that. You can use a fuse tapper, a cigarette adapter, or you can connect right into the wiring of the dashboard of your vehicle or right to your vehicle’s battery.

Tuning Your Antenna

Antenna tuning is an important concept that you’ll hear about as you shop for a kit for your vehicle.

Once your kit is installed, you want to match the antenna to your vehicle. The antenna uses the metal surface from your vehicle to transmit and receive a signal. Since all vehicles are different, the ideal length of your antenna needs to be adjusted after being installed to match up with your vehicle.

Almost all of our antennas will have a set screw at the top of the antenna. To tune, you’ll take a meter and take some readings. Based on those readings, you’ll lengthen or shorten your antenna length. When we mention taking off length, we’re referring to mere millimeters for you to get this in tune.

It’s important because it can mean the difference between great range and performance or an antenna that doesn’t perform. Many antennas come with a meter but if yours doesn’t, you can pick up an affordable option from us.


Pat Haggerty

About the Author

As the owner and operator of Right Channel Radios, Pat Haggerty has been helping customers find the best radio solutions since 2008. He is highly knowledgeable in all mobile radio options and setups, including CB radios, GMRS radios, and HAM radios. His wide library of how-to and help articles is frequently referred to as one of the best resources for CB radio installations and technical support online. When he's not assisting radio enthusiasts online or on the phone, you can find Pat enjoying all that Montana's trails have to offer on his skis, mountain bike or Land Cruiser.

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