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High SWR Troubleshooting Guide

Posted by Pat Haggerty updated

In this guide, we walk you through the process of troubleshooting SWR issues. Starting with the most common occurring SWR problems, we show you how to test for everything from improperly grounded antennas to defective equipment.

If you follow this guide carefully, you should be able to diagnose - and usually fix - the vast majority of situations involving high SWR.

Important: Make sure to follow these steps in the order mentioned. We've structured them to address the most common issues first, and many steps build on the ones that came earlier in the process.

#1 - Understand What Your Current SWR Readings Mean

Before diving too deep, it's important you have a firm understanding of what your SWR readings actually mean. Read this article on interpreting SWR readings to learn if your SWR readings are good or indicate a major problem.

#2 - Is Your SWR Meter Connected Correctly?

One of the most common causes of high SWR readings is incorrectly connecting your SWR meter to your radio and antenna. When attached incorrectly, readings will be reported as being extremely high even if everything is installed perfectly.

Please see this article on ensuring your SWR meter is properly installed.

#3 - Have You Reached the Limit of Your Antenna's Adjustability?

Sometimes it'd be possible to achieve great SWR readings if only your antenna could be adjusted in or out just a bit more! If this is the problem you're encountering, see this article on what to do when your antenna has reached the adjustment limit.

#4 - Does Your Vehicle Have Little or No Metal Chassis?

Traditional CB equipment needs a metallic vehicle chassis to work properly. If you're driving a 25' fiberglass Winnebago and are having major SWR problems with traditional CB equipment, you'll need to read this article about no-ground plane equipment.

Note: If you have a Jeep with a partial fiberglass topper, you'll be able to use traditional CB equipment in most cases and continue on with step #5.

#5 - Is Your SWR Above 3.0 on All Channels?  

All the troubleshooting steps beyond this one are only applicable if your SWR is 3.0 or higher on all channels. If that's you, please continue on to the next step!

If your SWR is 2.9 or lower, please see this article on interpreting SWR between 1.0-2.9 for more guidance on what it means and how to address any problems.

#6 - Test for a Proper Antenna Ground

To function properly, your antenna mount needs to be grounded to your vehicle's metallic chassis. Otherwise, you'll get sky-high SWR!

Use this step-by-step guide to ensure that your CB antenna and mount are properly grounded to your vehicle.

#7 - Ensure that the Stud Washer is Installed Properly

Another very common mistake is to incorrectly install your antenna stud. More specifically, to incorrectly install the insulating washer. Heck, we're CB experts and we occasionally find ourselves installing it on the wrong side of the mount!

Refer to this guide on troubleshooting the stud washer to ensure your stud is installed properly.

#8 - Test Your Coax for Defects / Opens

If your coax cable has an open - that is, the wire is broken and current can't flow through it - you'll get off-the-chart SWR readings.  Follow this guide to test your CB coax for problems.

#9 - Test Your Antenna for Defects / Opens

Just like potential coax problems, if the wire in your antenna is broken you'll experience high SWR. Refer to this step-by-step guide to testing for CB antenna defects to make sure that's not the issue.

#10 - Perform a System Wide Continuity Check

For a final step to make sure there's no electrical and/or grounding problems, you'll want to do a system wide continuity check. This will help you spot any potential chassis grounding issues, or other unexpected points where the antenna is failing to ground properly.

To do so, follow this guide to performing a system wide CB continuity check.

#11 - Test the Integrity of Your SWR Meter

While uncommon, a faulty SWR meter will wreck havoc with your troubleshooting efforts. Use this guide to determine if your SWR meter is faulty.

#12 - Test Your Radio for Problems

99%+ of SWR issues are caused by the coax, antenna, mount or improper installation of those components. But once in a blue moon a defective radio is to blame.

Use this guide to determine if your CB radio is to blame for your high SWR.

Still Failed to Resolve the Issue?

Hang in there, we know you're frustrated! Few things can get under your skin as much as a stubborn SWR issue that you just can't seem to pin down.

If you've followed all the troubleshooting steps so far and are still having problems, sadly we probably won't be able to offer any further guidance.  These are the exact steps we'd walk you through personally, so there's not much more help we'll be able to offer in addition to what is outlined above.  

With that being said, we're always willing to take back equipment that just isn't working for you for whatever the reason.  As long as it's in new condition with all the original parts and packaging, we're happy to get you a refund if you purchased it from us.  

We know it's not ideal, but it sure beats paying for equipment that doesn't work on your rig.  To contact us about starting the return process, please click here.


Visit our Learning Center for more CB Radio How-To's and Buying Guides.


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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