Imagine walking through various landscapes, your trusty CB radio crackling to life with voices and updates from your fellow enthusiasts. But, suddenly, the voices start to fade. What happened? What is the range of a CB Radio?
The average range of a citizen band radio (CB radio) is about 3–50 miles. However, terrain, the antenna’s type/length, radio power, and location can affect this range.
If you are wondering how these factors influence the range, read on. We’ll also answer, “How far does a CB radio reach?”
CB Radio Coverage
CB radio is a form of radio communication that enables people to communicate over short distances using specific CB radio channels. It is primarily used for close-range communication.
Generally speaking, CB radios can cover 3 to 20 miles. However, due to their low wattage (4W maximum), most of these systems may only reach 7 miles, although some outliers may be able to transmit as far as 30 – 50 miles.
In any case, according to the regulations set by the Federal Communications Commission, it’s illegal to broadcast CB radios to stations 155.3 miles away. So, even if you manage to upgrade your CB radio’s range without exceeding the maximum output, you can’t go any farther than this benchmark.
Note that the range mentioned above is not set in stone, as it can be affected by several factors, such as terrain, environmental conditions, antenna type, and quality of installation.
Factors Influencing the Range of a CB Radio
Here are several factors that influence the range of CB radio:
Your antenna’s material, quality, and height greatly influence the CB radio frequency. A high-quality antenna will always offer a better range than a cheaper alternative.
- Dual fiberglass tends to be the most effective. A four-foot antenna made of this material can transmit 5 to 7 miles away.
- Single fiberglass antennas’ range is slightly smaller, as each four-foot length can only cover 4 to 7 miles.
- Magnetic antennas also have a shorter range. To broadcast to stations 5-7 miles away, you’d need one at least 5 feet long.
- For an 8.5-f00t-long stainless steel whip antenna, you can expect its range to reach 10 miles.
You can also classify antennas into two main types: base station and no-ground plane. Whereas the former’s range is around 15 to 50 miles, the latter’s transmission can only travel 15 miles at most.
Whatever antenna types and materials you end up choosing, note that this component shouldn’t be higher than 60 feet above ground.
2. Type of CB Radio
The range of your CB radio can be greatly affected by what type it is.
- A handheld CB radio range is usually pretty short, around 0.05 mile (300 feet) when indoors. These portable CB radios will work better when outdoors, being able to reach 2 miles when outside.
- Meanwhile, radios in fixed locations tend to have a much broader range – up to 50 feet, although they’re also more expensive.
3. Power of the CB Radio
To prevent interference, most CB radios are legally required to have a maximum power of 4 watts. However, there is a way to increase your CB radio’s range and power.
You can use an amplifier, which is illegal, or a single sideband model (SSB), which can transmit around 12 watts. It’s important to note that both parties must use SSB models for this to be effective.
4. Location and Environment
Your CB radio range will be shorter if you are in an area with tall buildings, deep forests, or mountainous regions. This is because it is difficult to transmit CB radio waves through solid objects.
However, you will get the longest CB radio range if you are at the highest point of a mountain or a desert with no obstacles.
5. Quality of Installation
If your antenna is not installed properly, it can result in a limited radio range, even if you have the best CB radio components. Improper grounding of your antenna can cause high SWR readings and tuning problems.
Ground your antenna to your car’s chassis to ensure proper tuning and increased range. Furthermore, make sure that at least two-thirds of your antenna is above the top part of your car. In fact, your antenna should be at least one foot higher than the top of your vehicle.
How to Increase the Range of a CB Radio
These are the four different ways to increase the range of a CB radio legally:
- Make sure you tune and install the radio properly.
- Operate in an open environment with minimal obstructions. If possible, get to a higher location.
- Get a radio with single sideband (SSB) capability, like the Cobra 148 GTL.
- Install a longer antenna made from dual fiberglass.
The distance of CB radio depends on numerous factors, including the antenna and the radio type. Although most models have a range of 3–7 miles, some improvements can be made to extend the range, particularly if you are looking for a long-distance CB radio.
These improvements may include correctly installing the antenna and getting to an obstruction-free location. Now that you know what is the range of a CB radio, you can continue enjoying unlimited entertainment.
Hello! I am Hart, the content writer and editor here at G0HWC. I used to be in the same local radio club with Howe, and he convinced me to join him in spreading my love for the radio with others. With a background in radio studies, I spend every day crafting accurate, easy to read content on various topics related to owning and using radios. I hope that my content can help you confidently venture in your radio journey!