CB radio

Signaling change

My new trail-comms setup is about to take shape. I recently shared my plan to take the occasion of my fried radio to reevaluate my setup and make a few changes. One of those changes is my antenna mount.

CC Hi-lift MountLike many Jeep JK owners, my first antenna mount was a Teraflex-style (eBay knockoff) bracket that mounted the antenna on the rear tailgate. When I installed my Crawler Conceptz rear bumper and tire carrier, I switched to that company’s mount; essentially the same style, the CC mount moved the antenna left to the driver’s side of the tailgate. I’m still running the Crawler Conceptz mount, but as demonstrated in this company photo, it impacts the tire carrier and slightly limits the amount of tailgate travel.

Beyond this minor inconvenience, a second issue arose when I added a spring to my CB antenna. (It’s best practice to run a four-inch spring to any mobile CB antenna setup, but I’d initially run without one. After breaking the fiberglass cores of two antennas on particularly harsh bumps, though, I made a change.) With the additional movement allowed by the spring, my antenna quickly rubbed through the plastic sheathing on the antenna, as well as the powder coat on the tire carrier. This created a metal-on-metal contact situation that could cause a momentary SWR spike. It wasn’t anything a little electrical tape around the antenna couldn’t cure, but since I’m already having to make changes to my radio setup, why not move to a mount that alleviates this issue?

AZ RR Mount 2Enter the Arizona Rocky Road antenna mount. This bracket had come to my attention years before, but I’d preferred the simplicity of my earlier mount with the factory tire carrier I was running at the time.

My goal in making this change is to provide greater distance between my tire carrier and the antenna to prevent any interference from the all-steel tire carrier. I’ll investigate, too, whether the new mount raises the antenna enough to allow me to switch from a four-foot antenna to a two- or three-foot version that might fit in my garage without daily removal.

Stay tuned for an update as I prepare to get Smokey back on the airwaves.

A fresh start

Those who’ve followed this site will have seen that my year-old CB radio recently died a sudden, unexpected death. I’m a firm believer in the notion that anytime a part or system fails, it’s a valuable process to reevaluate your needs and the available solutions, rather than rushing to replace whatever was lost.

So, I’ve been doing a good bit of thinking and researching, answering some questions for myself:

Do I still have a need for a CB radio?

While it’s undeniable off-road enthusiasts in many parts of the country are moving away from AM CB in favor of GMRS or even HAM radio, here in the Texas Panhandle, CB remains the go-to for trail communications. I’ll definitely want a new CB, but I do plan to later add a GMRS unit as a second radio for out-of-area trips.

Is a full-size ‘box’ radio what I want?

The Uniden Bearcat 980 SSB I’m replacing is the successor to a Cobra 75 WX ST, that company’s all-in-one unit that puts all controls and display in the radio handset. While the Cobra unquestioningly was more convenient, I was never satisfied with that radio’s performance. More than that, I’ve read numerous reports suggesting all-in-one units like the Cobra tend to have power outputs far below the legal four-watt maximum. As someone who’ll use this radio for more than just trail comms, I want a stock radio that will give me the maximum legal output. Further, I’ve been very happy with the Tuffy Overhead Storage Console. I have the console mount. There’s no benefit to a change here.

Must the new radio offer sideband?

A CB-only radio would cost a little less than one with sideband, but the difference between the CB-only Bearcat 880 and the SSB-equipped 980 is only $13 via Amazon. That’s a small price to pay for the opportunity I’ve had to speak with radio users from Wisconsin, Utah and more using stock factory power output.

Is the Uniden Bearcat the right SSB radio for me?

This boils down to two things: First, I’ve been very happy with my existing 980 SSB. The only thing I’d change on the radio is to make the RF gain function a tunable knob rather than a stepped button. Second, sideband-equipped radios are hard to find. The only new option of which I’m aware is the President McKinley, which has an aesthetic for which I don’t care and a price tag well north of the Uniden.

 

In short, I’m happy with the radio I had. When I purchase a new radio, it’ll be another Uniden Bearcat 980. I will, however, make a couple of changes: In recent months, my 980’s speaker had begun to exhibit some minor audio overload/vibration when the volume was set too high. So, I’ll be installing the Uniden external speaker that’s sat in the box in my garage for a few years now.

Finally, I can’t deny that while I’ve enjoyed excellent performance from the Wilson Silver Load antennas I’ve employed, I’ve been through five in the last year. That accounts for $150 spent on antennas in 12 months’ time! A broken first antenna prompted me to add a spring to my mount. The spring, though, allowed enough movement that the antenna constantly rubbed against my tire carrier, removing the plastic covering and creating the potential for a shorted antenna and high SWR. So, look for some kind of change in my antenna setup when a new radio enters the picture. That may mean a new mount or mount location, a new antenna type — who knows? — I’ll continue planning on that one and hope to have Smokey back on the airwaves soon.

Finally, back on the air!

 

With the NASCAR race rained out and my Houston Texans losing to the cursed Patriots, I took advantage of the afternoon to install my new CB and Tuffy overhead console.

I’ll attempt a write-up in the near future, but for now, here are a few quick photos of my first real SWR check. Suffice it to say, I like the mount a lot, and I’m thrilled to have a working radio in the Jeep again!