In this article, we are going to talk about how to peak and tune a CB radio.
First, we will explain what it means, after which we will list all the tools and parts you need. Only then will we get into the actual peak and tune operation.
You will find two different methods. For the first, you will need an SWR meter. If you do not have access to such a tool, the second method will probably be much more helpful, as it doesn’t require one.
What Does It Mean To Peak And Tune A Cb Radio?
To peak and tune, a CB radio generally means to improve its performance by doing a couple of things, such as increasing the wattage and adjusting the modulation.
Most people assume that the higher the wattage, the higher the performance, which is not always true, so don’t overdo it.
Besides, the maxim legal power output of CB radios is 4W, so we strongly advise you not to exceed this limit, otherwise, the FCC might get involved.
Some people would also tune their receivers so that they receive signals from other transmitters as clearly as possible.
However, by “peak and tune” most CB radio users understand slightly different things.
We choose to offer you only the safest and legal peak and tune methods. If done correctly, your CB radio’s performance will increase dramatically.
Equipment Needed For Peak & Tune
- Your CB radio
- An antenna
- Coaxial cables – if using an SWR meter.
- SWR meter – not indispensable but highly recommended to have one.
- Screwdriver – if you choose to do the peaking by yourself.
- Wirecutter – in case the antenna needs to be shortened even further.
- A friend is willing to help.
Cost Of The Entire Process
If you prefer to peak and tune your radio at a local CB shop, the price will vary quite a bit.
Some say the operation costs around $75, if not more, while others will tell you that a peak and tune shouldn’t be more than $25.
If you know a CB shop or anything similar where you could solve the problem for up to $30, you should consider this option, as it is a very good price.
And yet, you are perfectly entitled not to trust strangers. Some of these so-called technicians will do more harm, and they will still take your money.
In this case, you can peak and tune your radio by yourself, which is free!
How To Peak And Tune A Cb Radio (With An Swr Meter)
The Standing Wave Ratio meter (SWR meter) is not entirely necessary, but it would definitely make your job a lot easier. Here is what you need to do in order to peak and tune your CB radio, step by step:
01. Setting up the SWR meter
Set up the SWR meter. To do so, you will need to connect it between the radio and the antenna with your coaxial cables.
This SWR meter will help you by offering you certain readings, without which it will be difficult to tell if the radio is peaked and tuned or not.
You should know, however, that the readings have to be on the lower side. If the indicator reaches levels that are too high, it is very likely to damage your radio, so be careful in this regard.
02. Setting up the antenna
Antennae with a magnetic base are generally the best because they are very easy to place on the highest point of the car or truck.
The position of the antenna matters a lot. If it is in a good position, you will receive the signals of others as well as possible.
Try to place the antenna on the roof of your vehicle, in the geometric center, so to speak. Then hook the antenna, the CB radio, and the SWR meter with two coaxial cables.
Also, many specialists recommend investing in a good antenna before you even consider peaking your radio, especially if it’s new.
Usually, longer antennae are more efficient than short ones. But we will talk about how long your antenna should be very soon.
03. Tuning the antenna
In order to hear and be heard properly, you have to adapt the antenna accordingly.
The SWR meter has to give you identical or similar readings on both channels 1 and 40.
If it gives you a higher number when you’re tuned to the first, the antenna is too short. It works the other way around as well.
If it gives you a higher number when you’re tuned to the last channel, then it can only mean that the antenna is too short.
The solution to this is simple. Step outside your vehicle and adjust the antenna until the SWR device shows equal or almost equal numbers on channels 1 and 40.
The number shown must be under one and a half units for the best results.
If it is too short, you can extend it, as most antennae are able to do this. If too long, make it shorter.
Remember that you can even cut it with a pair of wire cutters. Sometimes, the antenna will still be too long after being shortened, case in which you must cut it.
After you’re done, always add the small rubber cap on top of it.
04. Maximizing the modulation
For this step, you will need to modify the modulation of the CB radio.
There is a knob for this purpose on your CD radio, called the modulator, which – as the name suggests – modifies the modulation of your device.
You want it to be relatively high, but not as high as to distort the sound.
Make sure to adjust the squelch knob as well, in order to keep the background noises to a minimum. This knob is usually to the left of the modulator.
05. Peaking the CB radio
This is where it gets tricky but, as we’ve said before, there is always the option to take the CB radio to a specialist.
Below we have attached a video from YouTube that shows you exactly what you need to do in order to peak the radio if you choose to do it by yourself.
We chose to redirect you to a video because peaking involves a very complex operation, which requires a visual demonstration. Written information wouldn’t be of much help.
You will find that video at the end of this article, but we advise you to implement the information in it only if you are already familiar with such operations.
How To Peak And Tune A Cb Radio (Without Swr Meter)
It’s going to be much more difficult without an SWR meter, but definitely not impossible.
For this method, you will absolutely need a friend with a CB radio of their own. They will tell you how well they can hear you and vice versa; in other words, the friend replaces the role of the SWR meter.
01. Find an open space
Try to do the tuning in a place where there are as few signals and as little interference as possible.
Stay away from buildings and heavy traffic. In this way, the radio will have a greater range, and it will be much easier to do the tuning.
Windows and doors have to be closed, for the same reason: avoiding interference as much as possible.
This time, your friend has to stay relatively close to the car. For starters, a few meters will do. After a few tries, they may move away so you can test a long-distance connection.
02. Setting up the antenna
The antenna needs to be placed in the best possible spot, which is the middle of your roof. If you get it right, you’ll increase the overall performance.
For starters, set it up as short as it goes. This is safer since you don’t have an SWR meter to give you readings.
03. Testing the connection
For the next step, you and your friend will need to connect to two different radios on one channel, in an attempt to hear one another.
We remind you that you must avoid channel 9, as it is reserved for emergencies, so use a less crowded channel.
Talk to each other to see how good the connection is.
For this procedure, your friend may try different distances. By doing this, you will also find out how far the signals emitted by your CB radio go.
04. Adjusting the antenna
Don’t lose hope if you don’t hear your friend well, or if he doesn’t hear you.
But in this case, you will have to adjust the antenna. Since you started this operation with the antenna set to the shortest length, now you can lengthen it little by little.
Keep shortening and lengthening the antenna until the connection gets better and better.
There are several types of antennas, so how you lengthen the antenna depends entirely on its model and its mode of operation.
In this regard, the antenna’s manual will be your best friend. If it doesn’t have one, you’ll have to figure out how to make it longer.
05. Peaking the radio
The peaking process is much more technical and difficult than the tuning process. It involves opening the device itself and modifying certain things to increase the wattage of the radio.
It can also mean peaking the modulation to 100% because they are said to come from the factory set to about 80%.
But a lot of people who have worked with CB radios for decades will tell you that you shouldn’t even try to do these things, as it causes a lot of splatter on multiple channels, and it can even be illegal!
They will tell you that, if you want to increase the performance of your CB radio, all you have to do is to tune and adjust the antenna accordingly.
You choose who to believe. We have attached at the end of this article a couple of videos that will definitely help you if you do choose to peak the radio by yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions With Answers on How To Peak And Tune A CB Radio
Q: What do peaking and tuning mean?
A: In general, to peak and tune your radio means to increase its performance by tuning the antenna with the help of an SWR meter or a friend.
You can even choose to open the radio and crank up the modulation and wattage, but this procedure implies a few risks.
Q: Should I peak and tune my CB radio?
A: Most specialists argue that CB radios need to be tuned from time to time. This holds true especially for older devices, as their performance slowly decreases over time.
Q: How much do a peak and tune cost?
A: It depends a lot on the shop. Some technicians will ask for $25, while others will ask for $75. It also depends on what you want them to do.
Peaking a radio is a little bit more complicated and thus it will cost you more. A quick tune won’t be very expensive though.
You can follow our tutorial on how to tune your CB radio with or without an SWR meter, which won’t cost anything!
Q: How can I do to increase CB radio’s range?
A: You can increase the range safely and legally by tuning your antenna. In fact, most CB radio users will advise you to do this before you try anything else, such as peaking.
An antenna with the right length, placed at the right spot, will work wonders! Make sure to read our article for an in-depth guide.
Q: Do I need an SWR meter?
A: An SWR meter will give you very helpful readings which can make your job a lot easier. It is not mandatory to use one, but we highly recommend investing in one, as you can use it as many times as you need.
Everyone seems to agree on one thing: from time to time, CB radios need to be tuned.
You can do this either at a shop specialized in radiocommunications and pay a sum of money, or you can do it by yourself and not pay anything!
As for peaking, it is a much more delicate, more dangerous operation and – if you’re not careful – even illegal.
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