Picking a CB Antenna for Your Vehicle
Usually the most difficult part of assembling a CB system for a vehicle is determining what type of antenna to use and where on the vehicle to mount it. As the CB antenna is the most critical system element that affects performance, it’s important to select an appropriate antenna and mounting location.
Mobile CB Antennas by Type
CB antennas used with vehicles generally are classified based on their antenna coil location. Most CB antennas contain a coil, which refers to the section where the antenna wire is wrapped tightly around the antenna shaft. This tightly wrapped coil allows for shorter and more convenient antenna lengths to be used.
Base Loaded CB Antennas
A base loaded CB antenna will usually have the coil encased in plastic housing at the base of the antenna. Magnet mount, roof mount and trunk lip mount antennas are all classic examples of base loaded CB antennas. Base loaded antennas are often the easiest to install as they usually don’t require a separate mounting bracket; their base simply mounts directly to the vehicle’s surface. Due to their simplicity, they are often used with automobiles, vans and pickup trucks. While they are usually the easiest antenna type to install, they tend to be the least efficient at transmitting and don’t offer as many mounting options as center and top loaded antennas.
Center Loaded CB Antenna
Center loaded antennas usually contain the antenna coil in a plastic housing in the middle of the antenna. These antennas usually are made up of a thick steel lower shaft and an upper thin steel whip. Unlike most base loaded CB antennas, they require a separate mounting bracket in order to mount to the vehicle. Nearly all CB mounts and threaded antennas utilize an industry standard 3/8” x 24 thread, which makes the vast majority of antenna mounts and antennas interchangeable.
Center loaded antennas are popular with professional truckers and are often used in pairs in a co-phased installation. They offer a good balance between high wattage capbilities, transmission efficiency and mounting location flexibility.
Top Loaded Fiberglass CB Antennas
Top loaded antennas are traditionally made from a fiberglass rod and have the antenna coil near the top of the antenna. They are usually the most cost efficient antenna, are the most efficient at transmitting a signal and offer more mounting options than base loaded antennas. Subsequently, fiberglass top loaded antennas tend to be the most popular choice for CB vehicle installations.
While efficient and flexible, top loaded antennas don’t offer the wattage handling capabilities that base and center loaded antennas do. Unless you’ll be using heavily modified CB equipment (usually illegal) or HAM radios, this shouldn’t be a concern. All top loaded antennas can easily handle the 4 watts of transmission power used by most stock CB radios. As previously noted, top loaded fiberglass antennas are the most popular CB antenna used with vehicles and can be commonly seen on semis, trucks, cars, vans, RVs, jeeps and other vehicles.
Mounting Location Guidelines
There are a number of factors to consider when picking a mounting location, many of which will be heavily influenced by your vehicle type and antenna selection. Keep the following guidelines in mind when considering a mounting location:
1. It’s important to have the antenna coil above the roof-line of the vehicle in order to achieve satisfactory performance. In this regard, top loaded antennas offer more mounting flexibility as they can be mounted more places on the vehicle and still comply with this guideline. A CB antenna can be mounted with the coil below the roof-line, but performance will suffer.
2. Try to mount the antenna as high on the vehicle as possible. The higher the antenna is, the less likely the vehicle’s chassis will interfere with the signal and the better the antenna will perform. When choosing a mounting location, make sure to consider required antenna clearance for daily driving and parking needs. Accessories such as quick antenna disconnects can be used to quickly remove a CB antenna without tools and can be extremely useful.
3. A good vehicle ground is critical and without one the antenna will perform poorly. When choosing a mounting location, try to select one that is well grounded to the vehicle’s chassis, or can be grounded using a short jumper cable. If a good ground isn't available, you'll need to use a no-ground plane CB antenna which is able to function correctly without a proper ground.
Following these general guidelines should help you to get the best performance possible from your vehicle's CB antenna.
There are a number of quality, reasonably priced antennas on the market today. A Wilson antenna, Firestik antenna or K40 antenna should serve you well as all are high quality CB antennas. Keep in mind your particular needs, your vehicle's characteristics and the discussed mounting considerations and you’ll be able to select a CB antenna that performs well.
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