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How to Choose the Right CB Radio Antenna

Close up of a spring on a CB antenna. Photo courtesy of Andrew at rightchannelradios.com.

Close up of a spring on a CB antenna. Photo courtesy of Andrew at rightchannelradios.com.

How to Choose the Best CB Radio Antenna for Your Car

When researching and buying an antenna for your CB radio, there are many things to consider. How will I mount it on my car? Will my car fit in my garage while it’s on the roof? Will a 5-foot antenna on my car just be ridiculous? How tall does the antenna have to be? And what brand antenna should I buy? All of these are questions you should ask yourself. These questions change slightly depending on how and when you use your CB and if you are new to CB or have been doing it for years.

Length

Tall antennas generally work better and get a longer range than short antennas. The higher the antenna goes, the farther your message will go, and you can receive messages from farther away. The ideal length antenna for CB radios is 102 inches (about 8 and 1/2 feet!) because it is equal to 1/4 of a wavelength.

Obviously, this isn’t even an option for most people. If you just can’t have a 102, or 36+ inch antenna stuck to the roof of your car because it won’t fit in the garage or you just don’t want it because you think it’s annoying, they do make shorter antennas. The only drawback with these is that your reception isn’t as good. Walcott CB sells an 8-inch magnetic CB antenna, the MS512M, that sits on the roof of your car. With this, you don’t get the same reception that a 3-foot antenna has, but you can park in a garage or go through the drive-thru without a problem.

Antenna Brand

Experts say that you can get away with a cheaper CB radio as long as you have a really good antenna. Since antennas are relatively cheap anyway, don’t buy the cheapest one you can find thinking it's only wire. Some highly respected brands are Cobra, Wilson, K-40, and Firestik.

Different length antennas and different coil locations

Different length antennas and different coil locations

Coil Location

Base-Loaded

Base-loaded antennas house the coil at the bottom of the antenna, which are usually in a plastic covering. Most base-loaded antennas have a magnet on the bottom to mount them on a car's roof. These can have a thicker coil too, because most of the antenna's weight is at the bottom. Base-loaded antennas usually have high wattage outputs. These are most commonly mounted on car or truck roofs and trunks.

Center-Loaded

The name is misleading because the coil is not right in the middle of the antenna. It is usually near the bottom, but not at the base. Under the coil is a thick, stainless steel shaft. The coil is sometimes in a plastic case. Above the antenna is normal. The most common uses for center-loaded antennas are on large trucks and semis.

Top-Loaded

The most common and cheapest type of CB radio antenna. These are also the most effective, even though they usually have low wattages (this is really only a drawback to people trying to use these with a ham radio or modified CB). Top-loaded antennas are mostly made out of fiberglass, and they use a thin wire wrapped on the outside of the shaft and are covered with a protective layer.

Since the coil is at the top of these antennas, you can mount them lower on the car because it is more likely the antenna will be taller than the roof of the car. Top-loaded antennas are used on cars, trucks, semis, and RVs, making them the most versatile antenna type.

Mounting

Antennas can be mounted by a magnet that you can take off and put back on whenever you like, or they can be screwed onto the car. I suggest the magnetic ones, because you can move them around to find better reception, take them off to get through a car wash, park in a parking garage, etc.

Example of a magnetic mounted antenna

Example of a magnetic mounted antenna

Handheld CB Antennas

Handheld CB radios come with a rubber antenna, usually about 8 inches long. You can buy upgrades and choose between another 8-inch rubber antenna, and a telescoping antenna that starts at 8 inches, but expands all the way out to 27 inches. There is also the option of buying an adapter for around $6, that allows you to connect your handheld CB to any of the antennas mentioned above and more. Put a 37” Cobra antenna on top of your car and use the handheld inside easily with an adapter.

Try searching on the internet at websites like Right Channel Radios.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.