Choosing CB Radios, Antennas & Mounts for Pickup Trucks
Truck CB Radios
There are many factors to be considered when you're selecting the right mobile CB radio for your pickup truck. Here's an overview of some factors and features to consider.
What Size Do You Want?
The size of your CB radio matters, especially if you want to mont it in the dash or a console. As a general rule-of-thumb, radios range in size from compact to large. Measure your intended location carefully for height, width and depth, and search the select the needed size from CBWorld’s extensive selection of all things CB.
What Features Do You Want?
Some features improve communication quality, such as squelch control. Squelch lets stronger signals in only when a transmission is received, filtering out noise and weaker signals. Also, a noise blanking switch like NB or ANL cuts out much of the engine or fuel filter noise. A built-in SWR meter controls calibration of the radio/antenna during setup, adding or changing equipment, or trouble shooting.
The NOAA weather channels are not always included, but they literally can be lifesavers during severe weather, and many users consider them essential. Also, some radios come with a priority switch for emergency channels, but lacking that you can still tune the channels in manually.
Some features are handy but aren't necessary for the basic operation of the radio. One of those is Talkback, which lets you hear how you sound as you transmit. The game- changing new CB feature is Bluetooth technology. After pairing your BT-enabled cell phone with your CB with a push of a button, you’ll be able to use your CB radio to make, receive and end calls. The phone rings through the CB, and you can answer the call using the CB mic without using the Push To Talk (PTT) button. This video illustrates how BT is used with the CB.
When you’ve decided which features you want on your CB radio, you can view all of our CB radios for sale and mark the features you want, and a list will populate with all the radios that include those features helping you narrow the choices. We’ll also help by describing several excellent CB radios.
Cobra 29 WX NW BT
The Cobra 29 WX NW BT upgraded the features of its popular predecessor, the Cobra 29 LTD, to make this model a top choice. It has the newest Bluetooth technology, weather and instant emergency channels, external speaker and PA connections, mic gain and Talkback. However, you won't find channel scan and memory channels on this model.
Cobra 29 LTD BT
Worth a look is the large Cobra 29 LTD BT CB radio, the first CB model to incorporate Bluetooth technology. Other features include: PA connection, a built-in SWR meter, Talkback, Delta Tune, Dynamike Boost, high SWR indicator, instant emergency channels, NB/ANL noise reduction, RF gain, and tactile controls.
MIA on this model are: channel scan and weather and memory channels, which may be a deal breaker for some operators. Otherwise, the Cobra 29 LTD BT is a popular choice that also comes with a mounting bracket and thumb screws.
Cobra 29 LTD
If you have extra room in your truck, consider the less expensive truckers’ choice, the Cobra 29 LTD classic that’s been around since the 70s—plenty of time to work out any kinks. In fact, Cobra warranties this model for two years!
The Cobra 29 LTD comes with most standard CB features, including Dynamike, PA, instant emergency channels, built-in SWR, switchable NB/ANL, an external speaker jack and squelch. You may miss the weather channels and the newest Bluetooth technology, though.
Uniden Pro 505 XL
The Uniden Pro 505 XL uses a variation of the KISS system: keep it small and simple. It's compact, especially good for smaller pickups. It features instant emergency channels, connections for PA and external speakers, and squelch. Some features you won’t find are: weather channels, channel scan, and mic gain. A bit unusual is that the power cable is permanently attached to the back of the radio. In the box you’ll find a mounting bracket and hardware and microphone clip. You can see the Uniden Pro 505 XL on this video.
Thinking outside the box a bit would put an easily moveable CB radio in your pickup truck, the Midland 75-822 handheld CB radio that comes with a mobile adapter.
It's a versatile option that you can use easily for different vehicles, put in your hand or on your belt that might appeal to some space conscious folks. Standard features of this mobile radio include weather and emergency channels. It has the same maximum 4 Watts of power that all CBs are limited to by FCC regulations and connects to an external antenna (not included) by removing the included flexible antenna.
What You Need to Install Your CB Radio on a Pickup Truck
When you’ve selected your radio, it’s time to install it, so you’ll need a mount of some type and the coaxial cable to connect your radio with the external antenna, such as the Firestik with Fire ring. Installation is easier with that sturdy coaxial cable and it comes in 9’ or 18’ lengths, but one cable can be safely used to install only one radio. Next are some mounts for your external antenna.
Choosing the best CB antenna for pickups is more important than choosing the radio (even though you may find that more fun.) Since all CB radios come with 4 Watts of transmitting power, the easiest way to improve and maximize radio performance is to buy the best truck CB antenna that you can, because it can make a significant improvement in range and performance. You already know that the factory-installed truck antennas will not work with your CB, so let’s take a look next at ones that will work well for you.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you are choosing a CB antenna for your pickup is that you need the antenna's coil to be above the roof of your cab. If you are mounting an antenna on the roof of your cab, you don't need to worry about this. Any antenna will work up there. But if you are mounting on the fender, stake hole, bumper, etc. you need to make sure you are using a top loaded antenna that is tall enough to get the coil (the tight winding at the top of the antenna) above the cab.
We recommend Firestik tunable tip antennas for this. They are a good quality antenna that is easy to tune. Again, make sure that you are getting that coil above the roof line. A 3 foot antenna will work on the fender for most pickups.
CB Mounts for Pickup Trucks
More likely than not, you’ll find a bracket and some mounting hardware in the radio box which allows you to mount your radio underneath the dash or another flat surface. However, there are other options. If your radio is small enough, you can get compatible installation kits here to mount the radio on the roof by the rear view mirror, over the hump between the driver’s and passenger’s seats, or in a DIN slot like a stereo. The next job is to decide where to mount your antenna.
If you are thinking about mounting a CB antenna on a pickup truck, you are not alone. Thousands of people hit the web looking for mounting options for their pickup every day. For some, it is as easy as removing and replacing a bolt under the hood. Some pickups, especially newer models, don't have an under-the-hood mount available. For these pickups, you will have to explore other options...and we offer some guidance below.
Hood mounts, also known as hood channel mounts or fender mounts, are one of the most popular ways to mount a CB antenna on a pickup. This is due in part to the ease of installation, especially on trucks that have a specialized hood mount available. Unfortunately this is not the case for all models. Automobile manufacturers regularly change the shape of hoods and fenders, making it difficult for CB antenna mount manufacturers to keep up with the new styles. If there is no mount specifically made for your pickup, sometimes a universal hood mount like the AUC10 tall hood mount or AUC11 short hood mount will work for you. Hood mounts are also chosen for style. A CB antenna installed on the driver's side fender often compliments the AM/FM antenna on the passenger side.
Considerations for this mounting location:
- Your transmit signal will be weaker to the front driver's side of the vehicle, where there is no ground plane.
- It is best to use an antenna that extends at least one foot above the cab when installed on the fender. Using a shorter antenna can cause a higher SWR.
- The coax for the antenna will have to be routed under the hood at or very near the mount location. It is usually routed through the firewall under the hood from there.
- When installing an antenna on the hood, you will typically end up with some slack in the coax. It is better to run it in a figure 8 and stow it somewhere rather than shorten the coax.
Stake Hole CB Antenna Mount
Another popular location for a CB antenna on a pickup truck is the stake hole pockets lining the bed. Typically, the stake holes closest to the cab are used. Both single and dual antenna configurations are used when mounting antennas in the stake holes. This is another option that allows you to install a CB antenna without drilling holes or altering the vehicle. There are stake hole mounts available that can install with access to the inside of the stake hole or with no access to the inside of the stake hole.
Considerations for this mounting location:
- Some bed liners cover up or restrict access to stake holes.
- These mounts are designed to go into the stake hole without damaging the vehicle. If you are having to force it, you are doing something wrong.
- To run the cable without drilling holes, users typically run the cable up over the edge of the bed near the cab, down between the cab and the bed, under the cab, back up under the hood and through the firewall.
- It is best to use an antenna that extends at least one foot above the cab when installed in a stake hole. Using a shorter antenna can cause a higher SWR.
- Your transmit signal will be a bit weaker to the side your antenna is installed on, where there is no ground plane.
Magnet Mount CB Antenna
The last option for a CB antenna mount that doesn't require modifying your vehicle is a magnet mount. These antennas attach to the roof of your pickup with a large magnet. The downside to these antennas is reduced performance and damage to the trucks paint. Magnet mount CB antennasthat are base loaded tend not to perform as well as top loaded antennas. There are magnetic CB antenna mounts for top loaded antennas, but you have to be careful which antenna you use them with. If the antenna is too tall or heavy, the magnet may not hold. Even with the protective rubber on the bottom of magnet mount antennas damage can occur when particles get trapped between the magnet and the vehicle, scratching the paint.
Considerations for magnet mounts:
- You will want to take care in cleaning both the mounting surface and the magnet surface before attaching the magnet to the vehicle
- On a pickup, the cable for a magnet mount antenna can be run down the back of the cab, back under the cab, and through the fire wall under the hood. A coax extension may be needed for this.
- A magnet mount antenna is tuned like any other CB antenna. If you move the magnet, even a few inches, you should tune the CB antenna again.
L Bracket CB Antenna Mount
L bracket used to mount a CB antenna on the cab of a pickup[/caption] If you aren't worried about drilling holes, an L bracket is a very versatile option for mounting a CB antenna on a pickup truck. They can be mounted with nuts and bolts, screws or rivets in many locations on a pickup. The down side to this of course is that you are permanently modifying the vehicle. To avoid this, you can always attach the mount to a tool box or rack. The only consideration for this mounting option is measure twice, drill once.
Roof Mount CB Antenna
Again, if you aren't worried about drilling holes, a roof mount CB antenna is an option for mounting a CB antenna on a pickup truck. For an antenna like this, a 3/4" hole has to be drilled in the roof of your pickup. Ideally, this hole will be in the very center of the roof.
Considerations for roof mounts:
- Wilson Antenna has options for roof mounting. NMO CB antennas and mounts are another option from PCTEL (formerly Maxrad) and Larsen
- The cable for this type of mount is routed between the roof and roof liner inside the cab, down the interior trim, and behind the dash to the radio.
- While the range for a base loaded antenna such as this might be less than a top loaded antenna, the coverage around the vehicle is as even as it can get.