Is there a citizens band (CB) radio installed in your motorhome? If so, which brand/type do you have? How important was this feature when you purchased the motorhome?
Those are the questions we asked in the April issue, and here are some more of the replies we received.
I was an over-the-road truck driver for about six months in 2010, and I had a CB in my rig which I used primarily to contact security at customer locations to let me in. I thought it would be useful to monitor road and traffic conditions, but unfortunately, most of the “information” I heard was useless. Sadly, some of my professional driver colleagues use the CB as a platform to berate “four-wheelers” and other drivers while professing solutions to our country’s problems using “colorful” language. Let me be clear, the vast majority of the professional drivers out there are good folks, and are very underappreciated/underpaid. It is the small percentage that make us all look bad.
As a result, I rarely had my radio on as a trucker. Most all useful information I need in my motorhome when traveling I can get from the Waze application on my smartphone. I did move my CB into my motorhome when I went back to engineering, but it’s in a cupboard in our bedroom for emergencies. The only time I might need it is if I were traveling through some remote areas of the country without cell service.
David Repert | Tinton Falls, New Jersey
It’s a Group Thing
We have been RVing for 47 years, starting with a pickup and slide-in camper, then a Class C and finally a succession of four Class A’s. I have had (or personally installed) a CB in every one of these. We frequently travel with friends and typically “caravan” with anywhere from three to eight vehicles. We find it invaluable to communicate and have all the vehicles in the string know what is going on. It is particularly important when discussing a route or if one in the line has a problem or needs a rest stop. You can’t have all the folks on in the communication loop with cellphones. Additionally, I can monitor the emergency Channel 9 for anything that comes over that channel and also can monitor the universal north/south and east/west channels for any pertinent road conditions noted by truckers and/or other CB-equipped vehicles in the vicinity. I would not be without one.
Bill S. | Washington state
I put a new CB radio in my 1997 Discovery when I bought it five years ago and have yet to talk to anyone on it. I have it on all the time set to Channel 9, I even asked a few truckers what channel they set their CB to. The answer was the same every time … “CB? We use our mobile phones.” Some did note that a few old-timers who do long haul have ham radios in their rigs. Every RVer I have asked has replied that they do not have a CB onboard.
CBs are a dying item, very popular in the ’70s but old technology in the 21st century.
Phill Seaman | Via email
We have been motorhome owners since 2004, and have always had a CB in the motorhome. People do not use them as much as they did, which is good because you don’t get all the worthless chatter that you did earlier. I find it to be a great help in two areas: when you are in bad weather or something is happening in front of you that you need information about. We also have one in the Jeep so that we are in communication when it is unhooked and she is following me.
I installed a Cobra 75 WX ST in my first motorhome and a Cobra 29 LTD in this new one. Had very good luck with the Cobra 75 and hope the 29 works as well.
Lloyd Kurtz | Ellinwood, Kansas
We were new to RVing until we decided to jump in and got a 2015 Coachmen Concord 300TS Class C in May of 2014. It did not come with a CB radio and none was offered as an option so, before our second season, we decided to put a CB into the rig, mainly as another means of communication should we run into trouble, either mechanical, traffic or weather, etc. Space being at a premium in the Ford E-450 cab, we purchased a Cobra 75 WX ST Compact Remote Mount with Soundtracker, which is like an all-in-one hand-held unit. Besides the usual 40 channels, it also has 10 NOAA weather frequencies. We also purchased a Firestik No Ground Plane CB Antenna.
I installed everything myself, but it is not an easy thing to do and takes time and patience. There are many considerations and decisions to be made to get a CB radio to work optimally in an RV as most RVs don’t have a flat vertical metal ground plane surface for the antenna. I also needed to purchase/borrow an SWR
(standing wave ratio) meter to tune the antenna to the radio.
Needless to say, I would recommend buying/installing the radio when the RV is initially purchased or have a professional radio/sound business add it to your RV.
Ken Cannon | Via email
We have a 2004 Newmar Dutch Star. It was ordered new and we added a number of optional items including a CB radio (Cobra Sound Tracker SQL, Model 75 WV ST). At the time, we felt it would be a good item to have. Upon taking delivery and on our first trip in the rig, we turned on the CB to “scan” mode. No sooner on the road and all we heard were foul-mouthed truckers talking in multiple dialects. We turned it to Channel 13 which, as we heard, was the RV-preferred channel. Nothing! In the 13 years we’ve had the coach, we only used it for one trip when caravaning with friends and it enabled us to communicate back and forth. We’ve also heard that tour groups use it to communicate. We rarely use it but, with the bracket close to the driver’s side on the dash, it is a handy place to hang my cap! In my opinion, with all the current communication capabilities available, I think having a CB onboard is old technology.
Kurt Kindschi | Merrimac, Wisconsin
Eyes on the Road
In response to the April question of the month, I do have a CB radio in my motorhome and also in my tow vehicle. Both are Cobra units with the NOAA weather stations. This feature has been very helpful in the past to keep abreast of local weather. Although the new applications on cellphones somewhat diminishes the use of the CB weather information, it is very useful for local weather alarms. The second and most used feature is the local traffic information provided by the truckers. They are truly road warriors and keep up with current local traffic conditions. They will share information on which lane to be in if there is a construction problem, or a traffic accident and possible detours around the problem. On rare occasions when I have disconnected my dinghy vehicle and my wife is driving separately, communication between us is much safer with a CB than with cellphone. We select a seldom-used CB channel and can communicate by pushing the transmit button. It is readily available without having to dial or take your eyes off the road.
Pete Garrett | Huntsville, Alabama
I am recently retired after 26 years as a public safety dispatcher and then deputy director of a 911 center. We own a 2014 Tiffin Allegro Open Road 36LA, and one of the first things we did was install a CB radio. We installed the Cobra “Easy Talker” with the controls on the mic, which is very easy to use. Only the mic is visible — the rest of the unit is hidden under the dash. We live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, and we travel to many areas in the Pacific Northwest where there is no cellphone coverage. Often, when there is a natural disaster or major event, the wireline and cellphone networks become clogged, and people are unable to place calls on their home or mobile phones. The CB offers another level of safety and opportunity in the event of an emergency, and another chance to reach someone for help. We also monitor the local truckers’ channel, or Channel 19, when on the major highways, for updates about traffic conditions, road hazards, accidents, etc. Also, in the event you have an emergency situation and you can’t get through on a cellphone, try texting for help, as text messages will often go through where cellular calls won’t. If you text 911, be aware your message may not go through — many 911 centers across the country are not yet equipped with the technology to receive text messaging. You should get a “bounce back” message advising you that function is not available in your area, but that does not always happen. If you don’t get a response to your text, try texting someone you know to let them know your location and that you need assistance, and ask them to contact the local emergency services agency or 911 center for you.
Glennis (and Mike) Stamon | Hoquiam, Washington
Breaker 1-9, Good Buddy!
We have run CB radios since the early 1970s. Our present motorhome was purchased CB-ready, with the antenna and coax wired to the dash. We run a small Uniden 520XL 40 channel as another means of communication when you’re on the road. When we were in Alaska, we had no cellphone service. We came upon an accident and, with our CB radio, we were able to contact a passing trucker heading into a nearby town. He was able to have emergency vehicles come to their aid.
In the Lower 48 we monitor Channel 19. Truckers will warn you of road conditions, problems with your vehicle and which is the best lane to be in, coming up on an accident or construction, long before your GPS will tell you.
Also, traveling in a caravan, the wagon master and tail gunner can maintain real-time communications, you know, in the event that “Mercy sakes alive, we’ve got ourselves a convoy!”
Geoff Turner | Via email
You Can Hear Me!
I say definitely yes on a CB. Some folks I talk to say no because you’ve got your cellphone. This is true, but there is always the service issue. We have a camping “family” that consists of five RVers and one tent camper. Using a cellphone to keep up with all of these folks would be harrowing. I’ve also seen it happen where you need to give directions to the lead RV and while you are waiting for the cellphone to connect, you pass the turn (or whatever you needed to tell them). There is also the benefit that truckers (Channel 19) will keep you posted as to road and traffic conditions. Not to mention the emergency channel (Channel 9). I initially tried a hand-held CB. I could see the person I was calling but they could not hear me. I have a Cobra CB which includes a weather channel, a PA hookup, and instant Channel 9 access. They can hear me fine now.
Marshall Smith | Panama City Beach, Florida
Cobra Strikes Again
As we travel in our motorhome, and as we caravan along with our RVing friends,
the Cobra CB radio allows all of us to keep in touch on the road. We enjoy our
conversations, keep abreast of road conditions, make plans for rest stops,
and it makes the journey much more enjoyable!
Doug and Laura Schwebach | Albuquerque, New Mexico
Ham It Up!
I have had CB radios in all my motorhomes and most of my cars and trucks over the years. I currently have Cobras, with all the controls on the mic so the body of the unit can go anywhere, in both my Tiffin Phaeton and my Yukon XL toad. The Phaeton came with the antenna and feed line installed. I have seldom found them very useful, and would not count on them to summon help anywhere that you cannot use a cellphone. Since I travel on the byways and with the Yukon in the backcountry, I wanted something better, and last year took the plunge and got my amateur radio (ham) license.
Passing the technician license exam is not difficult, and you no longer need to learn Morse code. The technician license will give you access to all the VHF and UHF frequencies. I now have ham radios in both vehicles for fun as well as for emergencies. It gives my kids some comfort in knowing that I can get help in an emergency.
Colton Meyer, WD6CWM | Somerset, California
I have a CB radio in my motorhome. It is a 25-year-old portable model I already had. Thus, the range is short. I hear very little traffic on the trucker channel. The most chatter I got was a few years ago in Texas and most of it seemed to be in Spanish. I don’t know if it is my old unit or if CBs have been mostly replaced by cellular phones. I keep it on just in case. A few of my “radio checks” have been answered, once by a state trooper, so I know it is working. I have been next to trucks with bad tires who won’t respond but another truck going in the opposite direction did. It’s not hurting anything so I have left it in but have not found it helpful.
Rory | Las Vegas, Nevada
We always make sure we have a CB radio installed on our motorhome. We are able to monitor road and weather conditions, have conversations with drivers when things get a bit boring, but most importantly, we have been made aware of safety concerns throughout the years. Things like when a compartment door has swung open, a tire looks low, etc. We have also gotten great local information, such as a good detour route or the best place to get pancakes. The CB for us is a necessity. We have a Cobra 29 NW LTD. Gives us about 15 miles of talking and receiving power.
Russ and Jenn Batsch | Landing, New Jersey
Even More Ham
If you are thinking about installing a CB radio in your RV, why not look at a 2-meter ham radio? Ham radio is a lot of fun, and a simple written test is all it takes to get on the air. I carry an Elecraft KX3 and a 40-meter wire dipole antenna.
My call sign is N4XC.
Keith Smith | Via email
We’re on our third RV, and have always had a CB installed to just listen (Channel 19) or ask for help. I would say I’ve used it on average at least three to four times a trip. You can’t always get a cell signal. But you can always get a comeback (good buddy) on your CB.
David August | Chicago Ridge, Illinois