Drivers' Corner - Layover CB Shop
Push Me, Pull You
Remember the story of the two llamas that were tethered together? Separately they could not eat two piles of hay as the piles were too far apart to reach at the same time. They ended up cooperating and eating both piles by eating them one at a time together.
Now you are asking yourself, "How does this relate to CB radios?"
Simple. Sitting behind my desk the other day, in walked a driver who asked to buy an amplifier for his CB radio. Due to his youth and obvious inexperience I immediately thought to myself, this young man must be a JB Hunt driver. I had one question that needed answering before I launched into my standard line regarding the dangers of stray RF and the electrical hazards related to this issue, including the fact that it is a Federal crime to use an amplifier on CB frequencies. I asked the young man why he thought he needed an amplifier. He responded that all his friends and fellow drivers told him a Cobra 29 needed an amp to work correctly.
He then stated that his biggest problem was that he couldn't hear other people unless he could see them. That was the reason he needed a "push me - pull you" amp. Stifling a laugh, I tried to explain that he didn't need an amp; he would be better off spending his money to upgrade his antenna system. He responded that all he wanted was an amp, period. Oh, and it needed a receive amp in it. Still trying to explain the problems he would be creating, I asked him to have a seat and I would explain how amplifiers really work, but it would take a few minutes. He stopped me and said, "My tech back in Kentucky already explained everything I need to know about how amps work. I just want to buy one. At least 500 watts that will push my signal out [push me] and draw in other signals [pull you]."
By this time there were six or eight other customers standing around listening to the conversation. Most of them were regulars and knew me well enough to realize what was coming next in this poor young man's education. They had heard my lecture numerous times before, but enjoyed hearing it again. Ignoring his comments, I went on to explain the dangers of RF and the radiation of that amount of RF within two feet of your head. He stopped me once more and told me that "obviously I wasn't much of a businessman and I apparently knew nothing about CB radios." Of course, I was to the portion of my speech, even with interruptions, that a receive amp does just that. It amplifies whatever is there. He stopped me with several less than gentlemanly words and said I had no idea what I was talking about since his tech told him the bigger the amp, the bigger the receive amp.
I stood up to emphasis my words and said, "This is the simplest explanation of how an amp works." In a low calm voice, just inches from his face I said, "If you are listening to someone's voice at the same volume as my voice, and you turn on your receive amp..." I proceeded to yell as loud as I could into his face, "IT MAKES IT LOUDER!" He turned around and walked out mumbling something about Yankees and how stupid they are.
I might have lost a customer, as I suspect he will never darken my door again. However, my regular customers enjoyed "the show" yet again.
It has always been my opinion that a properly tuned antenna, which means the lowest possible SWR reading on channel 19, is the best receive system available. An amplifier will not improve over it and it is considerably less expensive if you get caught using illegal equipment on your CB radio. Noise amplified is just LOUDER noise.
If you go into a shop because you are having radio problems and the first thing they do is put an amp on the counter and offer to sell it to you to fix your problem-RUN--because that is your cue to find another shop to fix your problem.
The most common fixes for poor receive are:
On Cobra/Uniden radios: The receive passes through the microphone and a broken or loose wire will result in intermittent or broken receive signal.
The antenna stud: When you take the stud apart, you will find white corrosion between the connections. Take an emery cloth or wire brush and clean up the connections and the mount. Reassemble the stud. If this doesn't clear up your problem, it is time to find a shop, someone in your local area who will treat you with respect and honesty. It's your money; you deserve to get the best advice as well as equipment for the dollars you spend.
If you can't find a shop you feel comfortable with, contact me and I will give you suggestions for shops either in your local area or on you normal routes that have a history of good customer service and repairs. Just remember, each shop has a character of its own.