How to Operate a CB Radio

Citizens band radios provide safety and company on the road, and can be more reliable than cell phones.


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Stay safe on the road with the important information in this car and driver video series.

You Will Need

  • A CB radio
  • Familiarity with 10-codes
  • A handle
  • or on-air pseudonym (optional)


  1. Step 1

    Tune in

    Tune in to one of the 40 channels on CB. Channel 19 is the preferred highway channel used by truckers, and channel 9 is the emergency channel. The CB's range is one to 10 miles, depending on weather conditions, time, and location.

  2. It's possible to occasionally pick up conversations hundreds or even thousands of miles away, known as "skip" conversations.

  3. Step 2

    Listen and talk

    Make sure the Mic Gain control is on maximum. Listen for a break in the conversation; depress the microphone transmission button, and then say "break" to let people know you're using the channel. Listen for clearance and begin speaking.

  4. The signal meter ranges from one to 30, gauging how well someone is coming through and, perhaps, how close they are.

  5. Step 3

    Use 10-codes

    Familiarize yourself with CB jargon, including the many 10-codes, which are abbreviations used by CBers. 10-4 means OK or affirmative, 10-2 means receiving well, and 10-3 means stop transmitting.

  6. Create a "handle" – an on-air pseudonym – of your choice.

  7. Step 4

    Close transmission

    Keep your communications brief. Close transmissions by taking your thumb off the microphone button.

  8. Step 5

    Turn the squelch

    Turn the squelch knob up to cut off noise from a channel that is not transmitting. The more you turn it up, however, the more stations you will lose, starting with the most distant.

  9. Step 6

    Use the ANL

    Turn up the Automatic Noise Limiter, or ANL, in heavily populated areas where there is more airwave activity. This will clarify incoming signals.

  10. Did you know? In 1976, Betty Ford adopted the CB handle "First Mama."