"Dude, you don't have to make the 'Kshhh' sound, it already does that!"
Ah, the Jeep caravan. There's not much more sweeter than seeing a bunch of Jeeps all in a row headed down the road. Being in that caravan is even better, regardless of where you're headed, it's like your own parade, and the other people in vehicles around you definitely take notice. The one thing our convoy was lacking was the ability to stay in contact with the other vehicles. This would definitely be a plus on the trails, but would also be a way to pass the time on the long drives to get to them. Getting hooked up with CB's was the obvious choice.
Chris had purchased his a while back, but was waiting for someone else to get their set up so he wouldn't always be talking to himself. But for Christmas this year, Jared finally got his own, and with a few trips coming up just around the corner, we set about getting his and Chris's installed.
Jared went with the Uniden PRO520XL while Chris's was Cobra's "all-in-handset" 75 WX ST. While the Cobra does come with the extra weather channels, Chris got it mainly so he could easily remove it when not in use to prevent theft. The Uniden is a good deal though and J was able to get it and everything else he needed including the antenna for under a 100 bucks.
The install is super easy for these bugers as long as you know ahead of time where you are wiring it too and where you plan to mount it. The first question you need to ask yourself is if you want it to be switched or non-switched (if you want it to only work when the key is turned or to have power at all times). This main factor would be: do you plan on remembering to turn your CB off every time you leave your vehicle because if not, you'll be draining your battery.
While there are many different places you can draw power from for your CB, one of the easiest ways is to run your CB to a switched power source is to run it to your cigarette lighter's positive wire. Jared's 04 had two lighter/power points with the one on the left being switched and the one on the right being non-switched. We went the safe route and ran it as switched.
The process of getting to the wires behind the lighter is quite simple.
Hopefully now that you've wired your CB up for power, you've figured out where you are actually going to mount it. Instead of searching all over the net to see where everyone else mounted theirs, have a seat in your Jeep and figure out what works best for you.
With Chris's CB, since it is pretty much just the handheld part, he chose to mount it on the dash between the steering wheel and the radio. It is easy to see the display, easy to grab, and out of the way. With Jared's he decided to mount the box for his behind his center console and the talkie part on the front of the console. Again, it is out of the way of everyone's legroom and very accessible to either driver or passenger. There was just enough wiring length on the CB to run it straight back, tucked under the console all the way from the power point.
You want a sturdy Antenna, but you also want it to be flexible enough to take a beating from overhead brush, etc, and be able to bounce back. Chris's antenna was a Firestik. It was much stiffer than J's so we added a heavy duty antenna spring between it and the mount.
Mounting your antenna: Many aftermarket offroad bumpers already come with a place to mount your antenna like Chris's Jeeperman. Because J didn't have his bumper yet, we picked up a bracket that mounts behind the tail light. This keeps you from having to drill extra holes in your Jeep. There are all kinds of mounts though, so again, I'd recommend checking out what your local shop has to offer and what would suit your vehicle best.
The cable we got was 18 feet long so while we had enough to reach, there was plenty left over. It is important that you don't just coil up the leftover, because it could divert signal from your antenna. The goal is to get rid of it in some other fashion like laying it flat under your carpet or just double it on itself to get rid of the extra.
We were able to, to feed the cable out of the Jeep by going between the window and tailgate. This worked on both of their Jeeps- hard and soft top.
Okay, now that you've got everything mounted (and your CB presumably works), it's time for one more step. It's the step that half of you are not going to believe is necessary and I don't blame you because we had our doubts too. You now need to have your unit tested with an SWR meter. Instead of going into detail on why this is necessary and what SWR even means, I invite you to look it up yourself. Just Google it, there's a ton of info out there, and that way I won't have to try to understand it myself and then pretend I know what I'm talking about. I just know that not one site I read on the matter involved skipping this step. It only cost us $10 at the shop we bought the radio from and the guy was really nice and gave us a little birds and bees talk on everything CB. And yes, Jared's radio does perform better and even has less static issues. In fact, Chris's received J's over 4 miles away before being tested, but he could only transmit a few houses down.
We've had the CB's installed for a little over a month now and can't believe we didn't get them hooked up sooner. They have proved themselves to be a huge asset on the trail and have kept us from being to bored on the long trips to get there. On our trip up to Sunflower they somehow reached the road from where we were camped and we were able to lead the 2nd group up to where we were.
Another invaluable trail benefit is the ability to actually find out "Why are we stopping again??"
And who could not include the ability to listen in on the truckers speaking their poetic language of the road with all of their pofanic glory?
As far as what CB works better, that all depends. They both perform equally as well. Chris's though, gives the benefit of being able to hear better if you are having a conversation on it because the speaker is in the handset. While bulkier, it also gives you the option of removing it from your vehicle when not in use. It's controls are more digital and it includes weather channels, but it did cost a bit more. So it all just depends on your personal preference. An external speaker can always be added if you do have trouble hearing, but so far that's not a problem except maybe at freeway speeds with the top off, but if you have a Jeep, you're probably already used to that.
Testing SWR: Don't have the SWR tested until you have everything totally set up. Even make sure your doors are closed and windows rolled up. Again, don't ask me why. One website I read said make sure you don't even have a goat on the roof?
ANL switch: J's CB still picked up all of his ignition interference until he switched on his ANL (Automatic Noise Limiter) switch. You could hear a whine bleeding through from his engine and even his gear shifts.
Squelch: Think of your squelch switch as a range control. If you want close range activity only, so you can basically only hear your caravanmate, but really clearly, leave it low. But if you want to dip your ear into the ever interesting pool of trucker talk from across longer distances, squelch it up.
RF: This should either be set wide open or none at all. Not my words- the CB shop guy's.