GMRS antenna mounting

Mx5red

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One of my jobs over the past few years was an interim county director of emergency services with oversight responsibilities for emergency communications and emergency management. We ran everything, particularly in our mobile communications response vehicle.
Could you provide any specific knowledge gained about pros/cons for Jeep comms?
There are a lot of generic CB/GMRS/HAM comparisons, just wondering if your experience was like “GMRS better here in this weather/terrain but HAM better here” that wasn’t expected.. tia





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A friend just bought a GMRS and has gotten onto a repeater network. I'm not on the network yet, so he could not hear me. We were easily 25 miles apart and I could hear him clearly. He's been talking to guys several states away. I hope to have permission soon to get into that repeater network, too.

So to me, GMRS is like HAM light. It is versatile in that it functions like a CB on steroids when not on the repeater network but like a HAM when on it, just probably with fewer frequencies and repeater options.

I'm no expert, though. I'm only commenting on what I've seen.
 

DrPerez007

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Could you provide any specific knowledge gained about pros/cons for Jeep comms?
There are a lot of generic CB/GMRS/HAM comparisons, just wondering if your experience was like “GMRS better here in this weather/terrain but HAM better here” that wasn’t expected.. tia
Let me say right off, I am not a radio engineer nor do I mean to be patronizing, but my years in the two-way radio business has given me some insight. Before you look specifically at the particular radio bands, I think you first have to look at the Jeep Wrangler itself. No matter the band, all two-way radios need good antennas and generally good ground planes; that is, a reflective metal surface that the signal from an antenna bounces off of to improve the antenna’s intended design purpose. Wranglers, unfortunately, do not provide them. Fiberglass tops, soft tops, or no tops. In addition, Wranglers supposedly utilize a mix of steel, plastic, aluminum, and, reportedly, magnesium. They each have varying degrees of “reflection,” and you can presume things like plastic have little to none for our purposes. A paint can lid could be more of a ground plane than what you might find on a Jeep.

There are essentially two types of antennas that we use: ground plane dependent (“GPD”) and ground plane independent (“GPI”). These are somewhat self-explanatory definitions, but without an adequate ground plane, GPD antennas become effectively useless. GPI, also referred to as “no ground plane” (“NGP”), antennas are able to reflect and direct the radio signal without an external ground plane, although having one will still help. Some radio techs suggest first buying the best antenna you can get, along with a good ‘low loss’ coax, and then buying a radio to match it. The antenna is that important.

My remarks are prefaced with this discussion because in everything from Jeeps to trucks to emergency vehicles, people often “mis-match” equipment and then wonder why their radios don’t work or work poorly. Can’t tell you the number of radio installs I have seen on public-safety vehicles with $5,000 radios and techs reusing a $10 coax that is seven years old and bent and twisted or $50 antennas that are shot. Any radio install I was responsible for ALWAYS got a new antenna and new coax.

So good equipment and proper use of it is important. As I mentioned before, the best place to mount an antenna on a Jeep may be the center of the front bumper (or that area), for both ground plane purposes and direction. Because that is an awkward location, I generally prefer to use NGP antennas and mount them elsewhere around the vehicle (and with some separation from each other). Enough about that, I think you get my point. As to the different radio bands, each serves its own purpose.

Citizens Band (“CB”) radio (or as my good buddy Gil calls it, the “Children’s Band”), is short range, cheap to own, easy to install, and simple to use without a license. Although fading in popularity, even the truckers aren’t yakking on Channel 19 as much as they use to, I understand many Jeep groups still use it and some even require it. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows a maximum of 4 watts of output power for CB radios to avoid signal interference with other devices, so expect that even with a properly mounted and operating antenna, range is going to likely be limited to less than five miles, but at times it could go further. If you are on top of the Red Rocks in Sedona, your range will be considerably better than downtown San Diego. In the typical Jeep group outing, where Jeeps stay somewhat together, a CB radio should reach all of the vehicles in the group. Signal quality is adequate, but you are sharing the radio band with numerous other users, so signal interference is always a possibility and it operates on “AM” which is more prone to issues. CB antennas are generally bulky and need SWR tuning, and the best antenna, the 102” whip, is banned (as a hazard) by some Jeep groups. We’re also at the end of a solar cycle and CB radio signals are problematic at the moment.

General Mobile Radio Service (“GMRS”) has been around for a while, and is becoming more popular with overlanders and off-roaders (Jeepers!). Sort of the evolution of CB radio. However, the FCC requires that you purchase a license to use GMRS; the license is good for 10-years, and it allows both you and your family members to use it. The fee for a l0-year license is currently $70. One of the nice things about GMRS is that you can buy mobiles or small portable radios making it easy to communicate with your spotter when you are on the trail, or with others who wonder away from your vehicle or campsite. GMRS operates in the 460 MHz range and the FCC allows a maximum of 50-watts of output power for these radios. They will likely double the cost (or more) of owning a CB, but IMHO offer more versatility and better range. Antennas are considerably more compact and will be easier to mount. The radios operate “FM” so also less static compared to CB and less effect from solar cycles.

According to the website ‘TheRangerStation.com,’ “Midland says that their 15-watt [GMRS] radio has a range of 5-10 miles obstructed, 10-15 miles partially obstructed, and 50 miles with no sight obstruction. Their 40-watt radio has a range of up to 65 miles with no sight obstruction.” Take any of these numbers with a big grain of salt. GMRS also has repeater channels available, which receive signals and retransmit them. Keep in mind though, where one might venture with a Jeep, repeaters may not be available so you are operating “Jeep to Jeep.”

Family Radio Service (“FRS”). Think of FRS radios as a subset of GMRS, although as my friend Gil would say, the “children’s division.” While they share the 460 MHz operating range, GMRS radios have designated channels within those frequencies that aren’t available to FRS radios. The number of frequency channels of GMRS sums to a total of 30 channels, and among these 30 channels, 22 channels are shared with FRS, which allows the users of the two radio services to communicate with each other. Because of FRS’ low power (max of 2 watts), no license is required, but you can obviously see the immediate limitations of such a low power radio. According to MidlandUSA.com, “for those who plan to use two way radios only infrequently, in close range, or in outdoor scenarios that aren’t particularly technical, an FRS radio is just fine. FRS two way radios are powerful enough to have a range of a mile or two (depending on the terrain) and will keep you in touch with your party in case of emergency.” By FCC rules, FRS radios are generally limited to handhelds. Lots of people modify mobiles to access FRS, but that is generally illegal.

Ham Radio (or Amateur Radio). Ham operates in a completely different stratosphere (literally and figuratively). First, Ham radio operation requires a (10 year) license of each individual user. There are three classes of Ham radio licenses and users must pass an exam for each class, which corresponds to an increasing degree of technical knowledge and corresponding radio band privileges. Only FCC licensed Ham radio operators may use the Ham radio assigned frequencies and, unlike GMRS, family members are not permitted to talk on these radios unless licensed themselves. Ham radio can be used over very long distances due to the use of repeaters and satellites, and you can communicate with it via your voice, messages, and even images. Ham radios are also as expensive or more expensive than GMRS. It is truly a “hobbyist” radio service, although it certainly has a large element of public service. Ham radios are used all over the world for emergency services, weather spotting, disaster services, and other public purposes.

So, what would I recommend? Like anything else, what are you going to use it for? I just packed up my MOAB and drove from Wisconsin to Florida. CB radio was the most helpful and GMRS/FRS was not even a factor and the Ham was my background noise. However, if I were on a Jeep outing, particularly with a group, I would recommend whatever radio they are using. If you are a member of a group and your comm needs have not yet been established, I would highly recommend GMRS, which covers a broader area, works better in areas with competition for radio signals, has more flexibility, and multiple power options. I would also recommend that Jeep clubs consider investing in a GMRS repeater, either fixed or portable. If your budget doesn’t allow for GMRS, then CB. Frankly, while FRS is fine for spotting and such, it is not a good mobile-to-mobile solution. And as much discussion as there is on the Forum about Ham radios, the long and short of it (pun intended) is that Ham radio is in a class all by itself. Every user has to be individually licensed and Ham radio has specific rules of use that may seem onerous to Jeep users.

For the road: CB. For the trail: GMRS. For the hobby: HAM.

Steve
 
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Abramovich

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@DrPerez007
Great write-up. Nice explanation. I am adding a GMRS radio and a 2M/70CM radio, and never planned on adding a CB. After reading your post, I may be rethinking that for on the road. Thanks for your insight.
 

DanW

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@DrPerez007
Great write-up. Nice explanation. I am adding a GMRS radio and a 2M/70CM radio, and never planned on adding a CB. After reading your post, I may be rethinking that for on the road. Thanks for your insight.
I use a CB in my Jeeps, too. It does come in handy as some Jeepers are still CB only and it helps to ask truckers which lane is moving in a traffic back up. But I'm lucky if I get more than a mile or mile and a half range with them. Like @DrPerez007 said, Jeeps just don't provide a good ground plane, so you just do the best you can. On my JK, I had to try 3 different antennas to get one that gave me more than 1/2 mile. Ouch! I've got one now, I think it is a Wilson, that gets out about 1 mile. Maybe 1.5 or slightly more in perfect conditions. But that's it. But it does what I need it to do, including weather band.
 

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A friend just bought a GMRS and has gotten onto a repeater network. I'm not on the network yet, so he could not hear me. We were easily 25 miles apart and I could hear him clearly. He's been talking to guys several states away. I hope to have permission soon to get into that repeater network, too.

So to me, GMRS is like HAM light. It is versatile in that it functions like a CB on steroids when not on the repeater network but like a HAM when on it, just probably with fewer frequencies and repeater options.

I'm no expert, though. I'm only commenting on what I've seen.
Do you have to have permission to be on a repeater? I thought that if you were on a channel that was a repeater type and you could hit the repeater thats all that was needed?
 

prerunner1982

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Do you have to have permission to be on a repeater? I thought that if you were on a channel that was a repeater type and you could hit the repeater thats all that was needed?
In ham radio repeaters are typically open to any licensed ham.
In GMRS there are a lot of repeaters that are "closed" or "private" where you either pay the group to utilize their repeater or request access. Sure you could figure out the PL tone, but why stir the pot? They could shut down the repeater on you or inform the other members to not engage with you. Seems like it would be easier just to ask.
 

flharleycop

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In ham radio repeaters are typically open to any licensed ham.
In GMRS there are a lot of repeaters that are "closed" or "private" where you either pay the group to utilize their repeater or request access. Sure you could figure out the PL tone, but why stir the pot? They could shut down the repeater on you or inform the other members to not engage with you. Seems like it would be easier just to ask.
Not trying to beat the system, I dont understand any of it. Its all new to me I am an Old CB guy trying to understand the GMRS. I have used FRS handhelds and thought the GMRS was just a more powerful type of that system which the repeaters were there for all users. I had no idea they were privatized. Thanks
 

Mx5red

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Let me say right off, I am not a radio engineer nor do I mean to be patronizing, but my years in the two-way radio business has given me some insight. Before you look specifically at the particular radio bands, I think you first have to look at the Jeep Wrangler itself. No matter the band, all two-way radios need good antennas and generally good ground planes; that is, a reflective metal surface that the signal from an antenna bounces off of to improve the antenna’s intended design purpose. Wranglers, unfortunately, do not provide them. Fiberglass tops, soft tops, or no tops. In addition, Wranglers supposedly utilize a mix of steel, plastic, aluminum, and, reportedly, magnesium. They each have varying degrees of “reflection,” and you can presume things like plastic have little to none for our purposes. A paint can lid could be more of a ground plane than what you might find on a Jeep.

There are essentially two types of antennas that we use: ground plane dependent (“GPD”) and ground plane independent (“GPI”). These are somewhat self-explanatory definitions, but without an adequate ground plane, GPD antennas become effectively useless. GPI, also referred to as “no ground plane” (“NGP”), antennas are able to reflect and direct the radio signal without an external ground plane, although having one will still help. Some radio techs suggest first buying the best antenna you can get, along with a good ‘low loss’ coax, and then buying a radio to match it. The antenna is that important.

My remarks are prefaced with this discussion because in everything from Jeeps to trucks to emergency vehicles, people often “mis-match” equipment and then wonder why their radios don’t work or work poorly. Can’t tell you the number of radio installs I have seen on public-safety vehicles with $5,000 radios and techs reusing a $10 coax that is seven years old and bent and twisted or $50 antennas that are shot. Any radio install I was responsible for ALWAYS got a new antenna and new coax.

So good equipment and proper use of it is important. As I mentioned before, the best place to mount an antenna on a Jeep may be the center of the front bumper (or that area), for both ground plane purposes and direction. Because that is an awkward location, I generally prefer to use NGP antennas and mount them elsewhere around the vehicle (and with some separation from each other). Enough about that, I think you get my point. As to the different radio bands, each serves its own purpose.

Citizens Band (“CB”) radio (or as my good buddy Gil calls it, the “Children’s Band”), is short range, cheap to own, easy to install, and simple to use without a license. Although fading in popularity, even the truckers aren’t yakking on Channel 19 as much as they use to, I understand many Jeep groups still use it and some even require it. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows a maximum of 4 watts of output power for CB radios to avoid signal interference with other devices, so expect that even with a properly mounted and operating antenna, range is going to likely be limited to less than five miles, but at times it could go further. If you are on top of the Red Rocks in Sedona, your range will be considerably better than downtown San Diego. In the typical Jeep group outing, where Jeeps stay somewhat together, a CB radio should reach all of the vehicles in the group. Signal quality is adequate, but you are sharing the radio band with numerous other users, so signal interference is always a possibility and it operates on “AM” which is more prone to issues. CB antennas are generally bulky and need SWR tuning, and the best antenna, the 102” whip, is banned (as a hazard) by some Jeep groups. We’re also at the end of a solar cycle and CB radio signals are problematic at the moment.

General Mobile Radio Service (“GMRS”) has been around for a while, and is becoming more popular with overlanders and off-roaders (Jeepers!). Sort of the evolution of CB radio. However, the FCC requires that you purchase a license to use GMRS; the license is good for 10-years, and it allows both you and your family members to use it. The fee for a l0-year license is currently $70. One of the nice things about GMRS is that you can buy mobiles or small portable radios making it easy to communicate with your spotter when you are on the trail, or with others who wonder away from your vehicle or campsite. GMRS operates in the 460 MHz range and the FCC allows a maximum of 50-watts of output power for these radios. They will likely double the cost (or more) of owning a CB, but IMHO offer more versatility and better range. Antennas are considerably more compact and will be easier to mount. The radios operate “FM” so also less static compared to CB and less effect from solar cycles.

According to the website ‘TheRangerStation.com,’ “Midland says that their 15-watt [GMRS] radio has a range of 5-10 miles obstructed, 10-15 miles partially obstructed, and 50 miles with no sight obstruction. Their 40-watt radio has a range of up to 65 miles with no sight obstruction.” Take any of these numbers with a big grain of salt. GMRS also has repeater channels available, which receive signals and retransmit them. Keep in mind though, where one might venture with a Jeep, repeaters may not be available so you are operating “Jeep to Jeep.”

Family Radio Service (“FRS”). Think of FRS radios as a subset of GMRS, although as my friend Gil would say, the “children’s division.” While they share the 460 MHz operating range, GMRS radios have designated channels within those frequencies that aren’t available to FRS radios. The number of frequency channels of GMRS sums to a total of 30 channels, and among these 30 channels, 22 channels are shared with FRS, which allows the users of the two radio services to communicate with each other. Because of FRS’ low power (max of 2 watts), no license is required, but you can obviously see the immediate limitations of such a low power radio. According to MidlandUSA.com, “for those who plan to use two way radios only infrequently, in close range, or in outdoor scenarios that aren’t particularly technical, an FRS radio is just fine. FRS two way radios are powerful enough to have a range of a mile or two (depending on the terrain) and will keep you in touch with your party in case of emergency.” By FCC rules, FRS radios are generally limited to handhelds. Lots of people modify mobiles to access FRS, but that is generally illegal.

Ham Radio (or Amateur Radio). Ham operates in a completely different stratosphere (literally and figuratively). First, Ham radio operation requires a (10 year) license of each individual user. There are three classes of Ham radio licenses and users must pass an exam for each class, which corresponds to an increasing degree of technical knowledge and corresponding radio band privileges. Only FCC licensed Ham radio operators may use the Ham radio assigned frequencies and, unlike GMRS, family members are not permitted to talk on these radios unless licensed themselves. Ham radio can be used over very long distances due to the use of repeaters and satellites, and you can communicate with it via your voice, messages, and even images. Ham radios are also as expensive or more expensive than GMRS. It is truly a “hobbyist” radio service, although it certainly has a large element of public service. Ham radios are used all over the world for emergency services, weather spotting, disaster services, and other public purposes.

So, what would I recommend? Like anything else, what are you going to use it for? I just packed up my MOAB and drove from Wisconsin to Florida. CB radio was the most helpful and GMRS/FRS was not even a factor and the Ham was my background noise. However, if I were on a Jeep outing, particularly with a group, I would recommend whatever radio they are using. If you are a member of a group and your comm needs have not yet been established, I would highly recommend GMRS, which covers a broader area, works better in areas with competition for radio signals, has more flexibility, and multiple power options. I would also recommend that Jeep clubs consider investing in a GMRS repeater, either fixed or portable. If your budget doesn’t allow for GMRS, then CB. Frankly, while FRS is fine for spotting and such, is not a good mobile-to-mobile solution. And as much discussion as there is on the Forum about Ham radios, the long and short of it (pun intended) is that Ham radio is in a class all by itself. Every user has to be individually licensed and Ham radio has specific rules of use that may seem onerous to Jeep users.

For the road: CB. For the trail: GMRS. For the hobby: HAM.

Steve
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Bocephus

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This is a helpful thread, thanks for all the informative posts.
I have a rhino (pioneer platform) roof rack, is that an ideal mount point for an antenna given it's potential as a ground plane? And if so, should I use an antenna that requires a ground plane or one that does not? The pioneer rack is aluminum not steel. The bracket is pretty neat...

images.jpeg

images-2.jpeg
 
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flharleycop

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This is a helpful thread, thanks for all the informative posts.
I have a rhino (pioneer platform) roof rack, is that an ideal mount point for an antenna given it's potential as a ground plane? And if so, should I use an antenna that requires a ground plane or one that does not? The pioneer rack is aluminum not steel. The bracket is pretty neat...

images.jpeg

images-2.jpeg
I got all my radio stuff at CB World I think they are in Portland they do all types of radios and have good prices. I found them very helpful with questions about this stuff.
 

Bocephus

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I got all my radio stuff at CB World I think they are in Portland they do all types of radios and have good prices. I found them very helpful with questions about this stuff.
Thanks for the tip! Hoping to hear from some of the smart contributors in this thread though!
 

prerunner1982

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This is a helpful thread, thanks for all the informative posts.
I have a rhino (pioneer platform) roof rack, is that an ideal mount point for an antenna given it's potential as a ground plane? And if so, should I use an antenna that requires a ground plane or one that does not? The pioneer rack is aluminum not steel. The bracket is pretty neat...
For a GMRS or 2m/70cm ham antenna it shouldn't be a problem. I run both on a roof rack without issue. I wouldn't run a CB antenna on the rack though and that appears to be what that antenna mount is for. You can get coax with a NMO end that has a 3/8" center so that it will fit the CB antenna mount hole and the mount looks to be just wide enough for an NMO antenna base though it would be nice if they provided some measurements on the product to know for sure.
 

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Today I learned: I know absolutely crapola about radios. I thought I did. I use them everyday at work. Sheesh I need to study up.
 

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