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Old 01-07-2018, 12:32 PM
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Default SWR meter

Hope this is posted in the right spot. I was wondering what would be a good swr meter for checking antennas mounted in trucks. Looking to buy one but everyone I look at seems to be more geared to base station testing. I have vhf rig and puting a ic 7000 going in soon as well I have a cobra CB and never hear anyone out there on CB anymore and wondering if radio is dune or if problem with antenna. I'm new to this just looking for some direction Thank you
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Old 01-07-2018, 3:06 PM
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An antenna is an antenna. A meter doesn't care what kind of antenna it's hooked to. There is no "base station antenna" meter vs "mobile antenna" meter.
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Old 01-07-2018, 3:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by animalv View Post
I was wondering what would be a good swr meter for checking antennas mounted in trucks.
By "truckS", it sounds like you are doing testing on a fleet? If you are moving between a lot of vehicles in a fleet type situation, you might want to look at something a bit more durable than the plastic case hobby SWR meters. While they will certainly do what you need, moving from vehicle to vehicle can expose them to a lot of damage.
Most professional installers would suggest a Bird 43. They've been around for decades and are sort of the standard in the industry. They are also dirt simple and built like tanks. Drawback is they are kind of expensive, even used.

You can pick up a basic hobby grade SWR meter for $30 or so and it will tell you enough to know if your antenna is resonate or not. Accuracy is not a big deal as you are just comparing power going to the antenna against what is getting reflected back. Probably sufficient for most hobby/casual users. You don't need much, just one that covers 27MHz.

The Bird 43 will need a "slug" for the frequency/power you are running. They make a 25-60MHz/5 watt slug that is perfect for CB use. Shop around on line and you can often find deals. Like I said above, the meters are dirt simple, a line section, a connector on each end, a cable and a meter in a box. Easy to rebuild.

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Originally Posted by animalv View Post
Looking to buy one but everyone I look at seems to be more geared to base station testing. I have vhf rig and puting a ic 7000 going in soon as well I have a cobra CB and never hear anyone out there on CB anymore and wondering if radio is dune or if problem with antenna. I'm new to this just looking for some direction Thank you
The Bird can cover any frequency you are likely to use, same with power level, so if you are going to be doing a lot of radio work down the road, it might be a good idea.

As for CB, could be your antenna, mount, coax, connectors or even your radio. Checking the SWR is a good start and will tell you if your radio is transmitting, the coax/antenna are good and if the antenna is tuned.
As for not hearing anything, that's hit or miss. When conditions are good, you should hear the high power stuff skipping in. As for local traffic, it really depends on where you are. Some parts of the country are dead quiet, others are active.
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Old 01-08-2018, 3:19 PM
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........
A bird 43 is $350 bucks these days and slugs are $90 bucks each so it gets expensive very fast.
....
The Diamond SX20 covers HF, 6meters and 2 meters for $85 bucks.
.......
Or Coaxial Dynamics sells a meter for $530 bucks that covers 25-1000mhz without buying any extra slugs and cheao HF meters are available everywhere
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Old 01-08-2018, 3:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MOTEX View Post
........
A bird 43 is $350 bucks these days and slugs are $90 bucks each so it gets expensive very fast.
Yes, new one's are not cheap. The nice thing about the Bird 43, as I stated above, is that there really isn't much that can go wrong with them. Dirt simple. Also, for CB use, a used slug would be sufficient. I think I bought my Bird for $75.00[/QUOTE]


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Originally Posted by MOTEX View Post
Or Coaxial Dynamics sells a meter for $530 bucks that covers 25-1000mhz without buying any extra slugs and cheao HF meters are available everywhere
I've got one of those. Decent meter, but accuracy isn't there. There's a chart that usually comes with them (new) that allows you to get closer, but for CB use, a $500+ meter isn't worth it.

A basic HF amateur meter would be fine. If more durability is needed, the used Bird 43 with the 25-60MHz 5 watt slug is a good option.
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Old 01-09-2018, 7:18 AM
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Check out antenna analyzers, used quite a bit by hams. They can measure an SWR range for many frequencies. I use an MFJ -259B HF/SWR Analyzer, covers 1.8 mHz - 170 mHz.

Other companies manufacture antenna analyzers, some even with digital plotting displays. Perhaps others on the forum can chime in with their experience.
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Old 01-09-2018, 7:23 AM
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MFJ 259 B works great use mine all the time...
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Old 01-09-2018, 7:58 AM
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Thank you for your replies. I have had a cb and vhf for a long time but want take to the next level. When looking on line at the testers they just seemed a bit bulky for working in trucks. Yes mmckenna I actually have a few trucks at work that have cb in them plus we have about 40 handheld uhf radios, been the fleet super I think I should try get more knowledge on this so Me and my crew can start maintaining our radios.
so after looking around at testers I was wondering is it the same with other test equipment, should I get one that goes hf,vhf,uhf or get a tester that's more narrower in range. as for my cobra in my truck looks like I have antenna problems and maybe coax going to play with that a bit more this afternoon.
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Old 01-09-2018, 8:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by animalv View Post
Should I get one that goes hf,vhf,uhf.
As has already been stated, a Bird 43 is a good move. You obtain the changeable slugs to match the power scale you need and match the frequency range you require. They are the choice of most techs that service radios. They are easy to use, but may lean on the costly side. But you only need to obtain the power slugs to match the needs you have.

I have used them for years and own 2 myself. I would suggest to obtain the case they go in for protection. The case will hold several power slugs so you will have them with you as needed. There is another smaller case you can get that holds more slugs. The power slugs are about an inch in dia. in size and maybe 1 1/4 long. The meter will store 2 slugs on it's sides and one in the front, used for measurements.

Good luck on your effort to find an RF watt meter for your repairs.
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by animalv View Post
I actually have a few trucks at work that have cb in them plus we have about 40 handheld uhf radios, been the fleet super I think I should try get more knowledge on this so Me and my crew can start maintaining our radios.
OK, thanks for the clarification.

There really isn't a lot of maintenance you can do on modern radios without really getting heavily into high end test equipment. That really is best left to the professionals.

However, there is work you can do that would at least help you narrow down the issues. Knowing if it's a radio issue, coax issue or antenna issue can help you save a lot of money and make sure you are not blindly replacing parts searching for a cure.

A couple of things I'd recommend…
The Bird 43 is a good option. I can imagine a bunch of fleet mechanics can be pretty hard on equipment, so the consumer/hobby grade stuff should be out. It won't stand up to the abuse. Fine for someone testing a radio in the garage or hobby room, not suitable for use in any sort of shop environment. As I'm sure you know, decent tools always pay for themselves. I'm willing to bet you guys are not using Harbor Freight tool sets, don't go the same route with your radio testing.

I'd say unless you guys have a really good budget, I wouldn't necessarily spend money on a brand new Bird 43. As I stated above, they are fairly simple devices and not much to go wrong. If you can find a used one at a good price, it might be a good way to go. The one I bought used looks like it went through WW2 a couple of times, but still works just fine.
If new is an option: https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...4f780dfdca0eda -choose the SO-239 (UHF)- connectors when you purchase.
This one is an option, but since it covers 25-1000MHz from 5 to 1000watts, it tends to give up a bit of accuracy. I'd still say go with the Bird 43 above. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...4f780dfdca0eda

You'll need the elements (slugs) for the frequencies/power levels you use.
At minimum you'd want:
Bird 5A. 25-60MHz up to 5 watts. This will cover your CB needs well. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...4f780dfdca0eda
Bird 100C 100-250MHz up to 100 watts. This will cover your VHF radio. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...4f780dfdca0eda
Bird 5D 200-500MHz up to 5 watts. That'll cover your UHF portables. https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...4f780dfdca0eda

I'd also recommend a 50Ω dummy load. This lets you test into a know good load:
https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...l30a-5007.html Being able to transmit into a safe and known good 50Ω load can tell you if the radio is transmitting and how much power it's putting out.

A few jumper cables will be necessary:
UHF - UHF 6 foot jumper, for connecting radio to meter:
https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...l259-6651.html
I'd recommend two of these. There are some instances where you may need both of them, and they will also take some abuse, so having a spare is a good idea.

You'll also want some adapters. Your CB and Icom will have the UHF connectors on them, so everything so far will cover you. The portable radios will have a different connector on them, and you'll need an adapter to check those.
I use something similar to this: https://www.theantennafarm.com/catal...wifi-6035.html It should cover what you need and then some, although it might be overkill. If you know exactly what flavor connector is on your portable radios, just order the one you need.


So, with that collection of stuff, it'll allow you to test SWR on the mobile installs, both CB and VHF. That can assist you in determining if the fault is with the antenna and if the antennas are tuned properly.
Using the dummy load, it will tell you if the radio is putting out RF energy. Put the dummy load on the antenna end of the cable, and it will tell you if your coax is good.
Same goes for the portables. You can hook the portable up to the Bird meter and connect the dummy load to the other side. This will tell you if the radio is transmitting. Since portable radios tend to take a lot of abuse, and the antenna connector is easily damaged, this can answer the question if that is still working.

A basic multimeter should be part of your tools too, and I'm sure it already is. Being able to see if the radio is getting power is a good step. Checking fuses. Also being able to check continuity through the coaxial cable or looking for a short circuit is a good step that a multimeter will solve.

Of course knowing how to use all this stuff is important, and that will either be trial and error, or get someone to give you some quick training.

Down the road, there might be a really good argument made for being able to install your own coaxial cable connectors. This isn't horribly difficult if you have the correct tools. Stock a crimp tool, stripper and a few connectors and you'll be good to go.
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Old 01-10-2018, 12:56 AM
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One comment on the recommended Bird slugs for your CB needs. When you order, you need to know both the frequency range and the maximum power level that slug will be used over. The power level is important for two reasons, too much power could damage the slug and/or meter and using a slug with too high of a power level will reduce the accuracy of your readings (best results are had when your radio power is within 10% of the slug's max power level).

If you test normal stock CBs, the 5 watt slug (the 5A) will work best. If the radios put out more power than that <cough illegal> you'll need a higher power slug to test that radio (or more likely radio/amp combo). This may force you to need multiple slugs to properly test all of your CB equipment. They make slugs for the CB frequency range that have maximum power levels of 5 (5A), 25 (25A), 50 (50A), 100 (100A), 250 (250A), and 500 (500A) watts. If you need more power than that you can search for higher power slugs (they make them that go up to 25,000 watts, depending on frequency range) but I didn't think that would be necessary for your application so I didn't include them in my list (just remember that top 10% of maximum power suggestion).
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Old 01-12-2018, 10:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmckenna View Post
By "truckS", it sounds like you are doing testing on a fleet? If you are moving between a lot of vehicles in a fleet type situation, you might want to look at something a bit more durable than the plastic case hobby SWR meters. While they will certainly do what you need, moving from vehicle to vehicle can expose them to a lot of damage.
Most professional installers would suggest a Bird 43. They've been around for decades and are sort of the standard in the industry. They are also dirt simple and built like tanks. Drawback is they are kind of expensive, even used.

You can pick up a basic hobby grade SWR meter for $30 or so and it will tell you enough to know if your antenna is resonate or not. Accuracy is not a big deal as you are just comparing power going to the antenna against what is getting reflected back. Probably sufficient for most hobby/casual users. You don't need much, just one that covers 27MHz.

The Bird 43 will need a "slug" for the frequency/power you are running. They make a 25-60MHz/5 watt slug that is perfect for CB use. Shop around on line and you can often find deals. Like I said above, the meters are dirt simple, a line section, a connector on each end, a cable and a meter in a box. Easy to rebuild.



The Bird can cover any frequency you are likely to use, same with power level, so if you are going to be doing a lot of radio work down the road, it might be a good idea.

As for CB, could be your antenna, mount, coax, connectors or even your radio. Checking the SWR is a good start and will tell you if your radio is transmitting, the coax/antenna are good and if the antenna is tuned.
As for not hearing anything, that's hit or miss. When conditions are good, you should hear the high power stuff skipping in. As for local traffic, it really depends on where you are. Some parts of the country are dead quiet, others are active.
The bird is the best...like a tank... use to use on on cellular 5watt trunks back in the day. Brings back memories..
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Old 02-01-2018, 2:25 AM
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Quote:
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The bird is the best...like a tank... use to use on on cellular 5watt trunks back in the day. Brings back memories..
I installed the first Air Touch cell phone sold in San Diego back in the 84-85 time frame. San Diego county did not have cell sites but we found out people could hit a site on the Orange county line by driving on the Coronado bay bridge.

I think it was a Novatel dual mode added on the exiting IMTS handset.
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