A UHF radio can be vital when you’re planning a trip into the wilds. But there are rules on how you use it. Read on to make sure you know what you’re doing.
What is a UHF radio?
So, you’ve got the vehicle of your dreams. Now, when you’re out on the road towing your way to holiday happiness, there’s one thing that can be more help than a Swiss army knife with a torch and lighter attached – that’s your car UHF radio (AKA CB or Citizens’ Band). If you’re not familiar with them, here are a few words of explanation.
First of all, are UHF radios legal? Yes, they are. There are certain requirements that govern their use, but yes, it’s lawful to use a UHF radio.
It’s a two-way communications system for short-range communications. It operates on frequencies between 476.4250-477.4125MHz, giving 80 radio channels of comms action. But don’t be thinking you can roam over all of those channels with boundless abandon. Some of them can only be used for set purposes. Misuse them and face some stiff penalties.
How do you use it?
Easy, although it takes some getting used to. Basically, you can’t speak and hear at the same time. To speak, press the button and say what you’ve got to say. During this period, you won’t hear what’s coming to you. You will only be in listening mode when you let go of the button.
So, keep your words brief and to the point, then return to listening mode so you don’t miss anything. One other thing: learn the vocab. Words like ‘over’ (indicating when you’ve finished saying your bit) and ‘Roger’ (meaning OK) will come in handy.
If you need any more advice on UHF etiquette, get in touch with Total 4X4. They’ll get you fluent in no time.
Tip 1: Get on the right radio channel
The most important fact to remember is this. UHF channels 5 and 35 are for emergencies only. That doesn’t include those awful situations when you can’t find the tin opener. It means proper emergencies. Breaking down in the middle of nowhere, accidents, hijacks – that kind of thing.
How is UHF used in an emergency? Get on channel 5 or 35, report the situation, and wait for further instruction.
The emergency services themselves monitor channel 5, and they won’t be impressed with a message declaring your woeful plight resulting from neglecting to get milk on your last stop.
Other UHF channels Australia restricts include the following:
- Channels 1-8, 31-38, which are for duplex (extended range) use
- Channel 10, which is for 4WD clubs or convoys and National Parks.
- Channels 22-23, which are used for automated data comms
- Channel 29, which is the Pacific Highway road safety channel
- Channel 40, which is the Australia-wide road safety channel, used by trucks and other big boys
- Channels 61-63, which are reserved for future use
Channel 11’s the channel you should use when you’re seeking to make contact with someone (anyone), in order to resolve your less than urgent need for communication. Once you’ve hooked up with a conversation partner, you both then agree to take things over to another channel (most of the ones not listed above are available for this very purpose).
Yes yes, you may be saying, but what UHF channel do caravans use? Channel 18’s the one you want..
Tip 2: No secrets
Whenever you’re engaged in UHF radio talk, you should remember that it’s a public medium. In other words, if you’ve got some confidential matter you need to discuss, you’re better off doing it over your mobile.
Why then do people use UHF at all? The biggest reason is that when you’re out in off road central you might not be able to get a mobile signal (and you can’t use a mobile while driving).
Another reason is that although UHF is extremely short-distance (up to 25km at a push) this is a veritable asset if you’re looking just for somebody nearby to give you what you need. Final reason? It’s so simple: just a basic box with a handset. Buy one of these babies, stick it in your car and you’re good to go.
Tip 3: Let others know your channel
A lot of drivers get stickers made up with their UHF channel printed on them. That way, other road users can contact them straightaway without the need for any of that Channel 11 getting-to-know-you stuff. This can come in handy if somebody spots something amiss with your vehicle or wants to warn you of some imminent hazard. In this way, with a UHF radio car drivers can be a real help.
Tip 4: Carry a handheld
When you’re preparing your kit list, it’s a useful thing to have got yourself a handheld UHF as well as a UHF car radio. Why? Suppose you need to exit the vehicle while staying in touch with your radio buddy. A handheld will allow you to do this.
Tip 5: Mind your driving
UHF CB radio is a great source of assistance sure, but amusement too – you can make contact with some great wits who’ll make your journey swing by as they share their experiences with you. But don’t let all that fun distract you from the road.
You may be asking ‘can I use a UHF radio while driving?’ Yes. It’s perfectly legal to operate a UHF while driving, although if your driving is subsequently called into question and you’re found to have been using a UHF at the time, you may be charged with driving without due care and attention.
Tip 6: Don’t under-communicate when overtaking
Sometimes, overtaking can be a touch risky. The bigger the vehicle, the higher the risk. Factor in the draft that trucks can create and the resultant swaying it can create in your towing rig, and you have a tricky situation. Things can be helped no end if you’re communicating with the other road user as the manoeuvre is undertaken. You can talk each other through it, from warning that you’re approaching to final clearance.
Tip 7: Make sure you use it!
Keep using your UHF to let others know what you’re doing. This is especially pertinent if you’re in a convoy, so you can update others on fuel stops etc. More than anything else, just get into the habit of using it to report anything notable on the journey. Think about what might be useful to know from your perspective, and put it out there. Somebody else might really need to know.
Which sort of UHF radio should you get?
It makes sense to get in touch with total4x4 for advice on which is the best UHF radio for you. There are a number of different types for different needs, so it’s best to consult the experts before plunging in.
UHF radios are part of their massive range of caravan and camper products that will make your trip go like a dream. Over and out.