CB Radio Installations: Backyard CB Installers

There is a lot of 'backyard bargain' CB installers out there offering cheap CB radio installations for a fraction of the price a typical professional installation carried out by a qualified auto sparky would be. Most of these backyard businesses are claiming to be 'professional' radio installers, but can you really trust them with your vehicle to save a few bucks?

In this episode, we'll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to getting your UHF CB installed in your vehicle. We'll discuss the pro's and con's of using these unqualified 'backyard' installers, talk about CB installs done by automotive electricians; plus we'll be exploring all the common questions people tend ask when they buy a radio and want to install it.

Lots of people like the idea of saving money on an installation, especially when you've just paid $400+ for your brand new CB! While a number of people will go to the business that sold them the radio to install it, there is a growing number hitting up local 'backyard bargain' CB installers who claim to be able to fit your new UHF CB for a fraction of the price professional communication installation & automotive electrical businesses are charging.

So, should you take your radio to a backyard installer? To answer this we need to quickly get you up to speed about what installing any communications device in a vehicle entails. Most people think that a CB radio installation consists of two wires; power supply and an antenna cable. In its simplest form, this observation is correct. However, what a lot of Australian's don't understand is the finer details of radio installation such as electrical noise insulation, correct antenna positioning, good cabling practices and termination.

The reason most 'backyard bargain' CB installers are so cheap is because they take shortcuts to minimize cost and reduce installation time. Most of these installers tend to just take your radio out of the box, strip the wires behind your cigarette lighter plug, twist the radio's red and black wires onto those, bit of electrical tape (or dare I say, employ the dreaded scotch locks to tap in). Then, they find the easiest and/or shortest route to run your antenna cable, stash the rest of the unused cable behind the radio, plug it all in and there, job done, only $50 out of your pocket.

Now that might sound fine on the surface, but here's a few things they likely didn't take into account when they rushed that radio in:

Is there electrical noise in that cigarette lighter line? - They likely didn't turn the engine on when they tapped that in to that line to check for that, nor test drove the vehicle, nor checked the radio against another base station or used an oscilloscope. Bet they never asked you if you planned to plug any other equipment into that cigarette lighter plug now or in the future either. Now when you connect your phone charger, your radio is buzzing for some reason.

How long will those connections last? - The connection they just made to cigarette lighter power is now a potential point of failure because it probably wasn't connected in conjunction with good cabling and termination practice, a skill which all qualified automotive electricians are trained in. This means the connection will likely fail or become problematic in the near future due to bad termination. Ask any experienced automotive electrician, none of them will ever use scotch locks or crimps on a professional installation, in fact its considered incredibly bad industry practice. Sure its faster, but its also a major point of failure. 

Is that antenna run right? - Might be the shortest or easiest way to get that antenna where you wanted it, but is it run correctly? Is it now running close to wires carrying power? Is the cable pinching or wearing where they jammed it though your firewall or up though your door jam? Did they just coil the spare wire behind your stereo or actually shorten and terminate the antenna cable correctly?

How's your warranty doing? - Most radio manufacturers will ONLY honor a warranty on their radios if they are installed professionally. Call any manufacturer and they will tell you they define 'professional installation' as an installation carried out by a qualified automotive electrician or an authorized retailer who has been trained by them to carry out installations of their radios. This definition does no extend to 'backyard bargain' CB installers who call themselves 'specialists' or 'professional installers' of CB radios. In addition, some car manufacturers also will not honor warranties for electrical issues with your vehicle if anyone other then a qualified automotive electrician has done work on the vehicles electrical system, this extends in some cases to the installation of CB radios.

Is that installation quality guaranteed? - Did your 'backyard bargain' CB installer guarantee his work? Usually these cheap backyard installers will say that they do, but tend to make up 'extra charges' later on if they need to fix something. Its also worth noting that almost all 'backyard bargain' CB installers are uninsured, so if their work damages your vehicle or radio, you'll be be one footing the bill yourself. Now, some installers have gone so far as to insure themselves, however beware that the the installers insurer will likely deny any claim raised with them later on when an insurance adjuster ascertains that this installer you used was not actually formally qualified to carry out the work they insured themselves with the insurer to do. Remember insurers always ask those they insure 'Are you qualified to carry out the work you are insuring for?'. Giving a false answer invalidates the cover.

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