How to Use a CB Radio? Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

How to Use a CB Radio? Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

A CB radio, or Citizens Band radio, is a short-range communication device that lets you communicate with another user. The CB radio can reach up to a range of a 10-mile radius. Factors such as the type of terrain in an area and the weather affect the transmission quality. 

Using a handheld CB radio is not a difficult task. If you have the radio powered correctly and the best CB antenna, you can start communicating with other users quickly. There are some etiquettes to follow to use a CB radio, and we will talk about those in detail in this article.

4 Steps of Using the CB Radio

Here’s the step-by-step process for you:

Step 1: Plug It in

The first step to using the CB radio is to power it up by plugging it in. Turn the radio unit on once you have done that. 

Step 2: Listen to the Traffic

Next, listen to all the traffic that is currently running on the CB radio. You can adjust it using the squelch button. This button basically helps to decrease the interference from the other users. Turn this button to the left to hear a hum. Then, slowly turn it back to the right until the frequency turns clear.

Step 3: Follow the Basic Rules

As a basic etiquette, wait till others are finished talking to speak. Unless you are in an emergency, it is better to follow the rules. You can ask for a break in such cases.

Push the Speak button and speak into the microphone as you normally do. You don’t have to hold it close to your mouth. Doing so might muffle your voice. Make sure you are not playing music in the background.

Step 4: Reach out to the Other Users  

At this step, use the handle of the user you want to reach out to by calling it into the microphone. This is to protect their privacy. Say “break” if you need to interrupt. You will know you are given a break when they say, ‘Go ahead, break’. 

For example, to call out to the user, say, ‘Is (Nickname) there?’. Do this three times, but no more than that. If you don’t get a reply, thank those who gave you the break and try again later. 

Learning the Jargon of CB Radio

Talking on the CB radio is a relatively easy process, and it becomes easier with time and practice. It is impossible to know all the ins and outs of communicating on the CB radio when you are first starting, but you can certainly learn the most used jargon fast.

There are full lists of jargons and slangs used by CB users available online. Consider going through them in your leisure to better your jargon language. Learning the most used jargon on the CB radio is fairly easy. Here are some jargons used to communicate via a CB radio.

The first type of jargon used is called the Ten Codes, as they all start with a 10. 

  • 10 – 1: Poorly received
  • 10 – 2: Well received
  • 10 – 6: Standby
  • 10 – 9: Repeat message
  • 10 – 11: Talk slowly, too fast
  • 10 – 13: Weather condition
  • 10 – 17: Urgent
  • 10 – 20: Location
  • 10 – 42: Road accident
  • 10 – 43: Traffic jam

Other than the Ten Codes, there are also slangs frequently used by CB users. Here are some interesting ones.

  • Alligator: Big blown truck tire in the road
  • Band-aid buggy: Ambulance
  • Chicken choker: Poultry truck
  • Driving award: Speeding ticket
  • Everybody’s walking the dog: All CB channels are busy
  • Full-grown bear: State police
  • Got your ears on?: Is your CB on?
  • Hippie chippie: Female hitchhiker
  • Joke book: Logbook
  • Kiddie car: A school bus
  • Loot limo: Armored car
  • Miss Piggy: Female police officer
  • Nap trap: Motel
  • Organ donor: Motorcycle rider wearing no helmet
  • Pickle park: Resting stop
  • Quiz: Breathalyzer test
  • Reefer: Refrigerated trailer
  • Skateboard: Flatbed trailer
  • Town clown: Municipal police officer
  • Warden: Wife
  • Yellowstone bear: Cop writing too many tickets
  • Zipper: Lines painted on the road 

These are just some of the slangs which are worth mentioning. There are many more, and you can search them up online. But do keep in mind to not go too crazy with the slangs. 

How to Use a CB Radio with Proper Etiquette?

Using a CB radio does involve being polite and respectful towards others. You need help from other people and vice versa. Being hostile can end up getting you in trouble. Use the following list to talk politely on the CB radio.

CB Radio with Proper Etiquette

Two Basic Principles 

The CB radio etiquette is guided by two basic principles: respect for the users and the CB channel. Other users like you are trying to use the channels simultaneously. The only way everyone can use the channel is by respecting each other. Always remember the CB channel is a limited resource shared by all. 

Temporary Ownership 

While two people are talking to each other on the channel, it means they are the temporary owners of the channel. The FCC regulations in the US state that you have to give people opportunities to use the channel for more than several minutes.

But an outsider can’t take the CB channel away from them unless it is an emergency, in which case they can ask for a break.

Don’t Step on Other Units 

This means to not transmit at the same time as they are. Doing so will essentially make both of your transmissions unreadable, so nobody wins. You should adjust the squelch button so that you can hear the other units and don’t end up transmitting over others.

Don’t Key over Someone Else 

Nobody likes the person who keys over someone else. This is only acceptable during emergencies.


If you hear a break, give the other unit time to respond before talking. The calling unit has the CB channel, and it is common to fumble for a CB mic inside a moving vehicle.

Keep Them Short 

If you want to talk on a channel that is already in use, chances are, your initial transmission will take over someone else’s. So, keep them short.

Saying “break” is enough to convey both the request for the CB channel and an apology for interrupting. If you can, try to time it, so it is in between a pause in the conversation.

Keep the Next One Short as Well 

Even when you are given the break, keep the next transmission short. For example, say ‘Break one-seven for Hulk’. If Hulk doesn’t respond within a reasonable amount of time, just say, ‘Thanks for the break’. This conveys both the thanks and the signal to resume the conversation. 

An Open Channel Is More Forgiving 

Meaning, you don’t have to keep your calls as short as mentioned above. While you can certainly keep it short if you like, it is also perfectly okay to say ‘Break one-seven for Hulk. Are you out there, Hulk?’. 

Options for Getting ‘Walked over’ 

In case someone currently speaking with you gets ‘walked over’, you can do one of the two available options. You can do this if you fail to understand the message.

Tell the person that you were stepped on, which is 10 – 9 on the Ten Codes. Or you can find out what the breaker wants by saying ‘Go ahead break’. Eventually, you should find out the reason for the break. 

CB Radio

In Case of No-Response 

If someone doesn’t answer your break even after you have called it two to three times, you should stop and wait for a couple of minutes.

You can alternatively do this for a couple of city blocks or several highway miles. Other users might have their CB radios on, and they certainly don’t like listening to the same break over and over.


When all else fails, that is the best way to go. Place yourself into the other person’s shoes. Give everyone proper access to the channel. Don’t annoy the other units deliberately.

Move on 

If you make a mistake while trying any of the procedures mentioned above, don’t waste everyone’s time by apologizing. It takes up air time on the busy CB channel, and nobody wants that. Instead, move on, and try to remember the mistake next time. It does take time to learn the CB lingo, so it is perfectly fine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here we have some of the most commonly asked queries regarding the ways to use a CB radio:

How do I start using a CB radio?

To start using a CB radio, first power it up by plugging it in and turning the radio unit on. Listen to the traffic currently running on the CB radio and adjust it using the squelch button to decrease interference from other users.

What is the proper etiquette when using a CB radio?

Proper etiquette includes waiting until others have finished speaking before you speak, not playing music in the background, and using the handle of the user you want to reach out to protect their privacy. If you need to interrupt, say break.

What are some common jargon used in CB radio communication?

Some common jargons include the Ten Codes, such as 10 – 1 for “Poorly received” 10 – 2 for “Well received”, and 10 – 20 for “Location”. There are also slangs like “Alligator” for a big blown truck tire on the road, and “Band-aid buggy” for an ambulance.

Do I need to be using the Ten Codes?  

Not unless you are sure you are using them correctly. Using the wrong code is no better than not using one. Try to learn the codes if you can, but you don’t have to use them if you don’t know them.

How should I respond if someone doesn’t answer my break on the CB radio?

If someone doesn’t answer your break even after you have called it twice to three times, you should stop and wait for a few minutes. You can alternatively do this for a couple of city blocks or several highway miles.

Is there any such thing as too many slangs? 

Definitely, you don’t need to overdo it. Keep in mind that there are so many of these slangs out there that no one person knows all of them. 

Conclusion: Use a CB Radio in No Time!

Using a CB radio takes some practice at the start, but you should be able to pick up the lingo in no time if you keep at it. Just use your common sense when it comes to being polite, and it should be alright.