How to Use SSB on a CB Radio? [Comprehensive Guide]

How to Use SSB on a CB Radio? [Comprehensive Guide]

CB Radios are used as communication devices where two people can talk to each other via a private channel. People generally use a CB radio when all the other modes of communication are cut off.

Think of an apocalypse. Will you be able to use SNS to call up your loved ones? Chances are small (Or at least that is what the movies have been teaching us).

Since 1948, CB radios have upgraded themselves into better devices with greater range. These days, CB radios should be able to cover at least a 5-mile area. Some even go as high as 10 miles.

The radios come in 2 different modes: AM and SSB, which also stands for Single Side Band. As the title suggests, we will focus on how to use SSB mode on a CB radio. Read on to find out in detail.

Here is the step-by-step guide for your better understanding.

Step 1: Connect the Antenna

An antenna is the most essential part of a CB radio. The handheld radios will come with one, but a lot of mobile ones will not, so you need to buy one separately.

This antenna will also decide whether or not the CB radio is ranged in the entry, mid, or higher end. There are many different antenna types out there. Make sure you do your research before deciding on this.

Step 2: Tune in to a Channel

CB radios have 40 different channels with their unique frequencies. Channel 9 is for emergencies, for example. You can tune in to your desired channel by using a knob on the radio. Some CB radios also come with a special button for channel 9, so that you can connect directly in case of an emergency.

Step 3: Adjust the Volume

Before you start talking, make sure the mic control is put into the maximum option. This way, you can talk without shouting your lungs out. Clear communication is a necessity when it comes to using a CB radio.


Step 4: Beginner’s Etiquette

You can start by using the transmitter button. Push it, and say ‘Break.’ This is the way CB radio users start to communicate with each other universally. Then wait for a bit as you enter into the conversation.

The transmitter button is very similar to the ones used in walkie-talkies, and that is how you are supposed to use it here as well, essentially.

Step 5: Now Talk

Once you have introduced a connection to the other end, you can start to talk. This is pretty much common sense from here on out. Try to keep your sentences short and to the point, and just enough so that your point is made properly.

Step 6: Keep an Eye on the Signal Meter

The signal meter can give you important information such as the strength of the signal, the distance between the person and you, etc., given they are higher end CB radios.


Step 7: Cut Off Noise

If there is no signal, there is no point in keeping it on. Without any transmission, the background noises can get annoying pretty quickly. Turn up the squelch knob to cut off the noise.

Step 8: Find the Automatic Noise Limiter

This button, also known as the ANL, will help you cut off outgoing and incoming signals when not necessary. It is a useful option to have when the CB radio is not in use, especially in the urban areas where there are more activities.

Step 9: And Repeat

Once you are done with the conversation, you can switch to another channel and repeat it as mentioned above. While switching, turn the squelch knob back to normal so that you have access to more channels.

CB Slang

These are the jargon commonly used to make communication faster and swifter. Also known as ‘Ten codes,’ these are not only helpful to communicate better, but also to establish a form of comradeship. Ten Codes use things like:

  • 10 – 1: Poor Reception
  • 10 – 2: Good Reception
  • 10 – 9: Repeat
  • 10 – 11: Weather or Road Conditions
  • 10 – 19: Return to Base
  • Miss Piggy: A policewoman
  • Hundred Mile Coffee: Strong coffee
  • Flying Donut: Cop helicopter
  • Fighter Pilot: A driver constantly changing lanes
  • Bear Trap: Hidden police checkpoint

What is SSB Radios (Single-Sideband Citizens Band Radios)?

What is SSB Radios (Single-Sideband Citizens Band Radios)?

You may have seen some SSB-type CB radios advertised as having 120 channels. This is marketing hype. CB radios in the United States can transmit AM (amplitude modulation) signals or SSB (single sideband, with suppressed carrier) signals.

An AM signal consists of two redundant sideband signals containing the operator’s voice and a carrier signal between them. An SSB signal uses only one of the sidebands. The sideband “channels” are actually the upper and lower halves of the 40 regular AM channels. AM signals and SSB signals on the same channel will interfere with each other.

How SSB Radios Work?

When you mix two signals with different frequencies, you produce two new signals — one with a frequency that’s the sum of the first two frequencies, the other with a frequency that’s the difference between the first two frequencies.

For example, mix an audio tone that has a frequency of 1 kHz (one kilohertz, or one thousand cycles per second) with a radio carrier signal of 1000 kHz, and you get two new signals, at 999 kHz and 1001 kHz.

The 999 kHz signal is in the lower sideband (LSB), and the 1001 kHz signal is in the upper sideband (USB). The carrier signal — a steady, continuous signal of unvarying frequency — sits between the two sidebands, not carrying anything.

All it does is serve as a zero reference for the sidebands; in the example above, each sideband signal is 1 kHz away from the carrier signal. An AM radio receiver mixes the carrier with the sidebands and outpops the original audio signal.

But a circuit in the receiver can create a substitute reference signal, so you don’t really need to receive the carrier signal to extract the audio.

An SSB radio transmitter suppresses the carrier and one of the redundant sidebands and thus transmits the operator’s voice in less than half the bandwidth of an AM signal and with much more efficient energy use.

Difference Between AM and SSB Mode


For starters, only the expensive CB radios come with the SSB mode. This is due to the covered range of SSB mode, which is much higher than the AM. SSB is more powerful since it uses 12 watts to AM’s 4. Another positive to the SSB mode is that it makes far less noise than that of AM.

But SSB’s one limitation is that you can communicate only to other SSB users with it, while AM allows you to reach out to both.

Advantages of Using SSB Mode

  • There is a 50% decrease in the transmitter power level since the carrier is not transmitted in the SSB mode. This is true even when the signal carries the same information level.
  • The transmitter power is further reduced as only one sideband is transmitted.
  • Bandwidth is reduced in half as only one sideband is transmitted. This helps in improving the signal-to-noise ratio by a factor of 2.

How to Use SSB on CB Radio?


CB radios are not difficult to operate. You only need a couple of minutes to set up, and you should be ready to use it. If your CB radio is on SSB mode, then you will have some advantages over the AM mode. Using the CB radio on either SSB or AM mode is the same process.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an SSB CB radio?

An SSB CB radio is a higher-power type of CB (Citizens Band) radio that can transmit over longer distances than regular AM CB radios.

Which channels are commonly used by SSB CB radio operators?

Most SSB CB users stick to channel 16 and channels 34 through 40 to avoid interference from AM CB radios.

How do you initiate a call on an SSB CB radio?

To initiate a call on an SSB CB radio, you say, CQ, this is followed by a handle or nickname you choose for yourself. Some operators use a number or unitu call sign, while others might use a unique nickname.

Why do SSB and regular AM CB radios not get along?

SSB and regular AM CB radios interfere with each other when used on the same channel. AM CB radios can cause a loud squeal on an SSB CB radio, so most SSB CB users prefer specific channels to avoid this interference.

What makes SSB CB radios different from regular CB radios in terms of power?

Single Sideband (SSB) concentrates more signal into a smaller frequency range, allowing a peak envelope power (PEP) of twelve watts, compared to just 4 watts for an AM CB radio. This higher power enables longer-distance communications.

Is Channel Nine used for an emergency in all countries?

No, Channel Nine is only used in the USA for emergencies.

What is a Squelch?

It is a knob that is used to quiet down the background noises when there is no signal. You can continue to turn this knob to cut off the noise completely.

What is Shooting Skip?

A Shooting Skip is a condition where the earth’s factors bounce the signals back and forth to a far location. If you reach the right condition, your signals could reach someone sitting thousands of miles away and vice versa.

Conclusion: Get a CB Radio on SSB Mode for Emergencies!

CB radios are still available widely in the market, and you can get a new model within 50 to 200 dollars. Sometimes, you can even get them cheaper from yard sales. Accessories are also available online.

It is a good communication device to have if you are on the road a lot. When everything else fails, an emergency device like this can be useful.     

So, get yourself the best SSB CB radio out there.