Ways to Power a CB Radio


Citizens Band radios are available as handheld walkie-talkies or mountable units. There are several different ways to provide power to a CB radio, and the ideal method depends on the intended use. A handheld radio may use disposable batteries exclusively, while a radio mounted in a vehicle might connect to the vehicle's electrical system. Depending on the application, you can also switch between battery or external power.

Replaceable Batteries

  • Many handheld CB radios can operate using common replaceable batteries. A walkie-talkie style radio often has a compartment specifically for this purpose. The compartment typically holds several "AA" size alkaline batteries. The operation time of the CB radio is limited by the strength of these batteries, and continuous use can drain the batteries quickly.

    A handheld CB radio can also use rechargeable batteries. Nickel-cadmium or lithium-ion batteries are available in common sizes, and can be used in place of alkaline batteries. Some CB walkie-talkies also include special rechargeable battery packs that can be recharged without being removed from the radio, which is more convenient for frequent charges.

Vehicle Power

  • Many CB radios are installed in cars and trucks, and use the vehicle's electrical system. Typically, the CB runs on 12-volt DC power, which is generated by the vehicle's alternator and stored in the vehicle's battery. This allows you to use the radio for long periods of time without draining the vehicle's battery. The radio may be directly wired to the car, or may use a cigarette lighter plug.

    CB radios are commonly installed in a similar way as car stereos. One wire supplies the positive, or "hot," power feed, while another is used to ground the unit. Although it is possible to connect a CB directly to the vehicle's battery, manufacturers often recommend the use of a fuse between the battery and the unit. This prevents a short-circuit from damaging the vehicle or the radio.

Home Power

  • Some CB radios are designed to run on household power. These radios use a power adapter to convert home AC power to 12-volt DC electricity. A handheld radio may have a power jack for this purpose, which can run the unit and also charge a connected battery.

    A vehicle CB radio can also run on home power even if it does not include an adapter. An optional power supply can convert home electricity into 12 volts, and feed this to a cigarette lighter power port. In this setup, the CB plugs into the power supply and operates the same as in a vehicle.

Power Considerations

  • A radio can become damaged if it receives improper power, so make sure use the correct voltage and amperage for your specific CB model -- you can find this information in the radio's instruction manual.

    A CB that is wired to a vehicle's electrical system can sometimes experience "noise," or interference. This is caused by the other electrical components, such as the alternator, connected to a vehicle. If your CB experiences significant interference, a direct connection to the vehicle's battery may be a good option. To prevent damage caused from an overload, always use a fuse in this type of connection.

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