Where to learn?

Discussion in 'CB Radio Forum' started by Logan76, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. Logan76

    Logan76 Crusty In Training

    Jul 12, 2009
    kittanning, PA
    I want to learn how to work on cb's, just do basic stuff and mess around with cb's. I would love to learn how to solder and fix broken radios, etc. For the record this would be a hobby and thats all, i love my job as a driver and will stay driving just wanted to try a new hobby
    davenjeip Thanks this.
  2. Rat

    Rat Road Train Member

    Well you need to learn a little bit or alot about these types of electronics and how they work.

    Also soldering on these boards is not for the meek. They are very small and it is not hard to get solder across a trace on the board and possibly short something out in the process.

    I kind of got into easy repair work on them because of need since their is not any type of radio repair shop within 100 miles of me. That and I ate the idea of having to spend 100 dollars or more on a new radio when I can replace a 50 cent part in it.

    There is a huge amount of info on the net. some of it good, some of it not so good. You have to weed through all of it to come up with something proper. I think I spent the better part of a year with an old radio opened up and reading things on the net etc before I even plugged in my solding iron.

    I worked on my skills on old radios that worked but they were just laying around so it was no big deal if I screwed one up.

    I would never claim to know everything as I don't which can be proven by one of my threads here were I had an issue with a mic and I thought it was a radio issue. Again Thanks to a very helpful member here (AB7IF) I was able to work through the small issue and get it fixed on the cheap. Kind of felt good to fix it even though I needed a small lesson.
    WA4GCH and davenjeip Thank this.
  3. Logan76

    Logan76 Crusty In Training

    Jul 12, 2009
    kittanning, PA
    Luckily I have a couple radios that are old and just laying around, an old cobra 25 that works but barely, a cobra 29 bluetooth that i had in my pickup during my accident and it no longer works, and a cobra 148 gtl that is 20 years old and needs cleaned up and and would love to switch it to a 4 pin mic.

    I'm looking into getting the correct power supply and base station antennas to have so i can test radios in my spare room of my house, any ideas on quality items that are affordable ill take all suggestions. Also I have plans to buy a good swr/wattmeter so id like suggestions on that also. Just need a hobby, cars are too expensive other than my future ratrod project, and i cant just sit around and watch tv, i get bored too easily.
    davenjeip Thanks this.
  4. Turbo-T

    Turbo-T Road Train Member

    May 31, 2009
    I'd say take a basic electronics class to get started. If you're just wanting to fix old CB radios I'd say it's feasible, they are still built the old fashioned way IMO.

    I have a little bit of electronics knowledge. When I was going thru tech school after graduating Air Force boot camp, they taught us about resistors, diodes, relays, capacitors, variable resistors, transistors, transformers.....most of this I still remember. It came in handy when I studied for my amateur radio technician license.

    It also probably helps I sort of got interested in electronics as a child when I used to disassemble old radios to see what made them work.

    Soldering is real easy to do, but you need the right tools and you want to be careful that you don't overhead an electrical component by overheating it with the soldering iron. A "heat sink" on an electronic to be soldered can mean a lot.

    Some electronics are electrostatic sensitive, meaning a little bit of static electricity that you might not even feel, can destroy them. A ground strap on your wrist will be a big help, but don't do this if the circuits in the radio are live.

    But as CJ said most electronics today are throw away and not designed to be repaired. Unlike the old days of vacuum tubes, when the tubes burned out (like light bulbs) you made a trip to the drug store to buy more.

    p.s. don't ask me how I know this....I'm not that old.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2011
    davenjeip Thanks this.
  5. Logan76

    Logan76 Crusty In Training

    Jul 12, 2009
    kittanning, PA
    well shoot, I've got a general lee in the truck that I like well enough (could stand a little further reach). I found for my first project I found a brand new in box antenna specialists base station antenna, I would like to assemble it and replace the one thats on the house now (its all bent up and in poor shape) and I would like to try to use my cobra 148 to talk to my local buddies from the house, just for craps and giggles.
  6. M818

    M818 Light Load Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    Dallas, Texas
    Having been there and done that and glad I don't any more, I can't imagine how much of a commitment it would be to pick up an electronics hobby quickly. I've practiced electronics over a period of maybe 38 years and am still practicing it, but I would say that 1-2 years of daily practice would be enough to get from almost nothing to pretty good at one single simple thing, like CB repair of older technology units, if one applies oneself, starts with the basics so that the principles are clear, and does not give up.

    Electronics ability is like a curved ramp going up. The more you learn, the faster the next things become clear. After some time (years) you won't need to look at a schematic diagram very often because you will look at the circuit board or the chassis, refer to any datasheets on a part you don't know the pins on (pesky IC chips) and just -see- it, but you will find new diagrams enjoyable reading as you explore the circuit. I don't remember when I was first able to just look at a the inside of a piece of equipment and read the wiring and circuit board traces and parts as if it was the schematic, but it was a very long time ago and I have to keep up to date on that skill to keep my job. Meaning those little surface-mounted parts previously mentioned.
    --What this means is that once you can repair a CB without pulling your hair out, you will be able to more quickly learn to repair all kinds of items having similar technology. Imagine not having to pay and pay and pay every time something is broken. And you may eventually be able to build things, what you yourself want, not what is offered in the store, or to add functions to those storebought things. So I hope this is motivating even if you only ever want to repair CBs as a hobby.

    You can definitely buy enough used gear for much less money to start learning with. I disagree with $-thousands.. I have yet to see a CB shop where some of the gear was not what I would consider "barely usable crap" due to its age, state of repair, and mostly the fact that it had been neglected and had not been calibrated since it left its factory 30 years ago.

    There are exceptions, but If you want your choice of a lie or a blank stare, go in an average CB shop and ask when was the last time the signal generator, frequency counter, and oscilloscope were calibrated. Most CB shops have a suite of old used equipment that could be bought today for $500-1000 in clean working condition. It takes little to repair CB radios.

    For basic electronics, take the "electronics 101" course at a local college if you have the time. If you are on the road that won't work. They might want you to take the electricity course first, if that is still offered. Tell them it is to learn the first steps for a hobby and they will tell you what to do first.

    Otherwise you can learn from books that have projects in them for you to build. No matter what you do, it is going to take a serious commitment of time to learn to fix a CB radio that has anything serious wrong with it. There are many older electronics troubleshooting books, some on CB repair, and books on how to read schematic diagrams, which you must learn to do. You can find them in used book stores or ebay and the age of them might match the age of the old CBs you are working on.

    About the gear to start as a hobby,
    - a cheap dummy load, rated 15-20 watts to start, for the radios as the ones you ought to start with are the regular 5 watt ones. Maybe $20

    - Then a digital volt-ohm meter, or an analog one. $10-50

    - Any antenna will do. Most of your testing ought to be off the air into the dummy load.

    - Because a general purpose signal generator is expensive, at least $50-100 used, you can start by using a known good working CB radio. At least with that you can listen to the radio you are working on, and transmit to it, etc., but it won't have -every- signal you need. You will need another dummy load for that one. Most dummy loads leak enough RF to be heard by a radio a few feet away.

    - The next thing you need is a frequency counter and that can be bought for about $20-50 used. It only has to go to 50MHz or no more than 100 MHz, and that is the bottom of the barrel therefore cheap. Its important not just for making sure the CB is on frequency but also to make sure the signal generator is on frequency, as cheap ones do not often have a built-in frequency counter.

    - The next thing is an oscilloscope. That is an expensive and complicated piece of equipment you will have to spend time learning to use and understand how -not- to destroy it. One that will do 50MHz will cost $50-200 used. Make sure it comes with probes because cheap probes cost $10-30 and up.

    - You do not need a big power supply. 8 amps is enough to run two CBs (5-6 Amps might do because you will not transmit on both at the same time), the one you can use as a test generator and the one you are working on.

    - You also need a small technicians tool kit and a soldering iron (and maybe a gun). Stay away from surface mount stuff at first. It requires more tools and developing more skills and is a PITA for a novice trying to learn the basics first

    so, maybe $500 worth of equipment to get you started as a hobbyist with inexpensive tools.

    You can take the college course first, and see if you can 'get it' before spending too much money. Those courses usually have a lab where they have the gear there for your use. Books are fine but in a school you can ask questions, lots of them.

    You can do without an oscilloscope at first but you will definitely want one sooner or later. Many many repairs can be done without one, using the volt meter to measure the signal where necessary. The scope's claim to fame is that it shows you a picture of the signal, can be helpful when things get complicated.

    You may find an analog meter is more convenient becaue the needle will move smoothly, whereas on a digital meter the digits will jump around a lot sometimes.

    For "victims", try the older CB shops that have a big pile of clunkers, tell them you want to learn as a hobby, and you mostly want complete or mostly complete sets, not ones half the parts were robbed from. You may be able to pick them up for $5-10 each. 2-3 of the same model is always good. The older and dustier and more buried in the pile, the more likely it has not been robbed but was something the customer left there because he did not want to pay $40 to fix a 20 year old radio.

    If you find base stations in the pile, those always have a useful built-in power supply so get a few. You can find the point where the 12-13.6V DC power goes from the power supply to the radio section and cut that, and install a switch to choose between the original internal hookup or routing the DC power to the front panel, where you can install a pair of jacks to power the set you are working on. Many ways to cut costs in a hobby.

    If you are lucky you will find a set of books called "sams CB facts". These have the diagrams and service alignment data for almost all the old CBs in them. Just beware you get ones that have radios of the kind or age range you want to start with. The very old volumes have the ancient tube type radios, which you may not likely find any more, although repairing those can be an electifying experience and you may be shocked at what you may learn.
    WA4GCH Thanks this.
  7. WA4GCH

    WA4GCH Road Train Member

    Aug 12, 2009
    Seminole Florida
    I don't get into fixing very old radios but if you want to learn the basics THAT is a good way to start .....

    Just don't poor money into old radios thinking you will have something in return other that a good feeling to see it work again

    I went to school from 1963 to 1967 and have worked in electronics since then ....
  8. Logan76

    Logan76 Crusty In Training

    Jul 12, 2009
    kittanning, PA
    Thanks fellas, I already do have a galaxy frequency counter that I had on my general lee for awhile. I have a question, how do I know what kind of antenna I have, I see it was made in 1967 by antenna specialists co. it has "I believe" their 9 feet, 1 9 feet center antenna and 3 9 feet antennas that run off the base of that at a horizontal angling towards the ground.
  9. WA4GCH

    WA4GCH Road Train Member

    Aug 12, 2009
    Seminole Florida
    A groundplane
  10. mike5511

    mike5511 Road Train Member

    May 15, 2011
    NW Arkansas

    Which is omni directional, as opposed to a "beam" which is directional.
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