(Firestik FS 4-foot fiberglass CB antenna shown)
Mounting Location General Guidelines
As a general rule for all pickup antenna installations:
Longer = Better. The longer the antenna, the better performance you’ll receive.
Higher = Better. The higher up you can mount antenna, the better performance you’ll receive. Ideally you want at least 1/2 of the antenna above the roof line and 1/3 above the roofline at a minimum.
Higher Quality = Better. It may sounds obvious, but you’ll get better performance (both in terms of range potential and longevity) from a well known, trusted brand. We’ll mention specifics brands and model later this article.
Center of The Roof – The Idea Location
In terms of performance, it’s hard to beat mounting an antenna in the middle of your pickup’s roof. Why? This ensures it will be located at the highest point on your vehicle, which will maximize performance. It will also be installed in the middle of the truck’s chassis. This serves to both minimize any directional bias (receiving signals only from one direction) as well as improve omni-directional transmit capabilities.
For roof installations, magnet mount antennas tend to work best. If you can swing it, we’d recommend a 3-foot or 5-foot magnet mount for the top of your beloved rig.
A 3-foot antenna will offer a bit more clearance, while a 5-foot model will offer maximum range. Wilson makes our favorite magnet mount antennas. For pickups, we’d recommend the Wilson Little Wil for a 3-foot version and the Wilson 1000 Magnet Antenna for a 5-foot option.
Both antennas come with coax, mount and the antenna whip – so you’ll just need a radio to complete your install. For coax routing, most people route the coax through a door frame or through the rear cab window.
Mounting To The Toolbox
Mounting an antenna to a toolbox is another extremely popular option, and can be a great choice. For toolbox mounts, most people will use a traditional 3-way mount alongside with a fiberglass antenna.
When mounting to the toolbox, make sure you use an antenna length that will clear the roofline. Again, ideally you’d like 1/2 of the antenna above the roof with a minimum of 1/3 clearing it. If mounting just a single antenna, try to mount it on the driver’s side. This will prevent the truck’s cab from blocking signals coming from other drivers up and down the road.
For single antenna toolbox installs, we recommend the Firestik FS Single Antenna Kit, which includes everything you need for a high-quality toolbox install.
Toolboxes are probably the most popular spot to mount dual antenna installs, and the Firestik Dual Kit is perfect if you’d like to go that route. Just make sure you read our article on dual CB antenna installs first.
If you want to mount behind the cab but don’t have a toolbox – or don’t want to drill into it – mounting using the stakehole is a great option. Stakeholes are the square openings along a truck’s bedrails, and we offer special antenna mounts that fit into those spots – no drilling required.
A fiberglass antenna will be your best choice for a stakehole mounting location. Again, make sure to pick a length that gets at least 1/3 of the antenna above the roofline and install on the driver’s side if possible for best reception from other vehicles.
We offer a few different stakehole options, including this stakehole CB mount kit and this hang-over stakehole mount.
Mounting your antenna along the hood channel is also popular with pickup owners, and is sometimes the only option if a trailer, camper or fifth wheel makes other options impossible. If you’re going for more of a factory installed looked, mounting along the hood channel probably offers the cleanest look of all the options discussed.
While we do offer a universal hood mount that will fit many vehicles, we’d recommend using our vehicle wizard to see if there’s a hood mount made specifically for your make and model truck. We carry hood mounts that are designed to fit perfectly in many Ford, Chevy / GMC, Dodge and Toyota trucks.
Fiberglass antennas tend to be the best option for hood mount installs. Again, make sure to pick a length where at least 1/3 of the antenna clears the roofline for acceptable performance.
Mounting To The Bumper (Not Ideal)
The bumper tends to be a pretty poor place to mount a CB antenna on a pickup. Why? Because it’s so low on the vehicle, it makes it very difficult to get the antenna high enough to provide adequate performance. Additionally, most of the antenna is blocked by the truck’s cab – which prevents the antenna from sending or receiving signals to vehicles in front of the truck if mounting on the rear bumper.
The only time we’d recommend mounting to the bumper is if you’re using a 102″ whip CB antenna. These monsters (discussed further below) are tall enough to clear the cab when mounted on the bumper and can be mounted there while still offering acceptable performance.
Dual Antenna Installations
It’s hard to deny the appeal of dual antennas on a pickup. Apart from the potential performance increases they offer (if installed correctly), they just look downright impressive.
Dual antennas can help reduce dead spots caused by trailers, 5th wheels or anything else being hauled that could block the signal of just a single antenna. They also increase the CB’s range in the direction of travel and directly behind – but limit it to the right and left.
But they’re not always the best choice for a pickup. For example, a 5′ magnet mount rooftop antenna will likely outperform a dual antenna install mounted lower, especially if the dual antennas are shorter.
There’s a lot of variables to consider with dual antennas, so to prevent this article’s length from growing longer than a 102″ whip antenna, we decided to tackle them in a separate article on dual CB antenna you can read here.
Your choice of antenna will be strongly determined by where you want to mount it on your vehicle. That being said, here are the types of antennas we like best for pickup trucks:
Magnet Mount Antenna:
When mounted on the top of the roof, magnet mount antennas are often the best choice for overall performance. They’re easy to install, too, as they include the coax, magnet mount and the whip antenna in one complete package.
Wilson makes our favorite magnet mount antennas. For a shorter option, the 3′ Wilson Little Wil can’t be beat. And the 5′ Wilson 1000 magnet antenna will give you the best performance.
For most other mounting locations on your pickup, you’ll want to use a fiberglass antenna. Fiberglass antennas are durable, somewhat flexible and most importantly have a universal 3/8″ x 24 thread that will connect to any of the CB antenna mounts you’ll use to mount on the hood, tool box, stakehole or bumper.
Our favorite fiberglass antenna, hands-down, is the Firestik FS. It’s built in the USA, performs really well and just can’t be beat.
102-Inch Whip Antenna:
If you’re really serious about performance, you’ll want to consider using a 102″ whip antenna. Because it’s so long – and because its length is exactly 1/4 the length of a CB radio wave – you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that rivals these beasts for transmit and receive range. You’ll likely see performance that’s double, triple – or even more – the performance range of even a 5′ magnet mount antenna.
The downside, of course, is that you have a massive 8 1/2 foot antenna on your vehicle which can cause some clearance issues. Also, you’ll need a fairly heavy-duty mount to accommodate these whips as they are heavy and tend to torque the mount.
A ball mount is ideal for these beefy antennas, but a heavy-duty 3-way mount or dome mount can also be used.
Center Load Antenna:
While some pickup drivers use a center-load CB antenna, we don’t consider them ideal.
Center load antennas have the antenna coil in the middle of the antenna, and are distinguishable by the large plastic housing in the middle (as seen above). They use the same universal thread as fiberglass antennas, so they can be screwed into any of the mounts you could use with a fiberglass antenna.
Why aren’t we fans for using them on pickups? First, they’re significantly more expensive than fiberglass antennas (2x to 3x more). They’re also much more delicate and prone to being damaged and/or damaging your vehicle. While a fiberglass antenna has a bit of give and can work well with a spring, center load antennas have rigid, unforgiving metal lower shafts and brittle plastic housings.
Center load antennas are great for semi trucks that spend 99.9% of their time on the highways, and might work out if you’ll never venture off-road or into challenging terrain. But for trucks where the antennas can get caught, snagged and abused, they’re often just begging to be broken when mounted on a pickup.
CB Antenna Style & Range:
The type of antennas with the greatest range are the stainless steel 102″ whip antennas, which may not be practical for parking in garages, under trees, and so forth. The single center load antenna also has about the same transmit and receive range as the whip.
Dual fiberglass antennas, with an approximate range of 5-7 miles for four-foot length, have roughly a 25% increase in range for the same direction of travel compared with single fiberglass stick antennas. A four-foot single fiberglass antenna’s range should be about 4-7 miles.
The two types of antennas with the shortest expected range is the magnetic mounted antenna and the no ground plane (NGP) antenna, which, at four-foot lengths, have about a 3-5 mile range – only about 70% of that of the ground plane antenna.
Here are some range approximations for various types and lengths of antennas- please note that this is assuming that you have properly installed your system, tuned your antenna, have your SWR within an acceptable range and that you are on flat ground:
Single Fiberglass Antennas:
2′ Length: 2 – 3 miles
3′ Length: 3 – 4 miles
4′ Length: 4 – 6 miles
5′ Length: 5 – 7 miles
Dual Fiberglass Antennas:
2′ Length: 2 – 4 miles
3′ Length: 4 – 6 miles
4′ Length: 5 – 7 miles
5′ Length: 6 – 9 miles
Single Center-Load Antennas:
7 – 10 miles
Dual Center-Load Antennas:
10 – 12 miles
102″ Stainless Steel Whip:
Approximately 7 – 10 miles
Magnetic Antennas (mounted in the center of your roof):
3′ Length: 2 – 4 miles
4′ Length: 3 – 5 miles
5′ Length: 5 – 7 miles
How To Tune Your CB Antenna With A SWR Meter