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Why do truck antennas still exist? Aren’t antennas outdated yet? Hasn’t anyone considered placing those truck antennas on the windshield yet like most modern cars?
Truck antennas exist for two purposes: Receiving radio signals and transmitting. There are two types of truck antennas, one is for receiving radio signals which tracks AM/FM signals. This is for recreational purposes. The other one is for the CB Radio or Short Band Transmitter for communications.
Although the basic function remains, truck antennas have already undergone a lot of transformations over the years. They now come in different shapes and sizes. The basic functionalities have been augmented with the ability to receive not just radio signals but satellite and Wi-Fi signals as well.
It definitely has come a long way from just being the plain old whip antenna of the past generation. But just like the analog clock that is still present on some luxury cars, is the antenna still relevant in this day and age when Bluetooth-enabled dash cam systems and streaming services are king?
What’s An Antenna?
Most people today don’t even remember cars having antennas. Some don’t even know what they’re really for. So what are antennas, and why do people still have them on large trucks?
An antenna acts as a receiver for radio waves. It intercepts signals coming from a transmitter and then converts this into electric signals fed into the radio equipment producing sounds.
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Although the main reason why antennas are present on cars is to act as a receiver, these can also act as transmitters.
There are many types of antennas, but we’ll focus on monopole antennas that can transmit signals horizontally in all directions or receive them in the same manner. And with that, we’ll move on to the next topic, which is all about whip antennas.
What’s A Whip Antenna?
If you have a pre-2000 car or seen one from that era, you would have seen this type of antenna. This type of antenna got its name for the way it moved when disturbed. This is meant to be flexible so that it doesn’t break when hit by external forces.
The whip antenna basically consisted of a straight, flexible wire or rod with the end connected to the radio or transmitter. The length of the antenna can vary depending on the manufacturer and can either be telescopic or static.
This is a monopole antenna and can receive HF, VHF, and UHF bands.
It can also be used as a transmitter for CB radios and is equipped on police cars, ambulances, cars, and trucks.
Disadvantages Of Having A Whip Antenna
There’s a reason why antennas have long been removed from modern cars. First, these can easily break off when hit with even the slightest impact. That can happen when someone bumps into it or when you park into your garage, and it hits the roll-up door.
The main problem with whip antennas is that when they are fully deployed, it is most vulnerable to damage. The light material used easily crimps with the slightest pressure and can cause the rod to break when hit just right.
It is also prone to oxidation as it is exposed to the elements regularly. Rust can lead to early breakage, which made it one of the most sought after replacement parts in the market during that era.
More desirable whip antennas are wrapped in rubber, which gave it more protection than the stock ones. The only problem was that it had to be repositioned because the original housing could only fit original whip antennas.
This led to unsightly, exposed wires and mounting required some drilling, which affected the car’s body composition. Definitely not a popular choice for car lovers who only had to live with it because there was no alternative at that point.
Aesthetically speaking, having an antenna is going to date your vehicle as an old car immediately.
Until some brilliant minds got together and changed the design in a radical manner and made antennas “disappear”.
Making Old Timey Antennas Disappear
And so the whip antenna did eventually disappear. But this mostly happened in modern cars. There are still some throwbacks to the past. Some people just refuse to let go of things they’ve gotten used to.
The good thing is: now there’s an alternative. You can still have an antenna, but it doesn’t have to look like an old one.
One of the reasons manufacturers decided to do away with the old whip antenna was its tendency to catch onto things, break off, or acquire rust. Never mind the fact that it just didn’t look that good.
Something had to be done. Smaller, more compact antennas were needed, and someone had to come up with a few designs.
Shorter Roof Mounted Whip Antennas
The first order of the day was to make it shorter and protect it from the elements obviously. Rubber coated whip antennas that were mounted on the rear side of the roof came into existence. These antennas had the extra protective rubber coating to resist the effects of rust.
But this was only the beginning. These antennas would still get knocked off with enough force, and because they sat high on the roof, that happened a lot. Some even drilled holes into their vehicles’ side sill to mount these antennas, which opened up a new set of problems.
Aesthetically speaking, whip antennas just weren’t cracking the problem enough.
Something else had to be done. So, back to the drawing board, and shark fin antennas came into being.
Shark Fin Antennas
These looked sleek enough, and luxury cars even use them to this day. You could also cram in more functionalities within the shell of the fin to make it more useful.
And yet, not everyone was happy about it. For one, it the car’s outline. Although it looked sleek enough, it still messed with the basic car design.
Another issue was the strength of the signal it could receive or transmit. Being shorter, there was an obvious lack of reach.
No, no, shark fin antennas were only part of the solution but not the game-changer everyone wanted.
Another solution that manufacturers came up with was incorporating antennas into the windshield of cars. This was a really good solution that is still used today by modern cars. The only problem was the level of interference these antennas would suffer from.
These are excellent antennas that manufacturers install into their products, which were really subtle and didn’t disturb the design. The only issue with these antennas was when it came time to make basic repairs. The headliner would have to be removed just to get to these antennas.
These are just some of the examples of how the antenna has been erased from modern cars. These have their own pros and cons and are still best suited for conventional cars and not trucks because of the signal strength.
So If Antennas Are Passe, Why Do Trucks Have Two?
The race to erase antennas from the face of the planet seems to have not affected trucks. Truck antennas still exist. Big ones. Long ones. And sometimes, not just one but two.
Why is that?
The reason why truck antennas still exist is because of the size and shape of the cab. Being such big vehicles, just having one antenna would put it at a disadvantage if the signal were blocked by the cab itself. Having two truck antennas, makes it more effective in radiating and receiving signals from both sides, resulting in uninterrupted service.
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These truck antennas act as both receivers and transmitters. The large size makes it possible to receive signals from far away. This is extremely useful for trucks plying long uninhabited roads.
Truck antennas are also very useful for transmitting messages over the CB radio across long distances. The exchanges truck drivers can make over this communication device are valuable in warning each other of road hazards, weather conditions, speed limits in certain areas, and keeping each other company.
So, unless anyone comes up with a truly powerful antenna that can replace the current truck antennas still used today, those are staying.
Although the stick antenna looks like it’s going the way of the dinosaurs, it is still present on trucks for one big reason: reception. Modern cars don’t need big antennas anymore because they’re rarely out of range of radio stations when driving within the city.
Trucks, on the other hand, travel distances with little to no other vehicles on the road. Truck antennas help truck drivers stay connected to others while plying these lonely roads. So, until someone comes with a better alternative, truck antennas are here to stay.
Are Modern Antennas Better Than The Old Ones?
Not really. Signal strength is the same. The only difference is functionality. Modern antennas can now pick up other signals like wi-fi, satellite signals, Bluetooth, and others. The form factor is also different between old and modern antennas. Modern ones are now sleeker and more subtle.
My Antenna Keeps Hitting My Garage Door. Any Suggestions?
A fully extended antenna measures around 90 centimeters. This extends well over the car’s roofline by a few inches. Depending on the position and your car’s ground clearance, this can hit your garage door as you enter. You can remove the antenna or remember to retract it before parking.
Learn more about troubleshooting your truck through these related articles:
- How To Stop Truck Doors From Rattling?
- Truck Accelerates On Its Own? Here’s What To Do
- Can You Drive A Truck Without A Muffler?
What’s A Shark Fin Antenna?
A shark fin antenna is basically another form of a modern antenna mounted on the roof. It gets its name for looking the way it looks, which is, you guessed it, just like a shark’s dorsal fin, only smaller. Although tiny, these are as powerful as older antennas that extend from a car’s pillar.