I can only talk to myself. Am I the only HAM on the air?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KM6VCV, Mar 3, 2021.

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  1. KM6VCV

    KM6VCV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here's my situation, I'm sure it's not unique... but my limited debugging skills aren't getting me anywhere.

    • I'm a Technician for, maybe a year and a half, but I finally decided to do something with it.
    • I'm an electrical engineer, but I'm an digital electronics designer, so antennas and all this analog stuff are kind of new to me... but don't be afraid to use numbers and acronyms.
    • I have two Baofeng radios, programmed in the appropriate, legal manner, for ham radio frequencies only
    • I have Chirp set up on my PC, I have a good programming cable, and I've programmed both radios myself.
    • I'm in Grid DM43ej. I'm reasonably certain I'm not the only HAM on the air in the middle of the Pheonix metroplex.
    • I've got my radios programmed for a couple of repeaters near me and for the 2M and 70CM simplex frequencies
      (The R at the front of the repeater callsigns is just a note to myself that they are repeaters.)
    • The data for the programming came directly from Chirp's interface, standard configuration files, and interaction with RepeaterBook)
    So, now the issue.
    My two radios can hear each other on the simplex frequencies, but I don't hear ANYONE else. Right now, my radios are on, and I hear silence. I can't hear anything from the repeaters. If I turn off squelch all I hear is static.

    I assume I'm not the only one on the air... so I assume I'm doing something wrong... but I can't figure out what it is.
  2. W4HWD

    W4HWD Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    What's a "HAM"?
  3. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you tune to a nearby repeater, key the radio (and say your callsign to be legal), you should hear the repeater transmit for a few seconds before it turns off.
    K2CAJ and N4RBZ like this.
  4. KM6VCV

    KM6VCV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Either an amateur radio practitioner, or a horrible over-actor. I'll let you decide which you prefer. :)

    I've done so, while having the other radio tuned to the repeater. Dead silence on both counts.
  5. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    You shouldn't need a second radio, the radio you are keying should listen on the repeater output frequency.

    Verify that radio shows that it is transmitting on the repeater input frequency and listening on the output frequency.
    Verify that the tone is correct.
    Verify that the offset and the sign is correct (positive or negative offset)

    Perhaps you are out of range of the repeater.
  6. K0OKS

    K0OKS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's possible that your radio /antenna is not strong enough to trigger the repeaters. You could try a better antenna or a different location (altitude is key, so the top of a building, etc.). At least go outside and walk around a little. There is a good chance you won't get out if you are inside a building, especially a stucco building which might have a hidden metal mesh. Hold the unit vertically when you transmit.

    It is also possible that the settings are incorrect for the particular repeaters. Might there be some local ham in the area that you could ask to make sure you have things setup right? From your screenshot they look about right.
    KO4BCN likes this.
  7. WA7ARK

    WA7ARK Ham Member QRZ Page

    ...also verify that your radio is set only to transmit the "CTCSS" tone required to key-up the repeater; not require decoding "CTCSS" to open the squelch in your own receiver. Most repeaters do not transmit a CTCSS tone.

    Chirp handles this properly if you do...
  8. K0OKS

    K0OKS Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Oh, and note that many repeaters spend a LOT of time dead, with nobody on them, or at least nobody talking. A lot of times there are plenty of people listening. So don't be afraid to talk and get somebody to reply. Throw out your callsign a few times about a minute apart. Many people are scanning multiple repeaters, and if your transmission is too short they might not hear it because their scanner is on another frequency at the time.

    You could look up any local nets and listen at those times to make sure you can receive.
  9. N4RBZ

    N4RBZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    With all the repeaters located in Maricopa County,,,, I have to imagine there is radio traffic to be heard fairly frequently. You never hear anything,, even nets in the early evening? Have you ever heard anyone else on there?
  10. W9KEY

    W9KEY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have 3 Baofeng's and can reliably work many of our metro area repeaters within 20 miles, from inside my house. In that case, the repeater is doing all the "heavy lifting" by providing high quality antennas, hundreds of feet in the air, and much greater output power than your HT. But we have a local 220 repeater that's only 3 miles away that I have trouble with, due to a hill between us. So location can be important.

    Signal quality will often be better if you are outside in an unrestricted area (versus in you home). And don't forget you are dealing with a 2 meter wavelength, so just moving one foot or two either way can make a significant difference when dealing with marginal signal conditions. But like WA7ARK suggested, you may have accidentally set CTCSS tone DECODE (which requires your Baofeng to hear the appropriate tone being sent from the repeater), before it will open its receiver. Generally, you don't need to set CTCSS decode - however, you MUST set the Baofeng to SEND the proper CTCSS encode for the particular repeater you're trying to reach - or it will ignore you.

    Another weird thing that happened to one of my Baofeng's - it came preset to NOT allow transmission on the lower portion of the 2 meter amateur repeater band area. AFAIK - you can't set those upper & lower frequency limits from the radio's front panel, but only via CHIRP's "Setting" tab. So make sure your global frequency limits in the radio are set properly.

    Old Grumpy Hams often poke fun at those cheap Chinese radios, but truth be told - "Just About Everyone" has at least one! Try reaching out to local hams in your area - you should have no trouble finding someone local to help. Lastly, anytime you key your radio and say your call sign - the repeater should activate, re transmit your signal and stay transmitting for a second or two after you stop (allowing you to hear the repeater working, before it stops that transmission).
    KC3PBI and N4RBZ like this.

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