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This guide is presented with the hope that it makes using repeaters easier to understand and answers your questions without dwelling on the many technical details.
Virtually all radios sold today set the offset once you have chosen the (- or +). As an example the Sumas Mountain repeater output is 145.230 MHz. The input or the frequency it listens on is 144.630 MHz (600 Kilohertz below). If you have your radio tuned to 145.230 MHz and have entered the “-“ offset, when you push the push to talk (PTT) switch, it automatically transmits on 144.630 MHz. When you release the PTT to listen, the radio reverts back to 145.230 MHz to listen on the repeater’s output frequency.
Note: There are exceptions to the rule so check local repeater listings.
If you are just announcing your presence on the repeater it is helpful to others that may be listening if you identify the repeater you are using. Example: “This is W2SBP listening on 145.23”. This allows people who are listening on radios that scan several repeaters to identify which repeater you are using.
If the repeater you are using is a busy repeater you may consider moving to a simplex frequency (transmit and receive on the same frequency), once you have made contact with the station you were calling. Repeaters are designed to facilitate communications between stations that normally wouldn’t be able to communicate because of terrain or power limitations. If you can maintain your conversation without using the repeater, going “simplex” will leave the repeater free for other stations to use.
When you are using the repeater leave a couple of seconds between exchanges to allow other stations to join in or make a quick call. Most repeaters have a “Courtesy Beep” that will help in determining how long to pause. The courtesy beep serves two purposes, a repeater timeout function and it allows other to join in or make a call. Repeaters have a time out function that will shut down the transmitter if the repeater is held on for a preset length of time (normally three minutes). This ensures that if someone’s transmitter is stuck on for any reason, it won’t hold the repeater’s transmitter on indefinitely.
When a ham is talking and releases the PTT switch on their radio, the controller in the repeater detects the loss of carrier and resets the time-out timer. When the timer is reset, the repeater sends out the courtesy beep. If you wait until you hear this beep (normally a couple of seconds), before you respond, you can be sure that you pause a suitable length of time. After you hear the beep, the repeater’s transmitter will stay on for a few more seconds before turning off. This is referred to as the “hang time”. The length of hang time will vary from repeater to repeater but the average is about 2 or 3 seconds. You don’t have to wait for the “hang time” to drop before keying up again, but you should make sure that you hear the courtesy beep before going ahead.
Note: If you don’t wait for the beep and allow the time-out timer to reset, or run on longer than the timer is set for, you will time-out the repeater. The repeater will not function till you allow the timer to reset.
If you are wondering if you can access a repeater, key your radio and give “Your Call, Listening”.
Emergency and Priority traffic
Public service such as Search & Rescue
System testing and maintenance
Mobile and Portable stations
Remember, nothing is private on a repeater. If you have something of a private nature to talk about, both parties need to use the phone. There is no need to say “no contact”, “nothing heard”, or “clear” after making a call. Everybody monitoring the repeater has heard your conversation and knows you didn’t contact someone. Do not repeat what you hear on a police frequency. There are laws controlling disseminating information you heard on a scanner.
Before you leave on vacation, DO NOT announce your intentions over the air. You never know who is listening to your conversation and is waiting for you to leave town.
In cases of emergency, hams should use the words “Break for an emergency” between exchanges if the repeater is being used. By using the words above, you should be heard by the people using the repeater.
Above all, be courteous, kind, and helpful. This is a great hobby and everybody who uses the repeaters are human and should be treated the way you would like to be treated.
I have actually heard stations say, “You’re full scale here”, when asked for a signal report. You’re not full scale, the repeater is! If you are testing with different radios or antenna systems you would be better off finding a station to work simplex (direct contact on a single frequency). Then any changes you make while you are testing will be reflected in the signal report relative to that station.
Tone squelch on your receiver is a very valuable feature if you are in an area plagued with a lot of interference, sometimes referred too as “intermod". By programming the code for tone squelch into your radio receiver (check your operating manual) you can eliminate all the interference. Your radio’s receiver will only open up for the repeater it is set for and no others. Again check with the repeater sponsor to see if this feature is offered.
This presents an interesting problem for repeaters. Many repeaters share the same pair of operating frequencies, but because they are so far away from each other, they don’t normally interfere with each other. When there is an inversion (or ducting) all bets are off. It is not uncommon for a station to “bring up” several repeaters hundreds of miles apart with one transmission. The resulting confusion can make for some interesting long distance contacts.
You also hear the use of Q-codes. Q-codes were meant to speed up Morse code transmissions by using abbreviations for the phrases most frequently sent by hams. Some feel there is no place on 2-meters for Q-codes while others feel that if both stations understand and it shortens the exchange, so much the better. Over the years Q-codes have become acceptable on phone along with CW.
QTH - What is your location? Or my location is.
QSL - I understand or can you acknowledge receipt?
QSY - I’m changing frequency to, or can you change frequency to?
QRZ - Who is calling me?
QRT - I am finished transmitting or please stop transmitting.
QSO - Can you communicate? Or I can communicate.
QRM - I am experiencing interference (man made).
QRN - I am experiencing interference (natural).
Go to For a full set of Q codes and the Phonetic Alphabet.
Make sure your equipment is working properly. Check all your connections and your antenna system frequently to make sure that you are not causing interference or irritating noises on the repeaters. If you are using a power supply, make sure it has the proper filtering for radio use. A power supply with inferior filtering can generate a very annoying AC hum.
Ignore those that cause interference as they usually do this to get attention.
And last but not least, it takes many hours of dedication and expertise to maintain an effective repeater. If you find you are using a repeater frequently, offer to help support those that own/maintain the repeater or take out a membership with the club that sponsors the repeater.
Hope you find this information helpful.
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Beginners Guide to Repeaters - Repeater Finder & Radio Interface - Expert Mode - The Art of Memorization
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