Brush Hero Rejects Shark Tank Deal, Spins Into SEMA

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The inventors of Brush Hero announced the water-powered cleaning tool is now available in Walmart, Costco, and Canadian Tire and will make its SEMA debut in Las Vegas in November. The tool is designed to connect with an ordinary garden hose to scrub mud and grime from tires, rims, engine bays, and more — all without scratching chrome and other sensitive surfaces.

The company’s founders, Jeep owner and extreme athlete Kevin Williams and former F-16 pilot and Ironman enthusiast Glenn Archer, appeared on NBC’s “Shark Tank” and have been featured in Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Cyclocross Magazine, Washington Business Journal and Popular Mechanics.

“Brush Hero is a perfect tool for off-roaders, because it’s lightweight, it’s durable, and it blasts away mud and grime without displacing grease or scratching chrome,” Williams said. “We want every Jeeper to have one.”

Floor It: CFOR Is Off and Running

Central Florida Off Road was founded by four friends who share three common interests: family fun, community service and off-road adventure.

Founded in early 2017 at their “clubhouse,” North 30th Sports Pub & Grille in Tampa, CFOR’s four charter members now comprise the group’s board: John Crabb, Robert Dumaine, Jason Sparkman and Dana Tibbets. Two secretaries, Melissa Carter and Shelley Sparkman, help organize events, coordinate with other clubs, and welcome new members, among many other tasks. The club currently counts 35 bannered members (and growing) in and around Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Manatee and Hernando Counties.

CFOR welcomes riders of every experience level and requires participation in events and group trail rides to earn a banner. Activities include flag and wreath placement on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, volunteering and participating in such events as Jeepin’ With Judd, Krawl’n for the Fallen, Jeepin’ 4 Justice and Jeeps vs. Harleys. Members joined last year’s Hurricane Harvey relief effort and recently registered a two-mile section of Highway 301 as part of Florida’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

Jeepin’ Central Florida caught up with John Crabb to learn more about the genesis of CFOR and the group’s activities and goals.

John, how long have you been off-roading?

Since the early days with my high school buddies. I grew up in Seffner, a little suburb between Tampa and Plant City, and we started off-roading at Lakeland Mudhole in 1995. Back then, it was mostly mud trucks, just any kind of four-wheeler. I only recently got into Jeeps, about three or four years ago.

What got you into Jeeps?

I just started seeing more and more around and I thought maybe that was the way to go. And I haven’t looked back since. Buying that Jeep was the best decision I ever made.

What are you working with?

It’s a 2006 Wrangler TJ. It had been a little customized when I bought it, but it looked nothing like it does today.

It’s amazing how quickly a new hobby can become a lifestyle.

It definitely is a lifestyle. When they say “Jeep life,” that’s what it is.

How long has Central Florida Off Road been around?

Only about a year and a half. We were originally in a different club, Trail Monkeys, and I was actually the vice president. But we decided to take a different path and do our own thing. They were a great group, very family-oriented, but we wanted to do more trail-riding and off-roading. That’s why I bought a Jeep. But there are no hard feelings.

CFOR started with four members — myself, Robert Dumaine, Jason Sparkman and Dana Tibbets — then grew to five or six, and now we’re up to 35 or 40. All four of the main members have the same role. We don’t have titles. We vote if there’s something we need to vote on.

Sounds like you are growing fast.

We are constantly growing. I think people see us having a great time and doing good things for the community. We have fun and we enjoy being around each other, and that speaks for itself. We are very family-friendly and family-oriented. Kids are always welcome. Jeeping is a great way to bond with your kids. It’s like one big family.

Do you have kids yourself?

I have an 18-year-old son and a 15-year-old son. My oldest joins up with us when he can, but his Jeep’s motor blew. My youngest still rides with me.

A lot of parents would give anything to share an activity like that with their kids.

That’s true. And Jeeps have that “Wow” factor. It’s always something different. The trails are never the same. And it’s not just the Jeepin’ thing. My youngest enjoys going up to the national cemetery to raise the flags and lay the wreaths. He’s into Fortnite and Minecraft, like a lot of kids. But I tell him you have to make time for other activities, especially outdoor activities. It’s part of our family now. I always tell them, if something happens to me, keep the Jeep.

You mentioned community service. What charities do you support?

We don’t have a specific charity picked out for our club yet. We always try to give back and help the community, and that means being involved in as many charities as we can. I think that says something about your group and the character of your group. And we try to get with other Jeep clubs, and that’s the biggest thing: the Jeep community coming together to support a great cause.

What charitable effort have you been most proud of?

Probably being part of the events like Krawl’n for the Fallen and Jeepin 4 Justice, that help the families of fallen police. They do great things in this community.

Where do you ride?

All over. Hard Rock at Ocala is a popular spot. The Jeep Ranch in Sumterville tries to do one event a month. They just had one for prom. Everyone went and bought a bunch of old prom dresses and tuxedo T-shirts. It was pretty cool.

How does a prospective member join your club?

We don’t have any procedure set in stone. We just want everyone to ride along and hang out, just get to know everybody. We want to make sure the club is a good fit for you and you’re a good fit for us. Not everybody has the same interests or goals.

But I get the sense CFOR is a good choice for those who want to do a lot of wheeling.

That’s exactly what we try to do. It’s in our name: “Off Road.” We will spend as much time as we can off-road, not in the parking lots. We have one meet-and-greet a month — or we try to, and if we don’t, it’s not a big deal. Most people get to see us out on the trails. That’s a good way to get members. If you’re on your own, you can ride with us.

CFOR Spotlight

JCF mixes it up with Robert Dumaine and Jason Sparkman, two of the four charter members of Central Florida Off Road.

Tell us about your rig. 

Dumaine: I own a 2006 Jeep Wrangler LJ.

Sparkman: My Jeep is a 1997 Cherokee with a 6.5-inch lift, 33×12.50×15 tires, front lockers, custom-built bumpers and a Smittybilt 9500 winch.

What’s the best part of the Jeep lifestyle? 

Dumaine: The friendly and familiar environment — meeting new people, wheeling with them, and always learning.

Sparkman: The friends that become family.

Why should Central Florida Jeepers join CFOR? 

Dumaine: Because we are a family-friendly group that loves to wheel, have fun, get to know new people, and give back to the community.

Sparkman: You can’t find a better group of people to be around. CFOR is a new type of club. We don’t judge you by your vehicle or the banner across your windshield. If you want to hang out and wheel your rig, come on out and have some fun!


Crystal Is Serious About Jeeps

You might assume a man who owns six auto dealerships, two Harley-Davidson franchises and a tractor-and-equipment store has spent his entire life growing his retail empire. If you learned his grandfather was a Ford dealer and his father was a Chevrolet and Honda dealer, you might feel certain his course was set at a young age. But if that man was Steven D. “Steve” Lamb, you would be wrong.

“The only thing I did for my father was mow grass and pick up cigarette butts,” says Lamb, 52, a University of Tampa graduate who once planned to become an attorney. His plans changed when, during a senior year in which his class schedule was light, he took an entry-level sales job at a family friend’s dealership. Seven months later, he had graduated to the finance department, and the chance to own his own store appeared to be within sight. “Law school wasn’t going to work out for me. My father said, ‘You’ll only make money when you’re working,’ and he was right.”

By 1989, Lamb had bought into two stores in partnership with the Ferman dealership family. Ten years later, he owned them. Today, he and his wife, Jewel, and his son, Justin, oversee a retail empire that includes two Central Florida Jeep stores: Crystal Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Brooksville and Homosassa. As a lifelong Jeep lover, Lamb has tracked the evolution of the brand and invested enough money in those service departments to offer a wide range of modifications and customizations — and include them in the financing.

“The average conversion is close to $10,000 by the time you add everything in,” he says. “When you start buying wheels, tires and a lift kit, $4,000 or $6,000 goes by in a hurry.”

Growing Fast and Giving Back

Lamb notes that, in his father’s day, owning two stores — let alone two brands — was almost unheard of. Dealers were expected to buy one franchise and stick with it. Starting in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the ownership model began to evolve. Today, massive dealer groups such as AutoNation, Group 1 and Penske own and operate hundreds of stores. The Lamb and Ferman families, among many others, built upon their success by applying their business practices and management style to multiple locations.

“If you had a chance to buy another dealership, and if it was profitable and staffed by a good bench of people, you bought it,” Lamb explains.

Nuts and Bolts

Steve Lamb is the majority owner of Crystal Autos, a 10-store dealer group that includes two fully staffed and stocked Jeep showrooms and service departments.

Crystal Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Brooksville (Fla.)
1435 Cortez Blvd 34613

Crystal Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Homosassa (Fla.)
1005 S Suncoast Blvd 34448

The group now includes 530 employees and is expected to produce total sales of 8,400 vehicles this year, including more than 800 Harley-Davidsons. Lamb puts a premium on “personal growth” among his managers and staff and dedicates time and resources to a long list of charitable causes, including the Boys and Girls Club, Citrus County Food Bank, YMCA and Save Crystal River. He is also past president of the Crystal River Rotary and United Way of Citrus County and a three-time Paul Harris Fellow.

As for supporting the Jeeping community, Lamb’s brother-in-law is president of the Inverness, Fla.-based Jeepsters club, and Lamb says Crystal Autos does “basically whatever they ask us to do,” including sponsorship of the annual Jeep Beach event in Daytona. “Jeepsters exists for camaraderie and to enjoy the iconic Jeep brand, and it’s family-oriented. Go to Jeep Beach and look at how many families are in those vehicles. It says something.”

Put Them in a Wrangler

Lamb’s personal history with the Jeep brand goes back to the 1970s, when he bought a restored Willys MB. “It was a little runaround, a grocery-getter. Bikini top. Four-speed. Bulletproof.” Although he now drives a 2013 Wrangler Unlimited he converted to an extended-cab pickup with a Mopar JK8 kit (and which “everybody and their brother” has tried to buy from him), Lamb says a classic two-door is still a great choice for a young driver.

“When my friends come to me and say, ‘I have a child getting ready to turn 16. What would you put your child in?’ I say I would put them in a Wrangler,” he says. “You would have to get hit by a train to get hurt.”

Like most Jeep dealers, Lamb credits the four-door Unlimited with “exploding” the Wrangler market. In the old days, he says, you would find about a dozen Wranglers between the Crystal’s two Jeep stores. Today, he has 40. “It’s a big change. It’s nice having the selection, and we do have a lot of buyers trading up. If it doesn’t eat, we’ll take it in trade.”

Jeep customers will typically find three or four lifted Wranglers in Crystal Autos’ inventory, Lamb says, and his shops are staffed with highly trained and Jeep-obsessed technicians. In addition to maintenance and repairs, they offer a selection of custom tires and wheels, bumpers, lights and accessories, and Crystal-installed Mopar-brand lifts up to six inches won’t void the factory warranty on a new Jeep.

“And it’s fun to watch them do it, but we still want it to be safe,” Lamb says. “Back in the day, you could make a Wrangler look really cool, but it would drive like hell.”

Lamb credits his dealership teams for their success with Jeep and says he is continually inspired by the passion and loyalty those vehicles generate among customers. He plans to remain dedicated to the brand for as long as they do.

“Our mission is to give people an experience they can’t get anywhere else. We will find the right fit for them and their budget. The repeat business we get speaks for itself.”

Christmas in July + Tampa Jeep Krewe = Miles of Smiles

For the Tampa Jeep Krewe, the spirit of giving is a year-round exercise that ends with the largest event they participate in: Christmas in July at the BayCare St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. This year’s event is set to take place on Friday, July 27, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is bound to be fun energy and excitement surrounding this heartwarming event, where adults and kids alike can participate in making children who are in serious need for a pick-me-up that much more optimistic about healing.

“The hospital is so grateful. The toys give the kids a break from the struggle and stress of dealing with their illness,” says Shelley Ziegler, a TJK member and charity lead for the event. This is the fifth year TJK will be participating in Christmas in July’s uplifting spirit alongside Tampa residents, Jeepers and local businesses. Last year’s total donation from TJK was roughly $24,000, setting the 2018 TJK donation goal at $30,000. “We usually pick four or five charities to support throughout the year. This is the biggest.”

As a five-year member of TJK and part of the group’s events committee, she understood the charity wanted to partner up with community-focused groups. TJK was the perfect fit, she says, because you can’t go wrong with a group who is known to be generous, fun and able to bring the show. They plan to pack up their best-looking Jeeps to deliver their bounty of donated toys they have been collecting for a morning drop the day of the event.

Get Involved

Ziegler explains that, leading up to day of the event, the group organizes various toy drives amongst its membership. One can participate with this event in many ways. You can simply purchase a toy — keeping in mind the hospital’s request for nonviolent and easily sanitized items — and donate it to TJK. Cash donations and the proceeds from three months’ worth of events and raffles, including a mini-Jeep worth $3,500 and a heavy-duty winch will fund a shopping spree for durable “experience” items such as tablet computers and gaming consoles.

Drop boxes are installed and monitored by members at local business, office buildings and restaurants. They also host weekly or semi-monthly meetups such as happy hours and beach days. TJK’s main charity drive event will be their July social on Saturday, July 14, 2018 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 81Bay Brewing Co. on West Gandy Boulevard in Tampa.

Nuts and Bolts

TJK Charity Drive:
• When: Saturday, July 14, 2018,
from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
• Where: 81Bay Brewing Co.,
4465 W Gandy Blvd 33611

Christmas in July:
• When: Friday, July 27, 2018,
from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Where: BayCare St. Joseph’s Children’s
Hospital, 3001 W MLK Jr Blvd 33607
• Questions: Child Life department at
(813) 554-8155, ext. 7

New and returning donors and volunteers can keep up by finding Tampa Jeep Krewe on Facebook and checking in on the Jeepin’ Central Florida website. For any questions or clarity on the greatest needs of BayCare Children’s Hospital, call the Child Life department at (813) 554-8155, ext. 7.

“It is a family-friendly event. We will have food trucks, activities for the kids and lots of Jeeps,” Ziegler says. “We’ll also have great raffles and a 50/50 drawing with all the proceeds going to Christmas in July!”

Roll Cage Faceoff: Bolts vs. Welds

Which type of roll cage is superior: bolted or welded?

A: A roll cage is a key piece of safety equipment for Jeepers. Some bolt together and onto your rig and others are welded. Your choice depends largely on your budget and expertise. Let’s take a closer look at each type:

Bolted (a.k.a. “bolt-on” or “bolt-in”) roll cages are attached using bolts, nuts or nutserts (a.k.a. rivet nuts) which can generally be removed. A lot of the time, bolt-in roll bars and other parts use holes already present in the application, requiring less modification to install. Bolt-on parts can generally be painted or powder-coated outside or off a vehicle for a custom or matching finish.

A bolted roll cage still requires some welding, but they are essentially just attached to the vehicle frame or supports. From a strength standpoint, bolting in a roll cage can be just as strong as welding if it’s installed correctly. Going this route can add a lot of options for Jeepers who do not have the means to build and install a roll cage from a fabrication standpoint.

Because bolt-on parts can generally be removed if needed with little to no evidence they were ever present, bolted roll cages are definitely a friendlier option for do-it-yourselfers.

Welded roll cages’ attachment points are heated to the point of melting in order to join them together. This process is very difficult to undo. Done correctly, welding parts generally takes two or three times as long as bolting.

Generally speaking, welded-on parts are more rigid than bolted-on parts. It’s just the nature of the install. Welded parts normally have to be painted after being installed due to the heat involved, so that’s something to take into consideration.

Ultimately, you will select your roll cage based on personal preference, experience, and the cost and time involved. Both work well in most situations. But I will leave you with this: I have never seen a true off-road truck or buggy with a roll cage bolted, rather than welded, onto its frame.

Nuts and Bolts

Mike Hughes is the parts and service director at Ferman Chrysler Jeep Dodge of New Port Richey (Fla.). He believes bolted and welded roll cages have distinct advantages but notes that “true” off-roaders tend to prefer the latter.

Light Up the LightHouse Fundraiser Benefiting Shepherd’s LightHouse, Inc.

BELLEVIEW, Fla. –   ATTENTION JEEPERS! Off Road Jeep Event Saturday April 21, 2018 with registration from 9:00 am until 11:00 am at Sandy Oaks RV Resort, located at 6760 N. Lecanto Highway, Beverly Hills, Florida 34465. The run will take place at Citrus Wildlife Management, with the last jeep finishing at 3:00 pm. Off-roading fun will be followed by trophies, prizes and 50/50 drawing, at Shady Oaks RV Resort.

Registration is $ 20.00 per Jeep (additional rider is free). Pre-Registration is $ 15.00

Hope to see you there.

If you have any questions please call us at 352-347-6575 or email email hidden; JavaScript is required

Condolences Are In Order

As a police officer’s kid, I had a very personal relationship with law enforcement. My father went from the Marines to the police departments of several major cities before he decided we would all be better off in a small town. We moved to Belleair, Fla., and my dad joined a local police force. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and served with pride and distinction as he helped keep our tightknit community safe.

Unfortunately, no police officer serves without risking his or her life. We were all reminded of this when Officer Jeffery Warren Tackett, a 28-year-old member of the Belleair Police Department, was shot and killed in the line of duty on June 13, 1993.

We knew Officer Tackett. Several months after the funeral, I asked another officer how Tackett’s young widow and his family were doing. He was embarrassed. This officer — one of the nicest and most caring members of the department — wanted to visit. But he always hesitated. He didn’t want to be reminded of what could happen to him, nor did his own family. He resolved to check in on her soon.

I was surprised at his response, but I understood. And I was reminded of that conversation recently, when I learned about an organization called COPS, for Concerns of Police Survivors, after sponsoring November’s third annual Krawl’n for the Fallen.

I connected with the president of the West Central Florida chapter, Cindy Roberts, to inquire about making a donation. Cindy is herself a survivor, having lost her husband, Corporal Michael Roberts, in the line of duty on August 19, 2009. She filled me in on what a wonderful organization COPS is and the continuing outreach, support and counseling they offer to grieving families.

You may already know that the magazine is sponsoring the purchase and buildout of an off-road-ready 2005 Jeep Wrangler, which will be raffled off at Jeep vs. Harley in October. Well, we decided to double down. In January, we purchased a 2003 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy with less than 15,000 miles on the odometer. It’s a beautiful bike, and it will join our Wrangler as a raffle prize, with the proceeds to benefit our local chapter of COPS.

Joining the Central Florida Jeepin’ community means tapping into a reservoir of charitable giving many of us didn’t even know we had. The time, money and resources donated by Jeep groups is incalculable. We are happy to do our part, and we can’t wait to see you in October.

Join the Club!

What are the benefits of joining a Jeep group?

A: Local clubs are a great resource for any Jeep owner. Most people belong to several Jeep groups, so they can share a wide range of experiences. One group might go on great trail rides whereas another one might have great socials and another might focus on helping charities. For me, it’s a way to share knowledge, friendship and good times. Plus, not everyone knows everything, so a group of people gives you a better chance to resolve issues. There’s lots of different types of people in the groups and it opens you up to diversity.

Some clubs might be right for you, while another one might not be. It’s just one of those things that you need to feel comfortable in. And if you are really going to use your Jeep for what it was meant to be used for, it is good to go with people who know what they are doing. I started Tri-County Jeepers back in 2011 because I felt there was a need for a club south of Tampa. At the time, I was in Legion of Jeepers and a few others, and Tampa Jeep Krewe wasn’t around yet.

Nuts and Bolts

Tri-County Jeepers’ Andre Ferronyalka believes Jeep groups create a sense of community and make off-roading safer, smarter and more fun for their members.

Ultimately, it’s a broad question, but it has a simple answer: The benefits of joining a Jeep group include a diversity of expertise and adventures, but in the end, the biggest advantage is the spirit of friendship and camaraderie that makes Jeepin’ fun.

Secrets of a Master Spotter

When we are four-wheeling, there is a lot going on. There is engine noise, other vehicles moving around, and people talking. When a driver is in the middle of an obstacle, the distance from the Jeep to the spotter means shouting is not always the most effective way to communicate directions.

A good spotter can help a driver get through obstacles they never could have driven on their own. Like any valuable skill, spotting takes practice to be able to guide the blind down the trail.

Put Your Hands Up

Great spotters know their hand signals and make sure their drivers understand and agree to use them before each ride. Here are a few basic signals:

  • Stop: Use a closed fist to signal a stop.
  • Turn right or left: Point with your index finger (or thumb) in the desired direction. For a harder turn, simultaneously point and push.
  • Advance: Extend an open hand with your palm facing toward you. Tuck your thumb in to avoid the appearance of a directional signal and, keeping your fingers together, wave them toward yourself in a repeated beckoning motion.
  • Reverse: Extend one or both hands with your palms facing the driver. Make a repeated pushing motion. It may be necessary to position yourself toward the back of the vehicle to help your driver back up safely.

You can create combinations by using one hand for a directional signal and the other for motion. To get the driver to turn the wheels without moving, simply hold up one closed fist and use the other hand to point. To signal movement, keep the directional finger pointing and open the closed fist to signal the direction you want.

Don’t be afraid to ask an observer to help. The observer will not communicate with the driver. Their sole function is to yell “Stop!” so you can signal the driver by hand. This is helpful when you are backing your driver up or trying to signal very minor adjustments.

Nuts and Bolts

Ted Johns is president of Bear Offroad Alliance and an experienced driver and spotter. He advises Jeepers to master the techniques and habits of master spotters, including:

  • Agreeing to a series of hand signals and
    round rules with each driver.
  • Asking an observer to assist if necessary.
  • Test-driving each Jeep to get a feel for its capabilities.
  • Asking whether the driver prefers to attack obstacles
    or tractor over them.

Advanced Spotting (and Driving) Skills

A good spotter is usually also a good driver. Why? Unless you experience the capabilities of a rig firsthand, by driving it, it’s very difficult to predict its characteristics on the rocks. You should know your driver’s vehicle from top to bottom.

You also need to know what the spotted vehicle can and cannot do. This means knowing at a quick glance what will clear at a given point under the rig. A good spotter knows where to position the tires and differentials for clearance. Sometimes the route requires the tires to be on top of the rocks, sometimes between, sometimes directly over.

Spotters should know in advance how much traction the tires have in a given situation, taking into account each obstacle’s steepness and surface grip and the air pressure of the tires, noting that lower inflation can affect the vehicle’s center of gravity.

Finally, knowing what kind of style the driver prefers is also important. Drivers eager to use the “bump it over” approach may prefer to hit the same obstacle faster than those who like to “tractor” over obstacles.

Some Jeepers believe they are too skilled to want or need a spotter. These Jeepers rely on memorizing the trail just before they go over it, taking mental snapshots of the route. If you encounter one of these talented and highly developed Jeepers, just stay out of the way, sit back, and enjoy the show. Most of us are not of that caliber. We must rely on someone to spot us over the really tough areas.

Whenever there is a chance a Jeep could slide out of control, roll over, or go over a cliff, a few inches can make a great deal of difference, particularly when driving on loose terrain. Whatever the driver’s skill level, in these situations, most of us need a spotter.

Being a spotter and seeing Jeepers put their rigs through the paces can be very rewarding. I encourage you to practice these techniques. You’ll find a pleasant reduction in everyone’s blood pressure and, hopefully, a diminishing of those ugly metal sounds associated with a truly tough trail.

Ground Rules

Great spotters earn the trust of their drivers by establishing a set of signals and rules and sticking to them. Here are the basic ground rules for spotters:

1. Trust is a must. 

Drivers and spotters are teammates and should act accordingly.

2. Hand signals are best. 

Both driver and spotter must clearly understand all hand signals before proceeding.

3. Stand where the driver can see you. 

The spotter usually stands in front, facing the vehicle. If you position yourself on one side of the vehicle, choose the side from which the driver can see you, not necessarily the driver’s side.

4. Ask for help.

Some situations may call for an additional spotter at the rear or any other problem area. This spotter is limited to yelling “Stop” or “Wait” at the primary spotter, who will then signal the driver.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The spotter watches the trail and the driver watches the spotter.

6. Don’t interfere. 

The next time you start yelling at a stranger creeping over some rough real estate, thinking you’re helping them out, think again. They may be silently communicating with a spotter you can’t see.

Breaker, Breaker: CBs and Ham Radios

I am looking to get a CB or ham radio for my Jeep. What do I need to know?

A: Many Jeepers ask me about citizen band (CB) and ham (a.k.a. “amateur”) radios, and I always answer them with this question: What do you need to communicate to those listening, and do you want them to hear you?

Let’s be real: You can probably shout to fellow off-roaders and they’ll have a better chance of hearing you than they would over all the noise on the CB bands. It’s not regulated or monitored by anyone. It’s a free-for-all, and only those with the most illegal power are heard.

CBs are the dinosaurs of the communication industry. They’re cheap, and no license is required, so anyone can have one. But they are not as popular as they were in the ’70s, when “Smokey and the Bandit” came out and every high school student received a CB radio as a graduation gift. Today, even truck drivers are using cell phones more often. The CB is most useful when you’re outside a coverage area or in an electrical power outage or some other emergency in which cell phones don’t work.

As far as I’m concerned, if I’m installing communication equipment on my vehicle, I want to be heard, period. If I need help in an emergency or want to warn someone about a dangerous situation, I want to be heard. Even if I’m chit-chatting with anyone over the airwaves, I want to be clearly understood.

Nuts and Bolts

Joseph Ruiz is the founder and commander of Florida Wilderness Search & Rescue C.E.R.T. and an experience off-roader. He advises Jeepers seeking an emergency radio to look for mobile units that connect with CB and ham (or “amateur”) radio bands, noting that an FCC license is required to operate a ham radio.

For that reason, I’m partial to ham radios. You get more power and the capacity to connect with repeaters, amplifying your signal up to an 80-mile radius. In some cases, repeaters are linked with each other, giving you statewide coverage. Most importantly, if you seriously need help, you’re more likely to get it there than on a CB. Look for a mobile unit than can connect you with CB and ham radio bands for the most comprehensive coverage.

The only catch is that you must have an FCC technician license to operate a ham radio. Quite honestly, it’s not difficult at all to get. Visit or ask any Jeeper who has been through the process.