G4NSJ – Repeater basics for newcomers to the hobby


Many newcomers to the hobby are unsure about repeaters, what they are for, how they work, how to use them… In the video below, I try to explain the basic operation of amateur radio repeaters without delving too deep into the technical aspects. I hope you find the video useful.

Using a repeater:

It’s not necessary to call CQ through a repeater. The way I do it is to say, this is G4NSJ listening through GB3RW. If someone wants to chat with you, they will reply. Most repeaters have a timeout which closes the repeater after, say, three minutes. This is to stop people rabbiting on for ages and hogging the repeater. It’s best to keep overs reasonably short on repeaters. When someone stops transmitting, the repeater sends out a K in Morse code. This is to invite the next person to speak. Do wait for the K before transmitting as this resets timeout timer. If you want to join an existing QSO on a repeater, wait for a pause and then just give your callsign. Someone will acknowledge you and you’ll be invited to join the chat.

Transmitting with your audio level too high will result in over-deviation which will cause clipping. This could result in you being completely unreadable. Your radio bandwidth should be programmed to narrow, not wide, when using repeaters.

You can’t give signal reports through a repeater. To tell a station that he is 5 and 7 is meaningless. The repeater might be S7 with you, but you can’t give a report to the station you’re listening to through the repeater. He might be fully quietning through the repeater, or good with some background hiss, or noisy into the box, as it’s sometimes described. Obviously, you have no idea of his S reading.

Repeater abuse:

Unfortunately, some people are idiots. If you hear someone abusing a repeater by playing music or just being a general pain, ignore them. Acknowledging them will only make it worse. It’s rather like dealing with a child who is playing up, ignore them and they’ll go away.