HAM Radio Tips & Tricks

HAM Radio Best Practices

HAM Radio is a whole new world for you, and you want to jump into it ASAP, however you are bound to make mistakes on occasion and that’s alright. Play nice with everyone you speak to. Here are a few tips and even unwritten rules in Ham Radio to help you avoid pitfalls and maybe some embarrassing situations:

On the air:

  • After pressing your PTT button, wait about ½ second before speaking, especially if you’re communicating through a repeater.  The repeater takes a second to “catch up” with you.
  • When speaking into your microphone, keep the microphone a little bit away, don’t talk into it like you see in the movies.  This will make sure you don’t sound bloated on the air.
  • Place your hand microphone about four to six inches from your mouth when transmitting.  Speak clearly and use your voice without yelling in to the mic.
  • When announcing your call sign along with that of another ham, the rule is to put yourself last, as in “KI5LMR, this is KI5WTR” if your call sign was KI5WTR.
  • While it’s customary to call out CQ on HF bands, it’s best practice on the 2-meter and 70-cm bands to announce your call sign instead, especially on a repeater.
  • If another ham points out a problem with your transmission (“you’re sounding a little scratchy”), always assume the problem is with you (location, orientation, power too low, etc.) or your equipment first, and always admit your mistakes
  • If you’d like to jump into an ongoing conversation, avoid using the word break ; instead, say your call sign between their transmissions.  Usually they will acknowledge you and allow you to speak.
  • After your contact releases his PTT (Push-to-talk) button, wait one to two seconds before you press yours, in case another person wants to join the conversation or has an emergency.
  • Avoid “kerchunking“, which is repeatedly pressing and releasing your PTT button without announcing your call sign; it’s not only illegal, but irritating to others, especially those listening on a repeater.  Remember…good practices!
  • When speaking through a repeater, try and keep your conversations to under a few minutes.  Most repeaters will have a time out.  The repeater I use times out every two minutes.  Don’t sweat it, you will get used to this.  Remember, this is all new to you right now.


  • While it’s not always possible, try and make your conversations positive and upbeat; sounding positive attracts friends, while negative comments tend to turn other hams away from you, even if well-intended.
  • Don’t get offended just because another ham can’t remember your name or call sign, most likely until later on, you will have the same issue.  People will eventually get to know you around your area.  I used a pen and paper to write down call signs and names when I was on the radio to help me remember who I talked to.
  • If another ham does offend you, let it go; don’t retaliate or try and belittle the other ham for it; be the adult in the encounter, even if you’re a kid.  This is not a place to troll others.  Save that for Facebook!
  • Be considerate of your contact’s time, and minimize dead-air time by at least thinking of what you’re going to say before keying up.
  • Avoid making insulting or disparaging remarks about others on the air; what people hear you say about others, they’ll also believe you’ll say about them.  You are trying to make new friends here after all.
  • If you feel you must correct the behavior of another ham, do so off-air, tactfully, and out of earshot of others.
  • Within reason, avoid burping, coughing, sniffing, clearing your throat, smacking your lips, and making other bodily or disgusting noises on the air.  Why?  It’s just gross…EWWWW!
  • Whenever possible try not to engage in political or religious conversation.  These are too hot topics that can easily get out of hand due to varying feelings on the matters.  There are thousands of other subjects you can talk about.


  • Make sure your radio is programmed with an appropriate frequency list before you stash it away, but be sure to accompany it with a card or sheet to remind you of what the frequencies or channel names are for.  If your radio has an SD card as a backup, this will save you a lot of grief later if something happens.
  • Learn how to manually program your radio; you might not know when you need to travel through a location where there is no cell signal available for your phone or tablet
  • Join a regularly held net, which will give you weekly practice on your radio, to keep you acquainted with your equipment operation and limitations
  • As far as practical, keep your radio equipment clean; you might never know when you’ll need to share your microphone with somebody else, and keeping your controls clean will help ensure that they’ll work for you the next time.  You paid for it, take care of it!
ham radio band chart

If the above image is a bit confusing...see below:

U.S. Amateur Radio Frequencies

70CM – 420 – 450MHz
2M – 144 – 148MHz
10M – 28 – 29.7MHz
12M – 24.89 – 24.99MHz
15M – 21 – 21.45MHz
17M – 18.068 – 18.168MHz

20M – 14.0 – 14.35MHz
30M – 10.1 – 10.15MHz
40M – 7.0 – 7.3MHz
60M – 5MHz region
80M – 3.5 – 4MHz
160M – 1.8 – 2MHz