How to program a VHF radio

Updated April 17, 2017

VHF radio encompasses communication platforms in the VHF range, including amateur and marine radio. Programming a VHF radio out of the box can be somewhat challenging for budding amateur radio operators. Unfortunately, it's not the type of plug-and-play application we have grown used to in the digital age. VHF radios need initial programming for simplex and repeater operation before they are able to provide communication with local ham radio users. Additionally, the features needed are typically embedded in the complex, advanced radio menu. Fortunately, there are some time-saving steps you can take.

Obtain your amateur radio license, since you will need a license to operate a ham radio. Read your VHF radio's instruction manual. Gain an understanding of the initial set-up steps for "simplex" radio communications. Keep your instruction manual in a safe place. You will need it to reprogram your radio.

Identify other VHF or "ham" operators in your community who participate in simplex communications. Join ham radio-related organisations that can be found online. Visit websites such as Amateur Radio News and Features for programming tips and contacts of other VHF radio operators with whom you can communicate.

Tune your radio to the frequency that you and the other ham operators that you have identified and will communicate with agree upon. Turn off your radio's repeater frequency shift function since this is for professional applications, such as official police and fire communications.

Set your radio's output power to low power, program the squelch control to reduce static noise, and adjust the volume control to a normal level.

Set your radio to the correct frequency, which is the VFO mode. Make sure your radio is not in the memory mode by looking for an M or other channel number on the radio display.

Transmit by pushing the PTT or Push To Talk button on the front of your ham radio. Wait a few seconds after pushing the PTT key prior to talking to allow sufficient time to begin transmitting mode. You are now set to enjoy VHF radio communications.

Things You'll Need

  • VHF radio
  • Amateur radio license
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About the Author

Darren Hunter is an independent writer and entertainer. His articles are featured nationally, and he also is an infommercial host. He has been featured on C-Span, NPR, The Bulletin and The Big Talker to name a few. Hunter currently writes for Demand Studios. Hunter graduated from Philadelphia University.