Articles for Amateur Radio Newsletters aimed at new hams
 written by Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS, Rowlett, Texas



NHP #16: Patching and Kerchunking

The repeater is seeing lots of use these days. Our new members are using the repeater with enthusiasm and many things are being decided over the club autopatch: from getting a gallon of milk on the way home to meeting in the high school parking lot for a football game. But what about the patch? What is and is not permitted?

Auto patch Identification

All autopatch transmissions must be identified. The easiest way to do this is to use the following statement.

This is (Give your call sign) with the K5QHD autopatch.

This tells people you are using the autopatch and who you are.

Time Limits

Most autopatches have a time limit built into them. The intent is not to limit you being able to make a phone call. The autopatch is a shared resource and the intent is to give everyone a chance. In the case of the GARC repeater, the time limit is 3 minutes.

What numbers can you dial?

Our repeater autopatch has a 7 digit limit. This simply means you can dial a local number. You can't use this for long distance or a toll free call such as 800 or 888 numbers. This is causing problems for some of us in the Dallas area. Our area code of 214 has recently split into two area codes of 214 and 972. So, at this time only area code 972 numbers can be dialed. It was decided to live with this limitation and not open it up to 10 digits.

QSO or Patch priority

Many repeaters have been set up with priority assigned to the autopatch. For example the agreement on the E-Systems repeater K5QBN is the autopatch has priority. A person needing to make an autopatch can can interupt a QSO in progress - politely. The GARC repeater is considered QSO priority. Wait for any QSO in progress to finish before making a patch, and even then ask if the frequency is clear.


Regardless of patch priority or not, the autopatch is there primarily for minor emergencys. If you have an situation that requires the patch such as, the car won't start, flat tire, or to report an accident, simply announce your intent and the frequency will usually clear. Give the QSO in progress a few seconds to clear. Most of us have no problem with this as this is one of the guiding principals of our hobby.

Although there is a prohibition against using the autopatch for business. If you feel there is a threat to life or property, go ahead and call that tow service or service station.

Prohibited transmissions

We have been hearing some strange things on the autopatch lately so rather than ramble I think the FCC rules, Part 97.113 subpart (a) do a very good job of defining what is prohibited, so here is what the FCC says

S 97.113 Prohibited transmissions.
  (a) No amateur station shall transmit:
  (1) Communications specifically prohibited elsewhere in this Part;
  (2) Communications for hire or for material compensation, direct or indirect, paid or promised, except as otherwise provided in these rules;
  (3) Communications in which the station licensee or control operator has a pecuniary interest, including communications on behalf of an employer. Amateur operators may, however, notify other amateur operators of the availability for sale or trade of apparatus normally used in an amateur station, provided that such activity is not conducted on a regular basis;
  (4) Music using a phone emission except as specifically provided elsewhere in this Section; communications intended to facilitate a criminal act: except as otherwise provided herein; obscene or indecent words or language; or false or deceptive messages, signals or identification;
  (5) Communications, on a regular basis, which could reasonably be furnished alternatively through other radio services.

Although there is ongoing discussion of relaxing these rules, it has not yet happened. So until these rules are amended, you can't order a pizza, call in a prescription, or take an order for that home business regardless of how harmless it seems. Remember, in an FCC Action they would have to fine the offender and quite possibly order the offending repeater off the air.

This kind of thing really affects us all. Once a frequency is declared surplus, it is reassigned, and it is very hard to get any repeater frequency pair these days. A five to seven year wait to get a two meter repeater frequency is the norm these days.

A Little Common Sense

Many of us who got into this hobby started by using a scanner. We know people are listening to our frequencies all the time. Just keep this in mind when you make that autopatch call on the repeater.

The repeater reads back the number dialed and you transmit the touch-tone digits on the input frequency. If someone wanted to catch and decode these digits, you can find decoding hardware in almost any Amateur radio magazine. With a sound blaster card and the right software, you can do the same thing as well on a home PC.

I would like to suggest that you do not make that "Big Date" over the repeater, or key in any digits that have anything to do with security. Don't, for example, call your answering machine or phone mail and key in the access code to get your messages. There is simply too much mischief in the world to invite this into your home or automated system.

Kerchunking, What is it?

OK, we have probably all done it, but what is it. You pick up the mike or handi- talkie because you have not heard anything for few minutes. Then even though the display of the radio is on, that little bit of doubt creeps into your mind, is it the repeater....or me..... or is my radio working? Did the repeater offset slip? Did the PL tone get lost? Did the power setting go to extra low? Did that intermittent coax connection just go away again? Finally you just have to key the mike for a second or two to see if you hear the repeater identify or hear the courtesy tone. That second or two of dead air with no ID is a kerchunk. If you just have to do an on air test, say so:

"This is (Call sign) Testing".

It will still bring up the ID or courtesy tone and is a legal transmission. Due to the increasing complexity of our radios, no one minds if you test as long as you say so. Anyone who has ever had a microprocessor-based radio lose its mind knows the complexities involved.

Anytime we use the repeater and autopatch, we become caretakers of it. The responsibility does not lay entirely in the hands of the repeater trustee and the communications officer. By our very use, we are taking this responsibility upon ourselves. If we use it, let's use it in a way that will provide this service for years to come. It's a shared resource, and in sharing we must all use it with these things in mind.

73 and GL from

Gerry WD4BIS

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Copyright 2005 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.

Permission in advance is granted to those who use this for non-profit Amateur Radio club newsletters as long as it is used unmodified including this copyright notice and that notice is given to the author via email ([email protected]). In addition, please forward a copy of any newsletter this appears in to: Gerry Crenshaw WD4BIS, c/o GARC, 1027B W. Austin St, Garland, TX, 75040

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