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Assuming proper licensing for the frequency, what is the proper operating procedure to test whether an HT works and is within range of a (documented as open, 2M or 440) club repeater?

Should one wait till someone comes on the repeater, and ask them for a signal report? Or try to test against the repeater solo?

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I'm still a beginner in this area, so take this answer with a gran of salt.

I've had a chance to see a ham test repeaters few days ago, so I'll describe what he did:

First and the most obvious, make sure that the transmit and receive frequencies are correctly set on the radio.

Go to frequency of interest and listen for a while. If there is a conversation going on, wait until there's a natural gap in the conversation and then announce your presence. A simple:"This is CALLSIGN testing link with repeater name. Can anyone give me a signal report?" seems to do the trick. If the crowd at the repeater shows interest, share some more information about your rig with them.

If it looks like there are no users at the repeater, use the same procedure as if there are other users. You don't know if someone may be just listening to the repeater. If that's the case, you may receive a response even if it looks like the repeater is deserted.

If there really aren't any other users at the repeater, then your experiments probably won't bother anyone. Repeaters, here in Serbia at least, keep transmitting for a few seconds after you finish transmitting. If you have an S meter, you can see if your transmission triggered the repeater. If you really want to have a signal report, you'll probably need another radio. If you're lucky, there could be a WebSDR station within the range of the repeater. Otherwise, you'd probably need another receiver. One thing you could try, depending on the friendliness of local hams, is to ask someone on some other frequency to listen to the repeater and give you a report.

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    $\begingroup$ Simply saying "[callsign] testing" is fine too, although your example gives a higher probability of a response. I will get back to any ham I hear that is "testing", even if I'm not sure if they really want a response - all seem happy to hear that their signal is good (if it is). $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV Aug 30 '18 at 20:05
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Either of those choices are good, as long as you identify your transmission. Many repeaters transmit a courtesy tone after repeating their input in order to signal end of transmission. For those repeaters, you can TX your call sign and then listen for the courtesy tone on the repeater output. This will let you know if you're hitting the repeater, but not much else.

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You can always download the EchoLink software and see if your repeater is listed, then find someone who will listen for you while you're mobile. It's available for cellphones but I'm not sure how well it works on data rather then wifi since I don't tend to use it when I'm mobile with a HT anyway.

If you use the same repeater on a regular basis, it might be a good idea to drive around and build up your own radius map of where you can reach the repeater from so you'll have a good idea where you'll be able to reach the repeater in future.

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    $\begingroup$ Greetings, and welcome to ham.stackexchange.com. Please consider taking the tour to get the most from the site. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 Aug 30 '18 at 23:34
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Both of your procedures are workable, but be sure to "IDENTIFY" with your call sign when testing or talking to someone (see part 97).

A couple of thing's to keep in mind. 1. Just because you can hear the repeater doe's not mean that it can hear you, an HT's antenna is not an ideal antenna for transmitting (some are not much more than an "AIR COOLED DUMMY LOAD"). 2. Due to the nature of HT's (being portable) you may have to change position (location) in order to get a good signal to the repeater (see #1). 3. If you have not done so already, get with a friend or even listen to yourself on a scanner or other receiver and LISTEN to yourself transmitting in order to find out how close you need to talk to the ht's mic. (most HT's do not have a great deal of mic. gain, (they are designed this way to hold down background noise). 4. Talk "ACROSS" the mic. or the face of the radio, this reduces the "PLOSIVE" or "PUFF" of your breath with each word (this is a good practice to use with hand held mic.'s and even desk mic.'s unless they are designed for close talking (noise canceling Mic.'s) ).

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  • $\begingroup$ Part 97 only applies in the US, for the benefit of the non-Americans. $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV Aug 30 '18 at 20:06

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