Mike Valentine
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radar detector questions answered
 

RADAR DETECTOR FALSE ALARMS


  My old V1 gives way more K-band radar false alarms than it used to. What's going on?
- P.K., NV

 

New V1s have a special software algorithm designed to recognize unthreatening K alerts and preemptively exclude them. You won't hear a thing. We call this feature Junk-K Fighter because it selects K signals that aren't enforcement—"junk signals" in our parlance—and looks right past them for actual traffic radar.

The frequency range for K-band radar, 24.050-24.250 GHz, has recently become a free-fire zone for various transmitting devices. The newest offenders are the lane-change or blind-spot warning systems in cars. These are far more troubling than the old problem of automatic store-door openers; blind-spot systems move, and they may tag along in traffic with you for miles.

At this point, a review of how radar detectors work may help you decide which alerts are most likely to be threats.

Since all radar detectors are simply radios tuned to the microwave frequencies used by traffic radar, they automatically sound an alarm whenever they encounter signals on those frequencies.

The problem is, other devices that are not radar are also operating on radar frequencies. A detecting radio must respond to them, too. Every response indicates a threat, a bogey. Only your judgment can distinguish actual radar warnings from the non-radar alarms. Let's start with the basics:

  • X band: A catch-all band, still used in some areas by traffic radar, but heavily populated by sensors for supermarket automatic doors and other nuisance signals. In shopping areas, expect door sensors. But know the territory. Unless you’re sure that X band is not used locally for radar, stay alert until you’ve identified the bogey.
  • K band: Maybe radar, maybe not. K-band radar false alarms have recently become a nationwide nuisance. Supermarket door sensors operating on K are everywhere now. Another non-radar source—cheapie radar detectors that pollute by transmitting on K.
      Here are a few clues for spotting offending radar detectors and, also, cars with blind-spot systems. You may get a brief K warning just as you meet an oncoming car. Or a lingering K, nearly constant strength, as you move with traffic. Big hint: a direction change on the Radar Locator as you pass another car. Look for a detector in the windshield. But stay alert until you know for sure.
  • Ka band: Watch out! Most of the new-tech radars operate on Ka. Expect some contamination from cheapie radar detectors, just as with K (clues above also apply to Ka). Do not dismiss Ka alerts until you’ve positively IDed the source.
How To Identify Bogeys: Look first at the Radar Locator. If it points to the side, the bogey is non-threatening—radar can't get you from the side. If the Locator points ahead or behind, try for visual identification. And when the Locator changes from Ahead to Beside and then Behind, you can be sure the bogey is safely behind you.

Check the Bogey Counter, because many non-radar devices occur in multiples. For example, most microwave door sensors have at least two transmitters (for In and Out). Often such an installation will have multiple doors too, so there will be many transmitters. When you see two or more on the Bogey Counter, and particularly when you see it counting up quickly to four or more, you've likely found a nest of door sensors.

Burglar-alarm microwave sensors are often multiples too, because a single transmitter is not enough to safeguard an entire building. But microwaves from burglar and intrusion alarms are less likely to leak out of buildings. So alarms may appear singly or in low multiples.

Single bogeys must be regarded as threats until you see them, or put them safely behind you.