Attention truckers! Are you tired of dropping phone calls? Grumpy because your cell data speed sucks more than a Slurpee-drinking contest? Well then you should check out the new weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR cell signal booster from Wilson Electronics. It works!
End of review… okay, maybe not.
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So what is the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR (other than a mouthful that is)?
Basically, it’s a cell signal booster. Wilson Electronics has models for your car and home, but as the OTR in the model name suggests, this one is made specifically for truckers. Basically that means it comes with a mirror-mountable antenna and it supports up to four devices. That makes it great for team drivers with two phones or you solos with lots of tech toys.
According to the weBoost website, the Drive 4G-X OTR boosts voice and data with the maximum FCC-allowed 50 dB system gain. It enhances 4G LTE, as well as 3G and 2G network signals, up to 32x, meaning drivers will get fewer lost connections and dead zones, better audio quality, and faster data uploads/downloads. And it works on all US and Canadian cell carriers. It has a 30-day money back guarantee and a two-year warranty. As an added bonus, the 24/7 customer service line is based in the USA. No more trying to understand “Steve” from India’s accent! Yay!
Included in the box is the cell signal booster and its mounting bracket, an internal antenna, an external antenna with mounting bracket, a DC power supply, and all the cables you’ll need to install it. The product seems to be well-made and sturdy enough for trucker punishment.
To be honest, when I first agreed to review the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR, I wasn’t expecting much.
That’s not to say I didn’t think the product would work, I just didn’t think I’d notice a huge difference. That’s because I use Verizon and their coverage is typically pretty good in the areas I frequent most. Since I often have a full five-bar signal (well, actually they’re dots on the iPhone), I was wondering how I was even going to test the device. It’s not like I would flip the power switch on the weBoost and it would magically give me a sixth or seventh bar on my phone. Although if it had, I’d have been impressed enough to include them in my last will and testament, not that that’s much of a bonus.
Well, luckily I had a great chance to test the device right off the bat. As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I had my 10-year old nephew Joel out on the road with me recently. Since he’s got the attention span of a chipmunk, I hadn’t taken the time to install the unit yet. Until… I found myself in Montana.
Now I don’t normally run up there anymore, so I didn’t know what to expect as far as cell service. Let’s put it this way… Montana is known as Big Sky Country, so I guess there just isn’t enough cellular signal to fill all that big sky. I found myself with three bars of 3G. Yucky-poo. Would the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR cell signal booster help?
I popped open the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR box and a mere 30 minutes later, I was ready to roll again. Now let me be clear here. I’m sure most truckers could’ve had this puppy installed in 15 minutes or less, but it’s a well-known fact that I have the mechanical aptitude of a popsicle stick. Thank God there are excellent instructions included.
First, you mount the exterior antenna. Had I not gotten hung up on trying to use the wrong washer and nut to attach the antenna to the mounting bracket, things would’ve gone much quicker. Tip: the nut/bolt that comes pre-mounted on the bracket is made for a spring mount. Just unscrew it and use the flat washer and nut instead. Time-wise, it didn’t help any that I was being asked “How much longer?” every two minutes. Kids. Can’t live with ’em… can’t sell ’em to the highest bidder.
The instructions say the external antenna mounting bracket will mount horizontally or vertically on any mirrors with bars of 1″ diameter or smaller.
I managed to put it on my ProStar, which appears to have approximately 1.25″ bars. I was wondering why the mounting bolts were barely long enough (see photo). Guess that answers that! If you have mirrors without the bars (like the Cascadia) you can purchase a mounting bracket from Amazon or check at your larger at truck stops.
The next step was to mount the interior antenna to the side of the passenger seat back with Velcro (see photo). So far, so good. Even I’ve mastered Velcro (or maybe I haven’t – keep reading).
Next you connect the cables from both antennas to each end of the the signal booster. They are clearly marked as “outside antenna” and “inside antenna” so even a knucklehead like me couldn’t screw it up.
The last thing to do is plug the 12-volt power supply into the signal booster and plug it into your power outlet. If you don’t feel like wasting one of your valuable power outlets, you can purchase a hardwire kit from Wilson Electronics. Not only will you preserve your precious power outlets, but you’ll also never have to turn the unit on and off. Since I don’t own the truck, I opted for the standard plug-in.
I know this seems petty, but one thing I really like about the power cord is that the red light showing the power is on isn’t overly bright. The one I use to charge my phone is so stinkin’ bright that I have to make sure it’s turned a certain way so it doesn’t scorch my retinas while I’m driving at night.
The last thing to do is to register your product. They couldn’t have made this any simpler. You simply take a photo of the sticker that is on the signal booster and text it to them. You’ll get a return text with a link. Follow that link, fill out the information, hit Submit, and you’re done. That takes less effort than pushing your great-grandma down the stairs!
Testing the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR
So anyway, the magic moment came when I turned the unit on and I watched as my signal quickly jumped from three bars of 3G to two bars of LTE. Wow! You go, weBoost!
Later that day, I traveled way out in the boonies of Northern Wyoming. My signal did go down some, but I was honestly surprised I was getting any service at all out on the mountainous US16 highway between Buffalo and Worland, Wyoming. Beautiful country, by the way, if you ever get the chance to run it. Some of those switchbacks had my nephew squealing like a little girl! Isn’t scaring kids awesome?
I have been switching the 4G-X OTR cell signal booster on and off for the last few weeks and there has only been one situation where it didn’t raise my cell signal at least one bar (unless it was already maxed out, obviously).
Joel and I had stopped at a little rest area in Wyoming and noticed there was no cell signal. I looked down and realized that the weBoost was turned off. Very cockily, I reached down and flicked the switch, expecting the bars to jump to life. Instead, it still showed the dreaded “No service.” What the…?
Looking around, I understood why. This rest area was in what could only be described as a “holler.” It was surrounded by large hills on three sides, so I guess I can forgive the 4G-X OTR in that case. My decent signal came back the next morning as soon as I drove out of the rest area.
I will point out that every once in a while I didn’t notice a difference in signal when I switched the signal booster on. When this happened, I would simply turn the cell signal off on my phone and turn it back on again. I don’t know how or why, but my signal would inevitably improve. I’m guessing cycling it off/on forces the phone to re-aquire a signal.
Also, please keep in mind that this cell signal booster isn’t made with unicorn hair and pixie dust. If you’re in a wasteland area with what Verizon calls “Extended 1X,” you’re screwed no matter what kind of special electronics you have. I think AT&T calls theirs EDGE, or something like that. I’m sure every cell carrier has these bad areas, so I think they should all get together and call it something like Cell Reception Area Purgatory, or CRAP for short. I think it would be quite appropriate to look down on your phone and see the word CRAP on your home screen.
Now I know that this review isn’t very technical. I didn’t go into scientific testing of the effectiveness of the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR. There is no video or detailed installation guide either. I honestly thought about doing an installation guide video, but after I saw my nephew’s videography skills, I decided I’d save my sanity and your nausea by skipping it. You’re welcome. I don’t know why I’m surprised that chipmunks can’t hold a video camera still.
If you want all that technical stuff with an unboxing and the installation process, I highly recommend you check out The John and Jade Show video review of the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR. John did an excellent job getting all geeky with signal testing!
I did have one minor problem during my testing.
Everything worked as advertised with the booster itself, but the Velcro for the interior antenna does not seem to stick very well. Let me rephrase that; it sticks fine until it gets hot.
The antenna had been stuck to the side of my vinyl seat for a few weeks, so I know it had time to set well. But then I left my truck turned off when I was at home and it reached about 90° outside, meaning it was much hotter inside. When I got back in my truck two days later, the antenna had slid about six inches down the side of my seat on a layer of melted glue (see photo).
I doublechecked to make sure nothing had been pulling down on the cord (it wasn’t) and then I let it get hot in my truck again the next night. It slid down the side of my seat again, only this time it only slid about three inches, probably because it was only one night instead of two.
On a long shot, I tried it one more night; only this time I removed the antenna from the Velcro. Now I knew the glue was going to melt again, but I had my doubts that removing the super-lightweight antenna would keep it from sliding. Well, I was half right. The glue did melt again, but the Velcro stripped stayed in place all night. Weird.
Obviously, this is less than desirable. While some truckers leave their trucks on all night to stay cool, many of us cannot due to company policies. And even those who do leave it running when working, you probably won’t when you are taking your home time.
It seems crazy to have to rip the antenna off the Velcro every time the truck might get hot inside. I actually have an APU now, but I still have to close the curtains in order to keep the bunk area cool, so that leaves the antenna up in the hot cab area.
I did contact Emily at Wilson Electronics and she assured me that they haven’t had any other complaints about melting glue, and they’ve had a lot of products that use Velcro. So maybe I just got a bad strip? The good thing is she offered to replace it, so if you’re too stinkin’ cheap to go buy another strip of Velcro, then at least you’ll know that Wilson Electronics will take care of you.
Also, while the installation guide suggests you mount the antenna on the side of the passenger seat, Emily told me that drivers are mounting them on the dash too. I also discovered that the interior antenna will stick to the fuzz on the back of my seat just fine so I have put it there and it hasn’t moved a fraction of an inch since (see photo above). Not all seats have that fuzz though, so if you’re worried about bad glue, just mount it on something with a more horizontal surface.
Just to verify, the only glue that seems to have a problem is on the piece that hooks to the seat. The half of the Velcro that is attached to the antenna does not appear to be affected.
In the end, I think you just want to know if the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR works.
It does. There is no doubt about that. All you need to figure that out is a set of working eyeballs that can watch the bars on your cell phone jump.
Is the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR worth the money?
As a self-proclaimed cheapskate, I admit I may have pooped a little in my pants when I saw that the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR retails for $549.99. I was even more surprised to see that at the time of this writing Amazon has it for the same price. My guess is it’s still new enough that no one can offer a discount on it yet. Heck, I don’t even think you can get the OTR version at truck stops yet. I did notice that Love’s sells an older model, so maybe they’ll have it eventually.
Still, the more I thought about the price, the less it bothered me. Most of us pay that much or more for our cell phones and truckers who really get into the CB world probably have at least that much invested in their rigs. Heck, lots of truckers spend more than that on chrome accessories to make their truck pretty. So is it really too much of a stretch to spend that kind of money to improve your communication abilities?
The question you have to ask yourself is how bad you need a cell signal booster.
If you can wait to hear about the exciting adventures of your spouse’s last PTA meeting or you’re not the type to care about being ridiculed by all your Facebook friends for not being current on the latest funny dog video, then maybe you could use the $549.99 for something else you’ve been wanting for a long time… like 61 copies of the literary masterpiece known as Trucking Life. Pshhhht.
However, do you find yourself frustrated because you can’t make a phone call, or worse, the call drops at just the wrong time? Do your data speeds screech to a grinding halt the second you cross the city limit? I’ve heard that’s often the case with the smaller carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile. Can you not watch that YouTube video someone just tweeted? Do you need good cell and Internet service for business reasons? Well, if that’s the case, then you need the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR… pronto.
Nowwwwww that’s the end of the review. No really.
Photos by Todd McCann
Links in the podcast version:
Check out my new ebook/audiobook called Trucking Life and get some free samples of both the audio and text versions.
Trutrux told us about his new website that sells truck, ATV, boat, camping, outdoor gear & cool stuff.
Non-trucker Jeremy wrote in to ask about exercise as a trucker. I put him off so I could do a whole podcast about it. I mentioned my workout video called TD81: How To Do A Full-Body Workout Inside The Cab Of A Semi. Please send in your questions and suggestions for this future podcast by sending them to TruckerDump@gmail.com.
If you’re an Apple-loving tech junkie, please consider joining the iTruckers Slack group by sending an email to iTruckers@iCloud.com.
Buy an antenna mount for a Freightliner Cascade (not an affiliate link).
You can buy a hardwire kit for your weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR from Wilson Electronics.
26-second video of my 10-year-old nephew Joel freaking out while driving a switchback in my 18-wheeler.
John of The John And Jade Show did an excellent video review of the weBoost Drive 4G-X OTR, including an installation guide and lots of geeky signal strength testing. Nerds UNITE!
In the feedback section:
Intermission music by The Offspring
George sent another audio clip, but I’m not going to play it because I’m going to do a whole podcast about it later on. Sorry George!
Long Duck writes in to talk about his Sonar elogs, lane preference, and he gloats a bit because he’s figured out who I work for. In the meantime, I wonder why anyone even cares.
David listened to TD56: Funkin’ Trucking’ and believes that driver funk is directly related to driver fatigue. He also gives us a tip on removing ice from your wipers while driving. This prompts me to mention listener Greg’s recommendation of the Slushbuster back in TD110: Jabbering With Jared. He also admits to being a solar driver which I discussed way back in TD53:Lunar Driving As A Trucker. Along the way, David mentions the 48 Days Podcast from Dan Miller.
Bryce read TD100: What Makes The Evil Overlord Evil? and tells a funny story about his own Evil Overlord.
If you’ve got your own story about your wife being slightly evil, write in to TruckerDump@gmail.com and tell the story.