People who are new to radar detectors are sometimes unsure if their shiny new detector is working properly. We get a lot of questions like: "I just passed a cop and my new detector didn't go off - is it defective?" In this article, I will try to provide some tips to help you build up a level of trust in your radar detector and help you recognize if there is a real problem.
First of all, I would recommend reading our article detailing how to use a radar detector. This explains the basics of how a radar detector works and when it can and can't be trusted.
It is important to realize that a radar detector is designed to detect radar. It doesn't detect police officers or police cars. Do not expect your radar detector to produce an alert every time you see a police car. Many times, police are not actively checking the speed of other vehicles and in these cases they may have their radar gun turned off. Some police may specialize in other types of crime and not even be equipped with a radar gun.
Police radar guns aren't the only devices using radar. As you drive, you'll probably notice that you get alerts as you approach shopping centers. Automatic doors at these locations are a common source of false alerts. Other devices, even some radar detectors, produce false alerts as well. As you drive with your new detector, try to pay attention to the radar band of the alert (X, K, or Ka) and identify the source.
After you've put some miles on your detector, you'll start to become used to common sources of false alerts and you'll get a feeling for what type of alert (band and signal strength) is real. This depends very much on your area, but typically most false alerts are X band and Ka must be taken seriously.
We recommend that when your detector is new, set it to Highway mode. This will make the detector the most sensitive and it will produce a high number of false alerts. After you become accustomed to driving with the detector, adjust the filtering to one of the City modes (we recommend AutoScan for Beltronics and Escort detectors). Whistler detectors have several filter modes as well that you can play with. The city modes and filtering options allow you to "tweak" the sensitivity to match your area and your driving style.
If your detector is producing alerts at consistent locations, then it is likely working properly. If you believe that you are not getting the range you should be, first check to be sure your detector is mounted completely level and is as high as possible on the windshield (without being blocked). That being said, we have seen a few strange issues from time to time. If you've read this and you believe your detector is acting a little flaky, please give us a call or send us an email!