Can an Affordable Radar Detector be an Effective Radar Detector?

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Radar detectors make driving enjoyable again – by greatly reducing your vulnerability to being ticketed for “speeding,” which is one of those made-up offenses that few of us feel moral guilt for committing because we know we’re not doing anything wrong.

It’s like sticking your tongue out at a totem pole god.

The difference being the totem pole god hasn’t got armed goons lurking behind the bushes waiting to punish you for not showing the proper respect.

A radar detector alerts you to the presence of those goons.

The best ones do so before those goons take notice of you. You want a sensitive radar detector. One that picks up a radar trap in plenty of time to avoid it.

But sensitivity has become a vulnerability in the age of new cars equipped with “safety” systems (blind spot warning, “smart” cruise control, etc.) that emit radar signal, including the same K band radar signal used by police cars.

Well, similar enough to trigger a false alert – if you have a low-rent detector.

Often, ongoing – if the signal is emanating from the car you’re driving. There may not be a radar trap within 20 miles of you – you may still be sitting in your own driveway –  but the cheapo detector is chirping away because it is detecting the signal coming from your car. Which you can’t turn off. And you can’t do anything about all the signals leaking from other cars, which add to the orchestra of beeps.

So you turn the detector’s volume down. And end up getting ticketed.

You remember the children’s story about the boy who cried wolf. After awhile, you stop paying attention to the warnings. And then one day . . .

Which is why filtration is at least as important as sensitivity. You want a detector that can tell the difference between the K band signal coming from your car – and the cars in your orbit – and the police car just up the road.

Otherwise, you are vulnerable. Or just annoyed by the constant beeping and lights flashing coming from your confused detector – which takes away from the joy of the drive, which is why we got the detector in the first place!

K40 electronics recently sent me their RLS2 portable detector (they also sell a model that’s hard-wired by one of their authorized installers) to try out – with particular emphasis on the unit’s ability to not be gulled by the false-flag radar signal emanating from pretty much everywhere these days.

But without loss of sensitivity to the real thing.

That’s a challenge – right up there with figuring out what your wife or girlfriend really wants you to do – as opposed to what she says she wants you to do.

The K40 is very sensitive – and very smart.

It knows the difference between real-thing police radar and the radar clutter generated by new cars as well as other sources, such as the radiology clinic I pass by almost every day. In that case, the RLS2 did chirp – initially. But it has a neat Mark to Mute mode, a button on the top of the detector that you depress when you are in the vicinity of a regularly encountered false-flag signal, such as my local radiology clinic. The unit – which has GPS connectivity, so it knows (and can remember) specific locations – takes note of that particular radar source and ignores it from then on.

There is also Mark to Alert – which you can use to tag fixed speed traps, such as radar/camera enforcement zones. The unit stores the location in its memory and alerts you the next time you approach.

It was really nice to enjoy quiet – and not worry about speed traps.

The lower end detectors have become effectively useless due to their constant chirping over not-police K band radar signal. If that doesn’t drive you crazy, it will certainly drive you to distraction.

I advise you not to waste your money on any of them.

Speaking of that . . . what’ the catch with the K40? It costs considerably less money (about $300) than, for instance, my trusty Valentine1 ($500) and other high-end models like the Escort Max 360).

So what doesn’t the K40 do that the others do?

Well, you don’t get directional threat indicators – because the K40 is blind to the rear. Unlike the V1, which has antennas forward and aft, and so can detect police radar up ahead as well as coming up from behind you. This is a major advantage of detectors like the V1, which also has those directional arrow indicators to tell you whether the threat is ahead, behind or off to the side (left or right).

The other thing the K40 doesn’t do is track multiple threats at once, which is something the V1 does.

It also doesn’t have the top-drawer hard metal shell that the V1 does. It’s plastic – and so it’s more fragile. Be careful!

It’s also not upgradeable. When you buy it, you get the best K40 has to offer at that moment. The V1 (full disclosure, I own one and V1 is an advertiser, but that isn’t making me say any of this – or not say nice things about the K40) can be sent back to Valentine for software and hardware upgrades; for example, the latest “Junk-K” filtration technology.

But, after side-by-side testing in both city and highway environments, I will tell you that the K40 sussed out cop K and Ka band in almost perfect synchronicity with my personal V1. The V1 has long been the standard for sensitivity – and still is. The K40 isn’t – in my experience – more sensitive. But it seemed to be about as sensitive, or close enough for the difference to be functionally irrelevant.

Both operate in the same 10,500-10,550 GHz (X band), 24,050-24,250 GHz (K band) and 33,440-36,000 GHz (Ka Band) frequencies and have very effective filtration systems, which weed out the false flag signals.

But the K40 is more accessible – financially – than the V1 and even more so than the $600 Escort 360. It’s an affordable quality radar detector for people who can’t afford a quality high-end detector – but don’t want to waste money on a useless radar detector.

It’s also affordable enough to be a second detector – for your other car.

Or maybe your motorcycle.

K40 also offers a higher-end detector – the RL360di – which one-ups the V1 and the Escort, with both 360 degree coverage and a laser diffuser feature, fore and aft. This system is serious – and the price ($1,699) reflects it. But it also gets hard-wired into your vehicle by serious professional installers and is extremely subtle as well as extremely sensitive.

Nothing suction-cupped to your windshield; no wires dangling anywhere. The LED threat indicators are blended into your car’s dashboard for the ultimate in stealth as well as  clean-looking/factory stock install.

Either way, there’s a ticket-free guarantee. If you get issued a piece of payin’ paper after buying a K40 detector, the company will pay the fine.

That makes it a no-brainer, if you’re still interested in driving – but not paying.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. Eric,

    I have sworn by the V1 for two decades. How does the Max 360c stack up? Could it actually be better because of the GPS? Does Valentine have any new offerings in store for the future?

  2. Over the years I have learned quite a few radar avoidance tricks on the highway. For example sticking to the right lane as much as practical, using other cars as a shield, being aware of hiding spots the fuzz prefer. Other things you can be is be aware of brake lights ahead as many people automatically tap then even if they don’t need to when they see a cruiser.
    It’s a good idea to learn your cars radar cross section if at all possible. A car with a huge cross section to the signal will be picked up even if it is behind you.

    I actually haven’t used my Passport in quite some time but I still keep it handy.

  3. I’ve been looking at improved radar detectors again. Thanks for the review. The main reason I never got around to reinstalling in my current vehicle is because of all the false alarms, especially for laser. Every time there’s a bright object (such as the Sun) in front of me the darn thing would just go crazy. That’s all well and good if it can detect an upcoming threat, but since laser is very short range and clearly line of sight you’ll see the cop at the same time as the detector. By then it’s too little too late. In fact, the times I’ve seen laser in use there were teams of troopers, one running the gun and the other a few feet down the road chasing down “criminals.”

    Imagine if they put all that effort into solving murders or going after thieves.

    • Yeah a laser detector without a diffuser/jammer is for the most part useless (I have a V1). I’ve been hit by it when I was speeding, slowed down immediately, then got hit again. I thought for sure I was toast but never got pulled over or saw a car (it was out in the middle of nowhere so they we hiding somewhere I’m assuming). Maybe I got lucky and they didn’t get a good reading on the first hit. I’m not sure.

      From my understanding you need a diffuser/jammer like the top K40 system. But even then there has to be a way to remotely shut the diffuser/jammer off. Because if a cop points a laser at your car and doesn’t get a reading back he knows you have a jammer/diffuser most likely. So I believe the routine is if you get hit with a laser, you slow down to the speed limit and then turn your diffuser/jammer off so the swine gets a reading back. Someone correct me if I’m wrong regarding this.

      They other thing that always sets the laser detector off is red neon signs. I don’t know the reasons as to why but they do mention it in the V1 manual.

      • I too, have had my V-1 sound a laser alert….WAY out in the middle of nowhere. In an extremely low yield location for any cop.

        So I think there is laser in use out in remote areas, that is not cop related. No idea what causes it. Maybe military installations? Or aircraft? Or UFOs? 🙂

  4. Hey Eric,

    A question for you – whats a good defence against Laser ? The issue is that in the UK for most mobile / hand held police units they use Laser, and from what I understand by the time you get the alert, they know your speed. Is this true? A lot of detectors in the US talk about laser detection, does that work?

    Some companies here talk about laser jammers/diffusers but then the legality is questionable, along with the fact that Ive heard that they are only good for smaller vehicles (such as motorcycles, hatchbacks at best). Infact a guy (a proper “hero” if you ask me) recently got done here for using a jammer and driving by a bunch of speed traps and flipping off the goons. They got so angry that they didn’t see his speed they took him to court, and he got jail time (in the UK he would have gotten less for killing someone, thats how serious messing with the state is here –

    Any words of wisdom here, how one can defend in a regime with mostly laser detection?

    • Take a look at this:

      “Veil isn’t claimed to make a vehicle disappear from lasers. It’s intended to reduce the effective range of a laser, giving a driver extra time to react. The manufacturer also touts Veil’s potential to enhance the effectiveness of a laser jammer. We’ve rarely seen a laser jammer that can’t be defeated; at very close range the pinpoint laser beam often can shoot past a jammer and get a speed. But the best jammers can easily fend off a laser long enough for a driver to react.”

      make it harder to get a read on a license plate, and presumably your laser/radar detector will go off with enough time to warn you. Good luck to you.

      • Thanks for this. Have heard about these liquids, but they are very hard to get here. Most people dont ship and ebay/amazon dont seem to allow them. Will possibly look to get when im in the US next…

  5. Just one note, the base V1 is $399. It can easily get to around $500 with optional accessories but those are other adders radar detectors don’t have. The remote display as I recall is $40. so $440 as I have considered it. I’ve yet to take the dive but police vehicles are getting more and more difficult to spot here by the day.

  6. I wonder if I could get one of these into Australia (Straya). Here it is the scameras that you really need to be concerned with. With the minimum speed fine here at $350 and 3 points of your 12 allotted points, it would pay well. Even though the detectors are illegal in all states except WA, the Constitution allows no discriminatory laws between states.

  7. Look at all that single unending continuous double yellow lines even in places where there is a clear view. Hitler would be proud of those stasi bureaucraps there in good ole Virginny. Lots of potential passing for one driving a Hellcat!

  8. Is the ticket free gaurantee for all of K40’s products? Or just the RL360di? That’s a nice little benefit but where one would take the biggest hit in the wallet is in increased insurance premiums unfortunately.

    • Yes, it’s good for all their products, with the caveat that it does not cover DUI/DWI tickets. See the K40 web page (link in article) for the details!

      • Thanks. I have a V1 now that I’m happy with but someday (and on a different car) their full tilt RL360di would be something I would love to have. Trouble is I’ll probably be too old to put it to good use by then.

        • Hi c-dub,

          If I ever have the means to … upgrade my Trans Am I will also upgrade the . . . countermeasures. I have idle fantasies about pulling the 455 and giving it a roller cam, two points more CR (would you believe stock is 7.6:1?) and lots of head work… of ramping it up from the current appx. 320 hp (impressive, back in the late ’90s) to around 500.

          But first, I need a full time computer guy for EPautos… and (if there is a god) a copy editor….

          • eric, 2 more points, better heads, and those wonderful roller rockers and cams along with the extra fuel you’ll need will require new rods and a forged crank. Then you’ll need a bigger oil supply and cooler for it. An oil windage tray and a big pan along with extruded pistons and oil crank oil scrapers. Oh what a slippery slope it is. My heads are decked(sold them)and cc’d with hogged out ports matched to the runners with a big Weind Team G intake. Still have the big pan too along with the block that’s had a great deal of metal removed for clearance and oil return. It’s amazing how much fun a guy can have wit a die grinder. That pan? Just like this:

            When you get ready I’ll come work for grins. Oh hell, just pull that engine and transmission and we’ll start from scratch so you’ll always have number matched everything and we’ll put on some bolt on body braces(believe me, the 78 Z I built with even angle plug heads would pull the passenger window away from the gasket if you stood in it at 70mph…..and that was 100+ C.I. less. Yeeeee haaawwww!!!!

            • Hi Eight!

              Nothing too crazy… and I want to retain the stock heads, or at least use stock cast iron Pontiac heads. I know there’s all kinds of advantages to using aluminum, but they are not right for the car. For me, part of the appeal of these old machines is that they are practically alive relics of another time. Adding modern things to them takes away from that.

              The 455 is not a revver. Very long stroke – but big torque. Even a mild one can make 500-plus ft.-lbs. The stock/factory heads can be worked to flow sufficiently to support that. The earlier heads have larger exhaust valves and the good news is these heads are bolt-ons. This is also how you raise the CR with Pontiacs. My ’76 had extremely low compression (7.6:1) and I remember doing the math once; just adding two points to the CR would have been worth 40-50 hp all by itself!

              That plus a roller cam with a profile a bit hairier than my RA III cam ought to get me over 400 hp and 500-plus ft.-lbs. which ought to be just about right!

              My car is actually light compared with the new stuff… 🙂

  9. Thanks, Eric. I’ve not seen it in NY area. Ka however is ALWAYS police.

    I don’t use any radar when going through lovely VA as I just don’t need the hassle. Brother got a $1000 ticket there a few years back. 70 mph on 81 will do fine.

    If you drop a note to my email, I’ll let you know a tale of a modern Robin Hood taking on the corrupt sheriffs of Nottingham everywhere.

  10. Directional threat indicators are Priceless! A mandatory feature of any detector I may buy in the future.

    Second, I have mixed emotions about that Mark To Mute option. Some badge boys are smart enough to set up their radar guns near some source that constantly projects on a similar frequency. They know that some motorists have marked this area to mute, and obliviously will speed right into the trap….and a ticket. Same result of course, if you ignore your detector’s warning in that area.

    Most cops will not do this much thinking. But some of them are very clever and industrious. I could write a book about some of the brilliant/devious tactics I’ve seen them employ. Have not been victimized myself, because most of my highway driving is in a relatively slow moving motorhome.

    Even with the best of detectors, you gotta be careful out there!

  11. Question: I no longer listen for K band radar. I’ve never seen a police gun using it, so I only listen for X band, Ka band, and Laser. (WAs nearly caught last week but the cop using laser wasn’t staring down from an overpass but was planted in the middle of the road. This caused laser diffusion further down the road, lit up my erector which caused me to slam on the brakes. As I passed him, he apparently caught someone else as he put down the gun to get in his car and go chase. I got off at the next exit, in any case, and got some gas. Later saw the flashing lights at the side of the road.)

    Are there any police that use straight K band still?

      • Thanks, Eric. I’ve not seen it in NY area. Ka however is ALWAYS police.

        I don’t use any radar when going through lovely VA as I just don’t need the hassle. Brother got a $1000 ticket there a few years back. 70 mph on 81 will do fine.

        If you drop a note to my email, I’ll let you know a tale of a modern Robin Hood taking on the corrupt sheriffs of Nottingham everywhere.

        • My pleasure, Thomas!

          And yes, Ka is always police. The other thing to beware of is instant on/”pop” radar. There is not much defense against this. Other than letting a sacrificial victim run point, with you following at a discrete distance. The cop will nail the guy ahead of you – and you’ll get warning from that.

          • However, with a current V1, the lead car can be quite a distance ahead, and you will still pick up the alert. So as long as some cars are passing me, I don’t worry too much about instant on. Not unless the road is mostly deserted. The key is…don’t be oblivious to brief Ka alerts that disappear right away. Doesn’t mean the threat was a false….or that it’s gone.

          • It’s for this reason I don’t speed on empty roads. If I cannot see a car (which I intend to pass) far in front of me to trip an instant-on detector, I keep it close to the limit. I have the Escort Redline which has a great range pickup for sensitivity in front of me. In NY, most roads aren’t ever empty so you’ll get a brief Ka blip that always brings a braking action from me. That hasn’t failed yet.

            • I NEVER got a ticket when traffic out there with me. i’ve seen cops go after someone in a pack when I had been the one running a great deal faster than anyone else. My baby blue, baby pickup just wasn’t the one they’d pick. When i was the only one on the road it didn’t work at all.


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