Help with Tacklife MTR01 Walkie Talkies

Hello - I’m an elementary school teacher in charge of Safety Patrol. Last school year (Sept. 2019) I purchased 12 walkie talkies from Amazon built by Tacklife (model MTR01). Some of the batteries and chargers have started to malfunction. I’ve contacted Tacklife support, and they no longer make the radios, nor do they have any replacement batteries or chargers. They have agreed to refund a portion of the money since they can’t really help me.

I want to be able to add another brand of radios that would be compatible with the Tacklife ones I already have. The Tacklife manual does not list the specific channels/frequencies. Currently, I bought a basic brand of 2 simple radios and just tried to find a common channel, but no luck. I have ordered a generic k programming cable to see if I can get better information about the Tacklife radio specifics so I can perhaps buy a compatible brand that doesn’t take a tech genius to reprogram to match - that’s not me!!

I want whatever radios I add to remain “simple” - 5th & 6th graders love to mess around with them, so I want to limit what they can change - channel, volume - that’s it! I understand that a channel on one brand of walkie talkie may be named a different channel on the Tacklife ones. I kind of understand CTCSS and DCS and know that I may need to disable this in order for the different brands to work together. Other than the very basics, my knowledge is limited.

I just need the radios to work, and unfortunately, I don’t think the PTA is going to want to buy me a whole new “set” since they just did last year. Any help or advice would be appreciated!

Sadly, unless you can obtain a programming cable that works, plus the proprietary software to read the frequencies and modify them to public channels, your radios are not only useless but illegal. Even if you could find a way to program them to FRS frequencies, and you are in the U.S. or Canada, they are still illegal as they are not Part 95 approved for this. I think the PTA should be informed that, sorry, they were the wrong purchase and they are transmitting illegally. They are also potentially interfering with licenced users and if one of their pre-programmed channels happens to hit the same as a local public service channel, you may even be interfering with life-saving operations. The PTA should know that schools and school districts have received huge fines in the past from the FCC for this.

I know this is not what you want to hear right now, but that is the truth. You should have consulted a legitimate radio supplier who could have guided you in the right direction. Those no-name-brand radios are pre-programmed to random channels that are NOT public channels. (This is why you can’t find any matching channels on your new radios.) The marketing information on Amazon about them is absolutely and completely false. (That’s why they are no longer available. They cannot even be legally shipped into the U.S. anymore.)

Quite frankly, if I was a parent at your school and I heard that cheap and illegal radios were being used in situations that may be important to the health of children, I would freak. And if I found out they were also potentially interfering with public service channels, and that the FCC may investigate and fine the school, I would not be happy.

PLEASE contact our forum hosts for much better guidance on what is both legal and reliable, and you can get proper accessories. Again, I know this is not what you want to hear, but you should trash those radios. If you are in the U.S. or Canada, they can get you in a lot of trouble, as well as not working properly when you need them for safety reasons.

EDIT
I just did some research and the Wouxun KG-805F is an excellent, professional-grade radio that uses public FRS channels. (No licence is needed.) I have used Wouxun for years, and they are one of the best of the Chinese-made radios. They can be programmed for simple operation - channel and volume. They are not cheap, bubble-pack radios that you can get at big-box stores, and are sold (and highly recommended) by our forum hosts. If I were you, I would get a half dozen or so of the Wouxun FRS radios for teachers and then a dozen cheaper FRS consumer-grade radios for the students. They will not last as long or are as durable as the Wouxuns, but as long as you can live with having to replace half of them every few years, they are fine for students.

Decent radios like these also freely publish the frequencies of their channels. Although there is some variation between brands, once you know the frequencies, you can match them easily without needing any computer programming. You could also program the privacy codes from the radio too. (Privacy codes are not “private” however; they use the same FRS frequencies as everyone else. They just won’t pick up the transmission from another close-by radio unless it has the same code. But radios programmed without codes can still listen to every conversation that is in range.)

In the UK we also have specific legislation that relates to data protection and of course child protection. Radios that anyone can listen into are not going to keep people happy. I’ve even tried to speak to the heads of a couple of local schools about their radios, but they simply don’t get it - but did get very angry I knew things I shouldn’t. You get things like Jane Smith has to go home early as her mother will be out from 3.30 and has left the keys under the plant pot around the back - then the other teacher would say where does she live and they’d tell them! Clearly that’s a breach of our data protection laws, as she could get burgled and the school gave out the info publicly on the radio - but of course, the child has been revealed as being on her own at home because mum had to go out. That’s pretty unacceptable. It also reveals to the public some of the things schools would keep secret.

Thank you for all the information. It was helpful, informative, and delivered in a kind and respectful way - definitely the way I’m teaching students to communicate with others!

Please rest assured that these radios are NOT used to communicate any student information or names. They are simply to call me and the other teacher on duty if there is an emergency at their SP post because some of the posts are out of our view (a fight between students, kids not obeying SP, kids fooling around by the street, or God forbid, a car accident). Some examples: “We have some kids having a snowball fight” or “I have a young student in a purple coat that just ran across the street, even though I said to walk” - my response is “if you know the snow ballers’ names, tell me when you come in” and “I’ll be on the lookout for the young purple coat student and have a conversation with him/her when they get to the school.”

Our teachers have a completely different set of walkie talkies supplied by the district (also for emergencies and contacting teachers when out on the playground), but student names are only used to have them come to the office - absolutely no other information about why they need the student to come is transmitted. I assume that these (much higher end) walkie talkies have the appropriate licenses and/or channels since they are district issued, but you are making me wonder!

It concerns me greatly that these silly SP radios may interfere with community emergency channels or are illegal. We have not “heard” any other transmissions other than our students confirming that all is fine at their patrol station, but I certainly never intended to purchase illegal radios or radios that would interfere with any emergency operations.

So, what ARE the FRS channels/frequencies that DON’T require a license? I realize that these channels would still not be “private” but as I stated above, no student information is ever transmitted. If a patroller has a problem with students, they report the problem so I can determine if I need to get to that location, but names are not shared with me until the patroller comes back to the school - then I deal with the offenders.

So, just to be clear, even kids’ radios, like Spiderman, Frozen Princesses, GI Joe, etc. that are sold by Wal-Mart, Target, and other similar stores are illegal? I’m very disappointed that vendors are even allowed to offer illegal radios for sale on Amazon or in stores (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, etc.).

You’ve given me a lot to think about. My main goal was (and is) to keep my patrollers safe and give them a quick way to call an adult to come help if needed. At my previous school, I could see all SP posts, and it makes me nervous that some of these posts are out of my line of sight. We are deep in the back of a pretty affluent, “safe” neighborhood, and most parents are very consciousness about kids crossing the street on the way to and from school, but I feel better that the kids can contact me immediately if they feel the need to. They all have cell phones, but I’m reluctant to switch to “text me” as they may spend more time on their phones than watching out for safety ; -) !

Note: I’ve also had law enforcement out to monitor traffic and for me to report a couple of drivers that were a little reckless. They saw that we were using the walkie talkies and didn’t say anything about them being illegal, but perhaps they didn’t know?

Okay, great. Sounds like you folks have a very intelligent system and are very conscious of the nature of public and private two-way radio channels. I absolutely agree with you on the advantage of instant communication with two-way radios, instead of with their heads down, texting. Another factor few schools think about is the optics of professionalism with good two-way radios. Plus, kids learn some basic two-way radio skills that will be important later in many occupations. (Two-way radios are not going away, even with everyone in the world having cell phones.)

The reason the current radios you have are illegal is because they are programmed to random business channels, not the Family Radio Service (FRS) channels that they should be programmed to. Plus, even if they were programmed to those FRS channels, they are still not approved for that operation. FRS is designed to be a shared, short-range radio system that utilizes inexpensive radios with fixed antennas and low power. This way, they can get millions of users across the country using the same 22 frequencies, and little chance of interference because - unless you are at Walt Disney World or something like that - they only communicate within a block or two.

This is also why those radios you see at the toy stores and big-box retailers are legal. You will notice they are all very low power (under 2 watts) and have fixed antennas.

Here are the actual frequencies, just in case you ever manage to find a programming cable and software for those Tacklife radios:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_Radio_Service

Here is some information you may find interesting. While FRS radios are licence-free and must be 2-watts of radiated power or less, and GMRS radios can be much higher power and have detachable antennas (and require a licence in the U.S.), in actual use, output power is not directly related to range. 5 watts of a GMRS handheld does not give you significantly more range than 2-watts of an FRS radio. Internal construction quality and antenna height are probably more important than outright power. This is why a good 2-watt FRS radio (such as the Wouxun I mentioned) can be virtually as good as an average 5-watt GMRS handheld … plus of course, being much more durable.

From what you describe, I think FRS is the way to go for you. Yes, it’s not private but it sounds like you are all using them responsibly, and for their intended purpose.

If you ever get hold of the programming software and a programming cable that works, read the frequencies on the Tacklife radios, and compare them to the FRS ones I linked to. You will see they don’t match. Yes, thousands of users have taken amateur or business radios and programmed them to the FRS frequencies, and there is little chance anyone would ever know, but they are still not approved for that use.

Maybe start with those two new ones you have, and add some good quality FRS radios. Again, our forum hosts have a wide range of FRS radios, and if you can’t afford those business-class Wouxun radios, you can at least get some name brand radios that are reasonably durable (and many are water-resistant too.)

Personally, I wouldn’t ethically sell those Tacklife radios to anyone else unless they can be programmed away from those frequencies, but I suppose that is one option for you. Incidentally, Tacklife is not a manufacturer. They are a branding company who source cheap products that they can widely advertise. For example, their “tactical” line of flashlights is laughable. (I train SWAT teams for part of what my wife laughingly refers to as “a living” so I know radios, flashlights and a couple of other things too.)

I’d agree with the lot previously given, guidance and observations wise.

Wouxun do pretty decent, by cheap radio standards, items and overall are of a good general purpose quality. They ain’t gonna win no friends amongst those who don’t recognise that not every radio user has money to burn, but for those who actually use their gear, the W products are fine by my reckoning where you want easily replaceable (if accident damaged or lost) and especially if looking at buying on bulk use/group use scale.

I won’t elaborate on radio services options and gear to suit, as that’s been pretty much covered - but definitely give the ops of site (Buy Two Way Radio) a shout and get their input, as good radio dealers are always interested in bulk/quantity sales and often maybe even have unlisted bundles or packages or have the means to offer a good value bulk buy.

You won’t see much bulk buy discount on Wouxun stuff, as they are pretty much as cheap as anyone who actually offers backup/after sales service will be priced at. But you may find bundles offered where some accessories handy per set are a bit cheaper than listed. They’ll probably suggest the multi-slot charger unit as an accessory, and in terms of what you’d want as an essential, being able to bulk charge radios would make sense in my mind.

But please buy, wherever your new stuff comes from, certified stuff you can license and use guilt-free. It just makes sense, and helps ensure you’ll be able to get guidance on here if you’re looking at legally license able options.

As far as 2W vs 5W output radios go, regardless of which radio service you use, there’s indeed little to gain for an extra 3 watts on handheld gear as the usually poor inbuilt/fixed antennas ensures you’ll only be making up for the inefficiency of the antennas where fixed and you go for higher power stuff. In many cases of relatively short range at VHF/UHF, 2-5 watt extremes are adequate, if you think to err on the side of caution, the higher power GMRS spec stuff may be useful somewhere down the line but usually not the case for basically urban use.

My ham radios, the handheld VHF/UHF stuff, rarely get used above 2W unless I’m trying to access a distant repeater and I live well below the line of surrounding hills at home and where I roamed pre-lockdown. But I did have the means to use more efficient antennas than were supplied from factory, which is one advantage of higher cost (to license) service oriented equipment. But for most folks, any good quality (even if cheaply priced) budget restricted power gear will be fine enough.

Digital mode radios are worth considering if budget for a bulk buy permits such consideration as they can have (radio service permitting) some group privacy features enabled and generally can be more consistent comms quality. They also can be more battery efficient.

But since the cheaper licensable digitals probably go out of your budget, Wouxun analogue FM stuff will be OK and worth having.

Maybe the way I need to go is to just buy enough of the Wal-Mart type license free, cheap, radios that I know won’t be trouble. I would also be able to replace as needed. This is taking a lot of time, research, & education, and SP is just a small part of my job. I want to be legal and ethical, but I also just need to solve this problem and move on to my other responsibilities.

LOL. Brother, you are over-thinking this. FRS is the way to go. Simply go to our forum host’s website, click on FRS and choose the one that you think will do the job and matches your budget. Call buytwowayradios if you need more information. They are VERY knowledgeable folks and would be glad to recommend radios at every price point.

Let us know which ones you chose, and we are always here if you need more help matching channels etc. If there are not a lot of GMRS or FRS radios in your area, you don’t need to worry about privacy codes. Keep it simple. Let us know how you make out; you have a million more important things in your job to worry about. You are now on the right track. Just click Buy Now. :slight_smile:

Without wanting to sound like a radio snob, I definitely wouldn’t just go buy a batch of cheap ‘supermarket/shopping mall’ fare type sets, unless you’re talking the mainstream pricey stuff like Motorola, and quite frankly consumer grade Motorola stuff is overpriced for what it is.

The only shopping mall outlet radios I ever used which were robust, cheap n cheerful but solid were some PMR446 Cobra branded Uniden sets, but they were themselves ■■■■ compared to the ancient 49mhz units I’ve still got from back in the late 70s - ■■■■, even the oldies had better battery running time for the same effective spec at 49mhz less ‘selective calling/tone access squelch’ which no consumer radios had and were rare on commercial sets.

If you can find a prepacked bulk pack, which will be rare (or are in the UK at least) off the shelf at a mall outlet, consider them as effectively toy grade disposable grade - unless you’re talking high end consumer examples which probably won’t be stocked at Wal-Mart or such places.

At least with the commercial ‘professional’ market budget stuff like Wouxun gear, you’re buying into FRS/GMRS gear which will have, as should most worthy FRS/GMRS (PMR446 being the UK equiv) market gear, radios based on solid tested radio circuitry which even at the lowest rung, will be much better a grade than mall outlet bubble-pack stuff.

Where you may want accessories and want to shop around for those, you can get Wouxun accessories easily and cheaply.

To put it simply, radios of a Wouxun grade+ are for FM like the cheapest certified DMR radios in analogue mode in the UK and EU - commercial grade and actually meet some standards. Your average mall-outlet radios are pretty much the modern equiv of old two-channel CB radios - worlds apart in build and design, and it ain’t the mall outlet ones that are the good stuff.

I’m not anti-‘bubble pack’ radio, just respect that they are not particularly great and more the stuff you use when if you lose them you actually don’t care much about. My ancient 49mhz units I still cherish were bubble pack items, but given how long they have lasted, the then (in context that I was a kid then) £10 pair were platinum grade reliable whilst not looking like kids stuff and really paid for themselves the one time they gave me an essential lifeline to someone who could call the emergency services when I got badly injured hill climbing around cliffs (this predated when we got legal CB in the UK mind). I think those old Maxons are still made, or can be found as NOS.

I wouldn’t buy radio gear with a shopping for groceries ‘grab the cheapest off the shelf convenience’ option - that’s a good way to waste money on what is low grade fit for toy use.

I agree with you … which is why I suggested he go on buytwowayradios to select the best one that meets his needs and at the price point he can afford. They do not sell “toys.” They sell two-way radios at several quality and price levels, with a variety of features. Regardless of the brand, cost or features, they will all work together, on the same 22 FRS channels. We are making this WAY too complicated.

The Wouxuns are nice, but he wants inexpensive radios that kids can use, and maybe drop, soak or leave behind in a snow bank some day. His needs are pretty simple, and range is around the corner of the schoolyard, not blocks away.

Yes, there are times for good radios that will last for years. But there are also times that one can just say, “Get the best inexpensive FRS radio that you can afford from a legitimate radio dealer. They will work just fine. Kids will learn some basic radio skills, and no one will cry if one gets broken or lost some day. Sure, they will not last more than a year or two at best, but they are simple, cheap and who cares if no one can fix them. You just buy another. Plus, they will work with the pair of new ones he already has.”

It’s a bunch of School Patrol kids, not radios for teachers to use during an emergency lock-down. (They already have those.) I am sure the OP has enough other things to worry about.

Actually, since the OP really wanted a quick win consequences free fix to the original gear problem and was/is inclined to go buy BP mall outlet gear of equally minefield quality rather than pursue a lost cause or tackle a solution that wouldn’t be yet more incinerated money wasted, a ‘I’m dropping the query, just gonna get cheapies from the mall’ response and dropping the matter would have avoided the subject getting complicated entirely.

■■■■, I’m sure if there was any real motivation then someone in the school or a local volunteer could have rebuilt the battery packs and/or retrofitted/repaired the chargers for peanuts cost (in the legit to use scenario).

LOL. I suppose you are not familiar with Tacklife products.

They are made cheap and disposable. Even if someone could rebuild the battery packs and fix the chargers - which is highly unlikely - the cost would easily exceed the price of a pair of new Wouxuns. Plus, not sure if you bothered to read any of my posts, but even if they could be fixed, they are still illegal and broadcasting on random business channels that the school is not licenced to use.

This topic does not need lengthy explanations. Our forum hosts do not sell “toy” radios, and I have mentioned several times the advantages of going to a legitimate radio dealer. As far as inexpensive consumer-grade radios that multiple kids can use (and possibly lose) and will transmit around the corner of a school yard, then FRS is the only way to go.

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Thank you for all the input. I bought a set of 12 MIDLAND LXT500VP3 recommended by Buy Two Way Radios. I’m not even going to mess with the old set and just trash them. I’m glad I found this forum to ask questions and become more educated about two-way radios.

Nice! Midland uses the same channel numbering as Motorola and Cobra, so they should match with your other two. Plus, they publish the actual frequencies in the manual in case you need to match to a totally different brand radio. I got some Midland radios for my family when they were younger, and they sounded really good, even in comparison to a higher-end Motorola. Let us know if we can help further.