Some Projects Are Difficult To Finish Well

Our television antenna quit. We’re not sure it ever really was much good, largely because we aren’t tv watchers. Other than looking for March Madness basketball games or ATP tennis events we don’t look for much from broadcast tv. We just didn’t realize how much less we were receiving than our neighbors.

Folks around us would report receiving dozens of television stations. Our tv would show three or four, five tops. The television antenna is well-separated from our communications antennas, which all work great. Maybe our tv is tired, wants retirement so we can get a sexy widescreen model. Or the antenna amplifier is finished, we’re just not getting signals.

picture of old antenna

Old antenna just doesn’t work

Jim tested the antenna coax line from the power switch (under the dinette) up to the antenna and found good power. Okay, the coax seems good and we’re getting power up to the antenna’s amplifier. Television works great on DVD, cablevision, and on the few broadcast stations. Must be the seven-year old Winegard directional crank-up antenna.

picture of disc antenna

disc antenna for roof mount

We left the issue alone awhile, until we arrived at the Region rally in Atlanta two weeks ago. We saw a couple trailers with the new style tv antennas. Sleek, always ready, omnidirectional, and no taller than the roof air conditioner. Pretty cool. We ordered one and it arrived at Deb’s parents’ house by the time we did.

Picture of antenna base

Removing caulk from around antenna base

Jim picked a nice cloudy day to remove the old antenna. He used a heat gun to soften the old caulk and a 2" putty knife to lift it. The caulk out of the way, he removed the bunch of screws holding down the Winegard antenna. The antenna wouldn't budge — it was securely "glued" down with caulk. Taking a bit longer with the heat gun, Jim warmed the antenna's base while scooting the putty knife under the antenna base from all sides.

Picture of antenna releasing from caulk bondGradually the antenna released from the caulk and lifted off the roof. Now we can clean up the surface.

Picture of cleaning off under the base

Cleaning caulk off roof surface

Another fifteen minutes of warming and gently scraping allowed Jim to remove all the caulk from the antenna location.

Picture of surface prep under new antenna

Preparing surface for new bond

Jim used an adhesive solvent, a scrubby pad, and a piece of terry cloth to completely clean the roof surface and prepare it for mounting another antenna and sealing with new caulk. Before we started full-timing Jim picked up three pieces of 1/16″ X 18″ X 18″ aluminum signs for possible patch pieces.

picture of new patch piece

New piece of aluminum covers old holes

He cut a piece from one of these to create a waterproof patch for the old antenna base location’s two big holes and many little ones. This will seal to the roof surface with self-leveling lap-sealant caulk and olympic rivets 1/2 inch in from the edge and at 2″ spacings. The clean piece of aluminum provides a good mounting surface for the new antenna’s base. Jim used several pop-rivets (pushed into place but not expanded) for locating the patch while laying out the new antenna’s base.

Once everything is layed out, a pencil line traced around the patch, and all the holes drilled, Jim removed the rivets and put the patch aside. A nice fat bead of the caulk 1/2″ in from the pencil line will provide a good waterproof seal for the installed patch.

Picture of control and wires

Helps to label the coax wires


Exterior installation completed, now comes the tough part! A new control plate arrived in the box with the new antenna. Jim carefully moved wires one at a time from the old control to the new one to keep them sorted out. Before attaching the control plate to the wall, Jim hooked up the television and . . . nothing happened. Something still is wrong.

Jim tried bypassing the control plate & amplifier switch. He connected the television directly to the new antenna and received twelve tv stations. He connected the antenna to the amplifier switch with a clean piece of coax cable, and the tv to the output from the control plate, and received eighteen stations. Okay, antenna, amplifier, and television all check out great.

The problem is the coax in the ceiling and wall from the antenna’s roof location to the street-side wall under the dinette. Jim is able to get an intermittent tv signal from this old coax, and the 12vdc seems constant when the amplifier switch is “on”. The coax apparently has a broken center conductor near the control plate end. Tough problem if there isn’t enough spare coax to pull and replace the last few inches.

picture of control plate

new location for amp switch control plate

Our workaround is to install the new control plate close to the antenna, in the front roof locker. This seems a great setup for our trailer for several reasons. We have 12vdc available for the radio and XM receiver, so it’s easy to connect another small load nearby. The antenna is just above this location so the lead-in coax is well under the manufacturer’s recommended max length of 10′.

The control plate includes a connection and adapter for the am/fm radio which is immediately below the control plate — handy! Finally, our number one tv location is on the curbside sofa arm. Guess where this is in relation to the new antenna control plate? Yep, just three feet below it. Shorter coaxial cable runs provide better signal strength (less loss). Our radio and television are now getting wonderful reception. WooHoo!

Temporarily Jim has installed an electrical box to house the control plate above the radio. Easy to reach, easy to connect, and looks okay. Better will be to cut in the control plate in the cabinet box beside the radio faceplate. All the wiring will reside inside the cabinet box, the control plate will not stick out anywhere. Later, later.

If everything had gone right, this project would have been great and Jim would feel like a hero. But this was difficult. The original factory coax turned out faulty, and we don’t know how to pull a new one in its place. This would have been a great project for the pros to do for us. Dan and his team at Capital City Customs know how to address these things better than we do. Their installs we saw at the Region rally are great-looking. Just have to know how to choose our projects better, eh?

Jim and Debbie
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©2013 Dreamstreamr

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5 responses to “Some Projects Are Difficult To Finish Well

  1. Richard Hunt

    Jim, you provide a great service by showing us projects we can do, and those we should not even think about attempting. This one is in the latter category. But I am confident you can get’er done!

    • Rich, We are heading to the factory in a couple of weeks, after the huge ham radio gathering in Dayton OH. I’ve temporarily routed the lead-in coax from below the ceiling, exposed, into the front roof locker. Airstream Service can hopefully get it concealed for me, above the ceiling. That will wrap this one up.

  2. Thanks for the info! Always good go read “how to fix it’s”! Great job!

  3. great information – we have no antenna on the trailer so use an external post on the front A frame of the trailer ( post is a chain link fence top rail) – would be great to get a new antenna installed on the trailer – what we have works and is cost effective – just not as handy as it could be – thanks for the post – enjoy reading them

    • Yeah Dan, cost effective is great and if your results are good then not much problem. We rarely watch the trailer’s tv while we’re driving anyway, right?

      Glad to have you reading along — Let us know what you’re up to, okay? Are you heading north yet?

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