Tag Archives: coax

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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Airstream maintenance fun

We’ve temporarily moved into the in-law’s house while Jim takes apart our trailer for improvements and repairs. We last painted hitch and frame three years ago, never painted the battery box, and haven’t replaced the brakes or magnets. Some of this work is a little hard to do while full-timing. This sojourn seems the perfect opportunity to get things in shape for another bunch of dreamstreaming.

This week Jim removed the L-sofa cushion support to repair a relay-controlled circuit beneath. The circuit provides power for all components of the amateur radio station at our dinette and failed a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t exactly fail, at least not by itself. Jim helped it — he “borrowed” the relay control for an experiment with our solar charge controller. He connected power from the solar panels through the relay and accidentally also powered the relay coil with 24- 40 volts dc. The relay got pretty hot about this mistreatment and wouldn’t work anymore.

Jim replaced the relay and restored the circuit to exclusively 12vdc purposes and connections. It works perfectly again. The solar charge controller is waiting its turn, and we’ll come back to that story later. The L-sofa cushion support wants a different arrangement instead of requiring removal of two dozen screws just to access the nifty wiring beneath. Jim bought materials to frame a removable panel in the plywood lid so access will be much easier.

some of the fun stuff under our L-sofa

Last fall we towed through a soft deep mud twenty miles in Arapaho National Recreation Area while trying to find a campground at picturesque Granby Lake. The campground, as it turned out, wasn’t open anyway. Worse yet, our a-frame was just hammered by rocks carried in the mud. Mysteriously the rocks flew up from our tires, swung around our way-wide Enkay Rock Tamer mudflaps, and beat holes through the paint on the a-frame.

Gorgeous Granby Lake

We might have fixed the mud flap problem, we bought Duraflaps and mounted them at the rear of the truck’s wheel wells. The rusty spots on the a-frame needed more elbow grease. Jim removed the tongue jack, gas bottles and their shelf, and guts from the quick-bite hitch. He stripped the several coats of paint from the a-frame then sanded the frame smooth.

Duraflaps might protect the trailer much better

A heavy coat of Rust-Oleum red primer went on the a-frame, coupling, and all exterior surfaces of the battery box. Light sanding smoothed the primer nicely. Jim dusted it all with a dry cloth then applied a thin coat of Rust-Oleum black enamel. Jim says he’ll sand and re-coat with the enamel finish several times. The Equal-i-zer hitch parts and jack stand are at a local shop for powder coating and we’ll get them next week.

Next up is removing the trailer’s big 6V batteries to prime and paint the battery box interior surfaces then remove the brake drums for machining and replacing the trailer’s brake sets. We need to troubleshoot the solar charge controller still to determine why it won’t automatically reset each morning. The truck’s oil needs changing. The trailer’s roof needs washing and waxing. And there are probably other things we can find to do while we’re parked. But some of these tasks will have to wait their turn.

We have more pressing things to do than just maintenance. We have ham radio antennas to hang and tennis and fitness workouts too. After all, we’re here for awhile and don’t have to get everything done in one week, do we?

We attended a fun cardio-tennis workout this morning at the local tennis club and are looking forward to, hopefully, a lot of tennis while we’re here. And Jim moved the jpole antenna from the trailer’s bumper because it wouldn’t hit the Boone 2 meter repeater, 80 miles away. Elevated thirty feet by hanging it from a nearby tree, Jim can talk to friends in Belmont, Glendale Springs, and Winston-Salem some mornings. Also Jim installed our dipole antenna between a couple of tall trees in the backyard.

The work took only an hour with help from Pop and Debbie and put the dipole thirty feet above ground. Just one small problem — it’s over fifty feet from the radios in the trailer and we’re fresh out of coaxial cable. We need 75 feet of coax to reach over and up to the antenna’s connector. We’ll find out later if the antenna location and height are sufficient for good radio work. Jim’ll just have to wait until his order for RG-213 coax arrives in a few days to find out how this installation works.

All the truck and trailer maintenance is entertaining Jim very well but he’ll get his fill soon. The work does seem to be going more quickly than usual and with surprising organization. Apparently Jim thinks he can play tennis all the time once he finishes these maintenance tasks?

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

A little work now and then

All play and no work makes Jim a dull boy. We played tennis a couple times daily in Arizona. When we weren’t playing tennis we were hiking or hanging out at the swimming pool. It just didn’t seem like there was much time for projects at Towerpoint. Lots of playing, not much working. We’re in Okeechobee FL now and Jim’s finding time and inclination to get a few projects done.

Messy bunch of wiring under the bench

So today Jim worked a little to clean up some excess coax wiring in the trailer. Yesterday he built a couple of 12″ coax jumpers for connecting antenna switches to the ham radio. Today Jim removed one of the dinette benches (the one over the wheel well and against the refrigerator chase. Since he first routed coax cables under the dinette it has been a big mess. For a while coax and power wires would slide forward and onto the floor.

That looks a lot better, no coax coils

Jim took control of the excess wires last year by coiling and tying them under the bench. Today Jim cut several feet from each of two VHF coaxes and five feet from one HF coax. Result? Not much change in signal, losses on only three feet of coax are negligible. The coils might have been doing no good, we don’t need any chokes on our antennas. Main effect is housekeeping and freeing up more scraps of coax.

An antenna switch each for HF and VHF

And, Jim installed the second antenna switch today. We bought this at Hamcation last month and waited until today with cleaning up cables routing. An antenna switch is great for alternating between two antennas without unscrewing and refastening coax to the radio.

This is particularly helpful when the radio is mounted against the underside of the table. No more sitting on his knees and trying to see and feel the coax connections — just flip the switch to #1 or #2 to alternate between the j-pole and the 1/2 wave on the trailer’s roof. This keeps things simple and clean, both great things for full-timers.

Jim and Debbie

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visit our website

©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr