To use the line from Joe Versus The Volcano, you are “away from the things of man.” You found the perfect campground outside of a populated area or a drydock location. The jacks are down, the slide-outs are out and your hoses are connected. You have completed your outdoor activities for the day, and are now ready to enjoy the solitude. Then it hits you: “isn’t the game on tonight?” What about that favorite TV show you have been following religiously?
Almost every RV on the road has a television antenna that came pre-installed. Yet, when you turn on your TV, you are getting either analog “snow” or a digital, “no signal” message. Do not worry, there are ways to get better reception on camper antennas.
Simple Reception Fixes
The majority of RVs that have antennas also have a signal amplifier built in. Either the RV manufacturer included this in the build, or they installed an antenna that comes with one. Many of the engineers that design RVs also use their products, so they know the realities of camping. RVers want their TV and they need the reception, so they plan for weak signals.
If you are having reception problems, simple solutions are to extend your antenna out and rotate it to find a better signal. Another suggestion is to find a way to relocate on top of a hill. If you are parked in a valley, you could be missing the best signal.
If all of that has been done, look for things that are blocking the signal. Metal weakens antenna signals. If there is a metal building or other metal materials around you, they can be weakening your signal. If you can not move the metal, try relocating around it.
After trying all of this, if there still is a problem with reception, you may want to consider equipment upgrades.
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Getting better reception on your camper antenna can be improved by replacing or upgrading your current equipment. Before you head to the store, take some time to crawl through your RV to identify the TV components you have. Once you have identified them, take notes and pictures of the connections in order to reconnect them with your new equipment.
Coaxial and YPbPr Cables
There are three types of cables you are probably going to find.
- Coaxial Cable: This is heavily shielded cable that will connect your receiving devices (your Antenna, Satellite or Cable TV Input) to your components. You can identify it by the hexagon screw-type connector at each end of the cable. There are different gauges (sizes) of wire and there have been many improvements of the wire throughout the years. They can degrade so it may be time to replace the wire with newer cables.
- YPbPr Cable: This type of wire can be identified by the three to five different color-coated connectors on the end of the cable. They are generally thinner than the coaxial cable and are slowly phasing out for other types of cable. You can still find the cables online or at an electronics store.
In a three-prong setup, two of them are for the video and one is for the audio. For additional audio components like sound bars or surround sound, they can use the five-prong cables. Two for video and three for audio. If you are going to replace them, make sure you know which color goes to which connection on your component. Usually, your components have the receiving port color coated, but the cable you buy may not have the same color scheme as your component. Taking a picture of how the old cables are plugged in is always a great idea.
- HDMI Cable: HDMI cables are relatively new compared to the other two. They are capable of transferring HD and 4K signals to your television and other components. Many of the new flat screen TVs are now using these cables and may not have coaxial or YPbPr connections. If so, this could become more expensive in that you will have to upgrade other components to versions that have HDMI connections.
This cable comes in many different connector ends. One end may be smaller than the other to connect into specific devices. For example, a cable that is designed to connect from a portable device like a tablet to a television. Also, manufacturers like to make the connection unique to their devices. Apple does this a lot. Before you buy your HDMI cable, make sure you know what you are connecting too and its connector requirements.
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Winegard is the company many RV manufacturers use for TV reception devices. They are the leader in this industry and have antenna equipment for all types of signals. If you do a quick internet search, you will see their products pop up in the top results.
Your pre-installed antenna on the top of your roof may need to be replaced. Older RVs have analog TV antennas. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), broadcast companies and their affiliates that transmit over the air will complete a signal change to an HD signal by mid-2020. The FCC made this decision to open up airwave signals.
For you, this means that by June or July 2020, your old analog antenna will not longer receive TV signals. You may want to upgrade to an HD antenna. They come in various versions. Some are still directional, and others like the Winegard MetroStar Amplified Digital Antenna are multi-directional. This means that you will never have to aim your antenna again since it receives signals from all directions.
When shopping for a new antenna, you will want to look at their specifications. A big one would be their mileage range. Some can pick up signals from 30-40 miles away, while others can go as far as 60- 70 miles away. If you usually stay at campgounds that are closer to the city, this may not be a problem. For those that like to drydock or stay remotely, the 60-70 mile range antenna may be better for you.
Signal Boosters and Amplifiers
This device will create a stronger signal by increasing the signal received. They can be helpful to your antenna to give you a wider range from the transmitting antenna. They usually attach with coaxial cabling between your antenna and television like the Winegard HDA-200 TV Distribution Amplifier.
- Single Rf Input
- 24db Gain
- Single Rf Output With A 5mhz-42mhz, 2-way Bi-pass At +12db Gain
- Amplifies signals from 54-1000 MHz.
- 20 dB selectable FM trap
The way they work is to take a weak signal and enhance it. As long as you can get any time of signal, no matter how weak, they can boost the signal as if you were close to the transmission antenna. They vary in range by how powerful they are. We would recommend the most powerful ones for the remote campers. Those that stay close to populated areas can save money with the lower powered amplifiers.
Signal Finder, Strength Meters and Websites
Once you are set up, there are websites to help you find what television stations are available in the area. Websites like The FCC Reception Map and The Winegard Signal Finder App will show you all of the stations, their signal strength, and their affiliate network. Once you run your TV channel scan, you will know which channel your favorite show or game is on.
Strength meters are devices you can get to measure the TV, satellite or cellular signal in the area you are in. They come in many different versions based on how detailed and which signals you want to see.
Alternatives to TV Antennas
Getting better reception on your camper antenna is possible with simple changes and upgrading your equipment. If you decide to upgrade your equipment, make sure you map out all of your components and wires before you start tearing everything apart. The designers of your RV are always concerned with finding space, so you can be working in very tight spaces. When in doubt, always seek assistance from your RV technician expert. They have the right tools and equipment to make sure everything works correctly.
An alternative to your antenna is a satellite dish. DirectTV and Dish Network have made a name for themselves in the RV community. They have Installable or external satellite dishes that are specifically designed for RV travel. The installable dishes are fitted on your roof and usually multi-directional. For the external dishes, they sit on tripods outside your RV. There are apps and websites to help you find your directional coordinates. Also, you can call your network provider and they can assist you with aiming your dish correctly.
Data and Cellular Boosters
If you want to completely “cut the cord,” streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime can be used via cellular service. Using a Chromecast, Amazon Fire stick or Roku device can stream your TV shows.
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If you decide to go this route, there are cellular signal boosters like WeBoost and Winegard ConnecT devices that can give you the best connections in some of the most remote areas. Your cell phone provider may also have cell signal booster devices as well.
Charles Joseph is one of the original authors of Camper Smarts from when it first started.
Product data was last updated on 2023-02-04 at 20:20.