Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
TV Antennas come in many different designs
My RVs TV Antenna went bad
As an RV owner, and as one that travels in my RV for most of the year, I often need to repair or replace some part or piece of equipment on my RV.
And even though I have a lot of experience with RV equipment, when I go to a service center or shop, I must rely on their own experience and knowledge to assure that I will get the appropriate support for the task at hand.
As a paying customer in any retail establishment, I expect, as we all do, a certain level of civility and respect from the company that is charging me for their service.
Along with the civility, I expect the people providing the service to me to be knowledgeable and honest.
My recent encounter at a local RV service center drove me to write this Hub, partly for your enjoyment, and partly to provide warning to you, my fellow RVers, that you should always take what you are told by strangers with a grain of salt.
And always strive be as knowledgeable as you can about your problem before you seek a strangers help.
I damaged my external TV antenna
OK, Here's the situation.
We had been running in our RV for about 7 months, and along the way, among other things, I had done some damage to my TV antenna on the roof of my Rig.
Before we pulled out last year, I had my older TV antenna replaced with a new one. The New one had the additional attachment on the front for improving your Digital Channel signal reception.
And, the antenna really helped my reception, my wife got to watch her favorite network shows and all was good with the Universe.
Then one day, on our trip west, being tired, we stopped at a recommended campground in LaGrange Alabama.
Being a ZZTOP fan, I kind of thought it was a hoot to be staying in a town called LaGrange, not in Texas, but in Alabama.
I was playing my "air guitar" in my mind as we called the CG and were told to pull in and leave our money at the gate in an envelope. An Honor system, it seems.
Well, we pulled in and the CG was certainly unique.
For one thing, out of over 50 campsites, there were only 5 campers in the whole CG.
This kind of worried me, but then the next thing we noticed were dozens of very large banners, stretched all over the CG, even across the streets, and the entrance itself.
Reading the banners, it was obvious that we were in a theme-oriented Campground. The largest banner of all was across the Entrance and had a welcoming slogan on one side and "Thanks for Staying with Us" on the other.
This was no problems for us, it seemed to be a nice and clean cmpground, so we pulled in, hooked up and settled in for the night.
As we usually do, when on the road, we went up and showered before bed in the bath-house, then we had a nice dinner and watched a little Satellite TV.
All was well and we hit the bed and slept the sleep of the tired traveler.
The next morning, we got up about 30-minutes before daybreak, as we usually did, had a light breakfast, and by the time we had buttoned up the Rig for the road, the Sun was on the horizon.
We slowly pulled out, and then as we were exiting the gate, I heard a weird sound on the roof.
I got out, and checked and my new TV antenna, although properly cranked down, had been hooked by the now sagging banner at the entrance, and one side had been bent over to the other side.
And, there was even a tear in the bottom of the banner.
Thinking back, I realized that when we had pulled in the evening before, there was a nice wind blowing which had held the banners up and taut like a sail on a ship.
But, now, in the early morning there was no wind, and the banner had sagged down to where it had dragged across my RV roof and caught on my nice new antenna.
Having to get on the road, I left a short note, with my number, for the CG owner, and we hit the road on our continuing trip.
At our next camping stop, I cranked the now damaged antenna up, and luckily for us, it still worked.
The Digital bolt-on section, being smaller, was undamaged, and the large section that was bent was actually for the old VHF Analog channels anyway, so we continued our travels over the next months, continuing to use the oddly shaped antenna, without having to repair anything.
Again, all went well, until a few weeks ago.
We were in Orlando, and we had a really big storm hit us.
It was one of those "Spring in Florida" storms. There were blowing winds, heavy rains and thunder all accompanied by copious bolts of lightning.
We were about 15-minutes into this storm, when, yep, you guessed it, we lost TV reception of the local network channels. ALL of them.
And, of course, with such thick clouds, we lost our satellite signal as well.
Satellite came back after another 20-minutes, and but the TV network channels were gone, and did not come back on.
The next day, I went outside and I couldn't find anything wrong other than the bent section of the antenna was in even worse condition, and one of the tines on the bolt-on digital section was now totally missing.
My TV, well it worked on Cable, it worked on satellite, and I could only pick up a couple of the higher TV channels, with my now dead TV antenna.
So, I crawled into the electronics cabinet where everything is cabled for my TVs and hooked my antenna directly to my TV,
No Switch Selector box, No splitters, just straight wired to the TV.
I performed a channel scan, and ...... Nothing.
So, my assumption was that even though there might be something else wrong, in addition to my antenna, I could safely assume that my Antenna had given up the ghost.
Anyway, it was bent up pretty bad, and I had to replace it at some time anyway, so it now moved up to the top of my "Honey-Do" list.
A couple of days later, I was in Virginia, visiting family, so I went over to one of the local Mom/Pop RV Sales, Service, and Parts stores.
A Digital TV Antenna
A Mom/Pop RV parts store
So, I drove over to this local store and I walked in and asked the girl at the counter where their TV antenna "stuff" was, and she pointed me to go down a specific aisle.
I walked down the aisle slowly as I read the labels on the boxes.
Oh, and by the way, my antenna is the popular brand usually referred to as a "batwing" antenna.
It is pretty much the standard for TV over-the-air antennas used on RVs, and the design makes it a good reliable product.
I continued reading box labels and I noticed that they had the regular antenna, and that they also sold the bolt-on Adapter for improved Digital reception. My problem was that there were two boxes with the antennas in them.
One mentioned being for "HD" while the other didn't, and neither had any fine print that mentioned being a newer version for Digital reception.
So, I dutifully went up to the counter and asked the girl at the counter if these were the older model of antenna that needed the Digital converter, or was the one listed as being for HD TV actually set up for digital TV?
A logical question, I thought.
She said that she didn't know, but that she would go in back and get their "technician" to come out and talk to me.
An EXPERT Technician?
This is where everything went to downhill!
At this point, I have to digress and quote a popular old adage. It is one that I have heard my Dad use, as well as from many, many, other people and even read in books, over the years of my life.
The adage is;
IT IS BETTER TO BE QUIET, AND BE THOUGHT A FOOL!
THAN TO OPEN YOUR MOUTH, AND REMOVE ALL DOUBT.
And I was getting ready to have to deal with someone who, had never heard this sage piece of advice, or, if they had heard it, they obviously refused to heed it's message.
Anyway,in walks their expert, so to speak. A middle-aged man with a large frown on his bearded face.
I said hello, and explained my problem; the damaged antenna, the difference in the boxes and their labeling, etc.
Then it happened;
He held up his hand to stop me, and stated;
"They all pick up Digital channels."
I was a little taken aback, but I caught myself, and said;
"Of Course, they all pick up Digital channels as well as the old Analog channels, but you need a higher gain antenna designed for the new Digital channels.
And I don't want to just hook up an old Analog antenna with the Adapter, if there is a newer design available."
His frown deepened, and he said;
"I can put a pair of Rabbit Ears on my Roof and pick up Digital channels. They all pick up Digital Channels!"
I now had a deep suspicion of the type of person I was dealing with, so I calmed myself and replied;
"Of course you can, if you are close enough to the signal, then the mismatch of wavelengths for the new channels doesn't make a difference, and you will still be able to pick up the signal. But, with a properly designed antenna, you can pick up a weaker signal from a longer distance, and still enjoy good reception on your TV"
He raised that big hand of his, in my face, again, and said;
"They all pick up Digital and that one that says it is for HD, is no better than the other one, it just makes your HD picture better."
At this point, I was checking his work shirt for a name, planning to send his name in as a "escapee from the Darwin principle" and I calmly said to him;
"OK let me explain, something to you, I am a retired Electrical Engineer. I worked in antenna design for almost three years of my career,so I know a little bit about antennas, and you don't seem to under stand ..........."
At which point he interrupted me yet again with;
"First, Buddy, I don't need you to explain anything to me."
"Second, I have installed these things in hundreds of RVs and I know what I am talking about."
"Third, if you are so smart, why don't you go home and build your own antenna?"
Stunned, and shaking, I stood there as several of the smaller blood vessels in my brain exploded and I realized that I was beyond the point of; counting to 10, genuflecting, dropping into a Zen state, or any other form of self calming exercise.
But ..... with an extreme level of self-control, I just walked toward the door as I turned my head and told him and the girl at the counter that;
"I'll just drive to Roanoke to the closest profession RV parts store, with knowledgeable personnel, and get what I actually need"
My, now certifiable, Mr. Idiot then aid;
"Well they are going to have the same stuff there as we have, and you will have driven 50 miles for nothing"
I stopped at the door, I slowly turned and said, through clenched teeth;
:"Here's the trick, Mr. Expert.
You don't have a clue what you are telling people and because you don't know, you are selling the wrong things to your customers."
"And, I would rather drive 50-miles to get the right product from knowledgeable and polite people, than spend the money here and help a company that hires such an arrogant and stubborn person, stay in business."
The girl giggled and he was blustering something unintelligible as I walked out the door.
The DARWIN Principle
I know, I lost my temper.
Shouldn't have! But I did!
I am certain that Darwin's theory, of the survival-of-the-fittest, should have guaranteed that this misinformed, opinionated, "Expert" was replaced in his job long ago.
How "Mr.Expert" has survived, in his job, so long, I don't have a clue. But, in my opinion, he, being long overdue for change, should be moving on to something that he is more "qualified" to do somewhere else.
Anyway, I went the extra miles, so to speak, and drove to Roanoke.
There, I had an intelligent conversation with a knowledgeable sales rep, and I now have the proper replacement parts for my RV.
Meanwhile, be aware that there is someone working at an RV parts store out there, who closed his brain to new knowledge long ago, it seems, and is busily misdirecting unknowing customers on a regular basis.
Sigh! ..... Darwin? ..... You missed one!
How to use your RV TV Antenna
How to attach the Winegard Wingman Antenna
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 06, 2016:
Rick - I hope the extra elevation helps your reception. And, remember, often with TV signal, you can move the antenna a couple of feet and the reception can get worse or much better. This happens because of reflected waves off of not just clouds but also nearby buildings.
Rick Bendinger on September 05, 2016:
Thanks Don was going to get antenna up 15 feet using our flagpole then add the booster we are kind of in a hole and park between a football stadium and basketball arena for 3 days tailgating will see how it works and thanks again for the information on the door lock in another post
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 05, 2016:
Rick, RV antennas, typically have a booster circuit built into them, like the Winegard "Batwing". There are a few of the newer ones that have a little more "boost" in their amplifiers, but on average an antenna, RV or not is usually good for about 30-miles.
Then you get into things like; the curvature of the earth, elevations and such. At a home, you can elevate your antenna say ten feet or so, and get up "into the trees" and pick up a little stronger signal that is normally blocked by trees and hills.
But, with an RV? Well, remember, that 30-dB gain is great, but it's still "line of sight" at the frequencies being transmitted.
Rick Bendinger on September 04, 2016:
Have found most of the RV antennas just don't work that well in my rural areas I am thinking of just buying a conventional antenna along with a booster the strongest booster I have found is channel master 30db have any opinions?
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on September 04, 2014:
Keith, I will not belabor the point, but:
1-The Winegard antenna elements are "inactive" actually. The body has a circuit board inside it for electrical signal amplification like the older ones. The new ones, although operating over the same bandwidth, are of a higher amplification (thus gain) over the full UHF band, especially at the edges of the bandwidth where many of the new digital channels operate, thus allowing higher digital, or HD, signal levels at the antennas output connector.
2-Yes, the add on kit is just a set of elements and is inactive electrically, BUT it is designed to focus weak signals (or provide higher GAIN) from the direction it is pointed.
FYI- If such a design is said to provide 3dB gain, then it allows the "within bandwidth" signals into the system at a stronger level than the "out of band signals" thus giving a 3 dB "GAIN" (or amplification) of the desired signals over the actual signal "noise floor".
PS. I am a retired Electrical Engineer who spent several years working in antenna design in the communications industry.
So, Keith, even though you are partially right, please be sure of your facts before you criticize. People will always prefer a well intentioned question over a being told that they are wrong, especially if the criticism is based on inadequate knowledge of the subject.
Thanks for the read though.
Keith on September 03, 2014:
I hate to tell you this but the man was right. Digital antennas aren't special. Digital signals are on the same UHF frequencies as before. You were also wrong about the batwing...the large elements are active and the add on kit is inactive (directs signal only). You are being fooled by the ad on the box. sorry guy.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on May 07, 2012:
Thanks tvantennainstalls for the comment. Yeah, It takes all kinds to keep the world spinning, they say. But I keep running into this extreme. Oh Well!
TVantennainstalls on May 07, 2012:
My neighbor just purchased an TV antenna for their RV. He told me he is going to rig up something on the roof to where he can easily remove before each time he sets sail on the road. he has a similar story when he was shopping for his antenna too. Great article.
paulgc on March 22, 2011:
Unfortunately the world is full of folk who seem to be stagnated in a world of their own. Lets hope that one day they wake up and smell the coffee.
Thanks for another great tale.