Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today he discusses radio reception in an RV.
I have an Outback trailer that has very poor AM reception. I have checked the cables and antenna but nothing seems to help. Is the radio poor quality? Should I look to replace it with a better quality radio? FM reception is a little better, but I like AM to listen to baseball, hockey and football games. Any suggestions? —Jim
Usually the quality of the antenna is more important for reception than the radio, and most RV manufacturers use the cheapest antenna available. Or they use an antenna that is designed for superior FM reception as they feel nobody listens to AM anymore. I am not familiar with the Outback in this regard; however, I would assume the antenna is up on the roof. There are several AM specific antennas available that have a coil design that advertise a better signal. I have not tried them, but the reviews do look good.
Antenna placement on RVs
Over the years I have found that some of the antennas mounted to the fiberglass front cap have poor reception as they are not grounded well enough. I know that Winnebago developed a harness that brought a ground wire off the antenna wire inside the cab to ground to the frame back in the day. Also, some manufacturers placed the antenna on the side of the rig mounted into the “A” pillar or internal metal framework of the sidewall to provide a ground. I would start by looking at a better antenna which you could connect to the cable on top and see if it helps. Try mounting it temporarily to an awning rail or other metal base. If it doesn’t work better, take it back.
This photo is the radio antenna on a 2017 Keystone Raptor 5th Wheel Toy Hauler we worked on. You can see the “whip” part of the antenna is gone. This type of antenna has been used as it extends higher than the traditional rubber antennas and the spring at the bottom allows it to bend back and forth in low clearance situations. The issue is … this is not a good antenna, even with the top part attached!
A portable antenna would be best
A better option is the rubber molded models that can be mounted at the top or on the side. However, if it is mounted to the side, it might not have good reception if the signal tower is on the other side of the rig. The best results would be to have a portable antenna that you could move to a desired location wherever you camp. Some AM radio stations go to low power at night or even switch signal towers. To find the best direction for the station you want, go to www.radio-locator.com and punch in your zip code.
Other options for radio reception
You do have other options for radio reception such as satellite subscriptions like SiriusXM, Dish Network, DIRECTV, and others. If you have access to Wi-Fi from either the campsite or a hotspot, chances are the AM station you are looking for has a website and you could get access through that.
Read more from Dave here.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR DAVE?
We have started a new forum link for Ask Dave. Please be as brief as possible. Attach a photo or two if it might help Dave with his response. Click to visit Dave’s forum. Or send your inquiries to him using the form below.
My most recent purchase, a new truck has a nearly useless AM radio. Why? Blame this on the FCC. It has completely abandoned its job of maintaining the quality and usefulness of the AM band. It no longer has the interest, knowledge, skills or budget to ensure broadcasters follow technical standards; that AM radio manufacturers produce quality receivers, and worst of all, it no longer uses real world testing to verify electronic device makers’ self certifications that they don’t cause interference.
Try to contact someone in your local amateur radio club. Antennas are tricky. The cabling from the installed antenna may be damaged while installing. AM is tough anymore. Static or noise is everywhere.
Is the poor reception just as bad in the radio in your tow vehicle? It may be your current location. In the evening hours, AM radio suffers greatly.
I don’t listen to AM radio anymore, but do listen to many of my games and races over SXM on my phone. Another option is the website Radio.Garden which gives you worldwide stations that cover all formats. It’s interesting to listen to music (or commercials) from India, Lebanon or Finland. Might be able to pick up games on certain stations in different markets.
Since we move about often I do not rely on OTA (Over The Air) broadcast. I use the data on my phone to stream most any radio station I choose and then use BlueTooth either to the coach radio or to my headset (hearing aids in my case). That actually opens up a world of choices since I can listen to a Rochester NY station while in SoCal, of course the time zone change then becomes an isue.
We got great AM reception in our old 1997 Nash. When we bought our 2012 Arctic Fox, that was the end of AM reception, even being only 30 miles from the local 50,000 watt “flamethrower”. We’ve been through three radios since then and none of them give anywhere near acceptable AM reception. My solution? I carry a good portable radio that gets great AM reception – for my fave talk radio broadcasts.