This Ask Dave question about Dish Network came in the version of a phone call rather than an email from a friend of mine who has a 2016 Itasca Meridian. We worked together at Winnebago for many years, and he and his wife sold everything a couple years ago and are full timing.
Last summer I got a call from Winegard asking if I would be able to swap out the Traveler Satellite antenna on his rig from a DirecTV® to a Dish® Wally HD Receiver. Normally that would be a fairly easy swap except for two things.
Two issues with swap
The first issue was there was no ladder on the back of the Meridian, and the rig was at the Grand National Rally and could not be moved. The owner had borrowed one of those telescoping ladders, but it was too small and had to be placed in the back of my pickup for me to get on the roof! I did not allow photos as I did not want people to think I was that ignorant! I have many more examples, but not documented.
The second issue was the rat’s nest of cables, CAT 5, and other junk in the entertainment access above the entrance door.
To be fair, this is after taking off the two panel covers. The left one you can see hanging down, which has the SensarPro wallplate for the existing Rayzar Over The Air (OTA) antenna and two lower switches for an accent and valance shade that have nothing to do with the entertainment system.
On the right side of the compartment is the command center for all things entertaining. And again, to be fair, we pulled a few things out such as the portable hard drive hanging down and the Dish OTA Adapter, also hanging down, so it did not look this messed up originally. However, The HDMI 4X4 Matrix on the top does not seem to do anything with feeds.
Replaced DirectTV with Wally
We replaced the DirecTV receiver with the Wally and it would not get a signal. The next day one of the Dish technicians came out and discovered that DirecTV uses a proprietary booster that was tucked inside this rat’s nest that interferers with the Dish. Once it was removed, the system worked as designed.
Now what’s wrong?
I got a text from my friend early in the morning after the first of the year, stating he has no OTA signals from local TV. He was getting local AZ channels through a Dish Promotion and was now in a different location and could not get local channels from the Rayzar antenna on his roof. I gave him a few suggestions to try but, being remote, we would need to troubleshoot hands-on since he was not going to get up on the roof and use a multimeter. We thought that something had been disconnected in the removal of the boosters and cable swapping during the Dish retro.
The unit landed in North Iowa this week and, naturally, temperatures dropped to below freezing with a few snow flurries. However, I could still go to the unit and test some of the connections in the rat’s nest without needing to climb up on the roof with 40-50 mph winds.
The first thing we verified was the cable from the antenna was connected to the SensarPro, that is also a booster, and the cable out was connected to the splitter. However, the signal strength was only 26 no matter what direction we turned the Rayzar Antenna. The installation manual stated that we would need at least 40 to receive a signal. So I disconnected the cable from the splitter and plugged it into the Dish USB OTA adapter and plugged it into the back of the Wally. The menu on the Dish programming recognized an OTA antenna and asked for a channel scan. We ran the scan and found 0 channels in all four directions. We still only had a signal strength of 26.
At this point we needed to find out if it was an antenna issue, cable going to the booster, or downstream. This could be done on the roof by using a multi-meter to verify 12-volt power at the coax, or using a cable sensor connected to the coax at the antenna and verifying continuity at the booster. Both of these required removal of the Rayzar, as the coax is underneath the base. The owner decided to purchase the Winegard 360+ to upgrade and not have to search for towers every time he pulled into a new location.
Up on the roof
The next day was minimal wind and 65 degrees, so I crawled up on the roof, removed the Rayzar, and we did a simulated bench test of the new antenna by connecting the cable and just setting it on the roof.
We got a 48 signal strength, so that verified the Air 360+ was a better antenna. When we did a channel search we found 9 local channels. So that verified the booster was working and all the cable and connections were good and the old Rayzar was the issue.
We disconnected the 25’ coax we had used as a jumper and bought a 12” coax, as the coax in the roof was too short to connect to the Air 360+, and finished the installation.
Nice part about the Dish Wally
The nice part about the Dish Wally is we can connect the OTA antenna and do a channel search, and it will bring in all the local stations on the same guide as the satellite stations. No toggling back and forth with TV inputs. However, now all the OTA stations did not have a signal. What happened between the test and the final install? Was the new cable bad or not connected properly? We still had a signal strength of 48 on the booster. We reset the Wally, pulled the panels back off, and checked all the connections. The coax cable connected to the cable out of the booster was slightly loose. After tightening it and resetting the Wally, we were able to find 15 local channels and everything worked. Have I mentioned?… I really hate RV Gremlins.
We did fill the hole with insulation, applied a patch of EternaBond over the holes, and high-grade construction silicone all around the base. He will have some lap sealant applied at Customer Service this week.
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Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
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I should have been able to hear the underbreath mutters from here Dave!
We have a Dish Playmaker that we set up at most stops. I’ve never even tried to receive OTA signals.
That was a heck of an effort. I’ve been all over the country with a antique Dish 211Z, a Winegard 2X and 2 sections of coax totaling 75 feet. The coax allows to set the Winegard to be set out from underneath a tree canopy. Something a roof mounted dish can’t do. You can determine a location using any phone app that will show you the treeline and the location of the satellites in the sky at the same time. Find the gap in the tree line that allows the dish to see the satellites directly. You have to consider the dish’s line of sight not yours. Use the minimum length of cable to reach your RV. It may take a little trial and error but once I set up I call Dish and let them know my new location and that I want the locals which are in my subscription.