Don’t let your cables look like this!

What you see above you is a cry for help. I snapped this picture at a friend’s house. He’s like many of you. There is a very old antenna on his roof that he’s still using. He found a place where he could reach the old flat, 300-ohm cable. He attached a drugstore balun and connected it to some unused cable company wire. That was oh, about 15 years ago.

“But, it still works!”

He still uses this setup every day to get over-the-air TV. It works for him and he never has problems receiving channels. So why should he listen to me when I tell him to change it out?

A setup like this isn’t going to work forever. It’s kind of surprising that the flat wire, which has been up for 50 years according to him, isn’t all beat up and oxidized from the heat and cold of an average year. I guess they made them better back then. That drugstore balun probably isn’t the problem. Fact is that baluns are cheap to make. Pretty much any balun is going to work for an indefinite period.

But, look at that connector! The chrome plating is obviously completely gone in a bunch of places and it’s hard to tell if that green stuff is oxidation, mold, or a combination of both! It’s a fair bet that if the outside of the connector looks like that, the inside’s in rough shape too. And, if the whole thing’s been sitting for 15 years now, how long has that old cable company wire been there? Who knows what its quality is.

In short, he’s gambling on a bunch of parts older than his kids and one day he’s going to lose.

It doesn’t stop there.

Take a look at the cable that runs power out to his internet terminal:

This thing’s pretty beat up, that’s for sure. The sun has done a major number on it, eating up the outer sheath and exposing the insulation below. Folks, there’s electricity running through that bad boy. As in, it gets wet and who knows what. I suggested he call his service provider, find out where he can email that thing. That’s scary, that’s what that is.

What can be done?

Obviously the internet terminal is someone else’s problem but he’s going to fix up those corroded connectors. I convinced him to get a brand new Televes antenna and told him we’d install it together. From there we’re going to run all new coax. The sad thing is that the cable probably won’t last another 50 years, unfortunately that’s not how things are made anymore. I have a feeling the antenna will, though. Those Televes antennas are tanks.

More importantly he’ll have another long stretch of uninterrupted good luck with his over-the-air antenna. He might even find that he gets even more channels than he thought possible, and that would be a big win for him. While we’re up there we’re also going to run a ground wire. I would have taken pictures of the way that one performed, except… there isn’t one and there never has been. He’s gotten pretty lucky there, but we’re going to ground the new antenna properly so that his luck continues.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.