Don’t short out your antenna cable on the mast. (You’re Welcome.)

I was recently working with a customer who complained about poor performance on his antenna. He got the same number of channels whether it was hooked up or not. According to our system, he should have been flush with free HDTV and he simply… wasn’t.

Had we steered him wrong?

I could sense the frustration. Here was someone who wanted to cut the cord, had bought everything we’d told him, and had no luck. I looked back and rechecked every recommendation. Our technicians had given him good advice. He should have been doing well. Yet he wasn’t. What could be happening?

We got to work on the problem

I had him change out the cable. Nothing. We even sent him a new antenna. Nothing. I was at the end of my rope and we were just talking about his installation. The antenna was feeding two TVs and he had the splitter up near the antenna. So, I thought, maybe the splitter is bad. I sent him another splitter. Nothing.

I have to tell you folks that I was beginning to get kind of irked. Oh, I wasn’t mad at the customer, I was mad at myself! This shouldn’t be that hard! There had to be something I just wasn’t seeing.

And there was.

In order to keep the installation clean, the customer was zip-tying the cable to the antenna mast. He also zip-tied the splitter, right to the mast. It took a lot of  back and forth but we found the problem. It was the cable all along. He hadn’t bought the cables from Solid Signal, but they were reasonable quality cables. Besides, over-the-air signals are less “picky” about cable than satellite or cell boosters.

I had him cut the zip ties, because I was going to send him new cable, on me. I was pretty invested at this point. And here it was where luck intervened. He’d cut the zip ties, and then had to do something else. Just as a lark, he scanned for channels again, and everything was great! Channels all over the place! And, when a little bit of wind slammed the cable and splitter against the mast, they all went away.

The problem was that the signal wasn’t going down the cable at all, it was shorting out on the mast and never going to the TVs at all. There must have been some sort of short in the cable that was letting the center conductor touch the mast. I never really did figure out how.  We solved the problem adding new cable. Just to be safe we also moved the splitter further down the line and putting it inside a waterproof box.

The moral here

The moral here is that cables and connectors are made of metal, and so are masts. The signal inside those cables is made of electrical current and current likes to travel whatever method is easiest. In this particular case it was easiest for those signals to travel down the mast instead of traveling through the cable.

So, I’ll ask you, my Solid Signal Blog faithful, have you ever had something like this happen? Have you ever shorted out an antenna on its own mast, or even just tried to help someone only to find that they did something you never would have? Leave a comment below and share your stories!

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.