FROM THE FRONT LINES: Should you trust or your receiver?

So when you’re aiming a dish, you can go to and get a pretty good idea of where to aim by choosing the 101 satellite for DIRECTV or one of the correct satellites for DISH (depending on if you’re on Eastern or Western Arc). Or you can look at your receiver’s menu and generally get dish pointing information there. Sometimes the two are way off. In the case of one customer, there was a 20 degree difference between the two.

So which is right? seems to use math to figure out pointing instructions from any precise location, where the receivers themselves use a lookup table based on ZIP code. In some cases, both are way off, but in general, they give you a good set of numbers to start with.

To start with.
Unless you’re doing a super-temporary installation, you should always fine-tune the dish aiming based on what you’re actually getting for readings. Computers make mistakes, typos happen and there’s no guarantee that an aim “by the numbers” is going to work. It’s just a starting point and you should almost always try small adjustments to get better signal, even if you have what looks like pretty good signal.

You can use the built-in meters on the receiver, but the professionals use standalone signal meters for a reason. They react faster, and can be carried in the hand so that there’s no reason to keep going inside and looking at the TV. They also give real measurements in dBm, while DIRECTV receivers give you this sort of percentage number that seems to correspond to the inverse of the bit error rate, which is supposed to be a good measurement tool but it’s not going to help you find a satellite as easily as a real measurement in dBm.

Our tech told that customer that since the numbers didn’t match, he should choose whichever one he felt comfortable with and then start rotating the dish until he got a good signal. That’s the one sure fire way to get a good aim. Websites and receiver databases will only get you so far.

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 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.