NICE AND EASY: Is a “75” satellite signal good enough?

I was recently contacted by a DIRECTV customer who put up their own dish. I’ll give this person credit because they did all the aiming themselves and didn’t even have a satellite signal meter to use. (By the way, if you do this sort of thing, it’s a lot easier with a meter.)

They reached out because they were able to get all three satellites to a “75” signal level and couldn’t go any further. They asked, was this good enough? And, if it wasn’t, what could they do to improve?

75 can be good enough for some

For professional satellite installers, they don’t want to leave until they see 90s on all satellites. Sometimes that’s impossible, and the system itself will generally work even if some numbers are in the 80s. But 75? That can be a little touchy.

A 75 level will generally give you good satellite service on a sunny day. But when clouds and rain (or snow) roll in, you’re likely to lose signal. Even a strong burst of wind can knock you out of commission for a little while.

But, for example, 75 can be good enough when you’re tailgating. You’re in a temporary location on a sunny day and all you need is a signal good enough to let you get the game for a little while.

When 75 isn’t good enough

If you want better satellite signal, it’s best to start with the basics. You can feed your zip code into the receiver to get basic aiming instructions, but remember… they are just a starting point.

The basics

The first thing to make sure of is that the mast is perfectly plumb and level. This will let you make all the other adjustments more easily.

Then, the dish to the location that you find in satellite setup. Use a compass or your phone, it doesn’t matter.  Don’t tighten everything down more than finger tight, though.

You always start with the 101 satellite location. This is your “home” location and if you can dial this in, you’ll have an easier time dialing in the others. If you don’t have a meter, get a second person to watch the satellite setup screen to see how the signal is affected as you move the dish.

SLOWLY rotate the dish one direction to see if it makes a difference. If you don’t have a meter, wait at least 30 seconds to get a good reading from the receiver. If the numbers start going down, go the other way. Once you’ve dialed in pretty well, tighten those bolts up.

Then, make tiny rotations to the adjustment screw for elevation. This will move the dish up and down tiny bits. Again, without a meter wait 30 seconds between each move. When you see the numbers start to drop, turn the screw the other direction until they peak out.

Do the same for the tilt screw, this time looking at the 99 and 103 satellites. They are the only ones affected by tilt.

With this method and some time, you can usually get into the high 80s at least. If you’re new to aiming a dish, give yourself a good 4 hours to play around and don’t rush.

If you can’t get to the high 80s

This is generally due to poor dish placement. There may be something blocking the dish even if you can’t see it. This is pretty common in northern areas where the tilt of the dish places it perpendicular to the horizon. Try putting the dish up higher if you can.

In rare cases, weak cables or a defective LNB can be to blame, but it’s rare enough that you should definitely look for a better site before changing out the LNB.

And of course, when you do choose to get the accessories you need, shop at Solid Signal!

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.