Will Bent Antenna Elements Affect Your Reception?

A lot of folks, myself included, rely on antennas that are as old as we are or older. If you bought a home built before 1990, it probably has a TV antenna on the roof and it’s probably in fairly good shape. Back then, antennas were built for a 50-year lifespan and there are plenty of them out there that beat even that 50-year goal. You don’t live 50 years without a few bumps and bruises, though, so it’s possible the antenna on your roof has a few bent elements. How big of a deal is this?

Depending on where the bends are, it could be no deal at all. If you have an old antenna on your roof, it’s probably a VHF/UHF model designed to pick up channels 2-83. Today, we only use channels 7-51, fewer in some markets. (There are three markets that still use channels 2-6, but that’s not the point of this article.) So if the damage to your antenna is in the part that picks up channels you don’t need, there’s no problem.

How do you know?

Use a resource like Antennaweb to start. By feeding in your ZIP code, you can get the actual broadcast channels used by your local TV stations. Note that they’re probably different than the channel numbers you use — your channel 4 could be on RF channel 43. It’s the RF channel you’ll need to look at. Take note of what all of them are. There’s a good possibility that they are all over 14, meaning the VHF part of your antenna isn’t doing anything for you at all.

If your channels are all UHF, that means the entire antenna behind the reflector isn’t being used. Let me explain what I mean. Take a look at this image:


The two bars that stick up and down diagonally are the reflector. Everything to the right of it is the UHF portion of the antenna, while everything to the left is the VHF part. If you look at your antenna, the diagonal parts should sort of come together to form an arrow where the diagonal parts meet… everything past the point of that arrow is VHF. It’s also where there’s most likely to be damage to the elements. So there’s a very good chance you don’t need to worry about a thing.

What if you do have VHF channels?

Even if you do have one or two VHF channels, you still don’t need to worry much. It’s the larger elements that tend to get bent, because they’re heavier, and those are the ones used for lower numbered channels. If you have a bent element, it’s going to affect reception for the channel that element was designed for, plus all the channels below it. That sounds pretty bad but keep in mind that you’re probably not using most of that antenna.

If you think the damage is hurting you, you now have the information you need to decide whether a UHF-only antenna will suit you. UHF-only antennas are smaller and less expensive and they may be all you need. You can take a look at our selection of antennas now or ask our experts for a recommendation. But before you do, you owe yourself one thing. You should know for sure if that old antenna on the roof is really broken, or if it’s just unsightly.

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.