Most RVs and caravans come with a built-in terrestrial TV Antenna and outlet for you TV.  Some people like to add a satellite TV facility and this is especially useful if you like to go out during the winter.  The short winter days can be great for walking and exploring the local towns and countryside and it is great to come back to your unit & know that you have a choice of radio and television programmes.  

You needn’t confine your TV and radio activities to winter of course.  There is nothing nicer than sitting in the awning on a nice summer evening catching up on your favourite sport, concert or programme.

Terrestrial TV and Radio

An terrestrial TV antenna and a satellite dish neatly mounted on the corner of a static caravan

Terrestrial TV and radio systems consist at their simplest level of a a studio where the programme content is generated and a transmitter which is linked to the studio and which puts the signal into the air in order that your TV or radio receiver can receive the programme.  Local radio and TV stations can consist of a single studio and transmitter, often on the same site, and their range is confined, as their title suggests, to a relatively local area.  Larger broadcasters may have more than one studio and will have a network of linked transmitters strategically located, usually on hills or higher ground where it is  available.    Where no high ground is available you will often see tall transmission towers, especially for distribution of AM Signals.

It is these transmitter sites that are of interest to you as you move from one campsite to another.  Your terrestrial TV antenna, whether it is built into your van or whether you have added it later is usually directional. You will also have the option in one way or another of changing the polarisation from horizontal to vertical.  The very easiest way to find your transmitter is to have a quick look at what everybody else has done with their antennas.  Orient your antenna and point it in the same direction as the others and you should have a signal in not time at all.

A note of caution; some caravan antennas have extendable sections for use on VHF frequencies.  If you do extend these, remember to retract them before you change polarisation as they are sometimes easily bent or broken.

Most caravans and motor-homes come with a terrestrial TV and radio system built into the fabric of the vehicle.  This consists of the visible antenna which is usually mounted on the roof of the vehicle.  This gets it high and reasonably clear of obstacles  ensuring as clear a line of sight as possible to the TV/radio transmitter site.  A length of coaxial cable connects the antenna to an outlet point close to where your TV will stand.

Your on-board radio is similarly connected to the antenna.  You will also most likely find an amplifier connected in the coaxial line somewhere where you can reach it in order to switch it off and on.  If you are in an area where a signal exists but it is not strong, experiment with this amplifier and it will usually improve both your TV and radio signal.

When you arrive and are ready to set up your terrestrial TV and Radio System:

  • Unpack your TV and put it in place, connected to the power outlet and the TV coax outlet.
  • Power up your on board radio, not necessarily at the same time as you set up the TV.
  • Step outside and see the direction and polarisation of antennas belonging to other caravans, statics or adjacent houses.
  • Set your antenna to match these.
  • Tune in your TV and radio & make final adjustments to your antenna
  • If your peak signal remains weak switch on your amplifier and that should improve it.

Satellite TV and Radio

As with terrestrial TV the studios for satellite TV are located on the ground, but instead of the transmitter being also located on earth it is on board a satellite which is in geo-

Two Oyster Vision satellite dishes indoors in a workshop or a sales area

stationary orbit in space, within line of sight for a satellite dish.

If you own a reasonably modern motor-home then you may well have a satellite system built into it which may automatically find the satellite signal for you and deliver it to your television set.

For caravan owners who don’t have a built in system there are many options available for adding a decoder and a dish, and there are also many ways to mount these units on or around your unit.

Once your dish is in place simply connect the coax to your decoder and then connect the decoder to your television set.  You should then, once you have positioned the dish, be able to receive pictures from your chosen satellite.  You can use exactly the same technique to commence finding your satellite as you use for finding your terrestrial signal.  Have a close look a the direction and the vertical angle of the other dishes in use on the site and get it as close as you possibly can to that position.  A bit of careful moving around at this point might just work but you will most likely need to equip yourself with a satellite finder.  This is a gadget which you fit in line between the satellite dish and your decoder which will give you and audible or visual indication allowing you to more easily position your dish.

When you want to listen to radio on your satellite system simply change from the TV input on your screen to the Radio input and you will have a list of al the available radio station on your TV screen.  You listen to satellite radio on your TV and not on you radio, however there are exceptions and in some places dedicated satellite radio receivers are available.

When you are ready to set up your Satellite TV System:

  • Unpack your TV and put it in place, connect it to the power outlet and to your satellite decoder and tune it to a frequency where you know a signal is available.
  • Deploy your antenna system, whether this is automatic or you have come up with an ingenious way of fixing it.
  • Fit your satellite finder in line between the dish and the decoder where you can hear/see it as you make adjustments to the dish.
  • Connect your dish to your decoder using your coax.
  • Step outside and see the direction and vertical alignment of dishes belonging to other caravans, statics or on the site owners house.
  • It may be helpful to use a compass at this point and you can get them with indicators of the position of satellites on various parts of the world.
  • Position and align your dish as closely as possible using your visual observations and your compass.
  • Position yourself where you can see your TV and see/hear your satellite finder and make slow steady adjustments to the dish being conscious of the response from both the finder and the TV.  Very slow and very steady changes are the key to success here.

Once you find your signal then lock everything into place, get the kettle on and relax.

If there is some specific information that you would like me find simply drop me an e-mail and I’ll be very happy to put up on the site for you.

TV satellite dishes by: Widds