What to Do If Your RV’s TV Isn’t Picking Up Channels

Are you having trouble setting up the TV in your RV? Let's take a look at why your TV isn't picking up the channels and what you can do to boost your antenna reception!

One of the nice things about your RV is that it allows you to adventure and see new places, without having to find a hotel room. Also, your RV allows you to have some of the creature comforts of home (like a kitchen, a comfortable bed and bathroom) when you’re someplace off the beaten path.

Many RVs today come with a television and an antenna that allows you to pick up at least basic television channels when you’re not camping in an RV park. Having a TV can be a nice addition to your RV if you have kids or if you get stuck in your RV thanks to a day of rainy weather. 

And while the TV is great, when it doesn’t work or you can’t pick up a channel it can be frustrating and can leave your mind boggled about what is going wrong.

Why is your RVs TV antenna not picking up channels?

Unfortunately, if your RV’s TV is struggling to get a channel, the solution may not be simple. There are a few things that you should check to start narrowing down the problem.

First, you’ll need to remember that the TV system in your RV has a number of components that run through the RV. Anything from the cable from the antenna to the TV to the signal booster can be the problem. So working through those parts of the system first will allow you to start narrowing down other potential problems.

IF your RV is older and you’ve installed the TV and antenna as an upgrade, you need to make sure that you use shielded cables between the antenna and the TV. Unshielded cables can pick up interference from just about anything that has an electrical current. 

So, while your TV may be fine and your antenna may be fine, if the cable between is picking up on the electrical current from the RV air conditioner, you may not be able to get good signal transfer.

Even if your cables are working fine, you need to remember that the whole of your RV is a pretty small space, and too many appliances running at the same time can throw out some good interference for your antenna. And it’s not just appliances that can disrupt the antenna signal to your TV. Many people are surprised to learn that LED lights can also create electrical interference with TV antennas.

These are some of the mechanical issues that can cause your TV to not pick up a signal. But there are some non-mechanical or technical issues that can interfere with your RV’s antenna to pick up a good signal.

Weather is a primary culprit for bad TV signals in RVs. Lightning, heavy rain, or even just a thick cloud cover can cause interference with your antenna, and result in poor or no signal to your TV.

The other natural cause of poor antenna signal in your RV is location. Sometimes that amazing camping spot tucked under trees or in a beautiful canyon can be the reason that you can’t get a signal. If you really need or want a signal for your TV, make sure that the antenna is unobstructed by trees, rock walls or other natural obstacles.

What to do if your RVs TV isn’t picking up channels

There are some simple solutions to resolving signal issues with your RV’s antenna. It’s important to remember that not all issues are mechanical, but certainly starting with some of the common mechanical issues will help resolve your signal issues in the long-term.

  • A signal booster is a great place to start if you’re consistently having issues picking up TV channels, but know your system is working fine. Signal boosters can be a simple and inexpensive solution that just plugs into the back of your TV.
  • If you’ve been enjoying a good signal and it all of a sudden vanishes, check the connections between your TV and the wall plug. During travel these connections can loosen, and your problem may just be as simple as tightening the connectors.
  • Make sure that the coaxial cables that run between the antenna and the TV are in good condition. Over time and when exposed to water, heat or cold, coaxial cables can degrade. This can cause an unreliable signal or no signal at all. This is a bigger repair, as you may need to run new coaxial cables through your RV, so it’s a solution that may need to wait until you’re back home. A simple way to check this is to carry a voltmeter in your RV tool box. A voltmeter will tell you if an electrical signal is passing from the antenna, through the coaxial cables to your TV.
  • Make sure that the antenna head is in the correct position. On many RVs the antenna folds down during travel, to protect it from damage. If the antenna head doesn’t get extended all the way, you may need to get on the roof of your RV and adjust the antenna into the proper position.

How can I boost my RVs TV antenna reception?

Ok, so your system is in good shape, and there aren’t any apparent mechanical issues, so how do you improve the antenna reception so that you’re more likely to get TV channels even in remote locations? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Raise the height of your antenna. Most RVs have the ability to adjust the distance from the room that the antenna sits. Sometimes, just a little more height can result in a better signal. This is especially true if you’re camping in a valley or in a place that has lots of trees.
  2. Make sure that your antenna is facing the right direction. You may need to change where your antenna is pointing for better reception. Remember, a good, clear line facing directly south will result in the best possible reception for your antenna.
  3. Retune your TV. If you move from place to place, you may need to tell your TV’s tuner to find the right channels. This process can be done from the menu of your TV and should only take a few moments.
  4. Add a signal booster. We mentioned this earlier. If you are in a remote location the signal that your antenna is picking up may just be very weak. Boosters amplify these signals and allow them to be transmitted through your TV. Keep in mind with this solution, that you may not get a perfect picture.
  5. Turn off lights and appliances you don’t need. Remember, your space is small, and a lot of electrical interference can cause bad antenna reception. Turn off lights and appliances that aren’t necessary to reduce the potential for electrical interference.
  6. And, the last resort… move your RV. If being able to watch TV is that important, your best option may just be to find another place to camp where there is better reception.

How to troubleshoot your RVs TV antenna cable

Ninety-nine out of 100 times, the problem with TV reception in your RV has nothing to do with a degraded coaxial cable. So, before you go through the work of tearing out and replacing the cable between the antenna and RV wall, do these simple troubleshooting steps.

  1. Check your connections. Most of the time the problem causing poor signal reception, or no signal reception has to do with a loose connection. As you travel, connectors between the antenna, RV and TV can become loose or even disconnect. Before you do more trouble shooting, make sure that all connectors are tight and attached.
  2. Some RVs come with amplified wall switches to help with signal reception. Make sure that if your RV has one of these switches that the amplifier is set to “on”.
  3. Using a voltmeter check for a current coming from the antenna. If there is a weak current, it’s likely that the solution is to install a signal booster. This is a good solution if your RV doesn’t have an amplified wall switch. It’s also an inexpensive investment that will give you better reception in remote locations.
  4. Finally, if all these steps don’t work, it’s likely you have a damaged coaxial cable, and it’s time to do the work to replace it.
Default image
Jason Gass

When I'm not working, I spend most of my time camping, hiking, and road-tripping with my wife, my daughter, and my two dogs.