Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adding a Digital Antenna Signal Finder

One of the most frustrating things about digital television is that the signal is directional. In order to see all of the digital broadcast channels that are available in an area the antenna must be turned in the direction of the signal being broadcast. There are websites and apps that will tell you by zip code or GPS on the phone or tablet that the app is installed on what the directions of these signals are - but the GPS has a hard time finding a GPS lock inside the Roadtrek in the middle of the night and you don't always know by zip code.

Roadtrek has now discontinued using the Winegard Sensar directional antenna on the roof and now uses a multi-directional antenna that does not have to be turned. The model that they are now using may work very well, but it has been my experience when trying this type of antenna out at home that they still need to be turned to get the best signal reception. I like the Winegard. It can be easily turned to find all of the digital broadcast signals - but in what direction? Until now it has been trial and error. Turn, scan for channels on the TV (which can take up to ten minutes or longer) and then turn and scan again if you did not have the correct direction - and this repeats until you have found the correct direction for the area that you are in.

I had seen a device in the RV shop at my Roadtrek dealer that eliminated the guesswork. I always looked at it when I was there and each time I put it down for the $70 price tag. After a few frustrating nights of trying to find a signal, I decided that I would get this device. It happens that I found it on the Walmart website and had it shipped to my local store after ordering it. I paid  $50 for it. It is called the King Controls SL1000 Digital TV Signal Finder or Sure Lock. 

Installation is easy and can be temporary or permanent. I decided to rearrange the A/B box and add a second A/B box into the cables for this installation. 

What you need - the Sure Lock, a cable A/B switch found at any home electronics store or department, and coax cable with connectors. 

Let me state right now that I have had a lot of experience making cable television coax cables of various lengths and I cut and made cables to suit my needs. You may wind up with a lot more cable in the cabinet that you might like so for some steps here you want as short a cable as you can get.

Now, the installation ->

I wanted to move the Roadtrek's A/B box to within easier reach from the front of the cabinet door so I did move that box first. In this photo you will see the Roadtrek's splitter that has an input that connects to the antenna's coax cable and splits that signal to

1) the antenna input of the Roadtrek's A/B black box.
2) the home entertainment center where it is connected to the back for FM radio reception.

I wanted a connection to the antenna and I wanted it before it went into the Roadtrek's A/B box. For this I went to the Roadtrek splitter and disconnected the output coax that goes down to the Home Entertainment Center (DVD, etc). To that leg of the splitter I attached a short piece of coax and that coax was attached to the input of a new A/B switch that I bought in the Walmart TV department for $6.00. To that new A/B switch's  A output I connected the coax that used to be connected to the splitter that went down to the Home Entertainment Center. Now that was connected just as it had been. To the other output of the switch - the B side I connected a six foot length of coax cable connected to nothing on the opposite end. Below you can see the additional A/B switch installed. I attached this to the floor of the cabinet with heavy 3M velco like plastic strips to keep it in place. I labeled which side to slide the switch to for radio or for antenna scanning. When slid to radio everything works exactly as it did before.

What I had then was a completely working TV connection to the antenna just as it worked before AND a completely working Home Entertainment Center FM radio just as it worked before - provided the new A/B Switch was slid over to the correct side of the switch. I also had at that point was a coax cable connected to nothing that I could connect to the Sure Lock signal finder. The photo below shows the cabinet connections completed. The coil of coax on the right is ready to connect to the Sure Lock when I want to scan. I attached a push on coax connector onto the end of the coax for easy on and off of the scanner.

Now, when I need to scan I take out the scanner - stored in a zipper bag in this cabinet - and attach it to the end of the coax with a simple push on. There are two coax leads on the top of the Sure Lock that will enable you to attach it between the coax coming down to the TV from the antenna and a new coax going into the TV for a permanent installation behind the TV. The problem with this is the crank/direction bezel for the antenna is in the front of the Roadtrek and you need to easily see the scanner as you turn the antenna. This is why I have used six feet of coax in my set up. So I now take my scanner connected to the loose coax in the cabinet and walk over to the crank. 

You turn the scanner on with a switch on the side. It runs on a 9 volt battery. Turn down the adjustment knob at the top as per the instructions. And start to turn the antenna. When four LEDs (or as many LEDs will light if in a weak area) you stop turning the direction of the antenna. Then you turn the adjustment knob up until the last light just goes out. Next you slightly adjust the antenna direction a fraction until that LED comes back on. You have now found the best direction for your antenna and that is where you leave it. Next - as always - you turn on the TV - go to channel source in the menu and make sure it is on Antenna and then in the menu below, scan for channels. You should see as many channels as available in that area lock in to the TV. 

We tried this on our driveway and it worked. The real test was on a trip and we were at the same campground that we had problems finding channels at the trip before. I scanned and found the direction - and all channels came in. 

If you are going to be in the same campground site for a few days and will be moving the Roadtrek to leave the campground at any point to visit the area, you want to be able to find the exact same direction for the antenna without having to scan again - so I came up with an idea. I bought removable peel and stick round color labels and placed one right at the antenna's direction pointer on the ceiling of the Roadtrek. It comes right off without leaving a mark and it will stay up for as long as you are at that campground. 


 With the level markers that I put down on the ground on the site next to the tires to show where to park that is level, I always come back to very close to the same position on the site, so all I need to do is move the antenna pointer to the middle of the dot and all of the TV channels are back where they need to be.  When moving to the next campground or home, just peel off the dot and throw it away.

This little gadget works. It saves a great deal of the frustration of a directional antenna. There are units that do the same thing that are built into the ceiling at the crank but these involve cutting into your Roadtrek. This little Sure Lock does it without any permanent changes to your RV.


  1. Hello Robert, great article. I have purchased the new Flatwave Amped from winegard. Works fantastic. Used to get 3 channels at my daughters, after auto searching many many times, very frustrating. Now I get 23 channels perfectly with only one scan . Distance from RT to Tv towers is around 40 miles. I plug into back of TV ,run cable around top of cabinets and slide the ultra thin Flatwave in between the center skylight window and the grey cover. Very Satisfied, $89.95, free ship from Winegard and if not happy, they will take it back.

    1. This might be a stupid questions but what grey cover are you speaking of? I am very interested in this item. Do you have any pictures on how you set it up. I am a newbie and trying to learn as much as I can.

    2. I can tell you what "grey cover" Mike is referring to. The newer Roadtreks come with blackout covers to block out the light coming through the three front roof skylight windows. These are made of a grey composite material and clip over the windows with swivel clips that Roadtrek installs two sides of each window. The clip goes through a slot on the cover and turns to hold the cover in place - so Mike is wedging his flat antenna into the gap between the cover and the window. Anything that will hold this thin flat antenna to the ceiling would work the same. The Flatwave comes with a suction cup and could be stuck to one of those windows or a side window.

      This antenna worked well for MIke. I have to say that I bought this same Winegard Flatwave Antenna at Costco (for almost half of what Mike paid for it) and tried it inside my house where broadcast reception is poor with many antennas that I have tried (as a back up for when the cable goes out which is frequent). This flatwave antenna was no better than any other antenna that I have tried and returned. It did get basic channels in my area with the flatwave inside my house but outside in the Roadtrek on my driveway with the Sensar batwing, crank up and turn antenna, I get many more channels than I have gotten with any other antenna that I have tried in the house. This is going to be very dependent on the area one is in and in the RT traveling this changes from stop to stop. I took the Flatwave back to Costco for return as it was not the answer for inside my house. It may do better outside - though I did try holding out the window with no better results and I did have to move it around the room to a spot where I got the most channels that it could pull in.

  2. Robert,

    I installed the Winegard Sensar Pro ( at and am very happy with the results. A quick run-through of your article shows the exact same installation steps I used.

    The advantage that the Sensar Pro has is in the ability to:

    1. Allows you to peak in signals prior to channel scan on your TV

    2. Provides up to 10 dB gain for increased performance or lower gain for close range areas.

    3. Adjustable volume audio signal feedback, 100 point scale aiming system and U.S. specific signal focus makes your Sensar easier to aim than ever before!

    In any event, I share your skepticism of the uni-directional antenna.


  3. Nice write-up. Question: does the unidirectional antennae allow for 'turning'? I assumed it is fixed in place on the roof. There is no visible crank anyway. 2013 Agile SS BTW.

    1. In 2013 Roadtrek stopped using the Winegard Sensar Batwing directional antenna which cranks up and can be turned in any direction - which is what this tuner is for. They started using a Sole "omnidirectional" antenna which is the disk on the rear of the newer Roadtreks. This made the solar panels possible to fit on the solar equipped RTs but they made the antenna change on all models whether solar or not. There are mixed reviews on how omnidirectional the new Sole antennas now installed really are. Some say they get a lot of channels and some have resorted to adding an interior antenna on the TV to be able to direct it toward the signals and not use the roof antenna. Personally, I have tried omnidirectional antennas for the digital TVs in my house and I have not found any one of them that works as well and gets as many signals as the Winegard on the Roadtrek sitting in my driveway directed toward the majority of signals in this area. I don't have a Sole antenna to compare to.

    2. And the Sole cannot be turned.

  4. Antenna web website will show directions of signals if you have internet access. Will give you idea of how to set antenna direction.

    1. There are many websites that will show you a map of where digital broadcast signals are coming from when you put in a location or zipcode. You then need to determine the physical direction that the antenna needs to be turned in - looking at compass and then fine tune the signal by micro turns of the antenna.We tried that without much success until we got the SureLock signal finder. Now, as explained in the article all you need to do is turn the antenna while watching the meter. This is so much simpler than trying to do it manually even with knowing the direction the signal is supposed to be in.