By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Bless the heart of old John Winegard. A “Depression Era” child, Winegard started his fortune in the 1950s when he designed, marketed and manufactured his first television antenna for home use. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the Winegard family “discovered” the RV market. The technology for the Sensar TV antenna was John Winegard’s, but it wasn’t until the patent on the original technology had come near to expiring that Winegard’s progeny acted to introduce it to RVers.
Since that time, Winegard antennas have been a mainstay on most RVs built in the US. Seems like everyone cranks up their Sensar and pulls down on that little round handle, seeking a good TV signal. That is, until something goes wrong with that little white box in the wall. Then it’s time for the replacement. But which one is it?
Which one? Well, that’s the question. The little white plate that connects the antenna coax cable to your television comes in more than one “flavor.” There are amplified Winegard antennas — ones where an amplifier is built right into the antenna up above roof level — and those that have no amplifiers. They’re two different breeds of cat, and you can’t replace one with the other. Most (but not all) present day Winegard RV antennas have the amplifier built into them — for these you need a power supply block. This system runs 12-volt power up the coax to the antenna-mounted amplifier and allows TV signal back down. For the non-amplified antenna, you’ll need a amplifier block. This amplifies the signal in the block, and doesn’t run any power up the coax.
There are other Winegard plates, too, designed for “satellite” connections. Stark Electronics has a great web page where you can eyeball the differences. Nearly any RV supply house can set you up with the proper replacement. Incidentally, older Winegard power supply blocks often had “slide” style switches to turn the power supply off, and at the same time allow for a “cable” connection. The newer blocks have a push button. We found, much to our “designer sense” chagrin, that the new-style block is clearly imprinted “WINEGARD.” Unfortunately, the way our rig is “plumbed” we had to install the power supply block upside down. Result? We have a DRAGENIW power supply.
Troubleshooting? If the wall plate light doesn’t turn on, check for power. With your multimeter set to the appropriate DC range, carefully probe into the “socket” of the wall plate — with the positive probe going to the center conductor and the negative to the outer shell of the socket. If you don’t have power, track down the fuse that supplies power to the wall plate. Remember, these little babies don’t like to supply a lot of power — typically 8 amps or less is the limit. Plugging in a hair dryer or an inverter with a load of much more than 60 or 70 watts will “blow” the fuse.
If power is present in the socket and the light is out, it’s a likely bet the block is blown. Plenty of RVers have complained that corrosion seems to be a huge killer of these critters, so don’t be surprised to find “the green” on your circuit board. When you do work at replacing your power supply, it’s best to turn off the power to the block. Usually you can just pull the fuse to that circuit, but if you can’t discern which one it is, then disconnect the house battery and the shore power (that may be supplying 12 volts through your converter). Unscrew the wall plate and carefully examine the wiring layout.
The coax leads are easily confused, and if wired back wrong will definitely foul up your evening of entertainment. Three terminals are provided: one from the antenna, one from “cable,” and the other goes out to another TV set. If you’re clumsy like me, tag ’em as to location on the block before you pull them off. And don’t mix up the power wiring — you’ll blow the block into eternity with a reversed polarity situation.
Got everything connected up right? GENTLY push the innards back into the wall box and with gentle sensitivity put in the plate screws. Torque them gently — too far and you stand a chance of cracking your face (plate).