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Old 12-12-2019, 05:39 PM   #1
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Should I replace my radio antenna?

1999 T-1950. Pretty sure the antenna is OEM, a springed whip 2' or so long.

Previous owner removed the radio that came with the camper; I've installed a current-model car stereo where it was. Performs decently in strong signal areas, but out in the boonies, doesn't even come close to what a handheld portable will pull in.

My inner nerd wants to replace both the old antenna and the coax. Thoughts on what a good replacement might be? Is it likely I could use the old coax to pull new, or would it have been stapled fast?
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Old 12-13-2019, 12:01 PM   #2
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Yes a standard FM antenna is in the 32-36" range. It's anyone's guess of how they ran it. How is it mounted?
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Old 12-13-2019, 04:30 PM   #3
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It's a rooftop mount, a couple of feet aft and a couple of feet to the side of where the radio is mounted in an overhead cabinet at the front of the camper. Just far enough away that they may well have used a staple or two.

Though it's well-weathered, there's really not much to go wrong with such a whip. I'm more inclined to suspect the 20 year old coax. In a previous life, I was a 2-way radio tech, but all that test equipment is long gone.
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Old 12-13-2019, 06:00 PM   #4
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I have my 2004 T1950 all apart. Tomorrow I will get some pics of the cable routing for you. I don't seem to have any showing antenna routing already taken.

Here is the roof connection, the coax just screws onto the antenna in a normal coax setup.


I'll be back soon with more.

A thought, if you suspect it is the cable, you can unhook the cable at the roof and run a temporary cable on the outside of the camper and then into a window, door etc and plug into the radio. If the radio reception is the same, then odds are favorable the cable is no longer suspect.

As to using the old cable as a pull wire, there is more than staples to contend with. The hole from the attic to the side wall cavity may be a bigger snag, for sure with the coax fitting on the end will have issues but, they may have that same hole stuffed full of 12 VDC wires to the attic.

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Old 12-13-2019, 06:43 PM   #5
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Thanks John, I was hoping you'd chime in. A temporary cable is a good thought, but complicated by the fact that I'd have to haul the camper somewhere out in the boonies to try it. Here at home, I'm swamped with strong signals.

Fittings on the coax are a non-issue. My normal modus operandi is to pull the cable and install fittings once it's in place. But if the original wiring is stapled firmly, that ain't gonna fly. Not worth it to dive into opening up the ceiling just to remove a staple or three.
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Old 12-14-2019, 09:37 PM   #6
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Here are some pic's of my 2004 T1950 radio cable run. I'm not sure your radio is mounted in the same place as mine, is yours in the top front cabinet? Sunline changes the cabinet locations some times from model year to year.

The radio in the top front cabinet


The coax run (large black cable) starts in the front top cabinet and then pokes out into the front top angled wall to then go up into the attic.


A roof shot showing the coax run. The roof antenna is over the top left side cabinet.


Here are 2 pic's looking straight onto the front wall. Notice the EMT conduit they shove through the 2 x 3 to prevent a staple from hitting the cable.


The conduit is rusted slightly in this pic


If you try and pull the old cable back out, there are no staples on mine but there are those 2 conduit sleeves to content with. The good news, they are not stuffed with other wires, so there is room in the conduit. The bad news, all these short sleeves I have seen them may have sharp corners on the cut ends. It looks like a hack saw cut just left as is. Pulling a new cable, for sure lube it up well as it may scrape on those sharp edges. To have a chance at pulling out the old cable, connect onto the cable starting at the radio and then pull from the roof area outward. That way the coax fitting at the antenna is not trying to go through those holes. OR cut off the coax fitting at the roof antenna and start feeding the chase cable at the roof and pull it out on the inside. I'll give it a 50/50 shot it may work.

If you end up getting stuck and cannot do a pull and replace on the cable, then if your inside cabinets are like mine, you could drill the inside ceiling from the antenna roof hole downward to get the cable inside the left wall cabinet. Then poke out the front end of the left side cabinet at the wall/ceiling line and jump into the top front cabinet to fish it to the radio. You can make a wood cover over the wire like a piece of romex etc. wire mold. Maybe route a bull nose cutter, or a dado saw blade square slot down a piece of pine board to cover over the cable and paint the cover white as a possible way to do this to hide the cable out in the open.

Hope this helps.

John
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Old 12-15-2019, 06:46 AM   #7
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I would buy a new antenna they are cheap plug it into the radio without mounting it and see it improves your signal. I have pulled miles of cable I don't think you will have good luck with that run. If you do wish to try cut the connector off the end. The cable is semi hollow slip a pull string inside and tape it in a long taper. If you get it out string and all tape the string to the new wire as smoothly and as tapered as you can I would loop it so that it can't pull thru the tape. The issue is going to be the cable connector it is fairly long and probably will not make the turns going back in.
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Old 12-15-2019, 12:56 PM   #8
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John, you really do go above and beyond! Thank you so much.

My radio is in the same location as yours, but the antenna is mounted just over the doorway rather than above that side cabinet. Looks like the cable routing would just be a mirror image of yours. Assuming no horrible burrs on the conduit, I've done much tougher cable pulls. The cable that's in there now is long enough that I can do a little back-and-forth test pulling to see if that's likely to be an issue.

Worst case, if I can't pull it, I can mount the new antenna on the sidewall to the front of the doorway and bring the cable straight through into the cabinet. The effort will have to wait until spring, though. I'm not eager to work with drilling and caulking in the cold weather--and I'm done with RV camping for this year.

Mainah, I've pulled a couple of yards myself. In my 2-way radio days, I ran wires in everything from cars to fire trucks. This looks like a piece of cake compared to some of those. More recently, I've pulled thousands of feet of Romex while doing home remodels.

One trick that usually works quite well with coax is to strip the ends of the old and new cables back about an inch, exposing the center conductors. Twist those together securely, wrap with electrical tape (or heat-shrink), and there's minimal bump to get hung up anywhare.
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Old 12-15-2019, 05:33 PM   #9
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Well good luck like I said miles of wire no exaggeration worst case cut the wire and abandon it try another location. Coax, yep I'm AKA N3LYT repeater tec for the Mt Washington Valley Amature radio Club! Ideal wire glide works good!
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Old 12-15-2019, 06:27 PM   #10
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Ideal wire glide works good!
I actually carry a jug of that in my work van. Haven't needed to use it in the last 4-5 years, but you never know...

John, I forgot to ask: What's the purpose of the toggle switch in that pic of the cabinet interior? I put one in when I installed the radio so that I could cut power to that while running everything else, but your switch looks like a center-off with only two wires connected to it. Just what happened to be sitting around?
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Old 12-16-2019, 03:50 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tinstaafl View Post
John, you really do go above and beyond! Thank you so much.

My radio is in the same location as yours, but the antenna is mounted just over the doorway rather than above that side cabinet. Looks like the cable routing would just be a mirror image of yours. Assuming no horrible burrs on the conduit, I've done much tougher cable pulls. The cable that's in there now is long enough that I can do a little back-and-forth test pulling to see if that's likely to be an issue.

Worst case, if I can't pull it, I can mount the new antenna on the sidewall to the front of the doorway and bring the cable straight through into the cabinet. The effort will have to wait until spring, though. I'm not eager to work with drilling and caulking in the cold weather--and I'm done with RV camping for this year.
Your welcome! Glad to help. I just happen to have mine all opened up when you inquired.

H'mm, I figured Sunline might have moved the antenna on your verses mine. They do tweaks to the floor plans as the years go by. While the big picture of the model is similar, there are small differences.

I agree, if you get to the point of needing a new cable, poke in the LH or RH side and go right into the front overhead cabinet. A lot easier and better then the way I thought up first.

Quote:
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John, I forgot to ask: What's the purpose of the toggle switch in that pic of the cabinet interior? I put one in when I installed the radio so that I could cut power to that while running everything else, but your switch looks like a center-off with only two wires connected to it. Just what happened to be sitting around?
The switch! I never knew that switch existed until 2 days ago... When I bought this project camper, it was close enough we towed it home in approx 4 hour drive. And then we started into taking it apart to dry out. Never camped in it, yet.

We suspect that switch was added by the prior owner. They did a real good job of it too. It cuts out the power to the radio. On this model radio, the display light is so bright, it's like a lighthouse beacon shining straight to the head of the bed in the back. I believe they just shut the power down to be able to got to sleep.

On our T310SR, I pull the fuse on mine when we boondock to not draw power when it is not needed. Never made it to the switch yet. And as such, it stays off about 98% of the time. If I'm working in the camper for some reason, I put the fuse back in to listen to the radio.
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Old 12-16-2019, 05:09 PM   #12
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On this model radio, the display light is so bright, it's like a lighthouse beacon shining straight to the head of the bed in the back.
Same for the car stereo I installed. Realistically, even a single point-source LED is a bit bright in pitch darkness.

On the "bright" side, my wife is nuts about nightlights, so that's taken care of when we're on shore power with the grandkids on board.

I actually installed two switches. One for main power to the radio, and a second one for holding channel memory without lighting everything up. Just call me Mr. Overkill.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:35 PM   #13
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Just thought of something. Here are some pics to think through. Mounting an antenna on the LH or RH top side of the camper, has some support issues to think through.

Screwing the antenna mount to the thin siding "only", is going to be a challenge. It's not going to work long term. The siding is so thin, it will pull out.

There is wood structure in the top front corners behind the siding, but it is inside the wall space on the downward angled wall space in the front wall. This means, a cable would be fished through that space filled with insulation and then pop out in the front top cabinet. If you drill the hole on an angle, you could pop out right in the top cabinet space.

I suspect yours is built like my 2004. Sunline did not change the building method that much between the mid 90's into the 2,000's as far as wall structure.



The insulation is out of the top angle wall cavity I'm referring too in this pic


Here are some close ups. The wall cavity is created from a nominal 2 x 3






The nominal 1 x 2 under the top area 2 x 3 is the side wall butting up to the front 2 x 3 angled wall.




If you screw the antenna mount into the 2 x 3, that has a lot of strength to it. And if you drill a wire hole on about a 45 deg inward angle, the long bit should pop out inside the top cabinet.

Something to think on if you need to go this way.

Hope this helps

John
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:43 PM   #14
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Also just noticed this,

Your front top cabinet is down from the ceiling more than mine. Make sure if you do mount on the side of the camper, to be down the wall far enough to get into that cabinet

Yours, 1999 T1950 : Look at the angled ceiling board width


Mine, 2004 T1950


Never realized Sunline made the cabinets and the front window larger between 99 and 04. I know the 2004 model year was a design change year. Many things became larger. Entry doors, cargo hole doors, maybe even some inside cabinets and window sizes.
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Old 12-17-2019, 04:13 PM   #15
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Appreciate the followup, John. If I wind up needing to go with a side mount, I was assuming I'd need to add some beef inside the cabinet, knowing those walls are pretty insubstantial. Fortunately, a short whip doesn't put an exorbitant amount of strain on the mount.

Not sure I'd even be able to get two screws through the mounting flange and into that skimpy framing without compromising the exterior corner trim. Assuming a typical round 3-hole flange, of course.
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Old 12-17-2019, 08:16 PM   #16
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Not sure I'd even be able to get two screws through the mounting flange and into that skimpy framing without compromising the exterior corner trim. Assuming a typical round 3-hole flange, of course.
H'mm, if you are talking about using the same kind of mount as on the roof, I'll try and mock up the 3 hole antenna mount I have over the framing and report back. I'll account for the corner molding being on and see where it comes out.

May take a little while, but I give it a go.
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Old 12-17-2019, 08:42 PM   #17
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Thanks John, but don't bother. I'm fairly optimistic I can do a pull via the OEM route, and if not, it won't be that tough to extrapolate what I need when I have the new mount in hand.

Either way, it will be several months until I tackle it.
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Old 12-18-2019, 07:15 AM   #18
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How about an RF amp? Lot of inline one for cheap money.
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Old 12-18-2019, 04:00 PM   #19
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Where's the fun in that? I relish tilting at windmills.

The thought did pass through my mind, but the existing antenna is so corroded and crusty that it's getting replaced regardless. Since that's 80% of the work involved with doing both the antenna and new coax, not much point in skimping out on the remaining 20%.

If I'm still dissatisfied after that, I guess that'll pretty much be my only recourse short of carrying a portable mast and a yagi. What brought this to a head is the week I spent at hunting camp just after Thanksgiving. I could only get one station, and the programming was unbearable. Fortunately, I had a portable radio with me so I was able to get daily weather forecasts. Those are kind of important when you're spending all day up a tree.
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Old 12-19-2019, 11:54 AM   #20
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Thanks for sharing some great photos of the roof structure without the roofing material on. I can clearly see what I will be dealing with when I replace my compromised roof before springtime 2020. I was never able to find very detailed photos of a Sunline's construction. I feel better about tackling my progect.
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