Monday, May 31, 2010

Aiming a Dish

Some people have a knack for this and are able to do it faster/better than me. I am usually successful after several to many minutes and sometimes I actually do it without swearing. Sometimes.

I start by setting the skew and elevation with the dish in my lap. These settings I get either from a neighbor with a working dish (best method), off a chart from either StarChoice or off the Internet or from a neat website if I have a connection.

I then set the dish on whichever tripod or base I am using. These include a standard Winegard tripod, a homemade ground mount that I made out of PVC tubing and is windproof or a mast mount that my son welded to the car dolly. The latter is untested but will be the best choice if I have an unobstructed view south from the dolly and it is or can be made fairly level. This is my way of thumbing my nose at the Wind Gods who have blown my tripod over too many times. I now connect the cable from the motorhome to the dish. I usually place my satellite finder in the line except when I am feeling really lucky and have a good set of readings from a neighbor. In this case I have Norma watch the setup screen on the TV and tell her to yell when the signal is good. I also have a small B&W TV that I can bring out to the dish and watch this screen myself. If I am having lots of trouble, I do it this way.

Now I check to see what the azimuth (compass direction) where the satellite is suposed to be based on where we are. This recommended setting is never correct. I think the variation in azimuth settings is due to the difference between "magnetic" and "corrected" compass readings. The earth's magnetic field pulls compasses off in relation to a very complicated formula that varies depending on the density of the ground under you and the azimuth given on any chart is the "corrected" reading. It is very difficult to figure this out on the spot so I simply ignore it and after making sure the mast is as perpendicular as I can get it, I point the dish to the left of where it says to point it by maybe 10 degrees. I then swing it very slowly towards the west. In theory, this will bring it across the propagated satellite signal and we will see (or hear) a peak. When I get there, I lock down the horizontal adjustment. You have to be careful with this setting because if you go past the StarChoice satellite, there is another one very close by and it is very easy to think this is the one you want. It gives a very strong signal but no TV.

I then move the dish up and down a tiny amount by putting pressure on the top of the dish, without actually loosening the elevation bolt. If moving it up or down slightly gives me a good signal then I then either dig a small hole under the back leg or shove some extra material under the leg.

I find I usually have to move the dish "up" to get a better signal. I suspect this is because the dish is heavier towards the front and tends to pull itself "down" when it is set on the tripod. I have experimented with "correcting" this by always setting my elevation a couple of degrees higher than what is given. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.

If at this point I have a signal of about 28 or better, I leave it alone. If I have less than this, I will try a slight horizontal adjustment again followed by another try of pulling or pushing on the top of the dish. If I release the bolt holding the elevation, the dish will usually swing down and I will have to start over.

The best method was shown to me in Mazatlan by a guy from Manitoba. You find a neighbor with a dish of the same size and a good signal, get a sheet of paper and lay it on his dish. You place it so it lays under the shadow of the LNR and after making some marks so you can put it in the same place on your own dish, you trace out the shadow of his LNR. Now you rush back to your dish, place and tape the paper onto the dish and move it around until the shadow of your LNR lands on top of the tracing. You have to do this quickly as the sun (and shadow) is moving like clockwork.

You should let the neighbor know what you are doing because you will be interrupting his signal while you are doing this and, unless his dish is locked down well, you might inadvertently move his dish. Not very neighborly.

I have used this method a couple of times and it works well. It doesn't work at night or on a cloudy day.....

The absolute best method is to park beside someone with a dish already set up and ask to share it. This method is common in Mexico. I have used a series of cables totaling well over 100 feet and have gotten a good signal from three or four spaces away. In Villa Corona, four of us were using one dish (mine). O the other hand, in San Miguel de Allende I asked a guy from Quebec parked behind me if I could share his dish and he said "No". I thought about it for a while and decided he must not have understood me so I asked again in a different way. Again, he said "No, I would rather not". Seething a little, I set my own dish up a couple of feet from his. They ended up being a very friendly couple of gay guys from Montreal. I never did find out why they said no. Maybe he thought I would be reducing his signal by tapping into it or somehow using his StarChoice account, I don't know. If you ever park beside me, you know you can hook in without even asking.


  1. Hi Croft..I ran into another couple who would not share their LNB on Star choice..They claimed that if one receiver lost the authorization and the HIT was done when both receivers were hooked up caused a big problem...True or false ? certainly possible.
    Carol from Port Alberni

  2. I do not know for sure but I seriously doubt it. The receivers are registered by serial number and StarChoice would have no idea if it was connected to their dish or to yours. A dish is a dish and there is no connection between the receivers.

  3. I am so glad we don't have any need for television. It sounds like more of a pain in the butt than it's worth.

    However, I can't do without my each to their own!