TVs are one of the staples of a modern home, and come standard in a lot of newer RVs. They’re perfect for catching the big game, watching the morning news, or when the season finale of your favorite show is airing. Maybe you’ve spent the day hiking, and you want to wind down for the night with a show or a movie. Park anywhere you like, pop the TV on, and enjoy some entertainment.
If you’re parked too deep in the middle of nowhere, you might not be able to pick up a good signal. A satellite dish could help pick up more channels and a clear signal, allowing you to watch TV from anywhere. It’s not terribly hard to install a satellite dish on an RV roof, and can be done in an afternoon.
To install a satellite dish on an RV roof, you’ll first have to first ensure that everything in the RV has the correct configuration. You’ll also have to know what kind of roof you have to help you attach the dish. Place, seal, and weatherproof the dish, and your RV satellite dish is ready to go.
How To Install A Satellite Dish On An RV Roof
When you install a satellite dish on top of your RV, try not to do it alone. It would be extremely helpful to have a second person (or two) nearby to lend a hand. At the very least, have someone be a ‘spotter’ for you. You’ll have to be on top of your RV for this, which means you might fall. Having someone nearby will keep you safe during installation.
Before you get started with your installation, make sure you have all of the correct tools and products you need. Aside from the dish itself and any parts it might have for installation, you will need:
- A tape measure
- Work gloves. Try to find nice sturdy ones that you can still be dextrous in.
- A power drill
- Screws and screw bits
- A sealant. This is going to help weatherproof your installation. Shop around for ones that are highly rated for RV roofs. You’ll need a lot of it for this project.
- A weather box. This is going to protect your connectors from wind, rain, and debris.
Read through the installation guide for your satellite dish before you begin. It might include additional parts or supplies not listed here. Reading through the guide before you begin will ensure that you don’t make a mistake in one step that will impact another one.
Once you have all of your things together, you’ll be ready to start the proper preparations.
Step One: Preparation
First, do a bit of troubleshooting to make sure everything is going to work as it should when it is installed. You don’t want to spend an afternoon arduously installing something only to find that the configuration is wrong.
Test The Connection
Test your dish by plugging it in. What you’re checking here is to see if the satellite and box have the appropriate cable configuration. If everything goes as planned, you should catch a signal and tune.
If you’re unable to get a connection, try to follow the troubleshooting guide your dish came with. There should be a list of common issues and easy ways to fix them. However, if you’re still running into connection issues, contact the dish company’s customer service.
Find Timber Supports
Next, find where the timber supports are in your roof. The best way to do thi is to pop a light out and take a peek in the divot it is set in. If you find a timber support, notate the location of the support so you can match it to your roof.
To make that measurement, measure from the farthest wall to where the light is. If the light isn’t totally centered, measure the distance from both sides. Once you’re on the roof, knowing where your timber supports are will make the installation much easier.
Now that you know where the timber supports are, start looking for a place to set up the signal box. Take measurements from where the receiver will live to the timber frame. That’s where the hole will be. Note this measurement as well, and use it to determine if you have enough cable.
Step Two: Assess The RV Roof
Once you’ve made your measurements, take a look at what kind of roof your RV has. You’ll need this information to determine what type of screws you’ll need, and what drill bits to use. The key thing to keep in mind when installing a satellite dish on an RV roof is preparation.
Satellite dishes can be finicky, and your RV roof is the thing that is keeping your dry and warm out on the road. This is a project that should be undertaken with a ‘measure twice, cut once’ mentality.
While you’re looking over the RV roof, figure out where you want to place the dish. Don’t put it somewhere that will keep it too far away from the receiver. Keep the timber supports in mind as you choose your placement.
You should also steer clear of arranging the dish anywhere too close to other objects. Interference will cause interruptions or blocked signals. Once you’re satisfied with where you want to mount the dish, make a note of that spot. Mark out the areas where you’ll be making your cuts, and double check that your cables are long enough.
Measure the distance from the dish mounting point to where the receiver is going to be mounted. Combine this length with the one you measured from the timber frame to the receiver to come up with a total distance.
Step Three: Cut And Seal
Drill all of the appropriate holes and make all of the cuts you’ll need for your dish installation. Once the holes are in place, go around every incision with a powerful sealant. What you’re doing with this is ensuring that the connection will be watertight.
Be slow and thorough with this, as leaving gaps will allow water to leak through into your RV. This is as annoying as it is unsafe. With such close proximity to electrical cables, it’s imperative to prevent water contact.
Once the sealant is in place, you can start to insert your mount. Fasten the mount to the roof with the connectors the mount recommends. It might be screws, or it could be a wing nut – it is your preference.
With the mount bolted down, use your sealant to cover up any holes or gaps. Keep a careful eye here, as even a tiny space will make it so that water can escape. Using this sealant will also hold the mount in place. This way, weather will not easily knock it around.
Step Four: Add A Weather Box
A weather box will keep your dish and its signal safe in times of wind or rain. They’re usually small, plain boxes made of heavy duty PVC. Oftentimes you’ll find them in two parts: a base and a ‘lid’, or a smaller connecting cover. They might also be referred to as a multi switch cover.
They’re easy to find at online retailers like Amazon. In some cases, the manufacturer of your dish might have included one with the dish itself.
You’ll find a few connectors sticking off the satellite dish that you can’t affix to the van. Leave them on the roof and use a weather box to protect them.
Fit your weather box around the connectors and double check that they aren’t susceptible to water damage. Seal up the bottom and fix it in place with screws. There shouldn’t be any exposed connectors poking out of the weather box.
Step Five: Fixing The Cables
Now that the mount is in place, it’s time to get around to managing your cables. You’re going to want to keep the cables fixed in place every 12 inches or so. Depending on how you run the cables, you might need more or less space.
Use U nails and more sealant to keep the cords down. This will keep them firmly in place, even when the RV is in motion. It will also help keep the cords from pulling out of the satellite.
A blanking panel might serve useful in keeping the place where the cables enter the RV water tight. Just be sure to not blank the heads of the cables, as you’ll need to be able to access them for maintenance. Use yet again more sealant around the sides of your blanking panel and then place your screws in.
Use a cable tie to secure the wires together. Make sure you don’t have any stray or missed cords floating around. If you do find you missed a cord, you might have to undo your hard work to get it back into place.
Step Six: Ensure Complete Waterproofing
It may seem repetitive, but it is absolutely crucial to make sure everything is waterproof. Water could damage the cords, cause leaks, or damage the vehicle itself. If water gets in to where the timber supports are, it might begin to rot away the material, weakening it.
Anywhere that you even suspect water might be able to breach, reseal with your sealant. You can also use putty or spackle sealants as long as they’re waterproof.
Step Seven: Set The Satellite Up
Finally, after all of the setup and waterproofing, the time has come to set up the satellite itself. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to get the satellite into place. Get a friend to help you, as some dishes can be rather large and unwieldy.
Keep the base lined up with the correct holes as you get everything into place. Make sure that there aren’t any cables getting trapped or pinched anywhere. This could cause potential issues further down the line.
Step Eight: Run The Cable Inside
The difficult parts of your installation are finished; what’s left is to wrap up the job and get the cables hooked up. Find the connectors that are from your satellite and connect them to their correct paired cord on the receiver. Make sure all of the relevant cables are connected.
When everything is in its place, you can place the box wherever you’ve decided it will go. Now you’re ready to watch your favorite shows right from the mobile comfort of your RV.
What Are The Best Satellites For An RV
The things to consider about the best RV satellites are weight, ease of installation, and durability.
Two of the best satellites for RVs are:
Winegard GM-6035 Carryout 62+
This compact satellite is perfect for those who don’t like the aesthetics of a traditional satellite. It’s portable, and might not need as many steps to set up. It’s best for RV owners who want the flexibility of changing TV carriers easily. That’s because this satellite will work with a number of providers.
- Works with multiple networks like DISH, DirecTV, BellTV, etc
- Durable and weatherproof
- Easy to set up – it only has one cord to run through the RV.
- Doesn’t support HD with DirecTV
- May have connectivity issues
- Needs a separate receiver to work
King VQ4500 Tailgater
Another compact, portable satellite, this time only provided by DISH network. It’s perfect for those who like to have the TV on in multiple rooms of their RV.
- Very lightweight
- Pay-as-you-go subscription
- Automatic signal acquisition
- Built-in dual coaxial outputs
- DISH network only
- Not entirely waterproof
- Takes a bit of time to find a signal
When you want to enjoy TV on the go, the best way to do it is to install an RV on the roof of your RV. It is a process that takes a few steps and some handiwork, but it can be done with a little technical knowhow. Always keep the manufacturer’s instructions with you when you install a satellite dish on an RV.
The most important thing to remember when you install your satellite dish is to measure carefully. It’s also vital that you ensure that everything is weather and waterproofed.