Spring Has Sprung

That last little bit of spring cleaning may have slipped your mind. Your dish is waiting to be washed.

Spring cleaning touches nearly everything around your home-- the windows, the gardens, the walls and the floors. Your satellite dish should not be an exception. With a little spring cleaning and preventative maintenance, it will be good to go for the next year.

The Inspection List

First up is an inspection of the dish.

  1. Look at the panels to make sure that none are missing, severely dented or otherwise out of kilter. In most cases, a single bad panel can degrade your signal enough to cause some sparkles.

  2. Check out the wiring for cracked and broken areas. After several years in the sun, cold, rain and snow, the insulation can become hard and crack. Wiring running underground is not a problem, but the wiring exposed has a more limited life span. Always replace bad wiring. Make sure you have a good ground connection to the metal of the dish. It should be straight and heavy gauge copper wire connected to a grounding rod that is driven between six and eight feet into the ground.

  3. Check your actuator arm to make sure that drain hole is clear and on the bottom. Water causes rust and if it freezes, it can actually break parts.

  4. Check the pivot points to make sure they are rust-free. Rust can bind and cause undue strain on the motor.

  5. Make sure the feedhorn cover is in place. It will protect the electronics out at the dish (and it looks better too).

  6. Make sure there is a drip loop in any wiring that is not tied down to a strut or mount. This will help water flow to the ground rather than delicate components.

Clean & Grease

If you're capable, there are some thins you can do to prolong your dish's life.

  1. Wash all the crud off with a soft brush and soapy solution.

  2. Grease the pivots. If there dish pivots have zirk fittings, don't hesitate to apply fresh grease.

  3. Make sure you have good electrical connections. Disconnect each connector and check for a shiny center conductor. If it looks crusty or corroded, it needs to have a new connector installed. Place a bead of silicon grease inside each of the connectors to prevent water from getting inside and causing corrosion. Inside the actuator motor housing is a group of wires that feed the power to the motor and send the positioning signal back to the receiver. Make sure they have clean, corrosion-free connections. If not, restrip them and reconnect them.

  4. Check all the bolts for looseness and tighten accordingly. Also, take a wire brush to any rusty areas and repaint them with enamel paint. Don't over-tighten bolts --you'll crush the struts.

  5. Use a mirror to look up into the feed throat for any objects that might interfere with the movement of the probe. Be careful. Wasps like this area.

Look, Listen & Embellish

The last test is to have someone steer the dish around while you stand by and listen to its noises. The motor will have some noise, but you are listening for excessive grinding. That could indicate corrosion, worn gears or even binding joints. Watch the dish to make sure it moves steadily.

Have someone change the channels so you can listen for the feed's rotor polarizer to switch polarity. It will sound like a series of short zips.

Finally, plant some colorful flowers around the dish. Put in a nice rock garden. Install a bench so you can sit and enjoy the filtered sunlight through the mesh panels. Your dish is something to be proud of, so why not make it show?

Source: OnSat May 25-31,1998 Issue. Article by David B. Melton.