Introducing the JACK Digital HDTV Antenna by King Controls.
Digital TV has been rolled out now for a couple of years however older RVs I expect are just catching up with the technology curve since the majority of those don’t have DTV ready equipment or suitable antennas. I purchased 2 Magnavox DTV boxes which I setup in our rig at least a year ago however our use of over the air TV was a best limited since we have capabilities for CATV and satellite TV.
As it just so happens, the past 2 or 3 times that we went out with our RV, I wanted to focus on our DTV capabilities which were previously limited to being right on top of the transmitter. My frustrations stems from the fact that I would ask my neighbor, how many over the air channels are you getting to which the response would be normally “Oh I’m getting about 10 to 15.” I’m definitely figuring out that something isn’t right especially since I have a “Wingman” and fairly good equipment to get more than the limited number of channels I was getting.
The familiar “Batwing” crank handle is removed using an Allen wrench. Once removed 3 pieces will fall into your hand. Using a #2 Phillips, the detent plate is removed from the ceiling. When the mechanism is removed off the roof the hole is clean as shown.
Going into a diagnostic mode, I raised the antenna and ventured up on the roof. What I found there was a classic omission of following common sense diagnostic procedures which I could have pursued 6 or more months earlier. At the top of the batwing, a piece of coax rolls out of the legs and connects into the head amp of the antenna. Pulling the rubber boot back displayed a white powdery coated F connector which is nothing more than corrosion. Toward the 6 o’clock position of the connector, the corrosion was so bad that the nut itself appeared to be rusted through. This I expect is where gravity pushed all the moisture off the F connector.
I needed pliers to unscrew the F connector from the head off the antenna. Once that came off, I looked inside the nut and surmised that it was amazing that any signal came through the connector at all. In order to resolve on all that was needed was a pair of cutting pliers a new F connector, a wire stripper and crimping pliers. All fixed I made the connection and came off the roof to see if there was any improvement.
Bringing up the TV and the DTV box I went to setup and scanned for channels. Something like 15 channels came up! For the first time since I’ve had the DTV equipment I was getting all the major networks and a few weather channels.
That’s all fine and good but I was asking myself how could this have been prevented and the obvious answer that came to my mind is not having an F connector on the roof that is exposed to the intense sun and weather would be a good thing. Researching a solution for this I came up with the “Jack” antenna from King Controls. Looking it over what is obvious; exposed external connections to the antenna are not required as those are internal in the base.
I ordered the Jack antenna and received same from www.rvupgrades.com within a very few days. Their turn around is very quick and I had my order in no time from the receipt of my eMail notification. The Jack (in the box) came inside another box. It was funny for a moment but you would have had to been there. I cut open the top of the box and pulled out the packing. The entire antenna was all assembled aside from the rotary stalk and the inside directional knob and cover. The antenna sits just about 12 inches high and is make of a high impact white plastic. Early on I was turned around in trying to figure out which side was the front of the antenna but I have come to find out that the square part of the mast faces forward when the direction control points toward a point on the compass.
At this point the task at hand was the new installation of the Jack and the removal of the batwing. I went inside the rig and removed the crank handle. An Allen screw holds it in place. When the handle comes off, the spring and the detent ring come with it. Next the base of the detent plate becomes visible. 4 screws secure the plate into the ceiling. Once removed all that remains is the shaft that turns the batwing. These complete the inside disassembly.
Once the screws were removed, the baseplate would not budge at all until a wide blade scraper was used to cut the underlying silicone seal. The coax is visible coming through the roof. This connection was clean when disassembled.
The opening act of this install was to remove all the Dicor on the base of the batwing to expose the screw heads. I cut through most of the rubber with a utility razor and a paint scraper. The C clips holding the pins that allow the antenna to rise were removed next. Once the pins were removed I laid the antenna down on the roof and continued removing and cutting through the sealant. I had to be very careful while cutting away at the Dicor not to score the fiberglass roof. Once the screws were accessible, I removed them. There were about 10 screws I believe that they were #10 pan head #2 Phillips about 1 inch long. (Do not discard the screws) Removing the screws and expecting the base of the antenna to lift off the roof didn’t happen as I expected but I had to use a 4 inch wide steel spackling knife to cut the adhesion between the roof and the base of the antenna. The base was stuck down very securely with a silicone and it never did leak.
This is what is available to work with on the roof. The piece of coax is about 8 inches long. This wire was way too short to make a direct connection to the Jack. The surface of the roof at this point is just about free of old sealant. Note the existing mounting holes. A dab of Dicor was applied into each hole and allowed to tack up before continuing. The feed hole forward was partially filled with old Dicor and initially filled with caulk and allowed to sit.
Once the base lifted what came into view was the hole in the roof where the coax comes through from the A/V switch. Most of the cable was folded in on itself and stuffed in the hole. Removing what was in the hole I found a slight tear in the out jacket but it did not look too worse for the wear. What was available to do the install was about 8 inches of cable. I finished removing any Dicor remaining on the roof and the area appeared ready to begin installing the Jack.
Installing the Jack was easy to do but it did require a little bit of trial and error but I hope my experience will help you. On the bottom of the Jack is a square operating shaft with a longer rectangular solid plastic extension coming off the bottom of the assembly. This piece is where the directional control is fitted and secured with a screw. What one needs to do here is to firmly grasp the bottom shaft and pull it down and away from the antenna. You will hear a number or ratcheting clicks as it extends. Pull the shaft as far as it will go. Now you can insert the shaft through the hole in the roof where the batwing was mounted. There is a dimension in the install procedure that needs to be considered so make sure you review that but the batwing hole was large enough.
Using a 12 to 14 inch long RG6 extension cable, I was able to wrap the cable counterclockwise around the base and make the connection in the base of the Jack. A cut-out is provided in the base for the coax to pass while lying flat on the roof. Non-leveling Dicor sealant is applied all around the base. A piece of shrink wrap was shrunk over the connections using a high power hair dryer. Shrink wrap is seen in the right pic covering the connections.
On the bottom of the Jack is a thin short piece of coax that goes down to the SureLock Digital Signal Meter. This cable and the rotating shaft must exist in the same hole. The install requires that a small cutout be provided for the coax cable. I used a coarse rat tail file and made about a 3/8th of an inch hole vertically at the backside of the hole. (6 o’clock from the front) The rat tail file made short work of that since the roof is mostly Styrofoam and thin luan paneling.
Before I committed to mounting the antenna permanently, I wanted to temporarily connect the antenna to see it worked. The wire and hole that comes up from the A/V switch are now outside of the footprint of the antenna base and the wire that I have to work with is too short. The only thing that can be done in this instance is to use what you have and move forward. I went and found a piece of scrap RG6 and cut a piece about a foot long and terminated the ends. Before continuing the install I took a ride over to the Shack and picked up a bag of assorted 6” long shrink wraps. There was only 1 large shrink wrap tube in the package suitable for what I need to do, so I was good to go.
The mast from the Jack is seen going past the ceiling material. This part of the process is essential. The mast is adjustable and is pushed vertically, very gently until it just clears the ceiling panel. The small coax cable is seen in a cutout that was made at the rear of the mast. See the notch in the ceiling panel.
The Jack can now be mounted through the hole in the roof. I fitted the coax extension cable onto the F connector adapter in the bottom the Jack and tightened it. There is a notch in the base of the Jack that is provided for the coax as it will have to come outside of the base to be connected to the feed. The operating shaft of the Jack “must” extend past the ceiling. This will become important later. As you introduce the operating shaft into the hole, feed the small coax into the rear cutout. Push the antenna down until it sits flush on the roof. Going inside gently tug on the coax and pull it toward the rear of the notch and allow it to hang.
I needed a coupling between the extension and the feed so I put that together. I slipped the shrink wrap over the extension cable and pushed it back out of the way for the time being. Important here I thought when making the connection was to use dielectric grease on the external threads which I expect will ward off corrosion for many years. I used a small wrench on all the connections and gave them a 1/8th of a turn after snug just so I knew that they were tight. You also want to snug the connections in the antenna base before you insert the mast through the roof.
This is the upper part of the shell that comprises the SureLock Digital Signal Meter. The small piece of coax is wrapped CW in the shell forward and straight back and connected to the F connector. The shell should not be over tightened to the ceiling panel. Give the coax a gentle tug to make sure it’s in the channel.
At this point the job is not complete but I was able to turn on the TV and the DTV box, scan for channels and everything worked fine. I the very first try I got something like 20 channels from my house. Satisfied that the Jack was going to work I had to go back on the roof to mount the base and seal everything.
At this point I needed to pull the jack back up and begin the sealing process. Using a non self leveling Dicor sealant, I applied a healthy bead to the bottom footprint of the Jack. There’s a grove or channel that will hold the caulk. The coax will come through a cutout in the back of the base. Once that was all set I put the Jack back in the hole and aligned antenna base on the roof so that it would point straight ahead using the V of the antenna head as a point of reference but what’s important is to make sure that the base is pointing straight forward. One other thing that you need to have a feel for is centering a square shaft in a round hole. As you adjust the base try to see if you can center the shaft as much as possible in the hole so that it’s not lying heavy on one side of the hole or the other. Using the screws from the batwing, I mounted the Jack. You need 2 less screws. None of the screws went back into existing holes.
With the lower shell snapped up in place and the directing knob installed, I powered up the Jack for the first time and the RED LED shows that the unit has power and 4 GREEN LEDS indicate that I have full signal strength.
I taped in a small pilot hole using an awl and placed in screw #1 and began to screw it in with my small electric drill. You want to stop before you bottom out the screw and tighten by hand using a screwdriver. I installed all the rest of the screws and watched as the Dicor was squeezed between the base and the roof.
I now have the base mounted and the wire is run but now what? There a huge hole in the roof and loose wiring. Here comes the fun, finishing off the installation. In regard to the 1 inch hole in the front of the base of the Jack, I shoved in some old Dicor in the hole to take up some of the volume. I thought that I should not use material dissimilar with the sealant that I was using so I went that route. I opened up a new tube of self leveling Dicor and applied a small amount in and over the hole coming through the roof and allowed that to dry for a moment. I centered the shrink wrap over the coupling in the coax and using a 1850W hair dryer I was able to get the shrink wrap to shrink over the wire but it took a lot of time and patience perhaps a half hour or so. If I had a paint removing gun I could have shrunk the cover in a few seconds.
In this shot you can clearly see the screw in the pointing knob. The arrow should point toward the signal source. The square part of the Jack antenna is the front. The thumb lock on the side is pushed in and the Jack is turned as much as 360°. I chose to add a bit of petroleum jelly in the base of the knob and on the teeth lining the internal side wall of the shell and the knob.
At this point the wire connections are sealed and I have a preliminary bead over the hole coming through the roof. I saw where the coax that feeds the antenna was springy and it did not want to sit flat on the roof so I got a 3M 1”x1” self adhesive tie wrap anchor and stuck it to the roof and tied the wire off. Much better I thought. To finish off the roof install I resumed using the self leveling Dicor and coated the base, the screw heads, the feeder hole, the old screw holes in the roof and the coax wire. I also filled in all the space between the base and the coax. I wound up using the whole tube of Dicor on the base.
Back inside the rig to finish up the install shows that the mast of the Jack is sticking well below the ceiling. At this point the base of the SureLock Digital Signal Meter that is attached to the ceiling will not go flush to the ceiling. What you need to do is gently push up on the shaft so that it goes up 1 click at a time. Continue to push the shaft up until the base of the large part of the shaft has just cleared the ceiling panel. The long narrow part of the direction shaft should still be below the ceiling. If you want to test out the rotation of the Jack at this point to see if the coax wire in its track and clear or rotating parts feel free to go ahead and do so now. Give the coax a gentle tug again, and make sure that the coax is as far back in the recess as possible, it will lie in there pretty much on its own without getting wrapped up with the direction shaft. Temporarily place the direction knob on the shaft. Rotate the antenna back and forth lock to lock to check for rubbing in the hole and to see if the coax is clear. The head of the antenna should rotate freely. The antenna is capable of 360° rotation.
Remove the knob and prepare to install the upper part of the shell holding the SureLock Digital Signal Meter. Squaring the shell half is not mission critical but the straighter it is, the better it will look. I think that my shell is off center by 1 or 2 degrees. The piece goes on with the LEDs toward the rear of the enclosure. Again once you have positioned the upper part of the shell use the provided screws and secure the shell to the ceiling. Do not tighten the screws so that it sucks in the shell into the ceiling because the lower shell will not snap into place. Take the small coax wire and wrap it clockwise in the shell around the front of the shaft, come straight back and make up the connection to the F connector in the display. Give it a little snug action with your wrench after its hand tight. Note that all the connectors have gold colored plating. Install the lower shell and push it into place. It will snap in. If it does not the upper shell is too tight up to the ceiling.
Do yourself a favor and get a small amount of Vaseline and coat the gears and race in the upper shell. The direction knob is keyed so it only goes on one way. Push it upward until it fits in the recess and the lock tab snaps in place to hold the antenna. You will be able to feel this when you install the knob. Now this last step is critical. If the turning shaft is at the right height, the long square will extend deep enough into the direction knob so that it can be secured. Find the provided screw for the purpose and insert the screw into the center of the knob and tighten same. IF you cannot tighten the screw the turning shaft is not low enough and you need to remove the upper shell and pull down on the large shaft perhaps 1 or a few more clicks. This is why I said to push up the shaft 1 click at a time and stop when the shaft is just clear of the panel. If the screw does not make up, you might need to make the hole slightly larger, pull the shaft down until its flush with the face of the ceiling and then remount the shells and restore the knob and screw to see it it will make up.
This is the Jack a few days after the original install and having given enough time for the Dicor self leveling caulk time to set. You can the lump on the left is where the Dicor covers the shrunk wrapped connection. The lump in the back with the line going across the coax is the roof tie. The cable is routed CC around the antenna base and goes under the base in the right rear. Everything is covered with self leveling Dicor and sealed with non self leveling Dicor. The antenna is mounted slightly on a crown so what looks like a potential puddle actually drains out.
The arrow shows the direction of the face of the squared part of the antenna. If you are using a resource like “antennapoint.com” and it shows a transmitter toward the NE, use a compass and turn the arrow until it points to the NE. On the left side of the SureLock Digital Signal Meter toward the back, you will find a black switch that will turn on or off the signal strength LEDs. To operate the switch, move it forward or backward. In travel mode I prefer to have the V part of the antenna pointing forward so the arrow will be pointing to the back of the coach.
In regard to performance; the antenna works very well. Pointing to a signal source within 10 miles of our location the DTV strength indicator displayed a 98. When allowing the converter to scan for channels, use an antenna pointing resource and aim the antenna in the middle of all the transmitters that are available. This will give you a fair amount of channels to look at. In some markets you may have to re-point the antenna to get one or more channels. When we camped in southern SC, I had to point to a CBS affiliate in Charleston while the other channels seemed to come across pretty well from Columbia. I am very pleased with the performance of the Jack antenna especially from the house here in Conway, SC since I can scan in some 23 channels.
Here is the product description:
The all new King Control’s JACK Digital HDTV Antenna is the latest technology available to get the maximum reception for your TV. The sleek, aerodynamic JACK antenna is fixed at 12″ high eliminating the need to crank up or down and is always ready for travel. An amplified, ultra high gain antenna provides the best digital TV reception available for your RV with superior reception of both VHF & UHF signals and a much broader reception range. The built-in Surelock Digital TV signal finder let’s you pinpoint the local TV towers before scanning for channels for simple. fool-proof antenna pointing. Full 360 degree rotation allows for precise antenna pointing with no dead spots commonly found with other antenna mounts. An LED light on the heads confirms power to the built in amplifier via the supplied wall mount power injector switch. At just 12″H x 16″W x 12.5″L the JACK is up to 70% smaller than other antennas. Color: White
PS: Does anyone need a JEM Antenna Saver??