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A New DISH HD Setup

The old DISH 500 setup. Yeah that is a screwdriver in the mast.

‘Get your money’s worth’  is what I always say.  Drive all the good out of a vehicle, use a piece of equipment until it becomes more trouble than it is worth — that kinda thing.   When I first got ahold of the Old Girl, I picked up a DISH 500 dish and cheapo tripod to get satellite TV inside the  RV.  Since then, we have been in plenty of places and the setup has always worked.  I had to drill some holes in the feet so I could spike the legs to the ground and even that was not always successful in the Texas wind.  So much so that repeated upsets had broken the LNB arm.  That was remedied with a good wrapping of Alabama Chrome.  I lost the set screw that holds the mast tight and substituted a screw driver.  Over the years, it has seen so much use that the side facing south has oxidized and rusted.   Miss K got us a fancy flat screen TV for Christmas along with a new DISH package that included HD programming and that changed the game.

The trouble started just about then.  The old DISH 500 had 2 LNBs and it had gotten to the point I could just nearly squint over the top of the compass and zero that dog in on the 110 and 119 satellites with little trouble.    The DISH HD setup is a whole ‘nuther animal.  It introduces a 3rd satellite into the mix – 129 – in order to get some of that HD.  The dish itself is bigger and it has 3 LNBs.    It was too big and too front heavy for my old wore out tripod.   Oh, I managed to get it all tuned in–more than once– but the cuss factor was way up the scale and just not worth it.   Everything with that new dish had to be JUST so — if you were off by just a teeny bit; no bueno.  That proved problematic.   It the wind was ripping out of the south, the slop in that tripod resulted in movement and Bobby Flay would just pixel right on off the screen.  MUCHO no bueno according to Miss K.

Something had to give and most likely it meant spending money.   The setup most recommended on the RV forums was the one from these guys.   Let me tell you something about how the cow eat the cabbage for just a minute.  Plenty of these fairly famous RV folks who have those top shelf RV blogs and post on the internet forums as respected experts on the recreational vehicle life stink up the place a bit as far as I am concerned.  You see,  they are getting neato free stuff to review or they are being compensated for their services.  Not much chance of a bad review with that scenario, huh?  Reason I know this?  Folks have contacted me several times in the past for the same reason.  The most recent was some chemical foo foo that would make the black tank on the Old Girl smell like a rose garden in Paris.   No thanks.   Tempt me with a huge flat screen  or 10 new tires and test my conviction.

The new goods

You always wonder about items that are highly touted by others but you have not seen in person –especially when you are laying out some substantial bucks; around $160 if I remember right.   Miss K came home from the Post Office with a long, heavy package the first of the week and I knew I was gonna be OK with this purchase.  It took me 15 minutes to get it unpacked, they coulda drug this package tied to the bumper of the FedX truck and it would have arrived in good shape.   FWIW, I ordered the heavy duty tripod kit to support the larger DISH 1000 dish and I ordered the high wind package.

I knew the new equipment was going to be an improvement, I just didn’t know how big an improvement it would be.   No flimsy plastic and no Made in China stickers that I could see.  Basically what you are getting is a surveyors tripod that has ingeniously been improved to mount a satellite dish.  It comes with a compass and a bubble level the fit right on top of the tripod before you mount the mast.  It also has a nifty little scale on top of the tripod that works with your compass.  My brain is tired this morning so skipping all the tiny details….. if you use the compass and the scale, the tripod and dish will be aligned within a degree or two of where you need to be AND the tripod will be set where the legs provide the strongest support.

Ezee Aim on the tripod

It took me quite awhile to get it setup.  I was going slow to make sure I was doing it correctly and I had to stop about every 3 minutes to go check somebody in at the gate.  The instructions are pretty good.  Having fought that big ol’ dish previously to get it set up correctly, I knew how touchy it was.  I figured if I got the tripod set up perfect, tuning in those 3 satellites would just be that much easier.  The regular tie down system is a bungee cord and one of those screw in ground stakes like you would use to stake out your Poodle.   The high wind deal is a ratcheting cargo strap, a ground screw, 2 big old spikes and chains to put on the legs to keep ’em from spraddling out on you.

I leveled that booger out and then scooted it around until it was pointed just so at 212 degrees.  Then I chained it and strapped it and figured the moment of truth had come.  Setting up a satellite tv dish is never easy unless you have one of those little satellite finder boxes that you plug into the coax cable.  I had been using one I called the Squealer for years.  It was like $8 on eBay and after years of use, it was sporting its’ own piece of Alabama Chrome to keep the back from falling off and spilling all of its’ Chinese guts out on the hard baked caliche.  In the midst of Upgrade Mania, I figured the Squealer needed to go

Acutrac 22 MKII Pro

away as well.  I bought an Acutrak 22 MKII Pro satellite finder for right around $100.00.  I like it because I can look at the signal strength on 2 satellites at the same time and it has a bar graph to show signal strength.  That allows for very minute fine tuning adjustments.  It also has battery power so you do not have to hook it to the DISH receiver to get power.  Man, but those instructions!  They were nerdsomely technical and I had to read and re-read to get it to stick in my old brain.  ( The pic on the left is not posed just so with the hammer added as visual effect.  The wind was gusting to 25mph.)

So…. the moment of truth.  I had the DISH itself all set to the exact measurements as far as elevation and skew.  In the past, using the wobbly tripod and the Chinese Squealer, that had been a good starting point.  I always had so make (sometimes substantial) adjustments to tune in the satellites for best reception.   I plugged the Acutrac Pro in and it immediately lit up!  DING DING DING!   We got a winner folks!   I moved the azimuth just slightly right and left to peak the signals.  I tried an elevation change up and down but I was right on the money to start.  That was a first.  The end result was I moved the azimuth maybe 2 degrees to peak the signal.  Nothing else was touched.  I daresay I probably would have gotten decent reception with no peaking required at all.

Final setup of portable satellite tv dish

I know some of y’all are gonna do the math and say I spent over $250 on new toys I didn’t need at all.  Might be true…… I have read on the forums and it seems the majority of summer RVers with DISH HD do not go to the hassle of tuning in all 3 satellites when they are just out for a weekend or holiday.  They zoom in on 110 and 119 and call it good.   Of course, they are missing all their DISH HD channels.   Being fulltimers like Miss K and I are in the Old Girl, that is not an option.  My OCD nature demands that if something is supposed to work, it must work all the way.  Prior to getting this setup, aiming that HD dish intimidated me and it was a chore not relished.  Not anymore.   The setup is rock solid and it has already been tested in winds to 40mph and Bobby Flay was good even though the Old Girl was doing some rockin’ side to side.

Living in a fish bowl like we do right next to the road, the rig boys notice everything that is going on.  It wasn’t long before one of them cruised by with the window down and commented on the new satellite tv setup.  He said he wished he had satellite tv up at the crew quarters.  I asked why he didn’t and he said he had everything but a tripod.  Well, you can guess what happened to my old wobbly-legged tripod.  He boomed out of the gate the next day and gave me a big thumbs up as he passed.

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A New DISH HD Setup, 9.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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6 comments to A New DISH HD Setup

  • OH Man! I just went thru the exact same thing, and bought the same tripod setup. I have yet to get a new HD set up for the road, but do take my new DVR and use the old dish while in the RV. Hopefully I will find a used HD dish somewhere pretty cheap. I refuse to buy a new one for a 100 bucks plus.

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  • Jim

    Andy..would you recommend a setup like this for a Weekender
    the other Dish’s mounted are so expensive. I like the idea of
    having HD

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    • admin

      Jim,
      If you are going with a portable, manually aimed tripod setup for HD, this is the one to get. It will not be as easy as one of those fancy ones that aims the dish for you but it sure costs less. Just take your time setting it up and get it right.

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  • I went with the Winegard Carryout and ladder rack. We move often and sometimes stay at Wal-Mart or other places where puting out a tripod is out of the question. It finds all three DISH satelites by hitting the button. I love it!

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  • admin

    Miss Kathy says; Bobby Flay has LARGE Pores and her favorite chef is Tyler Florence. Duh!!!

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  • Kevin

    Howdy

    I remember back a few years when we were driving a truck, and trying to setup the dish. We just had a piece of PVC pipe mounted on the mirror with a couple of radiator clamps. If we moved in the truck we might lose the signal, and of course wind might blow us out of the signal.

    Sure wish we had a setup like this back then, and will look into it once we hit the road again.

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