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Advisory to Do-It-Yourself Dish Re-aligners

Discussion in 'DIRECTV General Discussion' started by K4SMX, Sep 23, 2007.

  1. K4SMX

    K4SMX Hall Of Fame

    May 19, 2007
    Would you mind listing the specific receivers, if you know, Robert? I've never noticed this on the non-activated H20-600 I use, but I know it's an issue.
  2. RobertE

    RobertE New Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Pretty much all of them.

    It takes most receivers a second or two to give you a good reading. If your spinning those fine tuning dials like a mad man, one will never hit it dead on. Probably get really close, but not perfect. Then if you add in a repeater, ie, wife, s.o., kid, etc, just adds to the delay.

    Think of it this way. Using a true signal meter is like listing to a game live on the radio. Where using the receivers meter will be like watching it "live" on your dvr. You just end up with a bit of lag from real time.

    It can be done for sure. Done it myself. Just takes more patience.
  3. K4SMX

    K4SMX Hall Of Fame

    May 19, 2007
    Yes, well, no one should be spinning those fine adjustment screws like a madman!:nono2:
  4. K4SMX

    K4SMX Hall Of Fame

    May 19, 2007
    (Edited 27JUL08 for the addition of DirecTV11)

    There are two predominant types of dishes currently in use: the AT-9 ("sidecar") and the AU9-S (Slimline). There is also the new Slimline3, which does not receive the 110 and 119 satellites, so the dish is aligned with reference only to the 99/101/103 satellites, as further outlined below.

    These are the written instructions for the AU9-S.

    This is DirecTV's 2006 video for fine tuning adjustments of the back assemblies of both of the main types of dishes currently in use. You'll have no trouble identifying which type you have and how adjustments are made from this comprehensive video.

    The above references are designed only for finding the simultaneous broad peaks of the 101 and 119 satellites, targeting the 99 and 103 satellites only inferentially. A lot installers don't yet have Ku/Ka satellite meters and, in any event, may not have had access to an actual Ka signal at the time these instructions were issued. Adjustment by this method alone does not in practice always produce maximum Ka signal strengths which are available at your dish, because these two dishes exhibit very sharp alignment characteristics for the Ka satellites. Experienced installers are very adept at using this "dither" method on the 101 satellite, and, when carefully practiced, will get you very close, assuming a plumb mast.

    Following are additional observations on Ka re-alignment procedures, some of which were touched on in earlier posts in this thread:

    Before doing anything else, you should seriously consider examining the plumb on your dish support mast with a good level in two opposing vertical planes, since many people have found their mast's mounting plate screws had worked loose from the building structure (or their masts were otherwise not plumb). Tighten those as necessary. To check your plumb with a level, you will have to temporarily remove and set aside your dish, after carefully marking the AZ where the mast meets the dish mount. At a minimum, use the plastic bubble shipped in the top of your dish mast if it's still there, with the understanding that it's not as good as a level on the length of your mast. It's better to use one of those 9" "torpedo" levels, which is pretty much the length of the vertical part of the mast. Most of them have a groove on one side which aligns them perfectly with the mast.

    Carefully check the plumb of the mast in the parallel plane to the side of your house or roof line. There's usually some wiggle room in the screw holes where the mounting plate is mounted to the house. So if it's just slightly out of plumb in that plane, you can move the mounting plate around in the screw holes to correct that, after you loosen the screws slightly. You may even notice a slight change sometimes when you tighten the screws back down. Similarly, plumb in the other plane is adjusted with the two bolts which secure the mast arm to the mounting plate. If you check the plumb in that direction, you can correct any out of plumb condition by slight adjustment, after loosening those two bolts. It would be better not to bend anything into plumb, if possible. And again, sometimes re-tightening them moves the plumb slightly.

    If you start with a perfectly plumb mast, you're guaranteed to get good alignment results across all the satellites, as long as the LNB/dish is good. Aligning a dish on an out-of-plumb mast, while certainly possible, is more difficult and time-consuming, although in some mounting locations is unavoidable.

    Next, make sure you understand how the fine tuning mechanisms are constructed, so you don't damage them. Reviewing the DirecTV video (above) is especially helpful in this respect. Because the EL is the most likely to be out of alignment, you might begin there. Note that you do NOT loosen the nut behind the EL or the AZ fine adjustment knobs unless you run out of travel on the screw, just the other two nuts on the EL and AZ fine adjustment mechanisms, as applicable to your mount. (Some mounts have only one EL lockdown bolt.) Make sure the nut behind the EL adjustment knob is tight before you loosen the other nut(s). Do not otherwise loosen all the EL nuts simultaneously, or the whole dish will drop unexpectedly. Do NOT loosen anything on the fine tuning mechanisms that's not a 1/2" nut.

    You might also consider, if safe and practical, moving a receiver, an RF modulator (if necessary) and a small TV to near the dish location for ease of adjustment and/or when working by yourself. Otherwise, you'll need a helper to relay signal readings to you by phone. A Slingbox and a laptop are the ultimate setup, if you have them already. Temporarily remove the LNB from its support arm, and remount the LNB for adjustment, using a short, known-good cable. If you are lucky, there will be an in-line pigtail of RG6 on one of your dish lines which you can use instead. When you remove the LNB, be careful not to lose the hardware, but if you do, these are 8x32x1-1/4 inch bolts with "Whiz nuts."

    If you have NO 103(c)/99(c) signals, you should first thoroughly review Troubleshooting Tips for 103(c), as applicable, and consider whether you might have an equipment problem before proceeding. If you think you might have one or more bad BBC's and are in doubt, you can always adjust your dish on one of the 103(s) or 99(s) local spot beam transponders signals, if they are at all present at your location. If you have no 103 or 99 signals, you will need to find the broad 101 & 119 peaks, as covered in the video or the installation instructions or using the receiver's Signal Meters, just as if you were starting from scratch. You are unlikely to even find the 103's or 99's otherwise. You can then do a little further tweaking on a 103 or 99 satellite.

    If your 103(c)/99(c) signals are now present, but low, and you are using a receiver and not a Ku/Ka signal meter for tracking your adjustment, just go directly to an individual 103(c) or 99(c) transponder on the Signal Meter(s). You will find that the weaker tp's are more sensitive to re-alignment adjustments because of the software algorithm used, which is actually measuring signal strength by inversely displaying the bit error rate (BER).

    Remember to allow time for the Signal Meter to respond to your adjustments. Write down your existing 103 and 99 readings. Be aware that whenever you are viewing the signal strength grid for a particular satellite as opposed to a specific transponder with the Signal Meters, it is normal to see tp signal strengths "blinking zeros" occasionally. This is just a software issue, which can be confirmed by viewing the actual transponder with the Signal Meters. Make sure your tilt is set to the proper amount for your location. (Go to dishpointer.com and enter your exact location, then select the DirecTV 5 LNB dish in the drop-down menu.)

    The individual transponder Signal Meter selection is found in the on-screen menu, so select one to begin:

    Parental, Fav's & Setup > System Setup > Satellite (& Ant) > View Signal Strength > Signal Meters

    Carefully fine tune first the EL and then the AZ by means of the fine adjustment bolts, the ones with the index number skirts. Don't forget to loosen those lock down bolts! (if you have an AT9, your mount's AZ may be different.) If you're using a 103(c) tp, then have a look at your 99(c)'s which you previously recorded. As a final step, you can adjust your tilt slightly in each direction by loosening the three nuts on the back of the tilt ring, checking back and forth between a 99(c) and a 103(c) tp. Optimize between the 99(c) and the 103(c). If the 99's went down instead of up when compared to any original numbers you wrote down, you have some minor geometry problem: out of plumb mast, dish imperfections, etc. If there's an appreciable difference, review your plumb, etc. Dishes can also have been warped in shipping. When you're finished, re-tighten all lock down bolts.

    Don't worry about the 119 Ku's; they're just "along for the ride," and are much less precise in alignment requirement. In a perfect world, with a perfectly plumb mount and perfect dish construction, the arc formed by your dish alignment should line up exactly with the arc of the satellites in the sky.

    Remember, your personal safety is paramount. This is only TV. You will not receive a very good 16:9 HD picture from your hospital bed. It will instead be a dim, out-of-convergence picture on an old 19" CRT, and you'll get to use a remote with "iffy" batteries. Read this story!: Be Careful on Ladders
  5. texasbrit

    texasbrit Well-Known Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    This is great advice from K4SMX. Having re-aligned three dishes in the last two weeks (two AT-9 and one slimline) to improve the 103(b) signals, I can tell you he has emphasized the most important issues.
    You may be seeing what look like good signals on 101/110/119 but poor signals on 103(b). Remember that when you had your dish installed there were probably no 103(b) signals to check. And the installation instructions for the slimline don't even mention 103(b) at the moment, although I hope DirecTV will change this.
    If your dish is not plumb you will never get great signals across the board. The complex geometry of the dish is such that an out-of plumb mount makes it impossible to get very high signals from all the satellites simultanously. I was lucky - my AT-9 dish was one of the first installed, and the installer did pretty well on getting it aligned for 101 etc, but the most important thing was it was very well plumbed. When I came to adjust my own dish to get better 103(b), only minor adjustments in both azimuth and elevation moved my 103(b) signals from the 70s/80s to the mid to high 90s, and all my other signals improved also. The second dish I adjusted, a slimline, was more difficult. My initial adjustments improved 103(b) from the 60s to the 80s, but I could not improve any further without running into problems with 99 and 119. So I re-plumbed the dish mount, and then managed to get results similar to my own. The third dish I re-plumbed before I started, and after that it only took me about 10 minutes to get 103(b) signals in the 90s, with excellent signals on all the other satellites.
    I don't move a receiver to the dish, just a TV on the end of a very long coax driven by a modulator connected to the HD receiver.
  6. johnnytex

    johnnytex Legend DBSTalk Club

    Jul 20, 2007
    Hey texbrit
    I think you are in the DFW area. Could you post your signal strengths on all tps?
    I can’t figure out which ones are spots.
  7. techrep

    techrep Hall Of Fame

    Sep 15, 2007
    Posters with alignment questions/issues will greatly benefit from being pointed to this thread and post #44.
  8. texasbrit

    texasbrit Well-Known Member

    Aug 9, 2006
    johnnytex - here goes:
    1-8 100 82 96 0 96 96 96 98
    9-16 98 87 98 100 98 100 96 100
    17-24 98 0 98 100 100 98 98 98
    25-32 98 0 98 0 98 100 98 100

    tp 8 92, tp 10 90, tp 12 90

    tp 22 100, tp 23 98, tp 24 98
    25-32 96 100 100 98 98 100 98 100

    99(b) (all are spotbeams for other cities)
    1-6 0 0 0 94 0 94

    1-6 98 0 96 0 96 0

    1-8 94 96 94 94 89 96 89 94
    9-16 94 96 94 94 96 94 na na
    tp17 96
  9. leesweet

    leesweet Godfather

    Jul 15, 2003
    I have to add, sometimes it *is* true. After previous experiences with Mastec, I was a bit shocked. I had DirecTV/Mastec come to realign my 103b's (in the 50s, with 101 at 90-92). After discussing the usual issues with the technician, who freely admitted they had no way to peak 103/99, he said: I'm going to peak 101 carefully, check 119, and then we'll see what 103b looks like.

    A half hour later, 101 has nine 100s, in general is up 7-8 points everywhere, 119 about the same change, and 103b is all 95s. I freely apologized and called him an artist with a tuning meter. I suppose because it *is* possible using the Ku's, they aren't supplying an easy direct method to tune the thin Ka signals.
  10. gb33

    gb33 Legend

    Sep 8, 2006
    Unfortunately I have and that is probably why I am in the pickle I am in. K4SMX if you recall me a couple months back. The fine tuning screw was the only thing I found to bring my MP4 channels back in. But now I only get a good signal on every other transponder and my HD channels are unwatchable to to constant break up every 20-30secs. So tomorrow is finally supposed warm and I don't have alot going on. So wish me luck. I will get a brace across my gable peak (to form a triangle) so I can finally get the bottom half of the mounting plate secured to something. That thing is just one big kite up there and I don't know how it has lasted so long with just the top 2 bolts mouted. I will report back with hopefully good results. Although I do use the repeater system with wife+radios. But also the added interference of a 4 month old and 2yr old. So it is certainly a treat.
  11. K4SMX

    K4SMX Hall Of Fame

    May 19, 2007
    Your real treats and here's wishing you luck! (And you know to make sure your mast is dead level when you've finished the "improvements.")

    I'll have to say a wireless laptop and a DirecTV receiver-connected Slingbox through a wireless router is the greatest single improvement I've found to the dish alignment conundrum for those considering a Ka signal meter for just their personal use. Wouldn't want to drop the laptop off that roof gable, however..... :)

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