TV Satellite Dish Reception Problems

By Elizabeth Mott

Poor satellite TV reception can have many causes.
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You may not see satellite TV dishes when you're driving down the street, but chances are good you'll find them mounted on roofs and masts throughout your neighborhood. Whether you live in an apartment or condo, a duplex or a single-family dwelling, you can receive your television entertainment through one of these services using a 2-foot-diameter dish pointed at an orbiting satellite. DirecTV, Dish Network and other services offer a broad range of programming choices, some of which are unavailable through other sources. If you're a satellite TV customer experiencing poor reception, check these causes to see if they explain your problems.

Rain Fade

It's not the rain -- or snow -- on your dish that's the problem: it's the precipitation in the air that causes the interference. Heavy precipitation can interfere with the clear line of sight between your dish and the satellite, interrupting your signal. Especially if your signal strength already is marginal, rain fade can push you over the edge into signal loss. In extreme conditions, your onscreen picture freezes or blacks out, except for a cryptic error message like "Searching for satellite"; your audio may chitter or chuckle. There's not much you can do about rain fade except wait it out. If your system is installed and aimed correctly, any rain fade you experience should create no more than a brief outage.


Anything that blocks the signal path between your dish and the satellite itself reduces or even blocks your reception. That includes tree branches and leaves, animals and debris. One of the reasons it's crucial to evaluate your dish placement carefully before installing satellite TV is to look for trees that will interfere with reception, either now or as they grow. If your signal strength drops suddenly, check for trash that might have blown onto your hardware or a four-legged visitor perched on your LNB, the Low Noise Block Downconverter that points at your dish to amplify your signal and convert it to the frequencies your system needs.

Dish Alignment Problems

If your dish is out of alignment, either because it wasn't installed correctly or something has dislodged it from its correct position, your signal quality will suffer. Professional installers should verify that your system is functioning properly before they leave your home. If your signal strength is low or your onscreen quality suffers with no precipitation or signal blockages to blame, you may need to call your satellite provider for service, especially if your dish is mounted on your roof.

Cable Quality

Your system relies on cables to bring the signal from your dish into your home. If your installation uses the wrong kind of cable or your cable integrity degrades over time from exposure to the elements, your system performance will decline. Some weather-related cable problems may start when you have rain, then disappear after a few days when your cables dry out. Cable-related problems can be difficult to diagnose without rewiring your system. Before you undertake a rewiring project or expect cabling assistance from your provider, make sure you've eliminated other possible problems first or ruled them out with a service call.