receptions depends on time of day, time of year, and direction facing?
July 6, 2009 8:57 PM   Subscribe

I need help/advice fixing my Sirius reception (before I decide to fix it myself with a ball-peen hammer). Horrible reception during certain times of the year, during certain times of the day, and driving certain directions.

So another summer has come along and for the 2nd in a row, my Sirius reception goes into the crapper. Well, not all the time. In the morning on my way into work, it's fine. In the early evening (say, after 5) it's fine. No problems at night. But during the hottest times of the day, it's practically non-existent. Well, not entirely.
Let's take a typical day at the office. On my way into work, the reception is fine. At lunch, it's hot. I jump in my car and drive north. Nary a peep from the radio - I could drive an hour and the screen would display "Acquiring signal" the entire way. If I drive west, I can get about 75/25 no reception/good signal. If I drive east, it's about 50/50. And if I drive south, reception on the whole is near 100%. If I'm driving east with a good signal and take a left to go north, the signal dies midway thru the turn and doesn't come back until I turn to go another direction.
This problem disappears once the heat starts letting up, say mid to late September. Once the mercury hits the mid to upper 90's, it's back to a spotty (at best) signal.
I've had Sirius for about 3 years now and mostly enjoy it, particularly on long drives so I don't have to fumble thru the radio dial to find a station I like. I should also note that while I have the puck-sized roof antenna, it's stopped working about a year after I got it (error: "Connecting to Antenna" or somesuch) so I took the outdoor antenna the kit came with, wound up the slack wire with twist ties, and tucked the whole thing behind the radio, which is suction-mounted to my windshield (bottom left-hand corner). There's no way I'm springing for a new antenna unless it was guaranteed to fix my problems, which I suspect is more due to the heat or position of the sun than a faulty antenna.
Any help is appreciated. This problem has frustrated me to the point where I'm just about ready to cancel my subscription and smash the radio into little plastic bits!
posted by ChrisLSU to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have a similar problem with my Sirius, but it's a little more consistent than yours. I tend to lose signal at specific places, the same places each time, regardless of time of year or temp.

I had a dash-mounted standalone unit for awhile, then got sick of it and got a nice car desk with built in Sirius. On the old radio, there was a single spot near my work where the signal would tend to get wonky, which I always attributed to there being a host of high voltage power lines nearby.

When they installed my new radio, they claimed they couldn't get the old antenna off without damaging the finish of the roof of my truck, so they just hooked up the original antenna to the new radio. Ever since, I lose signal in a much broader area - and a couple new areas - very consistently. I too, noticed that the ability to get a signal in these dead zones often depends on which direction I'm going - north-south seems to fare better than east-west. Have no idea why this is, I don't know anything about the antennas.

This doesn't necessarily help you, just trying to make you feel better that you're not the only one. I hope to install the new antenna (the one that came with the new tuner) in a temporary installation soon to see if that fixes the issues.

The one thing that struck me was the mention that you were coiling the antenna wire behind the radio. I may be barking up the wrong tree, but coiling wire seems to have strange effects on wires. Urban myth or not, our network guys have always instructed us to never coil our excess network cable. When the tv satellite guy came to install my new dish, he specifically created a coil of 3-4 layers of coax before it entered my house - said he wasn't sure exactly why, but their techs were all instructed to make sure this little loop was created.

Long story short, have you tried to uncoil the excess antenna wire and just leave it as loos as you can within the car, and see if that makes a difference? If this is an 'outdoor kit', there may be something to the directional qualities of the antenna, if it was made to be stationary, as on your rooftop, similar to a UHF antenna. Perhaps the mobile antennas are specifically designed to allow for omnidirectional reception.

If nothing else, call Sirius, they seem to be responsive. Some time ago I filled out a subscriber survey in which I detailed my reception woes. Two days later I got a phone message from a Sirius rep asking for more information on my issue. (Unfortunately for a variety of reasons I never called them back, but it was nice to know they acknowledged my problem.)
posted by SquidLips at 10:28 PM on July 6, 2009

I know nothing about this, my sirius was professionally installed. But since heat seems to be the main factor then it might be a hot metal interference thing. Do the twist ties have metal? Can you replace those with velcro and maybe pack something around the wires to keep them insulated?
posted by raisingsand at 7:26 AM on July 7, 2009

I can say with some degree of certainty that your antenna is the problem.

First, the technology depends on line of sight for reception. Having the antenna inside your windshield pretty much guarantees you're getting a good signal when pointed towards one of the satellites.

Next, when the antenna is mounted on the roof of your car, the roof acts as sort of a satellite dish and helps to amplify the signal, thus you'll generally get better reception.

And if I understand correctly, you're using the antenna that's intended for use inside your house, right? If that's the case, I believe these antennas are highly directional, which means they'll only pick up a signal when pointed towards the satellites.

Your problems should clear up once you have the correct antenna.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:31 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

The antennae on the dash is the problem. Driving in certain directions the signal is blocked by the roof of the car.
posted by Gungho at 8:37 AM on July 7, 2009

Response by poster: I understand why the antenna being on the dash would be a problem, but what I don't get is why it's not a problem at 9 AM but becomes a problem 2 hours later, lasts for about 7 hours, then doesn't become a problem again until the next day. As well as why it's only during the summer months. I thought the satellites were in geosynchronous orbit; wouldn't they be in the same position in the sky (to my radio) regardless of the time of day or season? Plus, doesn't Sirius have terrestrial repeaters (although I have no idea if one is anywhere close to my area)?

The antenna is an outdoor antenna; the instructions said it needed to be mounted on a small dish (that I could get from Sirius for a small fee, of course) on the roof or side of my house. So no, it's not meant to be used inside.

The coil and/or twist-ties didn't occur to me. Of course, the cord is like 20-30 feet long; uncoiling it to test it may be a problem. But I'll give it a try.
posted by ChrisLSU at 2:45 PM on July 7, 2009

Best answer: Sirius/XM satellites travel in an elliptical geosynchronous orbit, which explains why reception would vary for you.

Most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. have repeaters. As I understand it, the satellite antenna also picks up the terrestrial signal, so having the antenna inside your car could effect your reception there as well. I replaced my busted antenna with one from Ebay for about $20.
posted by SteveInMaine at 10:44 AM on July 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the tip, Steve. I guess I'll have to replace the antenna. I have the roof antenna installed just about the windshield, but like I said, about a year after getting it, I started getting "Detecting antenna.." messages, so something's up; all I know is that I have a hockey puck on my roof that my radio can't see anymore. The only thing I hate more than having to get a new antenna is having to pay Best Buy (again) to replace the old one.

Thanks again, Steve.
posted by ChrisLSU at 5:51 PM on July 8, 2009

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