The cars are killing mah TV!
March 5, 2011 10:20 PM   Subscribe

When cars drive by my house, it messes up my TV antenna signal and my Apple TV streaming.

My house is on a somewhat busy street (busses pass by many times per hour) and is situated below street-level. I have antenna TV using a bunny-ears type antenna. When a large vehicle, or at some times of day, any vehicle, drives by, the signal cuts out for a second. During heavier traffic times of day, it's pretty much impossible to watch anything. I know I should probably buy a nicer antenna, but that's only part of the problem.

I also have Apple TV that I use to stream Netflix on the TV through the Wi-fi. I have the same problem with the streaming freezing up when cars drive by.

Has anyone ever had a similar problem and/or know of any solutions? Googling only gets me stuff about car antennas.
posted by elpea to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How far away is your WiFi access point from your Apple TV, and is it on the same level? What sort of device is it?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:42 PM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: WiFi is in next room one wall and less than 20 ft away (the TV/antenna/Apple TV is in the bedroom, but the living room TV also has the antenna problem). It's slightly below the TV level. Moving it to my bedroom isn't an option. The internet on our computers works without issues. It's a Netgear WGR614v7 (my roommate's old router we replaced our newer Belkin N router with because of this problem).
posted by elpea at 11:02 PM on March 5, 2011

Assuming your computer is wireless and your not experiencing the same problem when using it. Its a very long shot but perhaps its a problem with the TV and not the the wireless signals that feed it. What happens when the signal goes out? When you're watching the Apple TV when it goes out what do you see? If you are playing a DVD does the same thing happen? Not sure how or why passing traffic could cause the TV to intermittently fail.
posted by jmsta at 4:37 AM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cars emit RF, as do any electronic devices. Trucks these days emit MORE RF. Trucks typically have surprisingly sophisticated electronics. Seconding the TV as the possible weak link, if the router and computer combo is holding up okay when this happens. Try borrowing another TV and see if it does the same thing, or watching a DVD.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:04 AM on March 6, 2011

Response by poster: It's a LCD TV (with built-in digital converter) I had the exact same problem with my super old CRT TV and separate digital converter box, and that TV+box, now in the other room, still has this problem with the antenna signal.
No problems watching DVDs.
For these reasons, I doubt it's the TV. I also can't get another TV.

When it happens to the antenna signal, the picture either freezes or blacks out completely and the audio always cuts out.
When it happens to AppleTV, either the picture freezes, sometimes for up to a minute, or the audio goes out completely for about 30 seconds.
posted by elpea at 7:36 AM on March 6, 2011

Best answer: I predict two problems caused by the same thing:

For television reception, the signals can come from all over the place. In analog times, you would see this as ghosting. Think of it like echos from a PA system in a stadium. Your ear tunes into whichever source seems clearest.

So your tv receiver finds one it likes and everything is great. This signal might well be a reflection of the main signal bouncing off the house across the street and into your antenna. A large vehicle drives by and disrupts the signal. Either by creating its own reflection, or blocking the one you are using.

The solution would be to indeed get a different antenna- one that is more directional. Rabbit ears are semi-directional. TV signals are horizontally polarized, meaning that the rabbit ears need to be parallel to the ground (ish) and perpendicular to the direction the signal is coming from. They don't receive very much signal from the sides (parallel to the sticks). However, there is no front or back to rabbit ears- they will receive signals from the transmitter just as strongly as reflections from the rear. So first, try flattening them out and readjusting where they are pointing. If that doesn't help, get one that is directional. Probably doesn't need to be all that complicated or expensive, since the rabbit ears generally work. Just needs to be a bit more directional.

(Think of a satellite dish- they are HIGHLY directional. They basically create a shaft of reception only in the direction they are pointed. They receive nothing that isn't more than a couple of degrees of the direction they are pointed. You need something in between.)

For the wi-fi, I bet the same thing (only different) is happening. Those antennas broadcast (and receive) their signal in a sort of disc shape out from the antenna. If it is perpendicular to the ground, that disc will be parallel to the ground centered at the antenna. Alright, so what I predict is happening is that when it is working normally, it is broadcasting from itself to your client machines just fine. And also broadcasting harmlessly out toward the street. When a large vehicle drives by, however, that vehicle reflects the wireless signal back and your client machines suddenly see two signals coming at them and get confused. The answer here will probably be just to move the wireless access point to somewhere else in the room. Or, get a directional antenna and locate the antenna between your client machines and the street. If it isn't broadcasting out to the street, there is no reflection being created.
posted by gjc at 8:55 AM on March 6, 2011

One thing to try, just to narrow it down and prove your hypothesis...try hanging a few sheets of tinfoil somewhere between the antenna and direction of the offending vehicles. You basically want to create a RF barrier to see if interfering signals are indeed bouncing off the large automobiles. I'm tempted to think that there is something outside broadcasting a strong signal, and the vehicles are acting like mirrors to poolshark it into your apartment. Generally things that would share the same frequency ranges as your Wi-Fi and TV (which might be a wide spectrum, making me think it's dirty RF interference rather than communication related)
posted by samsara at 9:48 AM on March 7, 2011

Response by poster: Bought a new antenna with a rotating loop in addition to bunny ears (I can't remember how I found this out, but most of the channels in my area are more received by the loop than the ears, VHF/UHF whichever) that also plugs in to power to "amplify" the signal. The reception has been perfect, with no cutting out since I installed it. Will next move the wireless router to try to help with the AppleTV issues. Thanks all!
posted by elpea at 3:45 PM on March 9, 2011

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