Bad TV Reception? Here's One Fix

New coax connections can make a big difference

Bad TV reception with cable service may be due to something as simple as a corroded coax cable connection. Instead of waiting for the cable guy to show up, fix it yourself with a new cable end.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Strip the cable end and install a new connector

According to cable repair experts, corroded or faulty cable ends are one of the leading causes of a poor-quality picture. And with the transition to digital broadcasting, poor connections are going to become even more apparent. So if you're having problems with your picture or you just want to make sure you're getting the best digital signals, replace the crimp-on ends of your coax with state-of-the-art compression-type connectors. Here's how.

You'll need side-cutting pliers or another cutting tool to clip off the old cable ends, a special coax cable stripping tool to prepare the cable end for the connectors, and a compression tool to install the new ends (these are also sold together as digital tool kits). But before you purchase tools or connectors, you'll have to determine whether your coaxial cable is RG6 or the less common RG59. RG6 is the standard for new installations, but if you're replacing the ends on older cables, they might be RG59 (the white plastic dielectric that surrounds the center conductor is smaller on RG59 coax). Without a side-by-side comparison, it's hard to tell the difference between the two. To be sure, cut one of your coax cable ends off and take it along to the store. Ask a salesperson to help you identify the type.

Photos 1–4 show how to replace an old coaxial cable end with a new compression-type RG6 connector. It's pretty straightforward, but there are a few things to watch out for.

First, you have to strip the cable carefully to avoid damaging the conductor or sheathing. Start by positioning the cable in the outermost hole with the blade aligned 1/4 in. from the end of the cable. Twist the stripper around the cable two or three times to slice through everything but the center conductor. Remove the cable and slide the cut section off to expose 1/4 in. of bare copper conductor. Inspect the conductor carefully to make sure it's not cut or nicked. Next reposition the cable to the second hole in the stripper so the blade is aligned 1/4 in. behind the stripped section. Spin the stripper around a few times to cut the outer jacket. Remove the cable from the tool and slide the jacket off to expose 1/4 in. of the braided sheathing.

Prepare the cable end for the connector by carefully folding the braided sheath back onto the outer jacket (Photo 3). On quad-shield cables, you'll find two braids and two layers of foil. In this case, bend three layers back but leave one layer of foil covering the white plastic dielectric in place. It's critical to make sure that neither the foil nor any of the tiny braided wires are touching the center conductor.

Before you put the connector in the compression tool, press the connector onto the stripped cable end. You may have to twist the connector slightly as you push to get it to seat correctly. Then slip the connector into the compression tool and squeeze the handle until the compression sleeve is fully seated.

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The only tools you'll need are a cable cutter, a coax cable stripping tool and a compression tool for coax connectors.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • RG6 (or sometimes RG59) cable connector