So you’ve got your antenna setup and plugged into the back of your television set only to find your auto scan not finding channels, or at least the channels you were expecting. If this is happening to you keep reading!
In this article we are going to take a look at what the likely causes of this could be.
Why Is Auto Scan Not Finding Channels?
There could be several reasons why your auto scan is not finding channels. To start, let’s make sure that you are selecting the right input mode on your television set.
Typically, this will be found under your Menu –> Channels –> Auto Scan. Of course not all television set manufacture menus are the same, so yours may vary from this slightly.
You can see in the image above that my TV refers to it as “Auto Channel Search”. If yours is called something different, simply consult your user manual to see the steps your are supposed to take to get here.
Once you’re in the “Auto Scan” menu there should be an option to select either “Cable” or “Antenna”. Be sure you are choosing “Antenna” or some variation of this ( I have seen it listed as DTV). This will start the Auto Scan procedure.
If after the scanning process is complete your television auto scan not finding channels persists, it’s time to start troubleshooting. Here are some things we are going to need to check:
- Your TV Tuner is functional – it may be helpful to try a different TV if this is an option to ensure your TV’s digital tuner card is not the issue. This is as simple as plugging your coax cable into a different TV and running the auto scan on that.
- Your antenna cabling is not faulty – we need to make sure that you are getting a signal out of your coax cable. More on this later.
- Your antenna is properly aligned – obviously we will need to make sure your antenna is pointing in the direction of the broadcast towers in your area. Below will be some helpful tips to ensure this is the case.
- Your antenna has sufficient range – this is going to be another important piece of the puzzle to ensure you are able to pull in the appropriate over-the-air (OTA) signals in your area.
- Ensure proper noise mitigation – A noise margin greater than 0 is required at your tuner to display a channel on your TV set.
Let’s look a little closer at each one of these items to try to figure out why your auto scan not finding channels.
Check If You TV Tuner Is Functional
The first thing we should probably try to diagnose is whether your television sets TV Tuner is functioning. I should point out that if your television was made before 2009 it likely has an analog tuner in it. If so this is likely the reason for your television auto scan not finding channels.
If indeed your TV is pre-2009, you are going to need a digital converter box. If you fall into this category, be sure to check out that article.
With a digital converter box you can conveniently convert the over-the-air (OTA) digital broadcast received from your antenna (not included) to your analog TV, digital TV, projector, computer monitor, smart TV, HDTV, LED TV, LCD monitor,etc.
Okay, assuming your television set was made in the last 10 years or so, you should have a digital tuner installed in your TV. That means it’s time to try something else. As mentioned, probably the easiest thing to try is to plug in the coax cable coming from your antenna into a different TV.
If plugging your antenna’s coax into another TV is not an option for you then you may want to check out our troubleshooting guide using a TV antenna signal meter. This meter offers a fool-proof way to locate the strongest available TV signal(s) no matter where you are.
Check Your Antenna Cable Is Not Faulty
If the signal meter above is a little out of your price range or you happen to have a digital multi-meter hanging around your house, you can use it to check to see if you have a signal. Let’s do a check to ensure this is not the reason for your television auto scan not finding channels.
Just like any radio transmission your digital antenna receives radio signals that is transmitted via small electrical impulses to your television tuner.
This means that you can use an electrical multi-meter to test whether or not a signal is traveling down your coax cable. If there is a problem with your cabling, such as a cut or short in the wire, this will cause the signal to be disrupted.
In addition, if the antenna is not properly grounded, the signal can pick up interference from the electrical potential of the antenna itself. Check out our article here on more information explaining how to properly ground a TV antenna.
Let’s perform a couple of checks using a digital multimeter to ensure your coax cable is good.
- Set your multi-meter to measure ohms, which is represented by the “Ω” symbol.
- Remove the antenna cable from your television set.
- Touch one lead of the multi-meter to the metal part of the connector and touch the other lead to the metal “core” or “stinger”. The ohm reading should be infinite.
- Now short one end of your antenna cables metal “core” or “stinger” to the coax connector. On the “un-shorted” end touch one lead on the “stinger” and the other lead on the coax connector. The ohm reading should be zero.
Make Sure Your Antenna Is Properly Aligned
Direction, direction, direction! Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any antenna installation. This could be the reason your television auto scan not finding channels.
What you need to do is figure out which channels are available to you and in which direction the TV broadcast towers are located. You can use an online location tool such as TVFool.com or check out our very own TV Station Locator page.
This YouTube video will walk you through everything you need to know when using our tool. It will show you how to find TV stations available in your area and in which direction the TV towers are located.
You will need a compass or at least a smart-phone compass app. Once you use our TV Station Locator tool and have your bearings, head to your antenna and rotate it so it is aligned in the direction of your broadcast towers.
If your antenna is on a roof you may want to have someone at your TV end to help with the fine tuning. Alternatively, if you’ve been reading other articles on this site you will know that must “cord-cutting” enthusiasts rarely bring their antenna signal directly into their television set.
Rather, they stream their antenna signals indirectly to their smart TVs, tablets, phones, Media Streaming boxes by way of a network tuner device.
If you get yourself one of these network tuners then your task of aligning for the best signal strength becomes much easier via one of the free smart-phone apps available on the Google Playstore.
You can see in the image below I get real-time feedback of my antenna signal strength for a specific channel all while standing on my roof at the antenna…cool!
Check that your antenna has the required range?
It’s important to understand that no one antenna or antenna type will deliver excellent TV reception in every location. The main factors determining reception are the distance and direction from the TV station transmitters to your home.
The transmitter’s power and the height of its tower also matter. This alone could be the reason for your auto scan not finding channels. Be sure to check out my article how high should you mount a TV antenna.
If you live within a few miles of the broadcast tower, and the signal path is relatively unobstructed, you may be able to get solid reception using a small indoor antenna.
However, as you move farther away, getting usable signal strength becomes trickier. This is where careful antenna selection and installation become essential.
First, it’s probably a good idea to discuss the two broad categories of TV antennas that are out there so you can understand which category your specific antenna fits into.
The two classes are omnidirectional and unidirectional, so let’s take a closer look at both.
Are antennas that will receive a signal from all directions because they offer a 360 degree field. So if you have one of these types of antennas there is really no need to “point it” in any specific direction.
In this case if you are not getting the results you think you should be getting your only option is going to be to find a better location on your house or property.
If you’re in the market for a good omnidirectional antenna I highly recommend the Mohu Sky 60 TV Antenna.
These antennas have a much narrower beam width, typically between 25 and 35 degrees. These types of antennas are much more resilient to noise and are ideal when your broadcast towers are clustered together in one general direction or area.
It is important to note that TV signal transmission is “line of sight.” Getting reliable reception beyond the curvature of the earth (roughly 70 miles) is difficult. Mountains or tall buildings between the broadcast tower(s) and your home can also cause reception problems.
So, the first step is to locate the transmitters for your local stations and point your antenna that way.
I personally use two Channel Master CM-4228HD unidirectional antennas in my setup. This link will bring you to our full review article of these awesome antennas!
Ensure Proper Noise Reduction
The last thing I want to discuss is noise, the major causes of it and how to reduce or mitigate it. Any digital signal is going to be received by your antenna and ultimately your tuner with a finite amount of power.
One of the easier ways to quantify this power is noise margin. The noise margin, given in decibels (dB), is the amount of signal noise allowable before the signal can no longer be received.
Noise can come from many sources, including any obstacles or interference encountered between your antenna and the broadcast tower. Other sources of noise can be that caused by splitters, the tuner you’re plugging into, and the coaxial cable itself.
This is why it is important to use high quality components and cabling. For splitters, I recommend the ANTOP Low-loss 3 Way Coaxial Splitter or equivalent for its low-loss insertion.
You can check out our article here to learn about the importance of high quality coax cable.