When using the OTA antenna to tune in to our favorite channels, it’s actually quite common to suddenly have a channel nowhere to be found without any apparent reason.
This can be a major annoyance, especially when we have been waiting all day to finally be able to watch that favorite show, only to find out that the whole station is now gone.
Disappearing channels and stations are certainly the norm for most TV owners, and if this just happens to you, know that you are certainly not alone.
Here, we will discuss all you need to know about this issue of disappearing channels, and most importantly, what you can do to fix the issue ASAP!
Why Is Your Antenna Not Picking Up Channels?
There are three most common reasons why your antenna fails to pick up those channels: broken/damaged antenna, installation/aiming issues, and interference issues.
Let us first discuss some common antenna installation issues that might cause lost channels and reception failures.
1. Your TV needs a digital converter If you are using a digital antenna, make sure your television set is capable of receiving and processing those digital signals.
Most TVs made after 2006 or 2007 are already digital-friendly, so check whether your TV was made before 2006 and whether it is a digital TV.
If not, you can check out our article on the best digital converter boxes that will convert digital signals into analog ones so your TV can interpret them.
If your TV is already digital-friendly, make sure to change your TV’s input to “Antenna” or “ANT” or similar ones, and run a proper channel scan.
2. Your antenna is not placed in a direct line of sight to the broadcast tower
Check whether there are buildings, tall trees, hills, and other tall structures that are positioned in between the transmission tower and your antenna.
If that’s the case, you can either move your antenna to a different position or raise its elevation. For example, you can mount it on a taller pole.
3. Your coaxial cable is too long
If your cable is longer than 100 feet, then it’s possible to lose over 30% of the signals you should be receiving.
We did a comprehensive guide an cabling, however, you can expect the approximate signal losses at these frequencies:
Channel 2 (approx. 60 MHz) …………… 1.5 dB/100’
Channel 13 (approx. 216 MHz) ………. 3.0 dB/100’
Channel 24 (approx. 536 MHz) ……….. 4.5 dB/100’
Channel 51 (approx. 698 MHz) .…..…. 5.6 dB/100’
If you are using a long cable or a splitter, then you should consider the use of a preamplifier and/or a distribution amplifier.
Not sure which one you should be using? Check out our detailed article on amplifiers.
4. TV transmission tower too far away
Even the best outdoor antennas only have an effective reception range of around 70 miles.
You can visit our TV station locator page to check for the broadcast towers nearest to your location and check your antenna’s effective reception range.
If the broadcast tower is positioned outside this range, then you might want to consider an antenna designed for rural areas.
5. Lost signal in cable distribution
Check whether your signal is lost in your coax cable distribution, especially if you are using a splitter. Separate the splitter and check each connection one by one if necessary, and run a channel check.
You might need a distribution amplifier if you have this issue and you absolutely need a splitter.
6. Broken or damaged antenna
A broken antenna can be the culprit of you suddenly losing your channels, here are some tips to check your antenna’s condition (we’ll have a more thorough troubleshooting step-by-step guide in the next section):
- Check your TV input. Try plugging your antenna’s connector into another TV unit. This is to check whether it’s actually a broken TV.
- Look for signs of physical damages. Especially if it’s an outdoor antenna, your antenna might be damaged due to weather or other issues.
- Check the cords and cables, make sure all the cables are plugged-in correctly. Check whether there’s any broken cable.
- Remove any objects that might be blocking the signal, especially if you are using an indoor antenna. Make sure the antenna is placed near the window facing the TV broadcast tower and isn’t blocked by anything.
If you live near a cell tower, 4G LTE or 5G signals can interfere with your TV reception.
Newer antennas offer some forms of protection against cellular signal interferences, however, you may want to consider a 4G LTE or 5G signal filter.
If you suspect interference from cell towers, consider picking up a filter over at Amazon. They are inexpensive and can rule out these types of issues.
Troubleshooting Your Antenna: Step-By-Step
Below is a step-by-step guide on troubleshooting your antenna’s reception so you can get back those lost channels.
Step 1: Check your location
Use our TV station locator to check the TV broadcast tower nearest to your location, and check your antenna’s effective range. You should:
- Check the TV broadcast tower that provides the strongest signal to your location
- Check whether your antenna is pointed correctly in this direction
- Check the level of expected signal coverage in your location
- Check the TV channel frequencies for your location and whether your antenna supports it
- Check your antenna’s manual to whether it should be installed vertically or horizontally
- Ask your neighbors whether there are any known reception issues in your area
Step #2: Check the physical conditions of your equipment
Your antenna isn’t the only possible culprit for the channel loss issue. Rather, you should also check:
- Your coax cables and fly leads
- Your TV
- Top box receivers (if any)
- Preamplifiers/signal boosters
Step #3: Troubleshoot your antenna
Your antenna should be:
- The correct type of antenna for the TV channel frequencies in your location
- Has enough effective reception range depending on your locations
- Has enough elevation (at least 30 feet above ground if possible)
- In the right position and pointing in the right direction (if it’s a directional antenna)
- In good physical condition
- Assembled and set up correctly
You should also check whether your antenna has a 4G/5G signal filter to protect your signal from interferences, as discussed above.
Step #4: Check your cables Check if you have the right cables and flying leads for every TV set in your house. Your cables should be:
- Not too long (keep all cables under 50 feet length whenever possible)
- Make sure none of them are bent
- Check all connections and physical conditions
For more information on antenna cabling, we recommend you check out our detailed guide here.
How To Get Your Antenna To Pick Up More Channels?
We did a comprehensive guide that shows you 10 ways to pick up more channels with an antenna. However, below are some “Quick Tips” you can use to get the most out of your antenna right now.
Quick Tip #1: Higher is better
The height of your antenna is the most important factor in getting reliable reception. This is why outdoor, roof-mounted antennas always outperform indoor antennas.
As a general rule of thumb, you should place your outdoor antenna at least 30 feet above the ground.
If you are using an indoor antenna, place it as high as possible, for example, in your attic or anywhere on your second floor.
However, when placing your antenna, make sure to also consider the length of your cable. If it’s going to be above 50 feet, then you might want to install a preamplifier.
Quick Tip #2: Aim your antenna
If your antenna is directional (or also called “unidirectional”), make sure to point it in the right direction.
A multidirectional antenna, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be aimed but they tend to be less receptive for signals from distant towers.
Quick Tip #3: Use a distribution amplifier
If you are using a splitter, then you should expect signal losses since the signal is, after all, split. So, you’d most likely need a distribution amplifier or a preamplifier if you are using a splitter.
Not sure what the difference, check out our full guide here.
As a general rule of thumb:
- If you use a 2-way splitter, you’ll lose around 4dB of signal
- If you use a 3-way or 4-way splitters, you’re going to lose around 8dB of signal
- With an 8-way splitter, you’d lose 15 dB of signal
Antenna Troubleshooting FAQ
1. My TV doesn’t receive anything when I plug the antenna
- Check whether your TV is capable of receiving digital signals (i.e. if it was made after 2006), you might need a converter box
- Change your TV mode to “ANT” or “Antenna”
- Don’t forget to perform a channel scan
2. I can’t find any channel when I perform a scan
- Check whether your antenna cable is properly attached
- Visit our TV station locator page to check whether there are any channels in your area.
- Check your antenna’s included cable. Use a multimeter if necessary to check the condition of the cable.
- More details on how to properly perform a channel scan.
3. I see snow (fuzz) and the picture isn’t clear
A possible cause is that your TV might not have a built-in ATSC digital tuner. Digital signals won’t have snow, period.
So, if you are seeing fuzz or snow, you are watching an analog broadcast. If you are sure your TV is digital-friendly with an ATSC tuner, make sure the TV’s source is set to “Antenna’, “Ant”, or similar ones and not “Cable”.
Make sure to perform a channel scan.
4. I live close by to the TV broadcast tower, but can’t get a clear reception
You may be receiving interfering signals in your area. Consider moving the antenna to a different position and/or a higher elevation.
If this is still not successful, your signal may be too strong, and you might need an attenuator in this case.