The following query was recently posed to me. I have an RV that requires a digital TV converter box. Where do I put it? On TV, or in the VDC box that lets me switch between satellite, antenna, and cable?
Here’s how to hook a digital TV converter box to your recreational vehicle.
Prerequisite Procedures Before Setup
You will need 1 Digital TV Converter Box and 1 additional cable length (the cable length depends on how far the TV will be from the DTV Converter Box) for each TV in your RV if you discover that they do not have digital tuners. A converter box and additional cable length will be required to connect a VCR to a digital TV signal (below).
Make sure the converter boxes you buy have an Analog Pass Through setting. The analog signal can still pass through when the DTV converter box is turned off. The converter box should be turned off (not disconnected) when using cable at a campground or watching a movie or DVD so that the analog signal can go straight to the TV.
You’ll be setting yourself up for an installation nightmare if you don’t acquire a digital TV converter box that supports analog pass-through.
Important Information Before Setup
Most recreational vehicles contain a video switch box with buttons and knobs for each TV to select a different video source. The insides of these containers change from maker to maker. The reality is that you typically have options like Antenna, Cable, VCR, DVD, Satellite, etc.
Several cables enter and exit the Video Switch Box, but you need not be alarmed. Our concern will be only the cords leading from the Video Switch Box to the RV’s televisions.
The RV’s antenna-to-video-switch-box cable must not have the digital TV converter box installed. The moment you turn on your RV’s digital TV converter box, it could be destroyed by the 12 volts traveling through the cord from the antenna.
You may need to rearrange some furniture in your RV to have access to the back of the Video Switch Box, where all cables are housed. I can’t say how easy or difficult it will be to access these cables on the rear of the Video Switch Box because of the wide variety of RV designs.
Each cable that enters or exits the video switch box shall be clearly labeled. Look for labels like “TV1 Out,” “TV2 Out,” “To TV1, To TV2, etc.” or simply “TV1, TV2” to identify the cables that lead directly to your televisions. Again, manufacturers may choose to use different labels. The line from the Video Switching Box to your TV will be retrofitted to include a digital TV converter box. The location of the TV will determine which end of this cable the digital TV converter box is connected to.
The Digital TV Converter Box needs to be set up near the TV it will be used with. Remote controllers include digital TV tuner boxes for initial setup and channel surfing. The TV in the bedroom at the back of the RV is not a good candidate for a Digital TV Converter Box installed in the front of the RV. Remember that the Digital TV Converter Box can only function when connected to an electrical outlet.
Setting Up Your Digital TV Converter Box
The next exciting step is to install the Digital TV Converter Box on each television. How simple the set-up is will depend on how readily available the cable connecting your TV is. For each TV, I’ve compiled a list of the materials you’ll need to get the job done.
One is a TV-to-digital converter box.
2. An additional length of TV cable depends on the distance between the TV and the digital TV converter box. The connection from the rear of the DTV converter box to the back of the TV should be long enough.
Typically, the RV’s front TV is the most convenient location for an installation. If the front TV is situated next to the Video Switch Box, you need only disconnect the wire connecting to the TV from its back and connect it to the Digital TV Converter Box’s “TV Out” connector. Connect the “TV out” end of the spare cable to the Video Switch Box and the “Antenna In” end of the line to the Digital TV Converter Box’s antenna input.
This is the most labor-intensive component of the setup process. It may take some digging to reach the cable attached to the back of the TV in a bedroom in the rear of the RV. The television is typically installed within a cabinet. Your mission is to reach the TV’s back and disconnect that cord. Because RV TVs are installed differently depending on make and model, I won’t try to tell you how to remove yours from the cabinet.
Once you locate the appropriate cable behind the TV, setting it up is a breeze. The “Antenna In” port on the DTV converter box must be connected to the cable from the rear of the TV, and the “Out To TV” port must be connected to the spare line. The TV’s “Cable In” or “Antenna In” port connects the other end of the cable.
A Word About Video Recorders
Although the DTV Converter Box is compatible with the VCR in your RV, we do not recommend connecting the two. To record a program, you must utilize the DTV Converter Box to manually tune to the station you want to record from, rendering the VCR’s internal tuner useless. You can purchase a high-quality VCR with a digital tuner for the same price as a DTV converter box ($40.00 and higher).
How to Install and Use a Digital TV Converter Box
Now that you’ve gotten beyond the most challenging aspect, using a DTV converter box couldn’t be easier. Your Digital TV Converter Box should have come with an owner’s handbook you can consult if my instructions don’t make sense. Here are the measures you must take to set up your tuner.
First, make sure the DTV converter box is plugged into an electrical outlet (this is the most common cause of difficulties).
The DTV converter box should have a toggle to signal your TV on either channel 3 or 4. Please consult the instructions if you are unable to locate this toggle.
Step 3: Power up the DTV adapter.
Fourth, after deciding on a channel in step 2, power up your TV and set it to that channel.
5. The TV screen should now display a menu. Manufacturers of DTV converter boxes have different menu options. Consider these questions if you do not get a visual. Have you plugged in and activated the DTV converter box? Is the correct channel selected on the TV? Do I have the Antenna setting on the Video Switch Box?
Using the DTV converter box’s remote, select the Channel Autoscan Option once an image has been established. Please consult the user manual if you have a DTV converter box and cannot locate this function.
Always use the channel autoscan feature to locate the media in your new location whenever you use your RV antenna. Changing the RV’s antenna’s location can also increase the number of available channels. The signal strength is displayed on some DTV converter boxes. Adjust your RV’s antenna for the best reception.
After the auto-scan completes, you will be ready to go. You can now use the remote control that came with your DTV converter box to navigate the channels and menus available. Depending on the DTV converter box you purchased, you could access various additional settings that allow you to customize the picture quality, adjust the image size to fit the screen, improve the audio quality, and so on. To learn more about the settings that can be adjusted on your DTV converter box, consult the manual that came with it.
In particular, When you aren’t watching TV, disconnect the antenna. When the DTV Converter Box is turned off (but not unplugged), the analog TV Pass Through is enabled, and the TV may be used to watch videos, DVDs, and cable just as it was before the DTV Converter Box was installed. Don’t forget to use the RV’s Video Source Selector Box to switch the channel.
Please familiarize yourself with your DTV converter box’s instructions for analog pass-through by reading the owner’s manual.
With any luck, you’ve learned enough here to set up your RV for Digital TV successfully.
Best wishes on your RV trip!
Alan Wiener and his family have been RVing for almost 35 years. Their website, http://www.all-about-rving.com, is where they talk about everything related to RVing and share their enthusiasm for the hobby. This website details the many Recreational Vehicles (RVs) on the market and offers advice on RV rental, RV purchase, RV financing, and tourist attractions in the United States and Canada. What to look for when buying a recreational vehicle and more.
Do you want to know more about recreational vehicles, traveling in them, or the RVer’s way of life in general? If you have any questions about renting an RV, go to the FREE Ask An RV Question website.