Nigel Hutson

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Fixtures and fittings’ written by Nigel Hutson
   
This simple project allows you to watch TV in comfort in cold weather, says Nigel Hutson

Many sites offer a boosted TV signal - you simply plug one end of your coaxial cable into the socket on the site's electric hook-up bollard and the other into the back of the TV.

That's all very well in warmer weather but in winter, it means either leaving a window open so the lead can be fed through, or missing programmes so you can unplug it and close the window. It can also mean coaxial cable trailing through the caravan.

In addition, many caravans, especially the fixed-bed models, have more than one TV point.

One of our favourite sites offers a boosted TV signal but we've generally been lucky and managed to get a reasonable signal using the van's antenna. However, my parents, on another pitch, could only get reception using the boosted signal, despite having the same antenna.

When we've been unable to get a good TV signal, you can guarantee something special will be on! One solution is a satellite dish, but you still might not receive a signal.

Many caravans have an external satellite TV cable socket; a few also have a TV aerial socket. Ours has the external satellite TV connection and satellite connections at each TV point. So is there any reason why this can't be used for a TV signal? The simple answer is no. And it's easy to adapt the leads to work, too.

To do this, you'll need the following supplies and tools:

  • A length of good quality coaxial cable to form the extension lead, plus a short length (50cm or so) for each TV
  • Coaxial plugs
  • F plugs - screw-on type
  • Stanley knife
  • Wirecutters

It doesn't matter if you start with the long or the short cables, as they'll end up having the same connections. At one end, you'll need a coaxial plug (male), and at the other, an F plug. It's also worth carrying a male-to-male coaxial adaptor in your spares, just in case the bollard has a male connection.

Once you've made up your cables, test they work by connecting the TV (satellite connection in the caravan to TV antenna socket in the TV), and the external cable. I plugged the external cable into a house socket at one end and the F connector to the van's satellite connection. It worked perfectly at all TV points.

But what if your van doesn't have a satellite connection, as is the case with my son's Abbey? This is a bit more involved, but still quite simple to remedy. Vision Plus manufactures an external TV antenna socket, which includes 5m of coaxial cable - other makes are also available!

To avoid adding a second TV socket in your van or attempting to join coaxial cables (one from the caravan's antenna and the other from the external socket), which might cause reception problems, I bought an isolation switch. This allows you to select which input to use - the caravan's or the campsite's.

External socket

Tools needed for this job are:

  • Stanley knife
  • Wirecutters
  • Electric drill with 2.5mm bit and 22mm hole cutter
  • Large and small Pozidriv screwdrivers
  • Cable ties/clips
  • Double-sided tape
  • 2 x coaxial F connectors

First, you need to decide where to fit the external socket. In our case, the caravan's antenna and TV point were on the nearside, so we chose to fit the socket low down on that same side so that the coaxial cable would feed into the caravan under the nearside seat. This also meant the internal cable run would be relatively short.

Vision Plus provides a template for the various holes that need to be drilled. Once you decide where the socket is to be fitted, cut out and attach the template to the caravan wall, and carefully drill the holes - though before doing so, double check this won't invalidate any warranty!

After removing the cable cover from the inside of the external socket, screw the back plate and sealing gasket into place, but only at the bottom and using the shorter of the supplied screws.

Next, feed the coaxial cable through the large hole and into the caravan. Clip the attached socket in place before attaching the cover, securing it with the smallest of the screws in the centre and the larger screws in the top corners.

Working inside the caravan, decide where you're going to fit the isolation switch. In our case, it was in an overhead locker.

Now, detach the TV output connection from the amplifier and replace it with a section of coaxial cable (with an F connection at both ends). This needs to fit between the amplifier and either outer connection (A or B) on the isolation switch. Next, the cable to the TV point needs to be connected to the centre point on the isolation switch.

Feed the cable from the external socket to the isolation switch (securing it with cable ties if necessary), and after trimming its length, attach an F connector and secure it to the remaining connection on the isolation switch (A or B).

Finally, secure the isolation switch unit to a suitable place. Rather than using the supplied screws, we used double-sided numberplate tape for this.

We tested the installation by connecting the external socket to a house socket, then switched the input to the caravan's antenna (switching on the amplifier if needed). It all worked a treat.

With thanks to Vision Plus for supplying the external socket.