With all the state-of-the-art audio enhancements that you can rig your car with, nothing can still beat the dependability of a car FM/AM radio. You may already have a highly-efficient and outstanding stereo system with all the perks like a killer MP3 and CD player but having a radio signal can keep you up to date with the traffic, give you the latest news and entertaining music from your local FM/AM radio stations.
But having a good radio signal still depends on having a dependable antenna. Without it, your radio is nothing. A car antenna, which can be any electronic structure that is made to radiate or receive radio signals and other electromagnetic waves, is a must for every car.
You may say that your vehicle's stock antenna will do but it won't last that long, may be four to six years. They won't even last that long if you live near the ocean where the salty sea air can easily corrode it. A rusted antenna needs to be immediately replaced because, it won't work that efficiently. And if you're thinking of changing your antenna or even your antenna mast, be sure to get a power antenna or even a high-gain antenna for a sure signal. Also be sure to take note of the materials that were used on the antenna for these can make a big difference on the antenna's reception quality.
Car Antenna Buyer's Guide
- Radios were once the main sources of entertainment, and as such, they made their way into automobiles.
- Car antennas used to be made out of stainless steel, however, newer ones are now made from a silicon and rubber mix.
- There are three types of antenna shapes: tubular, tubular wired, and sharkfin. The main differences between the three are aesthetics and a little bit of aerodynamics.
- There are three ways one might install car antennas: using a screw, adhesive, or bolt-on.
- Finding the right fit is a necessity when you’re not purchasing a universal fit antenna. CarParts.com has filters that help you narrow down your choices to your car’s year, make, and model.
Before the online streaming platforms of today, people used to spend their time watching the television. However, before the television, the radio was the main source of entertainment. Due to that fact, it was inevitable that it would make its way into automobiles. Until today, radios come as standard in any vehicle, regardless of make and model.
While radios are still in place, car antennas will still need to be installed on cars in order for the radios to pick up radio waves transmitted by the stations. However, did you know that car antennas don’t have to be a straight piece of chrome-wrapped stainless steel? The technologies of today allow consumers to personalize their needs and purchase different types of antennas for different types of people.
What are car antennas made of?
As mentioned above, antennas used to be collapsable rods of stainless steel. This configuration allowed for quick removal and easy storage whenever you wouldn’t need your antenna. Eventually, this style evolved, allowing the antenna to be built into your car’s trunk or roof, depending on your car’s year, model, and make. Withdrawn whenever it wasn’t needed, and appearing whenever you turned on your car radio.
Nowadays, it’s rare to see antennas like this. They are now usually made of rubber and silicon, allowing for better weather-proofing and increased aesthetic appeal. Thanks to its upgraded material composition, newer, more appealing designs have come out, paving the way for the introduction of new types of car antennas.
What are the types of car antennas?
Car antennas today come in different shapes and sizes. What used to be thin, flimsy, and brittle, has evolved into the contrary. Now, due to their improved durability, some can even fold and still work properly. Listed below are the types of antennas you might see today according to shape:
Types of antennas by shape
These are the closest type of car antennas available today relative to the older generation of car antennas. The most notable differences between the two are that newer antenna’s length has noticeably been cut in half and it’s flimsiness as well as its brittleness have been wholly forgotten.
Plain tubular with twisted sides
While very similar to the first type, these antennas are usually shorter in length, while carrying out the same range of effectivity, sometimes more, due to their shape.
As the name suggests, this antenna looks like a shark’s fin resting on top of your car. It’s the most aerodynamic, as well as the most unique design out of the three. Don’t be fooled by its compact size—it can perform as good as, if not better, than the rest of them.
The shape of your car antenna does not directly affect the performance and functionality of your car radio as today’s level of technology breaks certain barriers. What it affects is the aesthetic and appearance of your car, as well as its aerodynamic capabilities regardless of how small its effect may be in that regard. However, another factor that one may consider in purchasing a new car antenna is how it would be installed. Before you ask how to replace a car antenna, listed below are the modes of installation you can choose from.
Types of antennas by mode of installation
Screw-on antennas are the most common type of antennas in the market today. Most cars manufactured today come with a screw socket made just for the purpose of housing an antenna.
For more universal selections, antennas installed using adhesives are the most readily available in the market. Since it doesn’t need a specific hole to screw itself onto, you are able to place it anywhere you’d like, allowing complete flexibility in terms of application.
This mode of installation is also commonly used for universal antennas. These are more industrial in nature, and will probably offer you a wider range of coverage. The catch is that you will have to drill a hole onto your vehicle. Select this method of installation only if you truly need the wider range of radio stations (which will not necessarily be like those commercial stations you listen to) or if you’re in dire need for industrial-grade antennas.
Choosing the method of installation easiest to you will help define how much you would need to spend to purchase the right one for you. This decision will also determine how much work installing your car antenna will entail depending on how you like it.
Finding the right fit
If you’re planning on buying a car antenna, it’s best to choose one specifically made for your car’s model year and make, and not one made for a general fit. This process can be tedious and time-consuming. However, CarParts.com offers filters that help you narrow down your search to car antennas suitable for your car.
The Automobile Basics: Antenna
Poor radio reception? Then it's high time you checked out your antenna. Chances are, your original equipment has incurred damage after years of exposure to adverse weather conditions. Antennas, which are also called aerials, are designed to allow radio reception. When this component fails, then you can expect to hear nothing but a buzzing sound each time you turn on the radio. And no, switching between stations won't solve your problem. Sometimes when antennas fail, you may still get a bit of reception. But each word or note blasting from your radio may be interspersed with droning or static noise. Now, you wouldn't want to listen to that all day, right? So if you want to restore your radio's function, then it's best that you replace your busted antenna as soon as possible. Don't worry, because there are a lot of aftermarket brands carrying top-quality antennas. So whether you're after power or manual antennas, you won't have a problem finding one that'll work with your ride. The only possible issue you may encounter with a quality, aftermarket antenna is that the component may require some modifications. The good news is that a lot of these antennas are modifiable and may already contain all the materials you need to adjust this component's setting.
Important Facts You Need to Know About Antenna
Having the dashboard's LCD monitor play a DVD while you're driving can pose a great danger not only to you but to other motorists and pedestrians as well. Such gadgets are best left to your passengers for enjoyment, and placed in a location where you can't see it.Your car's radio, meanwhile, lets you keep the boredom at bay without having to take your eyes off the road. To help your radio get the strongest signal,
Picking a Good Car Antenna
Bad car radio receptions can be solved by installing an antenna. These are great at receiving signals from different radio stations, eliminating the useless static noise we hear during tuning. Without it, you'd be lucky to tune the radio to a clear station.
Frequency and Reception
It is important that your antenna can catch a wide range of frequencies. Check to see if the antenna can grab both FM and AM bands. Not all antennas can receive AM signals. There are many stations on both bands that you might want to tune in to so make sure that your antenna makes them available to you.
The car antenna you will buy also has to give good reception. Remember that the primary purpose of antennas is to enhance the signal received and reduce static. It will be pointless to have an antenna with your radio but all you can hear is rainfall.
Types of Antennas
- External Antenna: It is usually made of metal or fiberglass rods that stand on the fender or roof of a car. Some models are either a steady extended shaft or a retracting one when the radio is turned off. Because it is outside the vehicle, there is little interference. However, external antennas are exposed to the environment which can damage them in the long run. Fiberglass external antennas are better because they do not rust and lose quality as quickly as metal ones.
- Internal Antenna: This type of antenna is usually mounted inside the trunk, dashboard, or windshield of a car. Because internal antennas are kept in, they are not exposed to the environment which makes these safer. However, that same protection can interfere with the reception resulting. To counter this, some model's setups can use more than one antenna. Use this type if you frequently drive under bad weather.
- Satellite Antenna: This type was released for cars in 2010. It is composed of a head unit, mounted in the dashboard area, wired to a small magnetic antenna on the roof. Satellite antennas have the best quality sound compared to other types. The only downside is that they need a paid subscription to be able to tune in to the stations.
Car Antenna Repair Guide
A car radio is only as good as the antenna that grabs stations' signals. A broken one may mean poor reception or no reception at all. You wouldn't want to drive long, lonely trips without the company of news or music because of a bad receiver. To avoid this problem, here is a simple guide to help you repair a standard radio antenna.
Difficulty Level: EasyTools Needed:
- Screwdriver set
- Dry rag
- Replacement antenna parts/set
Step 1: Diagnose the problem if the antenna calls for a minor repair or a complete replacement. This will save you money by avoiding unnecessarily buying a new unit when only a few tweaks are needed.
Step 2: Refer to your car's owner's manual to navigate and access the antenna unit. Depending on your car, the mechanism can be immediately accessed inside the fender. Other models may have the unit underneath the interior lining.
Step 3: Unplug the coaxial cable that connects the antenna to the radio. Remove the screws that hold the antenna in place and carefully pull the unit down and out of the body.
Step 4: A whole unit replacement is a simple unplug, pull and replace job. For minor repairs, dissemble the antenna unit to expose its components. Tighten loose screws and clean the parts with the degreaser. On retracting antennas, you might want to check if the spools, cables and gears need cleaning and replacement. Return the cover when done.
Step 5: Before returning the antenna in its place, check the car's fender hole and clean off any rust or dirt that might spoil your new antenna.
Step 6: Plug the coaxial cable back to the antenna. Insert it in the fender hole and replace all loosened screws to finish the job. Test your radio's reception to check if some steps need to be redone.
The whole repair can take less than 1 hour to complete.
Must-Have Info for Antenna Mast Buying
The car antenna mast is responsible for receiving signals you hear on your radio. It tends to deteriorate easily since it is exposed to the open environment. A mast sticking out also risks being broken when it is accidentally bent. Here are a few things to consider when buying a replacement for your stock antenna mast.
Since these masts stick out of the car, the material of the mast can affect the overall look of the whole car as well. Most antenna masts are sold either in a rubber, black, steel, or chrome finish. Rubber and black masts have a laid-back look while steel and chrome finish gives flash and shine. Try to sample different styles on your car and choose what looks best.
Replacements are sold in different lengths. While the stock usually reaches only up to 6-inches, aftermarket masts can extended from 8 up to 18 inches in length. Bigger is better. A longer rod improves the reception of the signal. But be careful that an increase in length also means an increase in the risk of damage the mast faces.
There is also a practical aspect in the picking process. Factor in as well the positioning of the antenna when buying a new mast. Antennas can be attached on a car's front or rear fender, or on the roof. A long, swaying, and shiny mast on the front might be distracting for the driver. A long antenna on the roof might affect a car's vertical clearance as well. You wouldn't want your new antenna to rub against carpark ceilings, trees, or road signs.
Metal antennas can be bought as power antennas that retract when the radio is not in use. This is a good way of protecting the mast against environmental hazards. Visually speaking, retracted antennas also make the car look better compared to a car with a big mast sticking out.
Returning Power to a Power Antenna Mast
Power antennas are a good way of protecting the mast from the abuse of nature. Sadly, these masts still suffer regular wear and tear which damages its retracting mechanism. This leads to common problems such as a stuck mast or a bad signal.
Here is a quick guide in replacing your broken antenna mast for a power antenna.
Difficulty Level: EasyTools Needed:
- Clean cloth
- Nose tip pliers
- Socket wrench set
- Replacement antenna mast
Step 1: Make sure that the radio is turned off so the antenna is in its housing. Manually push it in if it is stuck. Put cloth on the surrounding of the mast to avoid scratching the paint job during the repair.
Step 2: Use pliers, a screwdriver, or a wrench, to remove the nut at the base of the mast. Keep the nut in a safe place for later use. Locate the motor of the antenna inside the car's body. If the mast is on the front fender, look for the motor inside the wheel well. If it is at the back, the motor is located inside the side panel of the car.
Step 3: Unplug the cable connecting the antenna to the cable, and carefully remove the antenna unit from the body. Disassemble the motor by removing some screws and clips. Pull the antenna out and make sure the old antenna cable is off with it. Now would also be a good time to clean the motor off any grease.
Step 4: Insert the new mast into the mechanism. Wrap the new cable to the drum and reassemble the unit. Return the mechanism into the fender hole, and return the bolt removed from step 2.
Step 5: Test the new antenna if you get a good reception and if it extends and retracts properly.
This simple process will take about 20 minutes.