How Do I Install A Digital TV Converter Box In My RV?

by Frank Dorn
(FT. Lauderdale FL)

How Do I Install A Digital TV Converter Box In My RV?

How Do I Install A Digital TV Converter Box In My RV?

I need to install a digital converter box in my rv. does it go on the television or does it connect to the video distribution center box that allows me to switch my tv's from satelite/ antenna and or cable?
Frank Dorn

ANSWER Greetings Frank, thanks for submitting your question on our Ask An RV Question Page. Quite a few RVers are confused about the Digital TV transition. Hopefully you have reviewed the Does Our RV Need A Digital TV Converter box? page.

What You Need To Do Before Installation

If you have determined that your RV's TVs do not have digital tuners, then you will need 1 Digital TV Converter Box and one extra length of cable (length of cable depends on far the TV is going to be from the DTV Converter Box) for each TV. If you have a VCR that does not have a digital TV tuner, then you will need a converter box and extra length of cable for that as well (more on this later).

When purchasing the converter boxes, make sure that they include the option of Analog Pass Through. Analog Pass Through allows analog signals to pass through the Digital TV Converter Box when it is turned off. If you are hooked up to cable at an RV park, or if you want to watch a video or DVD the converter box should be turned off (not unplugged) so that the analog signal will Pass Through the converter box directly to your TV.

My personal recommendation for a DTV Converter Box is the Zinwell ZAT-970A Digital to Analog TV Converter Box.

Things You Need To Understand Before Installation

Most RVs have a video switch box with buttons and/or knobs which allows you to choose different video sources for each of the TVs in your RV. These boxes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. But usually you have choices such as Antenna, Cable, VCR, DVD, Satellite, etc.

On the back of the Video Switch Box you will find a lot of cables coming into the box and leaving the box, do not let these cables intimidate you. We will only be worried about the cables leaving the Video Switch Box that are going directly to the TVs in your RV.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not install the Digital TV Converter Box on the cable going from your RV's Antenna to the Video Switch Box. Depending on the type of antenna your RV has, there could be 12 volts running through that cable and it will fry the Digital TV Converter Box the minute you turn it on.

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Depending on how the Video Switch Box is installed on your RV, you may have to start moving things around to get to the back of the box where all of those cables are located. Due to different configurations in each RV, I can't tell you how hard or how easy it will be to get to these cables on the back of the Video Switch Box.

The back of video switch box will have labels on each of the cables that are either going in or coming out. The cables you are looking for are going directly to your TVs they will have labels such as "TV1 Out, TV2 Out, etc." or "To TV1, To TV2 etc." or "TV1, TV2 etc." Again, the labeling will vary by manufacturer. The Digital TV Converter Box will be installed on the cable leading to your TV from the Video Switching Box. Where you put the Digital TV Converter Box on this cable depends on where the TV is actually located.

The Digital TV Converter Box should be installed right next to the TV that you are going to be using it on. Digital TV Tuner Boxes come with remote controls to setup the box and change the channels. So if you are installing the Digital TV Converter Box on the TV in the bedroom located at the back of the RV you do not want to have the Digital TV Converter Box at the front of the RV. Remember, the Digital TV Converter Box has to be plugged into electricity to work.

Installation Of The DTV Converter Box

OK now comes the fun part actually installing the Digital TV Converter Box on your TVs. Depending on how accessible the cable leading to your TV is; will determine how easy the installation will be. Here are the supplies you will need to complete the job for each TV.

1. Digital TV Converter Box.
2. 1 extra length of TV cable (length of cable is based on how far away the Digital TV Converter Box is from the TV). You should have enough cable to reach the back of the TV from the back of the Digital TV Converter Box.

Usually the TV located in the front of the RV is the easiest to install. If the front TV is located right next to the Video Switch Box, then all
you have to do is remove the cable that is leading to that TV from the back of the Video Switch Box and attach that cable on the "TV Out" port on the back of the Digital TV Converter Box. Now take the extra cable you have and connect it to the "TV out" port on Video Switch Box and connect the other end to the "Antenna In" Port of the Digital TV Converter Box.

Now we get to the work intensive part of the installation. If your RV has a TV in a bedroom located at the back of the coach, you may have to do some digging to get to the cable that is hooked up to the back of the TV. In most cases the TV is built into a cabinet. Your task is to get to the back of the TV to get access to that cable. I am not going to try to tell you how to take the TV out of the cabinet, because the way they are installed varies by the type and model of your RV.

Once you get to that cable on the back of the TV the actual installation is simple. Remove the cable from the back of the TV and attach it to the "Antenna In" port on the DTV Converter box and take the extra cable and attach it to the "Out To TV" port on the DTV Converter Box. The other end of the cable gets hooked up to the "Cable In or Antenna In" port of the TV.

Special note on VCRs

You can hook up a DTV Converter Box to your RV's VCR, but you really should not do it as the VCR will be limited in its operation. The VCRs built in tuner will be useless and recording programs will require that you use the DTV Converter Box to manually change to the channel you want recorded. With the cost of the DTV Converter Box being from $40.00 and up, you can get a good VCR with a built in digital tuner for the same price.

Setup And Operation Of The DTV Converter Box

Now that the hard part is done, the setup and operation of the DTV Converter Box is relatively simple. If my instructions confuse you, you can always refer to the owner's manual that came with your Digital TV Converter Box. Here are the steps you need to follow to get your tuner set up.

1. Plug the DTV Converter Box into electric (you would be surprised at how many problems occur when this first step is not followed).

2. On the DTV Converter Box, should be a switch that allows the box to transmit a picture to your TV either on channel 3 or 4. If you cannot find this switch, refer to the owner's manual.

3. Turn on the DTV Converter Box.

4. Now turn on your TV and tune it to the channel you chose in step 2.

5. You should now see a menu on your TV screen. The menu will vary by DTV Converter Box Manufacturer. If you do not see a picture, ask yourself the following questions. Is the DTV Converter Box plugged in and turned on? Is the TV tuned to the right channel? Do I have the Video Switch Box set to Antenna for this TV?

6. Now that you have a picture you need to run a channel autoscan, using the remote control for the DTV Converter Box, find the Channel Autoscan Option. Again refer to your DTV Converter Box User's manual, if you cannot find this option.

Important Reminder: Every time you go to a new location and use your RV antenna, you will need to use the channel autoscan option to find the channels in that area. Also moving your RVs antenna around could help you find more channels. Some of the DTV Converter Boxes have built in signal strength indicators. Move your RV antenna until you get the strongest signal.

7. Once the autoscan is done you are all set. You can now use the DTV Converter Box Remote Control to choose the channels you want to watch or choose other options from the option menus. Depending on the brand of DTV Converter Box you bought, you might have a ton of other options you can choose from to enhance your TVs picture, resize the picture to fit your TVs screen, enhance the sound on your TV etc. Refer to the Owner's Manual for your DTV Converter Box for what options are available.

Special Note When you are not using the antenna to view TV. Turn the DTV Converter Box off (do not unplug it), so that the analog TV Pass Through is activated, that way you can use the TV to view Videos, DVDs, Cable like you did before you installed the DTV Converter Box. Remember you have to change the source for that TV at the Video Source Selector Box in your RV.

Happy RVing
RVing Al

Comments for How Do I Install A Digital TV Converter Box In My RV?

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Campsite cable
by: jim

I have 3 Seiki tvs in a Thor, Antenna works fine but when we hook up cable at campgrounds no cable tv. I called Thor and they said I need a converter (QAM) box for each tv. So I'm doing the easiest tv in the middle.So how do I hook up? I have a 1x4 HDMI splitter and a cable box with a green light with a coax connection. My ? is do I run a HDMIcable or a coax to the tv from the new converter box or splitter to box to tv

Need Help
by: Ron Bledsoe

Installed the recommended DtoA converter. Over the air now works great, BUT the Satellite has much snowy/wavy reception. Turned DtoA on/off/unplugged still had same Sat reception. Disconnected the DtoA cable out to TV reconnected to distribution box and no snow on sat reception.
Can anyone HELP?


Wish I'd Known About This
by: Terriegil

I wish I'd known about this website a year ago. It would have saved me some moments of anxiety. An RV repair shop owner did me a "favor" and moved my digital converter box from where I'd installed it--between the TV and the switch box--to directly between my amplified antenna and the switch box so I could have both the front and rear TVs on the box. I asked him how I was supposed to change channels from my bed since the box is next to the front TV, and he tried to use a mirror--didn't work. The anxious moments occurred the first time I tried to watch TV, a stream of smoke emanated from the converter box and I smelled burning wire. I quickly turned everything off and unplugged the box. I called the shop owner to ask what to do and he said it wasn't a problem. That guy is now on my "do not call" list. I re-located the box to the correct location and it still works well, thank goodness. However, I don't watch TV in the bedroom since I'd have to remove the window shade, the valance, the false bottom of the shelf the TV is on and the bolts holding the TV tie-down. Not worth it. I'll wait till I can afford a new digital TV and then do all the work. Thanks for the information you provide in this site. I'm reading through all--one at a time.

Connecting DTV Converter in RV
by: BornFree

I have read these posts and I am having a problem. I have an inverter in my set-up of an analog tv and dvd for my RV. To plug the converter in once it is in system--pathway being...antenna-converter-tv,do I plug converter into inverter to power it? Thanks

Note from RVing Al You can plug it into the Inverter. As long as the inverter is on the Digital TV Converter Box will work. But if the inverter is ever shut off the Digital TV Converter Box will lose its memory and you will have to rescan for channels again.

Hope this helps

Happy RVing

RVing Al

DTV Converter Box with only One TV
by: Anonymous

I have one TV in my RV and a DVD player [neither of which have digital tuners]. Where do I hook up the cable that comes from the antenna? I do not have a switch box for multiple TVs...only the box with the "red button" for amplified antenna or shore cable [I believe that is what the box with the "red button" is for.] You advise "Do not install the Digital TV Converter Box on the cable going from your RV's Antenna to the Video Switch Box." Can I connect the DTV converter box to the cable that comes from the box with the "red button"?

Should I bypass the DVD player [it is not a recorder] and go from the DTV converter box to the TV ?

Comment From RVing Al Yes, bypass the DVD Player. Yes, hook up the the converter box to the cable coming out of the video switch with button and you should be fine.

If you still want to use your DVD Player you can buy an inexpensive Cable A/B Switch and hook the converter to one input and the DVD player to the other input. This way you can switch between the two. Take a look at the switches I linked to below and you will see what I am talking about.

TV Push Button A/B Switch

TV A/B Switch

Hope this helps

Happy RVing

RVing Al

Did Not Fry my Box!
by: Anonymous

Thanks to you! I called the manufacturer of my Digital converter box for help with installation in my RV. He wanted me to hook up the antenna directly to the box and said that I could not hook it up off of the selector box. I have three TV's so this wasn't going to work! You saved the day! Kudo's to you and a Big Boo to outsourcing.

From RVing Al I am glad that you did not follow the manufacturer's advice to hook the DTV Converter Box to the cable that comes directly from your RV's amplified antenna as even the small amount of voltage going through that cable to power the amplifier on your antenna could have fried the converter box.

I am glad that I have been of some help.

Happy RVing

RVing Al

Help with installation of Digital box
by: AlM

I went through the steps listed in your article. I can only receive two TV stations. Best Buy folks say that is about normal. This is an old anolog TV Did I miss something.

If I use a digital TV, will my reception imporve?

Comment From RVing Al Greetings AIM using a digital TV will not improve the reception in your RV. You might want to read the answer I gave to this question How Can We Improve The Digital TV Reception In Our RV? for steps on how to increase the number of channels you receive.

Happy RVing

RVing Al

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