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Winegard SK Motor Stalled

I’ve had issues with the Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 satellite antenna before. You can read all about my EL Motor Home Failure issue here.

Yesterday, we had to change sites before we leave for California on Tuesday. The sites at Myakka River Motorcoach Resort are usually booked on a monthly basis and, as we needed to extend our stay until February 5th, we moved away from our riverfront site to one at the very back of the park.

I went through my checklist. One of the first items is to stow the satellite antenna. Simple enough task. Press power off on the Winegard interface box and it initiates the stowing process.

Like many things in our motorcoach, I am pleasantly surprised when things work as they should. I expect things not to work which seems to be the case for many of the systems on our coach.

Like our domestic hot water. It failed last week. I received what is now the third replacement pump from ITR Oasis yesterday and I am going to install that pump later this morning.

The cost? $300 USD plus another $100 USD to expedite the shipment.

Hopefully we will regain our hot water. The pumps do not seem to have much staying power.

Back to the Winegard Trav’ler. It began to stow the antenna and I could hear the motor making some sounds. You know the sounds. The sounds that suggest something is not right in the world. Like the sounds of tires skidding followed by the sounds of a crash.

Yes. The antenna would not stow. It is pointing straight up in the air.

On the Winegard interface box, these words flashed over and over: SK MOTOR STALL.

Helpful as that flashing message was, I could not find any relevant resources on the web to address this problem.

Well, I thought, I’ve always wanted to give Winegard support a call.

An expensive call, really. I have to pay them $350 USD to repair the motor in the turret. It will take them two weeks to turn it around after they have received it and I cannot send it to them before obtaining an RMA.

Oh, and I have to dismantle the antenna. On the roof.

Check it out.

Such fun I will have this morning.

I will climb up to the roof and spend an hour or two dismantling a complex antenna system then I will pack up the turret assembly, spend $100 USD or so to ship it out to Winegard, wait for a few weeks for them to repair it, then reinstall it on the roof.

Fortunately I have a few friends that will be helping me out on this side of the repair.

Thankfully we discovered this little issue before our travels to California. We would have had a very late start to the travel day trying to get the antenna stowed.

Leaving it stuck upright could cause an impact with lower clearance bridges or with trees. And then we would need to spend a few thousand to get a new unit.

Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000

WineGard Dish

If you look carefully at the roofline of our coach, you will see a satellite dish antenna, roughly midway, peering out at the southern sky.

This is our Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 automatic multi-satellite TV antenna.

This unit caused me a lot of grief. It works fine now but I will share my story in the hopes that if you have a similar problem, you can find an easier way to get it solved.

The problem was an EL Motor Home Failure. Let’s see how I got to that problem.

One of many tasks for the new motorhome was to connect the Bell Expressvu receiver to the audio visual system. That part was relatively straightforward. Connect the RG-6 coaxial cable to the rear of the receiver, connect the HDMI cable to the output of the receiver and the input of the coach’s system splitter — in my bay everything was clearly marked — and plug the unit into an available electrical outlet.

Great. Now for some satellite TV.

First, power up the Winegard unit. The power up sequence worked fine. I can hear the unit moving and automatically positioning itself to find the Bell satellites. From what I know about satellites, which is very little actually, Bell leases two of them: Nimiq 3 and Nimiq 6. Nimiq 3 is at 82 degrees west and carries the standard definition channels. Nimiq 6 is at 91.1 degrees west and carries the high definition channels.

The Winegard dish found both satellites and showed that it was locked on *82 and *91.

Success.

Or so I thought.

I turned everything on and the satellite received showed an Error 15 on the TV screen. Basically, the receiver was not seeing the satellite.

How can this be?

So I consulted the Winegard manual. With hindsight, this turned out to be a huge mistake. The manual had a significant omission, namely the type of antenna. More on that one in a moment.

Here is the page on how to configure the dish for Bell Expressvu:

WineGard Operations

Notice step 6: Press the Select button until the asterisk is next to “SM Mount,” and then press “ENTER.”

And notice step 8: Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “SM ExpressVu.” Press the Enter button.

When I looked at my Winegard unit, it said “LG ExpressVu” and not “SM ExpressVu.”

Obviously the unit had not been configured for Bell TV. Or so I thought.

I followed all of the instructions and then I got to step 15: The TRAV’LER antenna will enter the search routine as part of its normal operation.

Only there was no normal operation. Instead I received a flashing EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE on my Winegard unit.

That cannot be good.

I went outside and I could see that the satellite dish was pointed straight up to the sky.

My first reaction? I must have broken the antenna. My second reaction? How do I get it stowed? After all, I cannot drive the coach with the antenna sticking straight up into the air.

Back into the coach I go. But nothing I do stows the antenna. All I get is a flashing EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE.

There is a troubleshooting section in the manual but it does not show an EL MOTOR HOME FAILURE error. It does show something close, an EL HOME FAILURE. Here is what you should do when you see that error:

Something is preventing the mount from raising as it attempted to find the HOME position. Look for obstructions if the unit has recently been manually raised or if the electronics have been replaced. The calibration may need to be reset. Contact Winegard Technical Support.

I sent them a note and a robot told me that support was closed until Monday. This was Saturday evening.

I am not a patient man. Time for more DIY damage.

I found out how to reset the antenna on the Internet. Follow these steps:

1. Press [POWER] and hold for 2 seconds to turn “ON” the TRAV’LER Interface Box. Wait until the Interface Box finishes “connecting to antenna”. The TRAV’LER may enter the “Search Routine” after 10 seconds this is normal (See NOTE Below).

2. Press [ENTER] and hold for 2 seconds or until the unit displays “Enter User Menu”. Press [SELECT] to move the asterisk to “Yes”. Press [ENTER].

3. Press [SELECT] to move the asterisk to INSTALLATION.

4. Press [ENTER]. You will be asked to provide a code to enter the Installation Menu.

5. Press [ENTER] 4 times to enter code 0000.

6. Press [SELECT] to move “ * ” to “Calibrate EL”.

7. Press [ENTER].

8. Press [SELECT] to move “ * ” to YES.

9. Press [ENTER] to start the elevation calibration procedure. The LCD should now display “Calibrate EL In Progress …”.

10. After a few moments the IDU LCD will display “On EL Hard Stop?-Yes*No”. Visually examine the antenna to verify that the antenna is against the Hard Stop. The antenna will be pointing as far up as it can go, this is the Hard Stop.

11. Press [SELECT] once to move asterisk to “Yes” if antenna is on the Hard Stop.

12. Press [ENTER] and the LCD will display “Calibrate EL Success”.

13. You may now stow the antenna.

Only these steps did not work for me. Why?

It goes back to LG ExpressVu and SM ExpressVu. It turns out that they are two different antennas. One is “Low Ground” and the other is “Surface Mount” or something like that. Through some additional research on the web, I found a dealer installation pdf and it talked about the two differences. My antenna was, in fact, an LG ExpressVu. Because I had reconfigured it to be an SM Mount, exactly as the manual directed, it was unable to stow. It remained stuck in the fully upright position, pointing straight up into the sky.

I had to go back into the installation menu to change the antenna type back to LG ExpressVu. I followed all of the steps and at step 6 I selected “LG Mount”. And to do that operation required a passcode. I used the one in the manual: “0022”.

Invalid passcode.

What?

More searching on the Internet. I finally found the passcode to change the antenna type buried deep in the web somewhere: 2112.

Passcode accepted.

Once I changed the antenna type I followed the rest of the protocol making sure I used LG ExpressVu. I was able to successfully calibrate the system and get the antenna safely stowed.

I powered it up, connected to the antenna, and the Winegard unit could see *81 and *92 again.

The Bell receiver? No joy. Why was I not getting any satellite signal to the receiver?

And then it hit me. The switch.

I had taken one of our Bell ExpressVu receivers from the house. I have an SW44 switch in the house. I remembered reading somewhere that the receivers are sensitive to the type of switch.

I went into System Setup and then the diagnostic section of the receiver’s menu system and selected “Test Switch”. After about ten minutes or so it automatically found the new switch from the Winegard unit and voila, satellite TV.

Technology really should not be this hard.

Update:

I’ve received numerous emails from people trying to switch their Winegard Trav’ler from Bell ExpressVu. I was able to make that happen and you can read my post about how I was able to switch my service from Bell to Dish by clicking here: Winegard Trav’ler Bell to Dish.