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Replacing the Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 Dish

The time had come. Or rather, this box had come. And what was inside this rather imposing box?

A replacement motor turret for our Winegard Trav’ler SK-1000 Satellite Dish. I needed one other critical piece of equipment however. And that was the Xtend + Climb 785P ladder. It arrived just in time for me to replace our satellite TV system yesterday.

The first problem was how to get the motor turret up to the roof. I had two people help me remove the unit back in Florida.

We don’t know many people yet at Desert Shores and that left us with two choices: hire someone to reinstall the unit or do it ourselves.

Being a self-reliant type of guy, the DIY route won. With help from Lorraine of course.

I needed to get the unit up the ladder and I needed someone at the top of the coach to help me swing it over the roofline. Lorraine was willing to climb up to the roof and give me a hand.

I moved everything else up to the roof first: tools, the dish and parabolic arm, bolts and other assorted items.

I lifted the roughly 40 pound motor turret with one arm and climbed up the ladder, gently hoisting it over the top to Lorraine where she placed it on some pads.

Winegard provided no documentation on how to replace the unit. I used the original documentation that outlined the process to remove the dish and I worked through that process in reverse.

And that was fine until I got to the part that required assembly of the parabolic arm and dish.

The arm on top of the turret was in the stowed position, face down. Obviously not possible to reconnect the parabolic arm and dish. What to do?

Nothing in the limited documentation. Nothing on the web.

We called Winegard technical support for some help.

They suggested that I go down to the interface box in our coach and reconnect the power. Then initiate the process to connect the antenna. And, once the pivot arm had opened up, press “Power” and “Select” on the interface box. That will stop the process and allow the parabolic arm and dish to be reassembled to the unit.

It worked. I am a profoundly happy RV geek.

To finish the reassembly work was straightforward. A few bolts and a bit of elbow grease.

I went back down into the coach to test the new system and everything seemed to work fine although we are not able to lock on to the Dish satellites at 110, 119 and 129 degrees. Those satellites are only visible on the other side of the country and not here in California. I might be able to lock on to the satellite at 61.5 degrees using the manual tuning mode but I haven’t tried it yet. By the time we got everything done, it was getting late in the day. It was time to stow the antenna and tidy up.

Updated: I initialized the Winegard interface this morning and it did find and lock on to the Dish Satellites at 110, 119 and 129 degrees. We now have our satellite service fully restored.

If you ever have to do this replacement, make sure that you take pictures of the disassembly work.

This one in particular.

We marked the housing (“1”, “2”, “3”) and the cable ends when the dish was removed. Good thing I took pictures. Winegard replaced the unit so there were no markings on the new housing. But, with this photo, I could quickly reconnect the satellite cables without any issue. Best to mark all of your cables so that when the time comes to reconnect them, it is very clear which one goes where.

Here is a short video showing the replacement.

Winegard and Customer Service

I am not a fan of Winegard. They are not a customer-focused company. They build products that fail and they make their customers go through a lot of inconvenience and expense to get Winegard products functional again.

You can read about the issue, an SK Motor Stall, here. It happened on February 2nd just as we were moving our coach to another site. Our satellite dish was stuck, pointing straight up into the air. This motor stall happened, mind you, after perhaps a mere dozen or so duty cycles on the system.

I called them up. They told me that the unit was no longer under warranty and that I would have to ship it to them at my expense, pay $350 USD plus taxes for the repair, and then they would ship it back to me. Oh, and it would take a couple of weeks to turn the repair around but only after I had submitted a WF-799 REV 2 Customer Evaluation Repair Request Form. Winegard would issue an RMA number and I could then ship the unit.

This is the WF-799 REV 2 Customer Evaluation Repair Request Form delivered as a fillable pdf document only it wasn’t fillable on a Mac. I had to import the pdf into an image editor, manually enter the required fields as text blocks, and export it back out as a pdf.

The first task was the disassembly and removal of the motor turret, dish and extension arm. Took two of us on the roof roughly an hour. We had a third person helping us on the ground.

Here is the motor turret after being removed from the mounting bracket on the roof of the coach.

The motor turret weighs about 40 pounds. My American buddy, shown here on the roof, despite not having a Robertson, helped me with the disassembly of the satellite dish. Thanks to Ron on the roof and Ron on the ground for all of your assistance.

After filling out the form, I waited for an RMA from Winegard. As we were leaving Florida on February 5th, I needed to get an RMA from them on February 4th so that we could arrange to have the motor turret packed and shipped to their factory before we left for California.

I called Winegard several times on February 4th, patiently explaining our situation each time, only to be told that they were overloaded with RMA processing — that in itself tells you something about the quality of their products.

Finally, late in the day, I received the RMA. I took the unit to the UPS store, paid $200 USD to ship it, and went on with life.

I received a call from them as we were travelling to California. They informed me that they would repair the unit without charge and ship it to our current location.

Okay. That is an acknowledgement that the product was known to be defective and that they are, to their credit, standing behind it.

But why make your customers go through all of these steps? Why cause the inconvenience associated with disassembly and reassembly of a complex piece of equipment? Why make your customers wait several weeks before they regain the functionality of the equipment? Why create complex forms and RMA processing?

Don’t get me wrong. I like engineers. I just don’t think they should be running businesses that interact with customers. And Winegard should use motors that can perform more than a few dozen service cycles.

Winegard Trav’ler Bell to Dish

A few years back, I posted about some challenges that I had with our Winegard Trav’ler satellite dish. The dish was pointed straight up and it would not stow. It took a lot of time and searching on the web to find a way to resolve that problem.

Since then, I’ve received numerous questions about how to switch the Winegard from Bell to Dish. I did not know how to answer because I had never made the switch. But now I have.

The Winegard Trav’ler supports both service providers and, in true engineering fashion, there is no easy, documented way to make that switch.

Why make the switch? Well, if you are a Canadian snowbird, the Bell service works only in Canada. The satellite coverage doesn’t extend very far, if at all, when travelling in the United States. We needed a U.S. provider, Dish, if we wanted to have satellite programming during our time south.

I took the plunge and made it happen in our coach. Five steps.

  1. Buy a compatible satellite receiver
  2. Configure the Winegard interface box
  3. Activate the satellite service
  4. Test the switch
  5. Program the remote

Step 1: Buy a compatible satellite receiver

The Wally is the perfect solution for us. The Wally is readily available at places like Camping World or online at Amazon. The cost is low, roughly $80 USD, and the unit is compact, runs cool, and it is well designed. Dish offers the Wally as part of their mobile solution, specifically aimed at RVers. No contracts. The service is month-to-month and you can cancel at any time. Most importantly, our satellite antenna will work with Dish. No need to hop on the roof and change the antenna!

This was the easiest part of the process. We went to a nearby Camping World and purchased a Wally receiver.

Step 2: Configure the Winegard interface box

I’m not sure why but Winegard does not provide any online help to switch providers. Perhaps their view is that people in RVs only ever travel in one country.

The annoying part is that if you initiate the power on sequence, the Winegard will go into search mode and it will find the Dish satellites (119, 110, 129) but, if your satellite type has been configured as LG ExpressVu, then all that will happen is a lot of searching before the unit gives up and stows your antenna.

You have to configure the Winegard to select the antenna type and service provider. In my case, that was LG Dish 1000. I’m still not quite sure what the difference is between “LG” and “SM” but I think the “LG” stands for Low Ground and “SM” for Surface Mount. The latter probably referring to the dome style satellites.

The sequence is a bit odd and may require different steps. I had to try it a few times before I got it to work. Make sure that you start with the Winegard antenna powered off.

The Winegard interface box has three buttons on the front panel labelled “POWER”, “SELECT” and “ENTER”.

I started by pressing and holding the “POWER” button for a few seconds, until the interface displayed “POWER ON”. And then I pressed and held “ENTER” for a few seconds.

The interface will display a prompt: “Enter User Menu?” and below that prompt will be two options: “Yes No”. I pressed the “SELECT” button until the asterisk was beside Yes and then I pressed the “ENTER” button.

There will be four choices at this point: Search Mode, Diagnostics, Installation and Exit. We need the Installation option. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “Installation” and press “ENTER”.

For whatever reason, the Winegard interface will then prompt for a password. The default is 0000. Press “ENTER” four times to accept the default password of 0000.

The “Select Antenna” option should come up. Again, ensure that the asterisk is beside the “Select Antenna” and then press “ENTER”.

I then had an option to choose between LG Mount and SM Mount. For my antenna, I choose LG Mount. Again, press the “SELECT” button until the asterisk is beside the “LG Mount” option and press “ENTER”.

Another password prompt will come up. And it is here that you might get stuck. The user documentation shows “0022” as the password. Does not work on my system. I had found another password somewhere on the web, “2112”, and that one works fine.

Use the “SELECT” button to set the number and, once entered, press “ENTER”.

At that point you should see options for the service type. In my case, I could choose between four options. The one I needed was “LG Dish 1000”. Press “SELECT” until the asterisk is next to “LG Dish 1000” and press “ENTER”. A confirmation might come up next. Press “SELECT” to put the asterisk beside “Yes” and press “ENTER”.

At this point the interface should display “in progress” and “Success”.

What then?

I had no idea. I basically powered the unit off. Turned it back on. It spent about twenty minutes searching the sky for satellites and then it came back with “LG Dish 1000 *110 *119 *129” on the display.

Success.

By far the hardest part of the process as there is nothing in the manual or on the web that I could find to make this change happen. A little bit of trial and error. I was happy to see the satellites locked in and ready to go.

Step 3: Activate the satellite service

Be prepared to spend a bit of time on the phone with Dish TV. They will set up a customer account if you do not have one and you have to provide them with the id numbers for the receiver and the smart card as well as your contact information, credit card and programming choice.

I fired up the Wally before I called them to make sure that I had the receiver sending signal out to the front panels (I feed all of the source video in the front of our coach to two LED panels).

In my case, the audio/video signals were going through just fine.

There is a straightforward initialization process with the Wally. I paired the Wally remote with the receiver and followed the onscreen instructions.

Then it was a matter of activating the receiver. That was when I called Dish

I had no issues. After spending thirty to forty minutes on the phone with Dish TV, the Wally received its activation signal. But I wasn’t finished yet.

Step 4: Test the switch

You will need to test the switch to ensure that the signals from the satellite are getting through the unit successfully. If you miss this step, you might find that you are missing channels or not receiving any channels at all.

This part of the process is unique to the receiver. Dish has a page here that you can use but I found that the Wally’s interface differed. Not hard to find on the Wally, but if you do not set up the receiver properly, be prepared to call tech support at Dish.

Step 5: Program the remote

In our installation I use the Logitech Harmony Elite to control all of the sources in my AV cabinet. You can see the Harmony Hub on the upper left shelf. I have the Harmony Remote Control programmed for Apple TV, Over-The-Air Digital TV, Dish TV, Blu-Ray, and Sonos for when I stream music throughout the coach.

Programming the Harmony Remote was easy. I used the Harmony App on my iPhone to set up the new configuration. It resolved the codes for the Wally remote and synchronized the changes from my iPhone out to my Harmony Hub which then automatically updated the Harmony Remote.

So cool.

And, at that point, I could turn things on and watch satellite programming.

Good thing I’m retired. It took most of the afternoon to make this happen.