Optimal performance for your antenna: tips and tricks for spring cleaning
As a radio amateur, you know that spring is the perfect time of year to inspect and clean your antennas. In addition to antennas, you should also pay attention to coaxial cables, insulators and cables, as well as masts and support structures. We'll show you what to look for to ensure optimal performance from your antenna.
The sun comes out again - and I see the somewhat dirty window panes, I'd have to get back at it. Well, at least this way I don't see the damage that winter left on my antennas. Or?
Let's have a closer look at the antennas, spring cleaning is definitely worthwhile here.
Checking and repairing wire antennas
Wire antennas move in the wind and are prone to breakage and corrosion.
Stranded wire is usually better since it can withstand frequent movement better than a simple solid wire. But how important is the material?
Stranded steel wire usually lasts forever, at least if you use high-quality (stainless!) fittings and clamps. In any case, every terminal and clamp should be tested.
With copper stranded wire or the usual copper bronze stranded wires (pure copper would be much too soft), corrosion spots quickly form at the transitions, easily recognizable by the green patina of the copper portion. As long as the cable itself is not yet too badly affected, it is sufficient to clean the wire with a brass wire brush, put some conductive grease on it and screw it back together.
At the ends of the wire antenna are the insulators and ropes for tensioning. Both should be checked carefully. Even the most UV-resistant plastic insulator will suffer over time, especially from the mix of UV radiation and acid rain. As soon as the fibers become visible in GRP plastics, you should replace them. Ceramic insulators also deserve some care. You can clean them with a damp cloth or brush to remove debris that might eventually become conductive.
Guy ropes are also susceptible to UV radiation and abrasion. Especially where the ropes rest, look closely, and replace them sooner rather than later if necessary. What good is the dipole if it's on the ground and the contest starts in half an hour?
Checking and repairing metal antennas
Antennas made of metal, i.e. verticals or also beams (yagis) are mostly constructed of aluminum, with some steel for the mounting elements. Here, one should check all elements carefully for fatigue, usually recognizable by groups of hairline cracks, which occur preferably at bending points and screw connections. In this case, early replacement is a good idea. WiMo also supplies tube material made of aluminum. And if it is an antenna manufactured and distributed by WiMo, we are also happy to offer spare parts.
Special attention should be paid to the caps at the ends of the elements and boom tubes. Like any plastic, they rot, and then water penetrates. No later than the next frost, this can lead to disastrous effects. Another effect of missing or broken pipe caps is insects nesting in the pipes. In thin elements, it is usually a single animal, perhaps even a beneficial wild bee. This can be recognized by the closure of the end of the tube with soil. The parent has placed it in front of the egg to protect the brood.
More annoying are whole colonies in thicker tubes, as they have been observed. In the worst case a professional has to do it, if you don't want to be stung by wasps. So - always seal tubes and elements with the appropriate plugs and caps.
Antenna mounting elements are often made of steel, either stainless steel or anodized or galvanized. With stainless steel, there is little to worry about (except strength). Normal steel parts with surface protection can suffer, then rust starts very quickly. Slightly rusted screws are best replaced immediately, and U-bolts are also available from specialized dealers. For special mast clamps and other special parts, WiMo often has replacements available. At the end of the inspection a small drop of oil on the screws, or some conductive grease on the pipe connections guarantees a long life of the antenna.
Coaxial cable inspection and repair.
One of the most vulnerable parts of outdoor antennas are the coaxial cables and the connections to the antenna. Here, you should check the entire length of the cable for cracks and kinks. A cable that is feared to have water penetration should be completely replaced. You will never get moisture out of cables with air foam dielectric. Even otherwise completely inconspicuous cables should be replaced after 10 to 15 years. Through osmosis and the possible breathing (inside the house largely constant temperature; outside alternately warm/cold), moisture is sucked in like an air pump and does not come out again. Due to the only very slowly decreasing quality of the cable, one hardly notices a deterioration during operation.
Each plug should be checked carefully, each socket should be cleaned - if available, blow it out with compressed air. In any case, clean, check for corrosion and replace if necessary. Often coaxial cables are connected directly to the radiator without connectors. This works well, but must be checked carefully in any case. At least the screw connection should be loosened, if necessary greased or sealed and reattached. The insulation of the cable transition must be checked and replaced if necessary.
Masts and supporting structure
Last but not least - the mast and other supporting structures should be checked carefully. Even if it is a GRP mast or a small aluminum mast, the inspection should look closely for damage that could endanger us and others from falling parts. Every screw connection and anchorage must be inspected at least once a year, and rust-prone parts cleaned and re-protected.
Das Frühjahr bietet die perfekte Gelegenheit, um all diese Arbeiten draußen durchzuführen. Wir hoffen, dass unsere Tipps Ihnen helfen, die optimale Leistung Ihrer Antenne zu gewährleisten und Sie viele erfolgreiche Funkverbindungen haben werden.