How to Replace a Coaxial Cable Connector
If you are like most people, then at one time or another you had a bad experience with a cable technician. Let's be frank; half of these guys are contractors who get paid by the job, so the only way for them to make more money is to use shortcuts on each job. More times than not, that results in an incomplete job or a cable signal that is worse than the one you called about. You may find yourself saying, "If I knew all they were going to do was replace the cable connector, I would have done it myself!" Well, now you can! Here is how to replace a coaxial cable connector.
Things You'll Need
- Coaxial cable stripper
- Replacement "F" connector
- Coaxial cable crimper
- Razor knife
Coaxial cable strippers and crimpers can be found at any hardware store and come in a variety of styles and price ranges. For the thrifty do-it-yourselfer, you can use a good old fashioned razor knife to strip the coaxial cable as long as you have a steady hand and a keen eye.
The first thing you will want to do is remove the old, existing connector. Make sure that the cable is disconnected on both ends before making any cuts. If you have the cable strippers you can just use the cutting tool on it to cut the connector off. If you are doing this job without the cable strippers, regular wire strippers will work or a pair of "junk" scissors. You do not want to use your wife's good sewing scissors for this!
With the old connector lopped off, take a look at the cable so you have an idea of what you are working with. There are a number of layers to a coaxial cable. The outer plastic jacket is a thin layer of PVC plastic sheathing. Next is a wire mesh screen that is typically made from copper. The next layer is the dielectric insulator. It is usually made from either solid plastic, foam plastic or solid polyethylene. Lastly, the copper core is the path along which the cable signal actually runs. In higher grade coaxial cable, this wire may be silver plated for a better connection.
Ok, now that you have an idea of what makes up coaxial cable, it's important to know that stripping it properly is key to getting the best connectivity possible. A coaxial cable stripper is easily marked for making the proper cuts, but if you choose to go the frugal route, here is how to do it.
Open the razor knife and place the edge of the blade, not the tip, about an inch from the cut end. Hold the blade perpendicular to the cable and not along it. Press the blade into the cable and begin rotating it around the cable. The key here is to cut through the outer sheath, the wire mesh and the dielectric insulator while avoiding coming in contact with the copper core. This is tough to do and may take a few tries, but the best practice is to cut near to the center without going too far and then twisting the cut portion off. Inspect the copper core for any nicks. Remember--nicks in the copper core will decrease picture quality, so be careful.
If any dielectric insulation or wire mesh is sticking out from the cut area, use the knife to remove it and smooth the cut. Now it is time to cut the outer sheath back a little farther. Most "F" connectors require about a 5/16 inch of sheath to be removed for a proper installation. Hold the knife edge against the cable as you did earler and lightly cut around the cable so that the outer sheath can be removed, keeping the mesh, insulation and core intact.
Peel the wire mesh screening back over the outer sheath. Inspect the copper core and insulation for any debris. Make sure that everything looks clean.
Insert the coaxial cable into the "F" connector so that the dielectric insulator is flush with the inner core of the connector. In the inner chamber of the connector (looking at it straight on), only the copper core should be evident. Additionally, you want to ensure that the copper core is in no way coming into physical contact with the connector.
If your inspection proves that everything looks good, use the coaxial crimper to crimp the neck of the "F" connector to the cable, securing it in place. Check it to make sure the crimp is strong enough to keep the connector on.
Reconnect the coaxial cable, and hopefully, your picture will be improved. If it is not, then you may have a larger issue with your cable company. But hey, at least you saved the cable guy from taking the easy way out. Now maybe he can concentrate on finding the REAL problem!