Wondering how to improve DAB radio reception in your car? The easiest option is to use a DAB car aerial installation. Today, we’re going to explain precisely how to fit a DAB windscreen aerial. Let’s get started…
Learning how to fit a DAB aerial to your car will ensure you can access the broadest range of DAB signals, wherever you are.
These frequency-boosting devices come in a range of designs and sizes. You can choose a DAB windscreen aerial, a magnetic solution, or a standard product which fits to your roof.
Perhaps the best thing about DAB aerial installation, is it doesn’t require any specialist knowledge. Most people will be able to install their aerial without mechanical assistance. Of course, you can always seek out help if you don’t feel confident.
So, if you’re ready, here’s your guide to fitting a DAB aerial.
Can I use a normal car aerial for DAB?
To access DAB radio, you’ll need a specific kind of aerial. The right solution needs to be able to collect digital signals, as well as FM (and sometimes AM) frequencies.
There are various options out there to choose from, though many consider the DAB windscreen aerial to be easiest to install.
Fitting a film or windscreen antenna is something most motorists will have no issue with. Usually, all you need are a few common tools, and a set of instructions.
Here are a few points to consider when choosing your DAB antenna:
As mentioned above, a DAB windscreen aerial is often the easiest to install. This universal connector from DriveSmart comes with a full fitting instruction leaflet, and a standard SMB connector which works with JVC, Kenwood, Pioneer, and other radio systems.
You get complete DAB and DAB+ with this device too.
If you don’t choose a universal DAB antenna for your car, like this one from the Ancable store, you’ll need to ensure the connection points are compatible with your vehicle. Universal aerials are often best because you can use them with any car.
If you opt for something other than a windscreen mount, make sure it’s easy to install. This magnetic DAB aerial from the Bingfu store promises a quick and easy setup. The solution is fully compatible with indoor and car radio tuners.
If you already have a great antenna for your car, you can use a splitter to support both FM and DAB signals. Splitters may be a little tougher to install than antennas, however. Make sure you seek professional assistance if you need it.
Notably, though windscreen antennas may be easier to install, they’re not always the best. Many people believe a magnetic or roof-mounted aerial will offer more range. Something like the Eightwood universal amplifier may help reduce your risk of dropped signals.
How to fit a DAB aerial to your car
The steps you take for a successful DAB aerial installation will depend on the kind of aerial you buy. Since windscreen options are the easiest to install at home, we’re going to cover the basics of a window DAB aerial installation here.
Step 1: Prepare
First, read through all of the instructions and guidelines included with your new DAB aerial. Your manufacturer should offer some basic information on installation. You can also use the information here to check if you have DAB or DAB+ connectivity.
Windscreen aerials are best to install on the passenger side of the car. This ensures your aerial won’t obscure your vision. You’ll need to route the cable included with the aerial down the A pillar of the car, into the footwell.
Depending on the design of your aerial, you may be able to route the cable behind your car dashboard, into an adapter on the console, or a DAB radio system. The aerial will include 2 cables, one for power, and one for the DAB signal (with an SMB connector).
Step 2: Remove the trim on the A pillar
You’ll need to remove the trim on your car’s A pillar to run the cable from the aerial, into your radio or adapter. The aerial will have an earth plane strip which also needs to attach to the metal body of the vehicle, behind your plastic trim.
If your pillar has a badge or airbag sign, you may need to take your vehicle to a garage. It’s better to pay extra for a professional installation than it is to risk damaging crucial safety features. Badges are often responsible for covering screws to hold your trim in place.
The plastic trim on the A pillar should pull away easily, starting from the top of the car. You may need to pull some of the rubber strip on the door too.
Step 3: Clean up
Before fitting DAB aerial film to your windscreen, clean the glass. Some aerials will even come with a microfiber cloth or wipe for cleaning. The surface needs to be totally dirt-free and absent of dust. Make sure the metal bodywork is clean too, for the earth plane strip.
Follow the instructions provided on how to prep your car. Some manufactures will recommend sanding the A pillar for DAB aerial installation.
Ensure your car is completely dry before you move onto the next step.
Step 4: Place the aerial
Once your surface is clean, find the ideal position for your DAB antenna. Remember, the adhesive is strong, and it can be difficult to remove when you’ve applied it to the window. Keep the protective film on the DAB windscreen aerial until you’re ready to attach it.
Position your aerial so the metal surface and earth strip interact. Ensure there’s a gap between your antenna and the glass at the top of the windscreen. You should have enough space available to allow the A-pillar trim to go back into the bodywork.
Step 5: Adhere the aerial to the windscreen
Once you’ve chosen the best position for the car DAB aerial, remove the protective film. Press the sticky padding or back of the aerial onto the windscreen and hold it in place. Hold the aerial down for at least 30 seconds to make sure it’s properly stuck.
You may find it easier to stick the base to the windscreen to begin with, then peel the backing from your antenna.
With your aerial in place, remove the backing on the earth plane for your antenna and stick to the metal surface.
Check everything is firmly in place, with no risk of slipping.
Step 6: Route your cable
Now you’re left with a cable you need to route through the A pillar. Some people prefer to use insulation tape to hold the cables in place. Remember, there will be two cables, one for power, and one for your aerial to connect to the radio.
There will be a gap at the bottom of the A pillar on your car. This will allow wires to drop into the footwell. It may be necessary to remove a piece of the glovebox, or some extra trim if the wires don’t easily drop into place.
Tape your cables together temporarily if you want to avoid any issues with getting the two wires through separately.
Step 7: Connect your aerial
Now you’re ready to connect your aerial to your vehicle.
Most aerials will simply plug into place, but some will require you to twist for a tighter fit. Most DAB windscreen aerials for cars come with an SMB female connector. These connection points are compatible with SMB male connections.
If you notice your aerial and radio have different connectors upon installation, you may need to buy an adapter.
Step 8: Power the aerial
If you’ve ever wondered, “Does a DAB antenna require power?” the answer is yes.
An active aerial needs to be powered with your 12-volt car feed. In some cases, your adapter or radio will be able to provide power through the coax wire, and you can enable this setting to simplify things.
Alternatively, if you need to connect the power, use the thin power cable to connect to your 12-volt source. You could use the ignition supply to the radio for power too.
This part of DAB car aerial installation can be tricky. If you’re not confident, ask a garage or auto electrician for help.
Step 9: Finish fitting your DAB aerial
Before you replace any of the trim for your A pillar, or secure cables into place, run a check. Turn your radio on and search for DAB stations. A brief scan should be enough to show of the solution is working.
Once you perform your scan and see you’re getting stations, you can re-fit the other components of your car.
If you’re a trim piece has little gap with the glass, you can file a small space out where the cables can pass through.
Do you need a DAB aerial installation?
A DAB car aerial installation ensures you can get the widest range of radio signals for your car. If, after your installation, you’re still not getting any signal or service, you may need to do a factory reset for your radio. Check the manufacturer instructions on how to do this.
You can also:
- Replace the radio: In some situations, there may be an issue with the functionality of your radio. It’s difficult to determine this without help from a professional.
- Check the aerial power: Make sure the aerial is receiving power. DAB car radios will require some manner of power supply.
- Examine sources of interference: Check other electrical devices like GPS, dash cameras, and USB chargers aren’t interfering with the signal.
- Try adjusting the aerial position: Though you probably can’t unstick and re-stick your aerial, you may be able to adjust the position or angle.
- Try again in a new location: Tall buildings, hills, and trees could be blocking your connection. Try checking from a flatter place.
If none of these strategies work, speak to an automotive specialist. Garage professionals should be able to give you an insight into why fitting a DAB aerial hasn’t worked. You could also reduce your risk of errors by requesting a professional installation initially.
Where do You Buy A DAB Aerial Anyway?
Luckily, they have many of these for sale on Amazon, which is the easiest and most convenient way to go (in our opinion). And they’re pretty inexpensive, too.
For convenience, I thought it would be best just to list the top 3 selling aerials on the site right now, but feel free to have a look at others if you like:
This one is the most popular, and many sellers on Amazon sell the exact same product under different name brands.
There are definitely some more out there but these are highly popular and pretty cheap as well.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.