Troubleshooting your Cable Box
Unless you’ve recently moved from Alaska to Texas and you’re feeling a little homesick, chances are that the last thing you want to see when you turn on your TV is snow. Combine a snowy screen with that loud, obnoxious static sound, and you’ve got a problem on your hands. Fortunately you don’t have to be techie to fix your cable box – just follow these simple troubleshooting steps to get picture back in no time.
Cable Box Basics
Make sure your cable box is plugged in. I know that sounds silly, but after troubleshooting these things over the phone professionally, you can trust me on this one. Save yourself the time and embarrassment of calling a professional just to have them tell you to plug it in. That goes for the rest of the essential equipment as well (i.e. TV, VCR or DVR if you’re running the signal through one, etc.). It wouldn’t hurt to make sure the TV is on the correct channel – usually channel 3 or 4 or one of the input channels.
Make sure all the cables are connected. Even if you’re TV and cable box are both turned on, you won’t see a picture unless they are connected. Check each connection to ensure it is tight and that none of the wires or connecting pieces is damaged. Also check to see that the connections are all correct – meaning, video and audio should be going out of your cable or satellite box to your TV “in” ports. The signal should follow a logical path. If the connections are correct but you’re still not seeing any picture, replace the cables to see if that solves the problem. If you’re running the signal through a DVR or VCR and having problems, skip the middle man and plug the cables straight from the box to the TV. If you get a picture you know you’re problem is in the VCR.
After making sure everything is on and the cable connections are all correct, try rebooting your system. Each company’s receivers have different methods of rebooting, but one fairly universal way is to unplug the box for 10 to 20 seconds and then plug it back in. Do not just turn the box off and back on again – you’ll need to actually pull the plug out of the wall and then put it back in again. Once the cable box is plugged back in, turn the power on and cross your fingers. If you’re still not receiving any picture, unplug the receiver again for up to one minute and then plug it back in. This may be tedious and time-consuming, especially when you’re missing the fight of the year or the Super Bowl, but give it the full minute – you’ll spend less time doing it yourself than you will waiting for a repairman to come out and fix it.
Fuzzy Picture or Sound
If you are getting a picture but no sound; or sound but no picture; or a fuzzy picture or sound, recheck the cable connections to make sure they are tightened and that the wires or connecting pieces are undamaged. Poor picture or sound is typically caused by one of three problems: poor wire connections, signal interference, or TV settings.
Going outside to make sure nothing is interfering with your signal will help with the second problem. Of course, if you have underground cables there is not much you can do about making sure they are clear of interference (that’s read, “Your neighbor cut through it while gardening”). If you have a satellite dish, know that excessive rain or snow buildup on the dish can cause signal interference. Use caution when checking your dish, especially if it is on your roof or some other hard-to-reach place around your house. The installer should have verified that no trees or other objects would interfere with your signal from the satellites, but take a quick look around to see if new foliage is blocking the signal. If it is not on your property, do not cut or remove anything without prior permission from the property owner.
Finally, adjusting your TV settings can help when you are receiving a clear signal and all the connections are fine. Horizontal and vertical settings are the adjustments that most often need to be made, but consulting your owner’s manual can give you a better indication of other settings that can be tweaked.
Troubleshooting requires patience, so make some lemonade, roll up your sleeves, and get started. If none of these suggestions work (9 times out of 10 they will), contact your service provider. They may have additional troubleshooting steps or resources they can make available to you to get your cable or satellite TV up and running.