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Power Antenna - All you Need To Know

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A common problem among both the silvias and 180sx's seems to be the fact that the power antenna usually stops extending and retracting.


This article will deal with how to:


1) Determine why the antenna doesn't extend/retract

2) Remove the antenna assembly for repair/replacement/or aesthetic reasons




There are 2 main causes of a faulty power antenna. They are:


- a dodgy headunit installation

- broken antenna components


The first step in locating the cause of your problem is to listen for the antenna trying to extend. To do this open the boot and put your ear over towards the passenger's side where the antenna is located. Then have someone else turn the headunit on. Listen for any mechanical noise that would suggest that the antenna motor is either turning or trying to turn. If you can hear the motor turning but the antenna isnt extending, then the actual antenna assembly has a problem (refer to subsection A). If you can not hear any noise at all, then the problem is most likely electrical (refer to subsection B.).


Subsection A: The problem is the actual antenna assembly:


The antenna unit itself is reasonably simple. It contains a control unit, an electric motor, the antenna mast itself, and a flexible plastic drive that pushes the mast up and down. The common cause of antenna breakdown is this plastic drive. The plastic drive is approximately 1m long and coils up like a spring inside the unit, over time this drive weakens from the constant extending/retracting and will eventually snap. There are 2 options when this happens, either get a new antenna assembly (refer to section 2 for removal/replacement.) or replace the plastic drive. The replacement of the drive will not be dealt with in this article, however I have included a link at the bottom of the page that details how to do it.


Subsection B: The problem is electrical:


Almost every s13 you buy these days will have some sort of aftermarket headunit already installed. A lot of people install them themselves without actually understanding how to read a wiring diagram or use a multimeter. It is quite common to find that the installer simply hasn't connected the antenna up to the new headunit properly. This is a very easy problem to fix. Remove the headunit (but leave it connected). Now all modern, well known brand headunits will have a signal wire at the back. This signal wire is used for triggering amplifiers to turn on/off, or in this case making the antenna extend/retract. The colour of this wire will vary between manufacturers but generally it will be labelled with a little tag that will say one of the following:


- System Remote Control

- System Trigger

- Antenna Trigger

- External Trigger


Or something very similar. Refer to the manufacturers wiring diagram for confirmation.

(Just for reference on Pioneer units this wire is blue with a white stripe and labelled "System Remote Control".)


Once you have located the triggering wire from the headunit, you need to find the antenna trigger wire in the factory audio wiring harness. Just behind the headunit there will be a bunch of factory wires. Usually installers will utilise these existing wires for new headunit, so it is likely that your headunit is already connected to some of these wires.


The wire we are looking for has a black body with a dark red (almost brown) stripe running down it. (You may have to separate it out from the harness).


This wire is responsible for triggering the antenna timer. Simply connect this wire to the trigger wire from your headunit, and turn the headunit on. Your antenna should now extend. Turn the headunit off, and your antenna should now retract. Now you will probably find that the antenna will extend whenever the headunit is on, regardless of weather you are playing a cd or listening to the radio. To fix this simply wire a switch between the headunit trigger wire and the factory trigger wire (ie: don't connect them directly together, insert a switch and a length of wire between them.) That way you can have the antenna retracted while listening to cd's and only extend it when you need the radio.


Should the antenna still not function after connecting the trigger wires together, Firstly double check that you have connected to the correct factory wire, there are some wires that look very similar. If that is fine test to see if the motor is now working (see above) because you may have been incredibly misfortunate and have both a broken and disconected antenna. If it still won't operate, test that you are getting a voltage at the headunit's trigger wire when the unit is turned on, and no voltage when the unit is off.


A voltage at the trigger will mean


1) the signal isn't getting from the headunit to the antenna - trace back wiring as necessary,

2) The motor has burnt out, - replace antenna assembly

3) The control unit isnt working - replace antenna assembly


No voltage at the trigger will mean


1) The headunit is malfunctioning - Have it looked at by a qualified service person





Heres how to remove the entire antenna assembly from the car for whatever reason. Firstly open the boot and remove the passengers side trim. You should now be able to see the antenna. Have a look at the top of the antenna where it comes through the guard, you will see there is a black cap on the top that has 2 small holes in it.


Insert the tip of a pair of longnose plier into these holes and rotate the entire cap anticlockwise.


Now remove the cap completely. Grab the black antenna housing that is still poking out of the guard and give it a wiggle backwards and forwards.


It should now be loose and will pull upwards and off.


Now looking back inside the boot,undo the platic clip that holds the wiring harness in place.


Now unclip the black coaxial cable.


Then undo the 2 screws that secure the antenna to the body.


Manouver the antenna out of the inner guard area. Unclip The 2 wiring harnesses.


Then remove the unit completely.




JOB DONE!!!!!!


Heres the link to replacing the plastic antenna drive ( NOTE: I have nothing to do with this write up, i simply put it here so you don't have to search for it. All credit is to go to JUST_LOOKING, his write up not mine.)



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Hey, great article but the link at the end telling you how to replace the plastic drive isnt working. Does anyone know how to do this as my plastic drive has snapped in a couple of places? Do I just buy the drive in a pre packaged coil or is there some specific way i have to feed it through and around? I cant figure out how to rewind a broken off section of the drive and cant get it to mesh and fit in properly.


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Thanks for the writeup Ashman. I've just replaced the antenna mast in my S14 so this is a quick writeup for those wondering how to replace the antenna mast.



Firstly I removed the unit from the car, opened it up and removed any broken "plastic drive" pieces. Then I put it back together.

Turn the stereo on to put the antenna motor in the 'up' position.

Feed the "plastic drive" of your new antenna mast inside and down until you feel it touching the cogs at the bottom of the motor (the motor shouldn't be running, it should already be in the 'up' position with the stereo on).


Now you might need a second person for this bit...

Turn the stereo off whilst holding the "plastic drive" inside and *hopefully* it will grab the plastic teeth and coil it all up neatly without having to manually feed it through. It might take a few goes but it does work and is alot less greasy and messy than trying to coil it up inside manually.

Edited by Adzinthe

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Great writeup. I have bought 2 masts for my car only to have them both stuff up. 1st one was my brother in law breaking it and the second is it's just getting old.


On Ebay i noticed they have the stubby antennas now. Im looking at installing it as it should break. Not sure how the reception will be. Just keep this in mind as another option.

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Hey mate nice right up

just wondering in the 7th photo what is the alluminium plate in the back with the 2 brown strips

Mine has the same as well which i cut my finger open on haha

DO you no?

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I don't know what it is actually. It appears to be glued to the quarter panel.


I assume it's just some remnant of manufacture, perhaps it's where a machine was attached to grip the panel while it was welded in place.

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Yeah mine has the same thing on both sides. I though it had been in an accident or whatever, and the panel beater put it there for a bit of extra support or something.

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