CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

'97 Taurus GL Wagon 3.0L 204.5k: Power Antenna Stuck Up!

'97 Taurus GL Wagon 3.0L 204.5k: Power Antenna Stuck Up!

Original power antenna. I can hear the motor running but the antenna isn’t moving at all. Sounds like a broken gear. Anyone ever repair one of these or do I have to buy a whole new unit?

I once had a girlfriend that was stuck up, I replaced her.

The antenna works like this: There’s a plastic gear at the bottom of the antenna. When it turns, it moves a plastic strip inside the mast which has teeth on one side to interface with the gear. Since they’re plastic, one side or the other strips, leaving you with no movement. If the gear strips, you’re screwed and have to buy a new antenna. If the strip teeth strip, you can get a replacement mast from Pep Boys and install that.

Hey keith! Good to hear from you again! Your Saturn still kickin’? I bought a new 2011 Equinox 1LT (V6) last January. It’s OK. Fuel economy’s not that great. Vehicle is too heavy (~4500 lbs). But the wife likes it … it’s her car. I’m still driving the '02 Impala (157k) or '97 Taurus Wagon (204.5k). Still also have the '89 Colt (250k+), but it hasn’t run in a while. Project car that I never get around to!

shadowfax:

Thanks for the description. I guess I’ll have to pull it out to see which plastic piece is history. Funny how you can buy washers in any shape and size anywhere you go, but you can never buy replacement gears (even plastic ones)! Too many sizes and tooth counts, I guess…

Saturn’s still kicking at 251 k miles. Jumped in it this past May with 242k, only checking the tire pressure and went out west to see the eclipse (BTW, I’m retired now). Ended up driving 5835 miles in 7 driving days (went to some national parks while out there) on 149 gallons of gas and 4 qts of oil.

Why do you need a power antenna? Since it’s stuck in the up position, the radio still works. No big deaL. Just unplug the power wire from it and drive on.

Because the power antenna masts have no flex in them, so when you take them through a car wash they break off.

Just drive around with it and then snap the antenna clean off, once October is here.
There’s nothing worth listening to after that, when the car talk guys disappear.

This can be fixed. But it might prove expensive unless you can find a replacement antenna at a local junkyard. Give your local junkyard a call and see what they say. If they don’t have one, call your dealer and see what a new one costs.

It is possible to buy plastic gears on the internet, but trying to find the exact correct size, for the exact correct shaft size, and with the correct number of sprockets, it probably isn’t worth it. But it’s worth a shot if you have some spare time and don’t want to buy a replacement antenna.

If I had a 97 with a broken power antenna, me, I’d probably buy a new a new manual non-OEM antenna for cheap, install it, and be satisfied with that. If I insisted on having a working power antenna, I’d trade my car in for a new one.

I decided to simply disconnect the motor - but it’s not really that simple to do. The plug is on the fender-side in a very tight spot, so you have to remove the unit. Not that big a deal: the silver bolt at the top (through that curved piece of sheetmetal that you can see through the square hole), and a gold nut at the bottom (NOT the black-colored nut to the left). Of course, you also have to remove that weird 4-slot bezel-nut on the fender that the antenna comes up through, and this requires a special tool. I simply used a screwdriver with a wad of paper towels at the tip to -push- the nut slowly around. Problem with this method is you are at constant risk of the screwdriver slipping off and either gouging the black plastic trim ‘collar’ or even worse - scratching the paint on the fender! It’s slow going, but just keep the screwdriver almost straight up an down. Anyway, once these three fasteners are removed, the motor slips out the bottom. Once the unit is out, the fun begins. You open it up by removing the 6 (?) screws. Immediately inside will be a clear plastic/hollowed-out wheel (that the nylon-toothed “mast-mover” snake coils into). Underneath this is a plastic plate that separates the wheel from the plastic gears underneath. It turned out my internal plastic gears were OK and all that was broken was about 10" off the mast-mover - it was lying inside the wheel, detached). The mast mover snakes up inside the antenna on one end and then inside the motor cabinet pinches between a tiny 3/8" plastic pulley (that likes to pop off during re-assembly) to engage a 2" plastic gear for about an inch of its teeth before rising upward through a slot in the plastic plate (where it then coils around the hollow center of the clear plastic wheel that sits atop it). Since the gears on the internal pulleys appeared to be OK, I COULD’VE replaced the mast-mover (for about $30) and had the whole thing working again, but I chose to simply leave it the way it was and just unplug the power to the motor and leave the antenna up at all times.

Putting it back together can be a little tricky. Make sure the aluminum post coming out of the unit is COMPLETELY SEATED into the unit BEFORE you tighten all the screws on the plastic cabinet body! Mine wasn’t and it made the unit just a little bit too long and VERY DIFFICULT to reinstall (but I kept trying because it was SO close)! Also, if you’re not going to replace the mast-mover, I would try to engage what’s left of it with the 2" gear and then fit the plastic plate and clear wheel over the top (to keep it in place) while you push the antenna all the way back down (it has to be all the way back down to reinstall). You should hear the churning of the gears as you do this. After reinstall, you can gently pull the antenna back up high enough to get acceptable reception, but not too high that the mast mover disengages the 2" gear inside the unit (I THINK this method would be more likely to keep the antenna in the position you set it to and keep it from falling down while driving - which would affect your reception). I found that my antenna needed to be at least 75% up to get all the stations I was used to listening to.

One other thing - forget about yanking those two 1" plugs that you see immediately after pulling out the spare tire. Pulling either one will kill your radio completely. Also - removing the two wires with the eyelets bolted to the metal does nothing (to the radio, at least). These are grounds for something else, apparently. The wire that drives the motor on the antenna actually splices off the thick main harness at the right-most edge of the plastic panel opening and quickly disappears into the fender. It’s hard to follow because there are so few openings of any decent size to peer through to see where it goes. It heads to the fender-side of the motor where a smallish telephone-jack-sized plug makes the connection. But you cannot release this plug by just reaching around with one hand (unless you’re Harry Houdini). Too tight and you could only do this with one hand (finger nail of index finger pushing on the release clip, then middle finger trying to pull plug out … I couldn’t do it!).

I am curious why waste an ounce of time on the power antenna. So passe when they functioned…

I had to do something because everytime the antenna went up or down it would make a ridiculously loud clicking noise that resonated through the body of the car! I suppose I could’ve just let it continue doing this until ALL the plastic gear teeth cracked off, but that could’ve taken forever. All I needed to do was pull the power on the motor, but that required pulling the whole unit out which was a little more trouble than it should have been. Also, by pullng the power plug (and saving the gears inside the motor from damage), I COULD still buy a mast kit ($30) and restore the power antenna.

Power antennas might be “passe’”, but that’s what the car came with. At least I “passed” on forking out $200 for a replacement power antenna …