Roof mount DAB aerials are an excellent choice for cars and vans. They can perform better than windscreen and magnetic aerials, which means digital reception should be more reliable.
These types of aerials replace the existing car aerial. Roof mounted aerials tend to be suitable when the car already has a roof mounted aerial for FM/AM reception towards the back of the car. The new aerial will continue to provide the FM/AM signal to the radio, as well as DAB digital radio through a new connection.
In this guide
- Suitability of DAB roof aerials on cars
- Choosing a DAB roof mount aerial
- Alternatives to DAB roof mounted aerials
- How to install a replacement roof DAB car aerial
- Deals on DAB car roof aerials
Suitability of DAB roof aerials on cars
One of the main advantages of roof mounted antennas is that they replace the existing aerial. This means that no new holes or cables on the exterior of the car are visible. To most people the car would look unmodified.
There are some checks you can do with your vehicle to see if it will be suitable:
- Does the car already have a roof mount aerial? If the aerial is in the bodywork or embedded in a rear window there will not be an aerial to replace.
- Where is the roof aerial? If it’s at the back on a flat surface it should be possible to replace the aerial. If it’s at the front near the windscreen it’s unlikely that it can be replaced, due to the curvature of the roof.
- Can the underside of the roof be accessed? The headlining in the car’s interior will need to be dropped so that the securing nut and wires can be accessed. There is a risk of damaging or creasing the headlining.
- Does the aerial base have a built-in washer jet? None of the replacement aerials we’ve seen would be suitable.
Examples of cars with roof aerials which are suitable for a replacement DAB aerial are some Vauxhall, Skoda, Volkswagen and Renault models. Some cars with roof aerials are not suitable for a replacement DAB aerial, like the Ford Focus (MkI and MkII) which has an aerial towards the front of the roof. The replacement roof aerials which are available would not be suitable due to the curvature of the roof.
Roof mounted DAB aerials can be installed on cars, vans and motorhomes with no existing roof aerial. However, the process would be more complex as it would require a new hole to be drilled in the bodywork.
There is a risk of damaging the headlining when changing the aerial. Access is required at the front of the car too in order to bring the new cable for the DAB output to the radio. If you’re not confident about being able to avoid this risk it is absolutely worth finding a professional to handle the installation.
Companies which specialise in audio installations should be able to provide a quote for installing a roof mounted aerial. Garages and main dealers may be able to help too. We’re aware of an installation of a roof mounted aerial and DAB radio (supplied by the customer) carried out by a Skoda main dealer for £120 in labour fees.
Choosing a DAB roof mount aerial
Roof mounted DAB aerials can be purchased for between £30 and £100. Aerials are offered by brands like Connects2, Autoleads, Kinetic, Hama and JVC. These aerials all look fairly similar, although the length of the mast can vary.
Some aerials are suitable for GPS as well as DAB, AM and FM.
Not all aerials come with the cables that you’ll need to install the aerial. The length of any included cables and the types of connectors can vary between aerials.
It’s a good idea to write out a shopping list so that you don’t have to keep ordering cables or adapters after buying the aerial.
A shopping list for our example installation in a 2004 Vauxhall Corsa C with a Sony DAB stereo would be:
- Kinetic RDA-6001 DAB Roof Mounted Aerial
- DAB Aerial Cable, 5 meters, with an SMB connector
- FM/AM Aerial Cable, 5 meters, with a male DIN connector
- Automotive power cable (for the 12V connection) and crimp connectors
- Tools: 17mm spanner, adjustable spanner, general purpose grease, crimping tool
Alternatives to DAB roof mounted aerials
Although a roof mount DAB aerial is likely to offer the best performance, it’s not always possible or practical to install one on a car or van.
The next best thing to a roof mount aerial is a magnetic DAB aerial. These benefit from being external (i.e. outside of the car) and in a high position, such as on the roof. Installation is easier and they can be used on cars without a traditional roof aerial.
A splitter / convertor could be a good option too. Where the car aerial is mounted on the wing or is an electronic extending aerial a splitter could be used. Splitters only work on non-amplified aerials.
Finally a windscreen film antenna could be another option.