The TV Answer Man!

How to Fix Your Cable TV Box

A remote control in hand. Shallow depth of field, with focus on the remote.

Q. I have Comcast and sometimes my cable TV goes out. I’m never really sure what to do to try to get it back on, short of calling a Comcast repair person, which can cost money. Are there other things I can do by myself to fix it? — Tom, Dunkirk, Maryland.

Tom, before you call Comcast, or any cable operator, and schedule an appointment with a repair person, there are some things you should do. Some cable operators charge stiff fees for coming to your house for repair work so you want to make sure you do everything possible to fix the problem yourself before calling.

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First, call Comcast to make sure there are no outages in your area. Sometimes, your cable box isn’t working because your entire neighborhood, or an even larger area, is having a problem. A wire could have fallen down or a cable could have blown. When you call Comcast, or most any other cable operator, an automated message will come on saying there is an outage in your area. If that happens, just sit back and wait. There’s really nothing you can do until they fix it.

However, if there isn’t an outage in your area, make sure your cables from the set-top box to the TV are connected securely. It doesn’t take much for them to come loose. As the parent of a very active four-year-old — and the guardian of four cats — trust me, I know.

If the cables seem okay, make sure your TV is tuned to the right channel to receive your box’s signals. The right channel will be the video input where your cable is connected. For example, it may be HDMI 1 or HDMI 2.

If you have the right channel on, then try re-setting your cable box by unplugging it for 20 seconds or so and then plug it back in. Sometimes, that will reconcile the problem.

After re-setting, if the picture is still not on your TV, make sure a channel number appears in the channel box. If the box reads, ‘0,’ something’s wrong and your box is not getting a signal from your cable operator.

At that point, it’s time to call your cable operator and report the problem. However, before you do, try one more thing:

If you have another cable box in the house, see if that box is having an issue. If it is, you know your entire cable service is having a problem and it’s time to call your cable service and ask for help. But if the second box seems ok, your first box is likely the problem. Then, you will still call your cable operator, but you’ll tell them that one box appears to be defective and you need a replacement. The cable op will usually send you one by mail without having to come to your house.

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