Repair and Diagnosis of Problems with Your Imperial's Antenna

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Question from Bob (1938):

My 1938 Imperial has a radio with a rather unique antenna system. At least it is unique to me. There were two bars or rods connected to each other that hung down from each side under the car. These bars are the antenna. My radio still works fine but one side (two bars) is missing. Does anyone know where I can come up with these odd things? I had never seen this setup before.

Reply from Mike:

What you have is a Philco Transitone antenna system. It also seems to me Chrysler was first to use this. (Are they located under the running boards?)

My mother's first car, which I believe was her start in becoming even a bigger MoPar fanatic than I am, was a '37 Imperial rumble seat convertible. Wonder what that'd be worth now.

Question from Jeff (1956):

I discovered today that the reason that the radio in my '56 Sedan doesn't work is that the antenna is broken. Since I'm going to have to replace it anyway, I'd like to consider going back to a power unit such as the car was originally equipped (or so I understand).

Can anyone provide me with information on the OEM antenna and sources for same or something equivalent?

As I understand it, my car did at one time have a power antenna. There is a toggle switch on the lower left side of the dashboard which the PO suspected (and I believe some folks here concurred) was for the antenna. Who installed this device and when, I'll probably never know but I figure since the switch is already there and not doing anything useful, I might as well use it for this purpose.


From Paul:

I would think that a nice used antenna from any '57-63 Imperial would work nicely. There is always, J.C. Whitney or your local parts house for a brand new one.

From Rodger:

Contact Lowel or Bob or some of the people offering parts in the For Sale Parts section and ask for a older MoPar anntenna switch. It may go with the interior design decor a little better than a truck stop or Radio Shack switch.

From Larry:

Doesn't the power antenna go up when the radio is turn on and down when is turned off? I am not familiar with that year of car. The switch sounds like an after market add on, and not original equipment.

Follow-up from Paul:

Not all power antennas operate with the radio switch. Imperials through 1968, and probably after, have a separate switch to operate the antenna. Automatic power antennas didn't become that popular until the late '70s and early '80s. I also drive '80s Lincolns and they had a separate switch at least through 1989. My '80s Buicks have the kind that go up and down with the radio switch. Frankly, I would rather have the ability to operate the antenna when I please.

Question from John (1961):

Just got a power antenna for my '61 Imperial today that works. I hooked it all up and turned the car and radio on, but the antenna didn't work. I traced the brown, yellow, and black wire from the antenna and it stopped under the dash, right past the radio, almost under the instrument cluster. I looked and looked and couldn't find where these 3 plugs hooked into. Does anybody have any idea to where these hook up? I even took the glove box out and both left and right kick panels off and couldn't locate any plugs like this.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.


From Mark:

I'm betting that the radio power doesn't run the antenna. My '63 has a switch that runs the antenna is mounted next to the map light. Just checked the '61 brochure. Yours should be in the same location; just right of the map light under the dash pad.

Here's a pointer to a photo of your dash. You can see the map light just above the radio and the switch just above the right-most radio preset button.  Look at this image

From John:

The antenna switch next to the map light is only on 61-63's that have autopilot.On all others, its the knob next to the ignition switch.

Question from Max (1962):

I have a question about the power antenna on a '62 crown. Were they built to fully retract into the "bulb" of the unit, or were they built so an inch or so of each section remained showing even after the unit was fully retracted? As you might guess, my power antenna goes down all the way, but it leaves a little of each section showing when fully retracted rather than disappearing into the "bulb" or chrome base of the antenna unit.

If mine is not working right, I'm up for suggestions. I assume that the mast kits for these units are tough to find.


From Nicholas:

The power antenna on a '64 does go all the way down into the mast receiver cup - if the control is held until fully depressed. There should be no 'error' if it is not all the way down. The design was so that IF the owner were to go through a power car wash, the 'ropes' of the brushes would not catch the antenna thus destroying it. Yet, if it were only exposing 1 or even 2 inches of antenna, there would not be much to catch on. Only in severe competition today would the judges be concerned with the position of the antenna and, even then, that it was there (up) to be judged! Remember, in certain types of competition, a convertible top MUST be in the raised (up) position to be eligible for competition. Since we're not at Concurs, I might be inclined to say that what ever position / height that you desire is where it should be. Do what you want!

From Denis:

I have 3 '62's all of them have the original antenna's, which stand about 8" above the fender when fully lowered. They do not fully retract, but radio shops sell ones that will fit your car, and fully descend into the fender, if you so wish.

From Kenyon:

I would suggest extending the antenna completely and checking for burrs or corrosion that would prevent it from retracting. The symptoms that cause it to not retract could affect extension, too.

The antenna on my 1960 goes up really high in the air, about 2 feet past what modern car antennas do. If all segments don't appear to be similar in length except the bottom one, the one that is shorter may be the culprit.

The shade-tree mechanic in me would then be tempted to rub some penetrating lubricant on the thing and then run it up and down. Remember that any lubricant that goes in may come back out on subsequent operation, attracting dust and dirt. Household wax might be a good thought, but I have not done this before.

If the thing won't respond that way, I'd go to trying to "assist" the motor - forcing it, if you will. Be careful and don't break it, though!

From Jay:

Every original '62 Imperial ad that I have shows the car with the antenna in the retracted position. The position is identical in every ad, about 4" of the mast remains above the fender. The appendage is still visible even though it may not be in use (i.e. it's "relaxed" state) =8^)

What truly astonishes me is the extended length of the antenna. I'm 6'1" tall and when that '62 Imperial AM antenna is fully extended, I can barely reach the tip of the antenna with my index finger, and only when I stand on tip-toed. (that's about 9' above the ground!)

I'm fearful that one of the sections would snap or the entire antenna would at least bend severely if it were fully extended and run through the air at 90 mph.

Be especially careful if your flying old glory!

From John:

After cleaning it well, wipe a little WD-40 on it & run it up & down a few times. I've had good luck with this. Another product called "Slide All" works well also. This product is made for things such as the slides on draws & for the tracks on house windows etc. It leaves a slippery but non greasy surface.

From Dick:

For AM radio, the longer the antenna, the better the reception (assuming the trimmer has been adjusted per the instructions in the owner's manual). Some of my older cars (unmentionable on this list) have extremely long antennae, and astonishing sensitivity to far away stations, so long as I'm driving away from any noise pollution (cities etc.).

For FM antenna length, there is a critical dimension, and that is 31 inches, as is also stated in your owner's manual.

These lengths are determined by the wavelength of the transmitted signal.

Every electric power antenna of which I am aware will retract fully into the fender when it is in good condition. Vacuum operated power antennae leave about 4 inches sticking out of the fender when fully retracted, but I don't think these are used on Chrysler products, at least not after 1952 or so.

Question from Mark (1965):

On my '65, the antenna in retract position is about 4" high. But right now it refuses to operate so it is fully extended. I guess if it's going to break it should be extended!

Reply from Tristan:

Take the antenna apart, it's a real b**** to get out, (or at least it was on my 67) but it can be fixed easily, just take it apart, and work it back and forth a lot, and apply lots of grease and it should work again :) I thought mine was hopeless, but it wasn't.  I think you should take it all apart, the brushes are probably stuck or corroded, or the springs rotted off. Replace them with springs from ball point pens if they are no good anymore.

Question from Joel (1966):

Anyone have any recommendations for where to get a new antenna for a '66. I've replace it twice with original ones and don't want to do it a third time.


From John:

Are you sure the problem is the antenna? They are the same '64-'66, so there should some good used ones around.

From Seattle:

If the problem is with the up and down, you might check the switch. The switches in those cars seem to be prone to failure if the cars sit outside a lot in the damp air. The switch can be taken apart and cleaned, but it isn't easy.

If your problem is with radio reception, you might check the connections. I have never had trouble with this on any car except my '65 Crown, but where the antenna lead goes into the radio there is a connector. Inside the connector is a little piece of uncovered wire, and this wire seems to break from vibration. It can also be fixed, but it is difficult. If this is your problem the A M radio may intermittently lose its signal. F M, if you have it, will work but weakly.

If the antenna has been broken off, once you replace it you may have to bite the bullet and put it down every time that you leave your car. I have had to make a point of doing this in Seattle when I drive the car to work or park it anywhere on the street or in parking lots. It seems that druggies can use the hollow antenna mast extension as a means to smoke dope. This problem is rampant in Seattle, and cars that have multiple masted antennas don't last long around here. Due to my own forgetfulness I have lost several antennas over the last few years.

Question from Mark (1967 - 1968 interchange):

I am trying to replace the antenna on my '68 with a used antenna and the motor works fine but the anteena will not go up all the way. It jams at the last segment and makes a sound as if it is hitting something. However, as far as I can tell, there's nothing external obstructing the antenna. I have WD-40'ed the heck out of it to no avail.

The anteena housing has a slight cup shaped bend in it about halfway up; could this be causing the problem?

At any rate, I may be able to get an antenna from a '67. Are they the same as the ones on the '68?


From Brian:

They are the same.

From Dick:

I'm pretty sure the two years and all the radios are the same.

Any dent in the sheath for the mast will cause the unit to have problems extending all the way. If by housing you mean the circular part in which the nylon cord is wound up, I doubt a small dent there would cause a problem.

You can take it apart and inspect it, and probably find the problem yourself. You may be able to work something up inside the sheath to reduce or eliminate the obstruction. Without seeing it myself, I can only guess how bad it is. I've repaired this type antenna myself. If the chrome is nice, it is worth saving.

Follow-up question from Mark:

I'm talking about the tube, or sheath, that the antenna itself is in. Not the motor housing. It appears as if it came from a car that was hit in the fender there and it bent in the tube a bit (about 1/2" maybe), but the antenna itself is great.

I have removed every bolt on it I can and the sheath won't budge. Is there some trick to getting the sunuvagun off?

Reply from Dick:

The order in which the sections come up is not controlled by any mechanism, the motor just rotates the drum in the direction to push the nylon cord up the tube. The cord is attached only to the center (smallest) section, so if there were no difference in friction on the various sections, which section comes up first would be purely random. Since the center segment has the smallest contact area with its sliding surface, it would be the one to come up first if everything were perfect, but the difference is quite small. On an antenna with even a slight coating of crud on the inner section, it will be the last to come up, if the other sections are clean.

The clutch begins to click when it senses any obstruction to motion. If the clicking starts before all three sections are up, there must be a restriction somewhere. I think you're best bet is to have someone hold the "up" switch while you assist the center section. If the obstruction isn't too bad, you will be able to help it past the damaged place. Once you get it extended to where you can see the damaged place, you can decide whether or not it is possible to straighten or otherwise mitigate the friction enough to make it able to extend on it's own power. If you can't get it to extend all the way, even with a strong helping hand, I think you are looking for a better antenna. Sorry.

It is possible that your cord has been shortened - sometimes folks will do that when the cord gets damaged and they're too cheap to replace it. If your antenna will go up to 31" above the fender, this is the optimum point for FM reception anyway.

You can remove the mast assembly (with cord attached) and take the mast apart by unscrewing the cap button on the tip, then pulling the cord and top section out the bottom as a unit. Of course you need to grip the center section with a leather coated vicegrip or vise, then grab the button with another similar tool to avoid damaging the chrome. Some times the top button is really on there tight, be prepared for a fight!

With the center section out of the way, you might be able to get a look at the damaged part of the section which is sticking and possibly tap it back into shape. You might even be able to see the damaged place without going to all this trouble, if you can get it all the way up one time.

Since it sticks right where the middle section is about to start its travel up the outer section, I suspect the trouble is right at the bottom end of the middle section. There is a sliding phosphor-bronze contact that rides on the middle section to maintain good RF contact with the outer section - if it is damaged such that it cannot slide into the outer section, you will
have to fix that item or give up on this antenna mast.

From Chris:

The radios are not entirely the same, but I think Dick meant as far as their antenna connections go they are.

The multiplex and tape-player versions were officially only in MY '68, introduced into production as a running change during MY '67. I'm not sure if any of the monaural '67 offerings went away when the multiplex radios came along.

My antenna, for Mark's sake, as I recall, extends in the expected order: top (skinny) section emerges first, followed by middle section, followed by lower (thickest) segment. But when retracting, I seem to recall that the middle section disappears first, then the thick segment, then the skinny top part. I'm sure this makes sense for some mechanical reason (like pushing on a string).

And sometimes mine gets stuck as well, click-click-clicking when the motor tries to pull or push against it (this is more common upon retraction, and usually in the last few inches). Usually a few reverses of the direction of motion (sometimes without actually making the mast move, sometimes extending and retracting it a full segment) lets me retract it. And it always moves better when the car's been in the sun, suggesting whatever lubricant is in there is pretty well-seasoned.

Oddly, my NYB antenna was wired backwards at birth (it's not the switch, since its connector is polarized). Pushing the button upward lowers the antenna, and vice-versa. Ah, the '70s...

From Philippe:

I had a similar problem on my '57 antenna: first it began to work slow, then slower then slower then .. stop (at middle extension..). I tried to extend or retract, but there was no motion. I saw that the amp gauge went to "D" and the interior lights dimmed. After several tests (the antena must be fully retract on '57 if you want to remove it from fender) and with a helper pushing gently on the mast, the mast was fully retracted.

I decided to remove the antenna. First I tried to extend it, and again no motion!! So I removed the assembly from the car. On the bench, I removed the motor and tested it: perfect! So I had to remove a circular cover to see what happened in the housing. I know that it wasn't the mast because the 2 lower sections move freely. When I removed the cover, all the nylon cord burst out of the housing. I removed the remaining loop, cleaned it, removed the semi-circular plastic part (with a lot of tiny springs) which pushs the cord on a "gear pulley" and reinstalled the nylon cord; you must have the mast fully extended (no loop in the housing), reinstall all
the parts, then plug the motor to + with the "retract" wire. I put some fresh grease in the assembly gears. I noted that the end of the nylon cord is free in the housing! After this "overhaul" the antenna works great and faster than ever

More Questions from Mark:

I took the old antenna apart and I can't see how the dent in the sheath could cause a problem. There is a gap b/n the wall of the sheath and the antenna itself of about 1/4"-- if it was dented in enough to obstruct the movement of the antenna, it seems that the antenna wouldn't move at all.

Yet the thickest part of the antenna moves freely. To explain, the antenna is in 3 sections. A thick one containing 2 slightly skinnier, or thinner, ones. The way the antenna comes out of the fender, the thickest section comes out first, followed by the skinniest, followed by the middle. When the middle one is about to come out is where it gets stuck. Then you hear a clicking sound, like it has hit the end of its extension, or has hit some obstruction and the clutch in the motor is slipping.

I just realized this is not the way I remember these antennae working. Usually, they come up like this:

top part (skinniest)
middle part (next thickest)
last part (thickest; the part at the bottom)

Reply from Roy:

The antenna is supposed to click when it is all the way up or down, its just the clutch. Measure the antenna, if it extends at least 31 inches, it doesn't need to go any farther for optimal reception. You can take the mast with it's nynlon whip out of the assembly and work it by hand. Once you have it fully extended, buff the crap out of it wit chrome polish and it should then slide smoothly.

Question from Roger (1969):

I decided to change out the am radio in my 1969 Imperial for a am/fm radio, the problem I ran into was a shorted antenna cable it has a female connector that plugs into the power antenna . This female connector has a metal outer case I cannot find a connector like this does any one know where I can purchase this connector or complete antenna cable?

Reply from Dave:

I had the same problem with the Multiplex radio in my 1973 Imperial. I looked far and wide for a new antenna cable that had the same connector to the antenna mast assembly (power), but never found one.

I used a Radio Shack cable temporarily by cutting back the metal shroud at the female end, slipping the old cable's ring nut over it, and then bent back the remains of the shroud so that the nut could hold the cable against the mast. This trick didn't work well. The contact between the cable and mast was too loose and produced static or poor reception whenever the car hit rough road, accelerated or turned sharply.

In the end, I ended up buying another old cable out of a junkyard Imperial at Murray Park's place. He can probably help you with a new-old-cable for your '69.

Question from Mike (1970):

If I were going to put a regular antenna on my car, where would the best place be to make it look almost stock ?


From Dick:

I don't know where the antenna was on a 70 - was that the year they joined the stupid brigade that put the antenna in the windshield? (What a dumb idea, speaking as someone who made his living designing ways to detect faint radio signals!) I think in my 69, it was in the right front fender. You should be able to get a 69 antenna from one of our fine IML recommended vendors and put it in the same place.

From Kerry:

I suspect that any aftermarket antenna can be easily adapted. There is a clamp at the top and a screw to a sheet metal bracket at the bottom. Again, this is on a 73 but I assume the 70 is the same.

Question from Zack (1974):

If anyone knows where the antenna trimmer is located and/or any tips or words of advice that isn't in the FSM, I would greatly appreciate the help.


From Chas:

It should be a simply flat screwdriver pot set inside the case. There would be a small hole in the outer case, usually in the rear to provide access with a tiny screwdriver.

From Paul:

The antenna trimmer is a fairly permanent adjustment. It is located on the side of or back of the radio case and can be turned with a small screw driver.

Once that is adjusted is doesn't usually change all by itself. Since you said that this problem developed over time, I doubt that is the cause, unless your local radio stations all weakened their signals or moved, or you moved to a different area where the signal is weaker.

From John:

I had a similar problem on my '69. Turns out that the antenna cable was coming apart where it plugs into the radio. Moving it just the right way made it work fine. After driving a while it would shift & the reception would get poor again. I bought an NOS cable & no further trouble. There is also the possibility of component failure with in the radio. I would start with the cable though & the antenna is grounded.

Question from Matthew (1974):

What is the easiest way to remove the power antenna from a '75 Imperial LeBaron? How much do I have to take apart? Another Imp lover needs the one from my parts car, and I don't want to pull apart more than I have to.


From Matt:

You have to remove the inner fender to access the power antenna- or cut a gaping access hole in it.

From Paul:

There really should be an easier way but I just removed a non-power from my '78 Newport (of course I was dismantling the car anyway. Here's what I did: (this is a '78 but it should be VERY similar if not exactly the same) Remove the hood (2 bolts on either side of the hood), 4 bolts hold each hood support (2 are also holding the fender), 2 bolt underneath the topside where you just removed the hood support, 2 bolts on the radiator support, 14 bolts in the fender well (there are more that hold the inner fender to the car), at the bottom rear of the fender take out the 2 little screws and remove the panel to reveal 2 more bolts, underneath the front there is one bolt from the bottom, also while you're under the car there's a bolt just under the 'mudguard' (into the radiator support from the front) and another just like that from above, a couple of wires (along the top) that are attached to the fender, and the "support bar" (almost forgot to mention that one)

While all this may not be needed to remove the antenna (shouldn't be) this will free the fender from everything but the nose (easier to remove the nose & fenders as one piece if you're going that far) which you'll need to disconnect the hood release, headlights, and turn signal wires (including the top mount signals) and 2 bolts between the nose and radiator support (there are several there just choose the correct 2)

Ooops! There are several (6 I think) screws across the nose (from the backside at the top) that will remove a panel to make the nose bolts easier accessible.

Tips from Larry (1981 - 1983):

I check with the Chrysler dealer, about a power antenna, passenger power window motor no help but I did get part number's. Window motor #4240516, antenna # 4364. The man said the antenna can't be rebuilt!!

Question from Larry (1981):

The power antenna on my '81 is not working but the motor is working? Does any body have an idea why the antenna is not working??? I have disconnected the motor so it does not burn out.


From Bob:

If the antennae motor is working (you have a question mark after that so I don't know if that means you don't know whether or not it is) there is a thin nylon core something like a string trimmer line that is attached to the bottom of the center antennae wire and the other end is attached to a wheel inside the gear case near the motor. This moves the antennae up and down. Perhaps this has broken.

From Dick:

The nylon pull string in your power antenna has come loose from the drive motor. These can be replaced, but it is a lot of work to get at the antenna, as you have to take it out from under the fender. Remove the plastic flap from behind the right front wheel. Remove the antenna and take it apart. You can buy a replacement nylon insert from your friendly local parts place.

From Dennis:

Your antenna mast cable is broken. I've replaced dozens of these and what you need to do is as Dick described, but you need to get a new antenna mast from the dealer or chrysler parts source. The 5th avenue,Cordoba and Mirada have the same antenna,so the mast will be the same. Expect to pay around $25.00 for the mast.Maybe Murray Park can help with this also.

Question from Leo (1981):

I was not aware that the mast alone could be replaced. I forgot to lower mine a year ago in a car wash and broke the mast. The motor still works great but had to install a fixed mast. Does the housing need to be opened to replace it? Do you have a Mopar part No. for the mast?

Reply from Dennis:

Yes, in fact the mast can be replaced. The motor assembly does have to be opened.Chrysler used 2 styles on the Imperial. One is easier than the other but both can be done. If you have some common sense and patience you can do it yourself. I don't have part #'s, it depends on which antenna you have. Take it apart carefully and see which nylon cable it has.Chrysler should able to supply the mast, if not,contact reputable parts vendor. If memory serves one cable is round, the other notched like a gear.

Question from Leo (1981-1983):

The previous owner of my '81 put and he put in an after-market antenna (don't remember the brand), but he couldn't get it to work the way the factory one did. That is, go down when the radio or when the ignition was turned off. The after marked one would do one or the other, but not both. When he first put it in, the antenna would automatically go up when I turned on the car, even if the radio was off. I managed to get him to switch some wires so that it was controlled only by the radio and not at all by the ignition...


From Ed:

I had a similar problem when I replaced the stereo in my 81 with a modern stereo. What is confusing about the power antenna is that it operates quite differently from a modern system. With a new system, a simple wire comes out of the radio and sends power to the antenna to raise it when the radio is on. In the 81, there is an electronic control module which SENSES CURRENT DRAW to the radio. When the radio is OFF, there is no current flow, since those radios did not have built-in clocks or the like. When the radio is turned on and begins to draw power, the controller notices this, and moments later says "Hey, I need to tell the antenna to go up." IT then sends a signal to the power antenna to raise. It's pretty complicated (over engineered??) but then I'm not an electronics engineer, so I guess that was the state of the art back then. 

From Neal:

From my experience with my Cordoba, poor step-sister to the Imperial, which I believe will have the same antenna and radio options: My first antenna's motor wouldn't shut off when the antenna went down, 15 miles shy of the 50,000 warranty (what luck, I guess!) The dealer replaced it. The second lasted another couple of years until I snapped it on a low-hanging branch. I took the car to a stereo installer to replace it, as I was also taken aback at Chrysler's charge. He put in an after-market one (don't remember the brand), but he couldn't get it to work the way the factory one did. That is, go down when the radio or when the ignition was turned off. The after marked one would do one or the other, but not both. When he first put it in, the antenna would automatically go up when I turned on the car, even if the radio was off.  I managed to get him to switch some wires so that it was controlled only by the radio and not at all by the ignition. It also was not flush with the fender, as Chrysler's is. After a couple of years of this nonsense, I pulled it out and sprung for the real Chrysler product. 

From Dick:

I got mine from Kragen Auto Stores, but I think all the el-cheapo places carry them. They don't look as high quality as the original, and you have to be a little creative to figure out the wiring, but they do work OK.

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