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What is a Power Antenna?

A power antenna is an electronically controlled car antenna that automatically extends when the radio is turned on and retracts when switched off. This sleek feature not only enhances the vehicle's aesthetics but also protects the antenna from potential damage. Curious about how it integrates with your car's system? Dive deeper to discover the mechanics behind this nifty gadget.
Lori Kilchermann

A power antenna is an antenna that automatically goes up or down with a flip of a switch located in the driver's compartment. Some methods of operating a power antenna come via the stereo unit. By simply turning the stereo unit on, the antenna will rise into position. The antenna will retract back into the vehicle's body panel when the stereo unit is switched off.

The power antenna became popular on high-end American automobiles in the late 1950s. Many of the Cadillac and Lincoln flagship models, for example, offered a power antenna. As time passed, the option became available on lower-end vehicles. However, the prestige of the option was continuously used to point out a vehicle's fine quality. The option became a popular selling point, especially when used on a potential buyer who had previously had an antenna broken by a car wash.

Man holding computer
Man holding computer

A downside of the option was that once broken, the radio did not receive a proper signal, to then the radio failed to operate. The antennas were often mounted in a difficult location, which made the repair dependent upon a dealer or qualified mechanic. When a replacement was required, the cost was typically much greater than a manually operated antenna.

In the lower-end vehicles, a broken antenna was often left unfixed due to the expense of repair. Many power antenna repair plans called for a non-power antenna to be installed in its place. By the end of the 1960s, the power antenna was a favorable option that was now a detriment to a salesman. Many people did not wish to have a breakage-prone antenna on a new vehicle.

The power antenna found new life in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s with the custom car craze in the West Coast beach cities of the United States. Car customizing experts fell for the power option and installed it in many creations. Many custom cars had not only had one but two of the self-operating antennas in a single body panel. Twin antennas gave a certain hint of class to the customized vehicle.

The power antenna has found its way into automobiles manufactured around the globe. Japanese and European automobile manufacturers have included this option in many of their high-end automobiles and it has even made its way into vehicles intended to fit lower-income buyers as well. The ability for an automobile component to operate itself continues to point out a vehicle's quality to new buyers.

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Discussion Comments


I am in need of designing a very light antenna that is between 2.5 to 3 feet in length and can rise up and down by a small battery. Is this possible? This antenna is not intended to deliver signals. It is just a telescopic device capable of expanding and extracting via a battery.


Well, I don't know about you guys, but I'll take the power antenna any day. As far as it getting broken, I recommend putting it down before entering a car wash, as well as putting it down at night. Yes, antenna replacement can be expensive, but breakage can be prevented the majority of the time.

Power antennas are my preference for another reason: They seem to be put in more securely than regular antennas. I found that the manual antenna on my truck has a propensity to come loose from wobbling in the wind and bumps in the road. That causes the signal to break up. However, my girlfriend's Toyota power antenna doesn't work itself loose like that. I like a girlfriend that doesn't have an antenna loose somewhere.

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