Troubleshooting Antenna Traps


Below is a document that was produced by staff members at Cushcraft some years ago.. I have reproduced it here but it remains of course, copyright of Cushcraft Corporation… 

It refers mainly to the old 1/4 wavelength AV series of antennas (12AVQ, 14AVQ etc) hence the references to radials..  The “R” series (R5, R7 etc) are 1/2 wavelength antennas, and the radials are NOT 1/4 wavelength resonant..

If you fail to get a good VSWR on one band there are three possible problems. The first is that the trap is bad or mistuned. Another is that the radials are incorrectly measured or attached. The third is that the length of the radiator has changed, possibly becoming shorter because of a loose clamp allowing one section of tubing to slide into another section.  Check physical dimensions and connections first. Always troubleshoot a trap antenna problem working from the highest frequency to the lowest.. One way to test the radials is to attach temporarily one more quarter wavelength radial that is carefully cut to the correct length for the band on which the problem occurs.  Did the VSWR decrease? If so, then improve the radial system, if it did not, then there may be a trap problem.

A trap is a high Q parallel resonant circuit. If the antenna works on the next lower band, then the coil of the trap is good, and has good connections to the aluminium tubing. If the next lower frequency does not work then the coil may be open. The balance between inductance and capacitance Is critical, and requires good equipment to assure proper adjustment. Refer to the trap trouble-shooting section for checking individual traps.


Ice or heavy sticky snow that sticks to the radiator and traps will cause the resonant frequency to shift lower, due to a fatter radiator. If your antenna is ground mounted and you have only a few radials then in wet weather ground conductivity may change and therefore VSWR will change as soil conductivity varies. Any cracked, torn or wrong size plastic caps on the top of traps will allow moisture in, affecting the resonant frequency. Putting any type of sealant on the top of the traps will likely detune them and create voltage breakdown problems since the top of the trap is a high voltage point.


If VSWR varies with power level on one or more band the problem may be in the VSWR bridge. There can be a non linear variation of diode action at different power settings. This is common with inexpensive bridges. It is possible to overload a diode in the forward power mode. The diode is now on a different slope of the curve in relation to the reflected power diode which is not overloaded. The end result is that your VSWR will apparently increase when you go from low to high power. Example: 1.1:1 at 50 watts , 1.4:1 at 800 watts. Observe VSWR as you slowly increase power. If VSWR slowly increases you may be over­loading your bridge. If you see a large jump in VSWR at a specific power level not related to a slow increase in power, you could have voltage breakdown troubles with your antenna

Causes: Poor, or Intermittent connection in the radial system. Poor connection in a trap. High voltage breakdown on a trap, (sniff the end cap to see if burned). High voltage breakdown in Input coaxial connector or matching network (if supplied).

VSWR too high on one or more bands.

Causes: Mistake in assembly. Poor, or no ground or radial system. Defective trap, See trap troubleshooting.


On the AP-8 antenna check the connections at each trap.. Is the ground screw tight? Are the screws tight at each  strap  connecting  the  radiator  tubing  to  the capacitor tubing?  A poor connection at any  of these points will cause that trap to be detuned and result in poor VSWR on the band for which that trap was tuned. If you  have the AV-5 antenna check each  trap to insure that the cover is tightly secured.   The cover is the 1 5/8″ aluminium tubing over the coil, On top of the cover is a plastic cap. Any movement of the cover will cause intermittent VSWR conditions on the antenna. You   may  test for  a  loose  cover  easily   while   the antenna Is still assembled. Grasp each trap in your hand and apply a moderate amount of pressure in a clockwise and then  in  a counter clockwise  direction about the axis of the element. If the cover slips It will require tightening. A hex head screw Is at the base of the trap. Tighten this screw with an appropriate screw driver or spintite.  Be careful not to apply  so much force as to strip out the sheet metal screw. If the hole is already stripped, or gets stripped accidently, it is an easy matter to fix by substituting a #10 x 3/8″ or #10 x 1/2″ self tapping screw in the enlarged hole, If all your traps pass the mechanical test, and seem to be installed properly, then a frequency check is in order. The traps should be marked before removal so that proper re-assembly is assured. Remove all of the traps and bring them Indoors for inspection.   A list of Cushcraft traps and resonant frequencies are presented below, so that you can check to see if a trap is near the frequency to which it should be tuned. Use as little coupling as possible so that the dip oscillator Is not pulled in frequency. Use a frequency counter or receiver to determine the frequency of the dip oscillator. (Nowadays we can use our Antenna Analysers of course are sexier than a GDO..)

TRAP     OPER FREQ        OSC FREQ               OSC COUPLING

TF                   28.8                    27.87                            Capacitive

TG                   21.3                    20.17                             Capacitive

TH                   14.2                     12.92                            Capacitive

TJ                    7.20                      5.81                              Capacitive

TR                   21.3                    20.23                             Capacitive

TQ                   28.7                    26.8                                Inductive

24.65                 23.5                                Inductive

TS                   21.25                  20.1                                Inductive

18.11                  17.5                                Inductive

TT                    14.47                  13.49                              Inductive

TU                   10.19                    9.9                                  Inductive

TV                   7.3                        5.8                                   Capacitive

The method of coupling to the dip oscillator is important. Traps from the AV series of antennas require capacity coupling because the coil is shielded. Place a trap on an insulated surface (large cardboard box) and couple your dip oscillator meter (GDO) to the trap as shown below. Be careful to follow directions explicitly.

Capacitive Coupling

For capacitive coupling the tip of the GDO coll should be just slightly Inserted into the lower end of the aluminum tubing of the trap. Inductive coupling can be used where the coil is visable except for the TV  trap  where  the  dip  can  be  found   easier  by capacity  coupling. When checking dual  frequency traps   (TQ  & TS)  short the trap  not  under test to prevent obtaining a false reading. It should be noted that  the  dip   meter frequency   is   lower  than   the operational   frequency   of  a  trap.   This   is   caused because the trap will load the dip oscillator and lower it’s  frequency.  You should  use the listed  oscillator frequencies as a guide.   Temperature and   humidity can have a   +/-   100  KHz  effect  on   traps.   If the readings are within 100 KHz of the listed amounts, do not worry, the effect upon the assembled antenna will be minimal, Shorted turns or other serious defects will cause wide   shifts from the norm. One or two megahertz is a definite indication of a bad trap . All coils are sealed and are difficult to repair properly. When all traps are checked and corrected,  reinstall them   in   proper  order,   (as  you   previously   marked them)  and your multiband trapped vertical is now ready for action.

Inductive Coupling

Below is part of an email that I received from Dick W5TA which contains more “hands on” experience of fixing traps..

Getting ready for Field Day, I repaired an old  HyGain tribander which belonged to our local radio club. We found that the connections of the copper wires in the trap coils to the screws connecting them to the aluminium tubing had seriously corroded. With most traps there is one or more retaining screws.  After their removal you can pull off the end caps and pull the trap apart.  It’s an outer aluminium tube over a plastic inner rod serving as a coil form.  Often you will find bug nests, insect carcasses and corrosion bridging turns of the coil as well as corrosion at the terminals and maybe the whole coil.  If you rewind the coil, take care to first note the wire size and number of turns.  With this, clean up and reassemble and you have a “good as new” trap.

I have to recognize Kees Talen, K5BCQ, who showed me this procedure.

Very 73,
Dick  W5TA”


2 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Antenna Traps

  1. im having issues with my r7. only 10 meters the swr is like a 1.8 or 2.0. the rest of the bands are off the chart. i buffed the whole antenna. my r7 is a 1992 and the 30 meter cap on top is a double , like 2 of them but connected at the bottom. i cant find the proper manual and cant even find a photo of my exact r7. for all i know the traps and caps are mixed up. in another manual it says make sure the arrows point up on the traps but there gone. how do i connect a mfj 259 analyzer to the traps to test them? also the match network? any help would be great. any other web sites? finding the right manual would be great too. thanx

  2. @Ken,

    Hi Ken I know its been over a year since you left your question regarding identifying the traps.. It’s actually very simple. You’ve probably already solved the problem but I’ll explain the process anyways just in case someone else comes along with the same problem..

    It’s actually very easy all you need is a grid dip oscillator or a signal generator and an oscilloscope. By the way the GDO method is explained in the main article so I’ll just limit my response to the O-Scope method.

    Unfortunately the GDO method is not very accurate for measuring the traps resonant frequency with any degree of accuracy. Mainly because the traps are very High Q which produces a very quick dip which is easy to miss. This quick dip also makes it difficult to find the exact resonant point with any accuracy, of course it doesn’t help that GDO’s aren’t really precession instruments .. But, If all you’re trying to do is ID the traps and not trying to measure their resonant frequency with any degree of accuracy than a GDO should be adequate.

    On the other hand if you’re looking for a precession measurement of the traps resonant frequency than a VNA or Vector Network Analyzer is the best tool for the job, unfortunately few hams can afford them so the next best method for a precision measurement of a traps resonant frequency would be an O-scope and signal generator. By the way this is probably the same method Cushcraft uses to tune the traps at the factory..

    Basically you attach a signal generator such as an MFJ259 to each end of the trap via two 10k ohm series resistors. You place one resistor in series with each lead. Since I make measurements like this all the time I’ve gone ahead and made up a few alligator clips with 10K resistor soldered to them, I then made little loops with the free end of the resistors lead which I can use to clip test leads from the signal source to.

    By the way I should mention the 10K resistors are used to isolate the low impedance output of the signal generator from the device under test. The last thing you want is loading of the signal generator output because this will cause fluctuation in the output signal strength of the generator which in turn would make finding a voltage peak very of difficult LOL ..

    If you want a precision measurement for tuning the traps then You also don’t want to directly connect the O-Scope to the trap.

    What you can do is clip the probe ground clip to the tip of the probe. This will make an inductive pick up loop. Take this probe loop and loop around the trap making sure that the metal alligator clip from the ground lead doesn’t touch the trap.

    Now simply tune the signal generator while watching the O-scope for a waveform voltage peak. You won’t miss the resonant point of the trap as it’s pretty obvious and sharp voltage peak, Once you find that voltage peak the resonant frequency of the trap can then be read from the signal generator.

    73 from NorCal, George N6YG

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