Turns out it was the radio itself that was at fault, not the antenna. The guy said these radios rarely go bad but once in a while...and so I'm the lucky one. The car audio place doesn't stock portable satellite radios. I asked what they do have. He said it would mean removing the radio I have and replacing it with one that also takes xm signals. He quoted me a price for entry into that market.
Well, thing is, this is what I really wanted to begin with. The portable dingus that was sitting next to my gear shift was always getting in the way and I couldn't always see what it said, so I was thinking maybe now is the time to get the real thing. Of course I didn't really want to get rid of a perfectly good radio but...
I figured if I am going to do it I should get a replacement that is at least as good. So I sold myself on the wonder radio: one that not only gets the usual am and fm and plays cds, but also plays mp3s, has a usb plug (think ipod), has bluetooth so I can talk through my radio instead of my phone, and is satellite radio equipped. It's everything I want and will actually use. So I said sold, how soon can you install it?
An hour, hour and a half, he said. I went for a walk while he did that. When I came back he set up the phone, we tested it, and he told me to call xm to register the new radio and get it activated. He told me the battery in my car was low so he left the car running while installing to be safe. So I drove home, delighted that I could call my daughters from my radio and actually hear them better than I do on the phone. That little feature alone is so worth it.
I got home, called xm, placed the car where it had no obstructions, left the car in the lowest ignition place, where just the accessories work but the engine isn't running, for the required fifteen minutes. I went out to find the battery dead and the radio along with it.
I called the auto club and got the car started. Better World Auto Club, by the way. Works just like the other one only it's more environmentally friendly.
After scanning the manual and not finding a way to reset the xm radio I called the car audio people again. They talked me through the phone and then said they'd better deal with the xm part, so I drove it back, where they took it out, reset it. Said it should pick up the signal now, just park in a good place and wait.
I got home, called xm again, found out that you can't refresh the signal less than three hours after the first time. The guy said the signal should still be strong, I should be able to get it. If not, after three hours I could go online to refresh it.
No good after several checks, during which I left the engine running. After three hours were up I went online to refresh. It said "success!". And to wait 15-20 minutes to get the signal. I waited and waited and checked and checked and no.
Finally I called xm again, after six pm. I got a woman who looked at my history and discovered that the previous one had never been fully completed. The changed radio had not gotten completely accepted. So we waited while she sent the signal to accept it and while we waited she chatted about the fact that she actually never listens to xm because her 19-year-old daughter assumed she did not need her radio so she took it and put it in her own car. The woman was fine with it because she has stations she likes, bluegrass, country...and she can listen to them all day. I told her I love listening to radio plays and books and so on, as well as music, and that books are especially good on long trips.Make them go faster.
Finally the radio was accepted and we waited while the refresh signal was sent. When it finally came through she said that's it, it should be fine now. I trusted her. I waited another fifteen minutes or so and LO!!! I HAVE RADIO!! Wooo! And I discovered stations I did not have when the last one went dead, including Book Radio. Perfect!
I thought the radio fix would be done by ten this morning. It is just now done. But I'm happy. I love my new radio and I'm looking forward to testing it out on my trip.