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Satellite Workshop 48

Jack Armstrong

Pace MSS1000

A shop some twenty miles away occasionally sends me receivers to repair. They use a local chap to collect and deliver so I try to carry out the repair while he waits. In return, he goes in the kitchen and makes me a cup of tea.

The label on an MSS1000 that he brought me annonunced "PSU ticks."
I'm very wary about ticking power supplies. That's usually a sign that it's going to make a very loud noise the next time someone connects the mains power. I like to make sure that I am not that someone, so my first move is to replace all the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply primary section.

Once this was done, the receiver worked perfectly but, for good measure, I replaced the secondary electrolytics as well. Some of these are the Ultra-low ESR type so I opened a "Relkit 10" for safety sake. We finished our cups of tea while watching "Sky News" (it's a sad life) then Dave went on his way.

A week later he was back. "Still ticking", he announced.
"But it was working - you saw it yourself!"
"Yep, but the customer didn't. He collected it from the shop and an hour later he brought it back and it's still ticking."

I removed the cover. There was no sign of a problem so I plugged it in. The power supply could be heard ticking, slowly. Damn!
I dismantled the whole unit and inspected it. No obvious short circuits but the secondary F2A fuse that protects the 5 volt supply had melted. I was doubtful about fitting another fuse without knowing the cause but, eventually, I decided to take the risk. The receiver worked perfectly. I was puzzled but I replaced the Dolby Audio board to see if the additional load would make the fuse melt. It didn't, so I reassembled everything and reconnected the mains. There was a faint ticking sound from within....

I suspected the Dolby board. Call it intuition if you like but I'd never seen this symptom previously. Usually that fuse melts only when there's a serious fault that causes the power supply voltages to go extremely high. I tried a spare Dolby board and the receiver was fine. I replaced the original Dolby board and it was fine. But the instant I screwed it to the rear panel, the fuse melted. Here was the clue!

I removed the black plastic insulating cover from the rear of the Dolby board and looked at it closely. There was a factory-fitted ceramic disc capacitor soldered to the back of the Dolby board. The insulating sleeve on one of its wires was a fraction too short. It appeared that, each time I tightened the screws in the rear panel, that capacitor wire touched the leg of a surface mount transistor. That's another hour's work that I won't get paid for.

Sky Digibox

So far I've had very little to do with these digital satellite receivers. Oh, I went on the Sky training course and took the test but, as I do very little installation work, it was of very little to interest me. Pace very kindly gave me a repair course but, as most Sky digital receivers are still in warranty, I have not had any for repair. Yesterday that all changed.

A local installer brought me one to inspect. I hasten to add that it was not made by Pace. He had installed it for a customer who had used it for a month then reported an intermittent fault. The box had duly been returned to the manufacturer whose service department returned it untouched, with a scribbled note that there was "water damage" and it would cost 380 to repair!

There was certainly corrosion inside the receiver. The amount was tiny and could have been introduced from a polish spray or a single raindrop. The puzzling thing was that the receiver had been taken straight from its box and installed inside a cabinet, so how had moisture got inside? It was near the centre of the board and had definitely not come down any cable. I began to think that it could easily have been caused by careless use of a cleaning spray or a worker's sneeze in the factory. The modem board, power supply board and other parts such as tuner module were undamaged. All it needed was a mother board which probably costs less than 200 to manufacture. I can't understand where 380 price came from. Apart from that, it seems to me that a company ought to give a customer the benefit of the doubt in a case like this and either repair the unit at no cost or at least keep the cost to a minimum.

Anyway, it's interesting to know the cost of repair for a "free" Digibox. I think I'll "prepare the ground" and put in a weekly newspaper advert announcing "digital repairs from 295."