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Satellite Workshop

This is the introduction to a series of articles which will help you to save money on repairs and installation. Since I repair satellite receivers for a living, I'm in a good position to help you to sort out any problems which arise. Why would I do this? Well, I'd rather get paid for writing than actually doing the repairs. Also, I want you to buy my "Satellite Repair Manual IV".

For those of you who do repairs, there will be useful information here to help you. If you get someone else to do the repairs, this column will still help you to save money by pointing out some of the simple "push button repairs" you can do at the customer's house or in your own home.

If you get someone else to carry out your repairs, the first thing you need to realise is that he needs a complete fault report from you. If you send a receiver with the unhelpful report "This unit is faulty" you can expect to be stitched up nicely! Why? Because you've just given him a blank cheque. If you do that to me I'll replace the "faulty" decoder, the "faulty" tuner and the "faulty" power supply and charge you more than the cost of a new receiver! Mercenary? Heck, I have to make a living.

Get full details of the fault symptom from the customer or carry out your own tests. If you don't you will be paying for workshop test time instead. Apart from that, you might actually find the cause of the fault yourself during the testing. Let me give you an example:

Joe collects an SRD400 from the customer's house. The customer tells him "the decoder's faulty." He takes it to the workshop and they charge him 35 for a decoder repair (if he's lucky). In fact there's nothing wrong with the decoder! Like many other IRD models, the SRD400 decoder is prone to microprocessor "lock-up", just like a computer. If you unplug it from the mains and plug it back in the microprocessor will reset itself and everything works. Do this in the customer's house and you might earn the price of a pint. Do it at home and you earn your call out charge plus decoder "repair" charge without going near a workshop.

Here's another: How many times have you taken an SRD400 for repair because it's "stuck in standby"? Did you check it to see if it was just "parental lock" caused by kids' fingers or by a mains surge? All you have to do is press [h/v] [h/v] [audio]. If you get four horizontal lines on the LED display, that's the receiver waiting for the lock code (which you don't have). There's a two-minute workshop fix for this but you don't want to drive there and pay them. OK, simply plug the receiver into the mains and leave it for two days without touching any buttons. Once it has been unplugged and plugged back in it begins a countdown which ends after 48 hours. Provided that no buttons have been pressed, it will then come out of standby! (This is actually explained in the User Instructions but you'd rather pay the repairman than read them, wouldn't you? Luckily, the customer can't read, either.)

You really like the old SRD400 don't you? There are lots of them changing hands as the cable companies pull them out or as people upgrade to a "better" model. You install an SRD400 with a new LNB but it doesn't work. The customer paid £10 for it at a car boot sale and it was definitely working, according to the seller. It's all your fault. The LNB you supplied must be dud. You swap it but it's no better. The customer fits an old "Blue Cap" LNB and it works perfectly so who is the idiot?

You are. You didn't know that 50% of SRD400s must be modified to operate with a new LNB. We are not discussing a really complicated workshop modification: you can do it with a pair of scissors! Remove the cover and lift up the decoder board. Underneath you'll see a brown disc capacitor designated either "CP527" or "C527" or it may be soldered across a diode "DP505". Whatever - simply snip it out and discard it. Reassemble and modification is complete!

More of this in the next issue. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, Martin Pickering can be contacted via e-mail.