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Satelite Workshop

This is the second in a series of articles which will help you to save money on repairs and installation.

Last month I mentioned several problems which you had probably experienced with the Amstrad SRD400 receiver. This month I'll concentrate on Pace receivers.

The first thing you should know is that a melted fuse in any Pace receiver should NOT be replaced until the unit has been repaired. The fuse melts in order to protect the user from mains voltages in the event of a fault. By replacing the fuse you will allow mains power into an already faulty unit, increasing the risk of more damage and cost! I've had some receivers in which somebody decided that a TEN Amp fuse might improve matters. It didn't.

Power supply repair kits are available but please leave these to the experts unless you have good experience of soldering and understand the safety implications. I see a lot of "repaired" units which have been damaged and left in an unsafe state. These invariably cost more to repair than those which have not been touched. There could also be legal implications if you carry out an unsafe "repair."

A favourite problem with very old Pace receivers such as the SS9000IRD and "clones" is that the internal decoder connector, with age and heat, can lose contact with the main board pin connector. The result can be faint decoder messages and intermittent operation. A sure sign of this problem is that the decoder messages shift position on the TV screen if the receiver is tapped. A quick but temporary fix is to spray a little WD-40 onto the connector and work it up and down a few times. Do this with the receiver unplugged. Beware, however, that an old Pace receiver might destroy its power supply when plugged back in. This is because the capacitors in the power supply degrade with heat over a period of years. For this reason, it's never a good idea to deal with any fault in the customer's home. I always replace the capacitors in the workshop before plugging a unit in for test.

These early 60 channel Pace receivers need to have the internal decoder selected and stored in the channel menu for each scrambled channel. Unlike later versions, they do not recognise a decoded channel automatically. So the symptom, "no decoder messages on some channels," is usually caused by pressing the factory reset sequence or by a mains "brownout". Reprogram each channel to read "Decoder INT" and "AV INT".

A similar problem can occur with later PRD and MSS models. In this case you will often found that the contrast has been set to a value less than 4 in the Installation menu.

A question that I'm asked frequently is "can I use my Pace receiver with an Enhanced LNB?" As you will know, an Enhanced LNB shifts the frequency of all channels up by a count of 250 MHz in order to bring the Astra 1D channels within range of the tuner. Provided that the receiver can be tuned sufficiently high, you will find that it will receive ALL available channels but you will have to tune each channel individually to 250 higher than the listed frequency. 60 channel receivers will not tune high enough so you lose most of Astra 1B with an Enhanced LNB. Most 90 channel receivers will tune high enough to get CNN International but only a few make it as far as Sky Sports 3 with an Enhanced LNB.

As a rule of thumb: 60 channel receivers can't tune high enough. 90 channel receivers might if they contain the Hitachi "BF9" tuner but not if they contain the later Sharp tuner. If a replacement tuner kit has been fitted (lies on its side) then the tuning range will usually be adequate. Early PRD receivers might tune high enough and, in my experience, will definitely do so if a small modification is carried out beneath the tuner. A different microprocessor can be fitted to provide a menu option for Enhanced or Standard LNBs. PRD receivers with this micro and all later receivers can use an Enhanced LNB.

So the answer is to try the receiver with an Enhanced LNB and, if it won't tune high enough, it might be possible to modify it in the workshop. If it will, there's a golden opportunity for you to sell the customer a new LNB plus installation cost! Some cost conscious owners would rather do this than pay for a complete new system. Always ask if a receiver can be upgraded when you take it for repair. The work is often so minor that it can be done at little extra cost.

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