My Analogue Receiver Will Not Work!

In another page Martin discussed how you could make your satellite receiver last longer. But what do you do when the inevitable happens and it stops working? Here are some professional tips to help you keep the repair cost down.

DO NOT REPLACE THE FUSE! It is there to protect YOU and the receiver. If you replace it you can make the damage worse and put yourself at risk!

If the satellite receiver is completely dead, often the first sign is that the TV picture looks "grainy" because the aerial signal is no longer being amplified through the receiver. If the receiver is not quite dead you might see the picture pulsing. The simple answer is to unplug the two coaxial leads from the satellite receiver "Aerial in" and "RF out" and plug them together. One is male and one female so this is much easier than trying to reroute all the cables to the TV and video (which most people seem to do!)

If you have any Scart or Phono connections to the satellite receiver, make a sketch and label the wires before you disconnect them. Don't stick labels on the receiver because the repairman will probably need to remove them to dismantle it. Don't unscrew the dish cable while mains power is still connected to the receiver. If the inner wire touches the outer coaxial screening braid the short-circuit could cause more damage inside your receiver.

If the TV picture is still perfect then the receiver is unlikely to be dead. Disconnect the power, let the receiver cool down, then try it again. Maybe it goes wrong only when it's warm. If it won't work even when cold, take it to the house of a friend or relative and see if it works there. If it works then you might have a faulty cable, LNB or dish.

Whether you take the receiver to a shop or send it away, you will need to write down the following information and keep a copy:
Manufacturer, model number, Serial number.
Details of events leading up to the failure and previous symptoms or repairs.
A description of what you see on the TV screen and front panel and what you hear (from the TV loudspeaker or from inside the receiver?) when the fault is present.

If the picture or sound are present but incorrect, make a video recording. This is especially helpful if the fault is intermittent. (I had a customer bring me a receiver which, he said, "goes faulty for three seconds once every six weeks."
Next day he phoned me to ask if it was fixed!) Intermittent faults can be notoriously difficult (and expensive) to trace if the repairman hasn't even seen the fault. Equally important is to write down the numbers of affected channels. Don't write "All" without checking. Sometimes, for example, the Free To Air channels are not affected and this makes a big difference to the diagnosis. If you don't explain clearly, the repairman might find a different and (to you) insignificant fault which he will correct and invoice instead.

When you take the receiver for repair, pack it carefully in its original box or something similar. Label both the receiver and the packing with your name, address and phone number. Also label any accessories such as remote control handset, mains cord and Smart Card. Make sure you get a receipt with accessories listed. Point out the copy of your fault report and ask if further clarification is required.

Finally, it is a good idea to ask if any upgrades are possible (reliability or more channels, for example) and if they could be done at the same time. Often they can and at a very small extra charge. Of course, you could be inviting the repair shop to rip you off but you did go to one that was highly recommended, didn't you?

There are very few shops which specialise in the repair of satellite receivers so you may find it quicker and cheaper to send your receiver away for repair. Again, go by recommendation. Find out if you need to include accessories, since these can add to the weight and also increase the risk of damage in transit. A satellite specialist is unlikely to need your handset, mains cord or Sky Card unless the fault actually involves one of these or unless you have a very rare or motorised receiver. Ask if they can arrange for collection since this is often cheaper.

Packaging is most important. Somebody posted me a receiver in nothing more than a supermarket carrier bag with my address and postage stamps sellotaped to it. The package rattled horribly so I handed it back to the postman without investigating.

If you don't have the original packing then bind the receiver in plastic bubble wrap (you did remember the label and the fault report?). Put it into a cardboard box which is a tight fit. Now pack the cardboard box into a much larger one and use balls of rolled up or shredded paper all round. Don't use too much tape! If the repair shop has problems getting the receiver unpacked or can't reuse your packing, they will charge extra. Make it easy for them. Label each box with your name, address and telephone numbers.

To send packages I've used carriers and I've used Parcel Force. Of the two, I've found carriers to be more reliable but the choice is yours. Whichever you use, ask for adequate insurance against loss or damage. Parcel post costs (in 2005) around £5 plus 75p for £150 insurance. In my experience, delivery takes between three days and fifteen days and, on one occasion, never. A carrier such as "Panic Link" will usually collect from you during week day office hours and costs from £7.50 plus vat for three day delivery. The snag is that someone has to be there to sign for both collection and return if delays are to be avoided.

What to do when your receiver is repaired? Check for scratches and missing or incorrect screws. Minor scratches, unfortunately, are inevitable in a busy workshop but, if the receiver is badly defaced and it matters to you, there are grounds for complaint. Missing or incorrect screws indicate sloppy workmanship. If the visible bits are wrong, what is the inside like? Cause for concern.

How to improve future reliability? Read the advice in my other article. In addition, you might like to fit a silent cooling fan kit. The one from SatCure is tiny and can be fitted inside the receiver. If you lack the technical knowledge you can fit it to your TV cabinet instead. All it needs is a low cost dc charger unit to make it spin.

Finally, a point about handset reliability. I get numerous calls from desperate people who have lost, damaged or simply worn-out their remote controls. My advice is to buy a Programmable handset that will work the basic functions on your satellite receiver and, possibly, your TV and Video, too. Use this handset whenever possible to save wear and tear on the originals. Bear in mind that a "cheap" original can cost from around £25 upwards. If it has a display you can double or treble that amount. Don't stir your coffee with it! To avoid losing your handset, tape a long piece of coloured ribbon to it. Don't stuff it between the cushions because the buttons can be held down and can flatten the battery or (in one case I saw) even make the handset melt! Take out the battery cells if the remote will not be used for a week or more. This removes the risk of leakage which causes corrosion. And no matter how bad the provocation, don't throw the remote at the cat (or anyone else!)

I can be contacted for advice about satellite receiver repair via the Internet:
You should first read the Frequently Asked Questions files here before asking your own.

Martin retired from repairs in 2000 and passed that side of his business to Michael at Digifix.

Contact Martin at SatCure

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