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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable

Raymond Swick (N0UY) on February 8, 2013
View comments about this article!

I have been a licensed amateur since 1992 and have always enjoyed the mechanical aspect of the hobby from the onset. I enjoy the fact that much of the outside structural things in this hobby for the most part can be built, assembled, and even created by the average person with a little ingenuity and mechanical know-how. A common goal in out hobby is to improve the station as we go so often we end up trying various ideas or products to see for ourselves what we prefer and what we don't.

That being said, many of us have tried several different types and brands of antenna rotors and controls to suit our needs not to mention the extremely wide variety of antenna types and manufacturers to consider. The antenna subject is a beast all of its own so I am going to leave that alone for now. On the subject of rotors, I have tried several types over the years and the one issue that is always difficult for me is the adapting of the rotor cable to be compatible with each connector type required. Almost none of them use the same connector system at either end of the cable. Rather than pulling the cable off the tower to deal with removing the old and soldering on a different connector I chose to put an eight connector terminal strip at each end of the main rotor cable. This terminal strip is housed in a weather resistant enclosure on the tower very similar to those use by many utility companies. The following picture shows the enclosure located near the Hy-Gain T2X.

I picked up the large terminal strips at a local hamfest for a few dollars. New ones can be purchased from most component suppliers. The addition of these strips hasn't made any noticeable changes to the function of the rotor or control but it has allowed me to build a short pigtail to run from the terminal strip to the rotor in the comforts of my shack rather than perched on the side of my tower. At the shack end of my main cable is another terminal strip mounted in an enclosure on the back wall. That one doesn't need to be weather resistant, just located in a convenient place. I have this system in use on two towers where rotors are used. The attractive thing about the terminal strip is you can connect and disconnect the wires to each terminal with a screw driver. The number of wires required varies from each manufacturer but usually is either 4, 6 or 8. With all eight wires connected at each end you can easily use the number required. The following picture shows the terminal strip I used but smaller versions of a similar type would do well also.

This was my solution to an issue that may, or may not have a ring of familiarity to the rest of you. My last bit of advice to all of you reading this short article is to make sure you take the time to enjoy this great hobby and all the different aspects of it while we are still allowed to do so.

CU on the bands,
Ray N0UY

Member Comments:
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Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K5WLR on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Now there's a neat idea!
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K6AER on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I don't see how this helps the anything. The connector is still at the rotor, adding a barrier strip just added another connection point for failure.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N0UY on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Mike, "The addition of these strips hasn't made any noticeable changes to the function of the rotor or control but it has allowed me to build a short pigtail to run from the terminal strip to the rotor in the comforts of my shack rather than perched on the side of my tower."

If the rotor already has a strip connector then it hasn't saved you any trouble. After 9 years it hasn't caused any either.
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K4AAV on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I have done the same thing in my shack and at the tower base as well. Thanks for sharing.

Will, K4AAV
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by W0ZF on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I use a Jones connector at the shack end - male connector where the cable enters the shack, and a female connector on the end of a short cable going to the control box. This allows for a quick disconnect if I'm going to be away from the shack during the summer lightning season. Same deal for the control cable to the remote antenna switch.
Just another idea...thanks for taking the time to post the article.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by KW6LA on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I like it ! !
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N0UY on February 8, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
W0ZF Dave, That's an interesting idea. I pull the coaxes and hook them directly to ground with push on connectors any time I am not on the air. Year round. Never have done it with the rotator though. tnx Ray
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by ND6P on February 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great idea and a well written and presented article. Thanks for posting it.
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by AE5QB on February 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Nice tip. It looks like it works and that is what counts. I have a Yaesu 5500 alt/az rotator and I use Andersen Power Pole connectors on each end. One set is 6 red shells and the other is a set of 6 black shells. They stack and connect nicely, are always keyed, and you can't mix them up as long as you are not color blind. With the appropriate crimper, the entire job can be done in 10 minutes or less.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by KB5ZSM on February 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Seems like a good point to add surge suppression also.
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N6JSX on February 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Simplifying rotor installs over the years in cold/wet WX and how NOT to loose those small rotor screws aloft is easy. Most of the rotor problems I've found have been due to rotor wire connections or failing Start capacitors. The failed rotor wire connections are usually due to oxidation or improper drip loop in the rotor cable.

My solution to SIMPLIFY rotor connections is to make a 5' interface cable from a vehicle trailer type WX connectors (that I found come in 4/5/8/10 wire connectors on eBay with 3' or 10' wire leads). On the wire ends I solder ring lugs that will interface with the rotor screw connections. After installing the ring lug wires to clean rotor connection pads and torque the screws properly, I coat all with non-conductive grease to insure WX protection and reduce oxidation. All this is done at my garage work bench - a quick ground test is easy to conduct using this cable.

This 5' cable allows me to run the rotor shack cable to the tower top. If/when I need to install/remove the rotor it is an easy mating of this single vehicle trailer connectors. Even if you are delayed weeks/months later reattachment cannot be miss-wired as the trailer connector is keyed and wires are colored. Simple!
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by KW4AQ on February 9, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
What a simple and good idea!
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by W5XJ on February 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Great idea. Taking the rotor out with an antenna on it is a female dog. Your way makes it easier. We mounted a ham IV on Hdbx 48 and there no wZy to get at the terminal on that one in the tower.
73 / good DX de Texas
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by NJ3U on February 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Good plan - I use a automotive trailer lighting/brake disconnect in the shack and disconnect it when not in use. The ArraySystems shunt is at the base of the tower to drain off any indirect energy.
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K6YE on February 10, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Congrats on a a neat article. I am currently using a quick-disconnect on my Hy-Gain T2X (in a Hy-Gain HG-54HD tower) and it has worked great for 11 years. It is time to swap rotors and a Yaesu 2800 will be the replacement. The ideas presented will be scrutinized for best fit. Keep up the good work!

Semper Fi,

Tommy - K6YE
DX IS and CW RULES
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K1CJS on February 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
K6AER said:
I don't see how this helps the anything. The connector is still at the rotor, adding a barrier strip just added another connection point for failure.

The point is that when replacing a rotor, the whole wire run does not have to be replaced--or spliced up on the tower. Loosen a few screws--not taking them out--slip out a few spade connectors, slip other spade connectors in, tighten the screws back up, and the new rotor is up and running.

For that reason alone this idea is worthwhile.
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N9HH on February 11, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I used molex connectors. On the hy-gain units I put a 3 foot lead with a connector; likewise on the control box. At the outside connector junctions I covered every thing with RTV. Also on the bottom of the rotor sealed the hole in the cover plate and put a bead around the plate and the rotor base. At the time I had 3 towers; that let any control box and any rotor work together without a screw driver. I also kept a spare or two lengths of cable prepared because squirrels liked to chew up the insulation.

If you've got different kinds of rotors as long as there are a sufficient number of condutors in the cable it will be compatible as long as the rotor is paired with the right control box.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K5LXP on February 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
N6JSX: If/when I need to install/remove the rotor it is an easy mating of this single vehicle trailer connectors. Even if you are delayed weeks/months later reattachment cannot be miss-wired as the trailer connector is keyed and wires are colored. Simple!


Right! Why hams continue to reinvent this wheel I have no idea. Trailer connectors are cheap, available anywhere and built for outdoor service. You connect and test your rotor pigtail while conveniently on the ground, and up on the tower it's plug and play.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N0UY on February 12, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Boy! I must have missed an article somewhere about using trailer connectors for this purpose. I have had this system in place for 9 years on the tower with the tail twister and the big log periodic. Someone I was speaking with on the radio around Christmas brought up the QRZ site while we were chatting. I guess this is common now with everybody online 24/7. Well not me! Anyway this person asked me about the box on the side of my tower near the rotor, so I told him what it was. He encouraged me to share the information so I made an attempt at a brief explanation in this article. Now I wonder where the wisdom was in that decision.

Thank you to the fellow hams that found it of some value and made positive comments. For the rest of you guys and gals that think it was a waste of time, so be it. I sure as HECK didn't do it to please anyone but myself. It serves my purpose quite well and it will probably still be there when my kids are going through my crap after I become a silent key. Hopefully many years down the log.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K1CJS on February 13, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
On the great faceless internet, people are free--all too free--to criticize. Imagine yourself up on a tower trying to juggle a rotor and the tools you need--and trying to wire it in, and you'll see the value of this suggestion. IOW, stop taking pot-shots at this suggestion just because you didn't think of it first!

Trailer connectors are also a good idea, but I've had experience with trailer connectors that don't keep a good connection because of corrosion. Anyone pulled over for not having working lights on your utility trailer knows that feeling.

Barrier strips with tightened screws and with anti-corrosion/weatherproofing compound applied are a lot better in maintaining a good connection than semi-spring held connections, even when those connections are engineered to be weatherproof.

Thanks, Ray, for sharing this.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N0UY on February 13, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Tnx Chris.

I guess I have always been to opinionated for my own good sometimes. Hi. Gotta love this hobby tho inspite of some of the crowd.

Ray
 
Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by STRAIGHTKEY on February 13, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I suppose this is a great solution if you're changing out rotators frequently. But I have to ask, why are you changing out rotators that frequently that this is an issue? And wouldn't it be less work and cost (and more reliable) to just put a pigtail on the rotator connector, splice the cable on the tower and weatherproof it with electrical and mastic tape?
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K1CJS on February 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
The idea is to AVOID splicing or extra work on the tower. It's a lot simpler and less time consuming taking up one screwdriver and a small container of weatherproofing than a whole toolbag of cutters, strippers, and the rest of the stuff needed to splice wires.

As to the need to for change outs, anything that reduces time spent up on a tower is worthwhile, even if it's used only once a year--or less often.
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by K2FOX on February 14, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Its a great idea. If it works for you then that is all that matters, screw all the negativity.

And trailer connectors, thats what I use. Picked it up from an Elmer way back in the '70s.

Thanks.

-Jay

 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N6JSX on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
I only focused the vehicle trailer WX connector at the rotor in my initial response - I forgot the other methods reason for this connector method.

I insure a proper drip-loop in the rotor cable at the rotor connector that is tie-wrapped to a tower leg. I add non-conductive grease (or STUF) to the outside rotor trailer connector to keep humidity from oxidizing connector pin/sockets.

I attached the opposite mating connector to my rotor controller 5' pigtail, this is so I can test the wired rotor AND control box on my test bench. It makes life so much easier!!!

During lightening I can disconnect the controller in the shack. And Ohio knows how to make serious lightening!

The simplicity and durability of vehicle trailer connectors makes this a robust effortless and SMART addition to my system. Think about how much time saved atop your tower in eliminating all the wiring effort and accidental oops problems!
 
RE: Rotor Frustrations and Preparing the Cable  
by N6JSX on February 22, 2013 Mail this to a friend!
Off subject ROTOR idea: My shack/office is my home basement. I like to have a FM radio ON in my shack but my three favorite radio stations (talk, jazz & oldies) are ~50mi away in Dayton. My basement walls are just too good of an attenuator to these stations.

Since I do not use the rotor often, I decided to experiment using rotor cable wires as RX antenna. I found using one rotor cable wire makes for a good FM radio antenna!

I'm now experimenting with installing a relay (that would switch on rotor Brake signal) or a capacitor to safely isolate my FM stereo radio from the controller signals/voltages when used. One of the stations is still weak so I'm looking at making a MAR6 pre-amp that could double as the isolator.

Where there is a will there is a way!

Ya, call me lazy but what the heck, it beats streaming the stations over the internet slowing down my ISP connection. Or stringing another outside long wire or the hassle of switching my HF Inverted V's around.
 
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