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Author Topic: Sidekick kicking the bucket  (Read 2095 times)
AH6TA
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Posts: 4




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« on: January 15, 2011, 03:39:07 PM »

I don't think there's much help I can get on this, but felt I needed to post just to see if I'm the only one. I bought a HS Sidekick for my FT-857D a year ago, using HS's tri-mag mount with additional grounding. It was great for about four months, but then began to not tune on HF (on any band), SWR alarms, very poor output, etc. So...I tried literally everything. The first thing I did was check out the tri-mag mount, and I was very disappointed to find low-quality cabling combined with what seemed to be slapped-together engineering in the base connections. I dumped the mag mount and replaced it with a standard drilled ball mount and new RG-8. But alas, the problem still existed. I called Yaesu, and they had me send the radio in, only to find nothing wrong with it. OK. So...just yesterday I finally went to a brand-new 5-inch mag mount (again, with additional grounding), partially dismantled the antenna itself to clean the contacts, etc., and double-checked the antenna controller operation with a meter. All seemed OK...except the behavior is still the same. I've already had a couple of communications with HS, which I have to characterize as "it can't be the antenna...you must have screwed something up" and basically blowing it off.  Well...I'm going to borrow a friend's 40m hamstick tomorrow and see what happens. I know some folks have great luck with this antenna...but...I wouldn't recommend it at this point.
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K0BG
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2011, 04:01:35 PM »

If Jim Heath reads this, he'll probably chastise me to the nth degree. The HS sidekick has an innate problem which you're not going to solve, unless you completely disassemble the antenna. Even then, you might be unable to fix it. It just depends on how much wear there is on the coil itself.

If either of the motor leads have become shorted to the mast (a common occurrence), you'll also have SWR problems. This needs to be checked.

The stock motor lead choke is inadequate, even for manual controllers. Once you saturate the ferrite, it is no longer a choke!

There are about a dozen other possibilities too. You can peruse my web site for most of the answers. Look for Common Mode Current; Antenna Mounts; Antenna Efficiency, paying attention to the mag mount comments; Antenna Controllers, paying attention to the motor lead choke comments.
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AH6TA
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2011, 12:25:53 PM »

Mahalo nui (many thanks) for the clear and direct response. I had suspected something of this nature, but have been unsuccessful in getting any good and detailed info until now.

I put a hamstick on the mount yesterday afternoon and reached Kona on the Big Island (from Kaua'i, about 700 miles) no problem. Guess that finished the "diagnostics" portion.

Next step is to dismantle the unit and check for those issues you've mentioned. Can't make it any worse than it is...and I'd rather recoup my $400+ investment than dump it.  The unit works exceptionally well when it works.

Aloha/73
Elaine
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AH6TA
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2011, 03:11:06 PM »

New formula learned...4 months on car * remote tropical island + smoked shield = invisible corrosion.

Your suggestion to take it apart was invaluable. While I had removed the weathershield before, all I had noted was that there was some (not a lot...sort of like condensation) moisture inside the shield. The coil looked relatively normal...it looked like copper is supposed to look...I thought.

However...after completely dismantling it this morning I discovered (1) the motor leads were fine...not contacting anything, (2) the chokes appeared OK (and I have additional ferrites on the power lead), but (3) when the entire coil assembly was removed from the casing, it was quite obvious where the "normal" boundary was where the spring collar contacted the coil.

I use almost exclusively 40 and 20 meters (in EmComm work, with a 102" whip), and so the part of the coil normally above the collar is only 2-3 in at most. Seen through the weathershield (a smoke color plastic sleeve) it looks normal. Take the coil/motor assembly out of the casing and one can see the significant difference in color between the "exposed" part and the part normally below the collar, in the tube. The corrosion became obvious, worst  near the top, and becoming lesser further down toward the screw end. It appeared to be streaks, much wider at the top than toward the bottom.

So...a few minutes with some emery cloth, a little lube on the screw, put it back together, and my SWR and power are happy campers again, more or less.  It works, at least. I tuned it manually, not using the "auto" function of HS's rocker switch, but that may also work if I hook it up again.

I'm going to try to figure out a way to better seal the tube...maybe some sort of closed cell foam strip at the bottom of the weathershield tube where it contacts the housing, but won't cause any appreciable resistance to the movement...and something similar where the top cap goes on the weathershield (the plastic cap is held to the tube by two self-tapping screws...there's room for moisture to creep up under the edge of the cap and get in).  And...maybe Brasso or something similar would clean the coil better and more gently than emery cloth.

I'm sure if I lived on the mainland, and most especially in a drier climate, this would not have emerged as an issue at four months out. However...I live on Kaua'i Island, in Hawai'i, and salt corrosion is a fact of life here as well as almost daily showers. I expect now to take this thing apart, clean, inspect, and so forth every three months or so.
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W3LK
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2011, 03:32:10 PM »


I use almost exclusively 40 and 20 meters (in EmComm work, with a 102" whip), and so the part of the coil normally above the collar is only 2-3 in at most. Seen through the weathershield (a smoke color plastic sleeve) it looks normal. Take the coil/motor assembly out of the casing and one can see the significant difference in color between the "exposed" part and the part normally below the collar, in the tube. The corrosion became obvious, worst  near the top, and becoming lesser further down toward the screw end. It appeared to be streaks, much wider at the top than toward the bottom.

So...a few minutes with some emery cloth, a little lube on the screw, put it back together, and my SWR and power are happy campers again, more or less.  It works, at least. I tuned it manually, not using the "auto" function of HS's rocker switch, but that may also work if I hook it up again.


Actually, running the coil up and down throughout its complete range about once a week should take care of any corrosion that builds up on the coil. There's no need for emery cloth or any other abrasive; the spring, itself, is enough to remove any buildup.

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K0BG
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2011, 03:42:32 PM »

Sealing the tube will only exacerbate the issue. The real problem is the Sidekick's construction, and the same goes for the Lil Tarheel. And....

The placement of the control motor in all of these short screwdrivers (except for one), it placed right at the current node of the antenna. Add a poor mounting scheme (K400 or clip mount), and you exacerbate the inherent problem. What this means is, the motor lead choke has to be rather robust.

The general rule of thumb is to have a choke 2 magnitudes greater than the circuit it is protecting. In other words, about 5 kΩ. The stock choke is just over 140 Ω, and is the wrong material (mix 43). It should be mix 31, with a bunch of turns, not just 2.

If you want the correct dope, go to my web site, and read the articles on Antenna Controllers, and How to wind a choke.
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WN2C
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Posts: 546




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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2011, 07:25:36 AM »

If I were you I'd listen to kobg. His web site is chock full of mobile info.  If you are wanting to put a cover over the coil, you might check out motorcycle shock boot cover.  Keep in mind that a lot of them have carbon in them though and won't work. You have to find one that does not have carbon in it.  When Don Johnson was making screwdriver antennas, I had one of his and it worked great. I got it thru a guy in Montanna and he sold the controller with it and a motor cycle boot too. I think the controller was Am-com but they may be out of bussines.
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W3LK
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« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2011, 12:29:37 PM »

Am-Com is long out of business. I use one of their controllers with my HS1800Pro.
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A smoking section in a restaurant makes as much sense as a peeing section in a swimming pool.
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